IVP - Strangely Dim - Batman Began

June 15, 2005

Batman Began

Batman Begins launches today, and a particularly geeky theater near me opened at midnight last night to let their particularly geeky constituency have first crack at the film. I did a book signing in the lobby and had a great time.

The movie is delicious. I'm so pleased that the Batman filmography has been restored to fighting shape. My first Internet posting ever was to a chat room soon after 1997's Batman & Robin debacle, directed by Joel Schumacher. I've since read Batman Unmasked by Will Brooker, and I'm willing to concede that there's a parallel history of silliness in Batman that provides balance to the hyperseriousness present in the current film.

My preference, however, tilts toward the hyperserious, so I was particularly gratified by this very grim portrait of a city on the eve of judgment day, and the ethical dilemma of how people committed to justice should relate to such a city. I'm reminded of Abraham's negotiation with God over the fate of Sodom, in which justice and mercy are reconciled. The city is a main character in Batman Begins, just as the city has played a significant part in other recent films such as Sin City. I take some heart that filmmakers and moviegoers are willing to show concern not just for individuals but for the fate of whole communities.

I was also gratified by the exploration of how fear interacts with the pursuit of justice. This is the subject of an article I wrote that I hope to see posted soon on Pop Matters. Fear is a running concern in our own culture, so to see it given proper treatment in such a super-cool movie is reason enough to go see it.

I did find some of the action sequences hard to follow, but my biggest complaint is what passes for wisdom teaching in the film. There are moments of profundity, but there are a lot more moments of people thinking they're being profound. Those people may be characters or they may be writers, but the net effect is that the moral lesson being communicated through this film is confused and confusing. There are reasons rooted in the story that we should not trust anything supposedly wise uttered by anyone in this movie. But maybe the point of such moral ambiguity is that Batman himself is an unsettled question: can a city whose moral compass is guarded by a masked vigilante ever truly find redemption?

Thumbs up. Four stars. Whatever.

As a follow-up to my friendship-straining debate with my longtime friend Steve regarding whether Batman Begins can be accurately described as a prequel, I admit defeat. Steve's the movie expert, and though I don't think continuity is too disrupted between this movie and the 1989 Tim Burton release, they don't completely harmonize and thus this movie is far less a prequel than Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith. Steve, please forgive me!

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at June 15, 2005 1:32 PM Bookmark and Share


Hey Dave. Can I take some writing time off to go see Batman? I am headed to a desolate mountain top in Mexico next week to do some serious writing... this is hard work. Peace

Comment by: Mike King at June 15, 2005 3:14 PM

For those of you who don't know, Mike has a book coming out with IVP. It's gonna be sweet, yo.

If you think writing a book on a mountaintop is hard work, you should see what Bruce Wayne goes through on a mountaintop. By all means, go see the movie. It's sweet, yo.

Comment by: dave at June 15, 2005 3:41 PM

I forgot to include a link to Steve's organization that serves as evidence of his movie expertise: the Phoenix Film Foundation.


Comment by: dave at June 15, 2005 3:46 PM

Forgiven. I regret to inform you that my father's day weekend was spent with my children. However the Sarmento faction in Portland reports "Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins makes Burton's films look like Shumacher's."

I also watched Hulk again this weekend. (The first viewing was during a sleep deprived movie marathon weekend) This film is by far severly underrated. I knew Ang Lee wouldn't let me down.

Comment by: Steve at June 20, 2005 5:03 PM

I remember watching The Last Temptation of Christ with Steve starting at about 2 in the morning. I get to say that I saw it, but I don't really get to say that I remember much about it. Ah, college.

I very much agree with you about the Hulk, Steve. I liked it better every time I watched it, and I liked it a lot the first time. Ang Lee knows his stuff and, I think, set the tone for the latest crop of superhero films.

Comment by: dave at June 21, 2005 9:17 AM

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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