Batman Begins was great summer entertainment, funny, fast, and even wise at times. (Warning: spoilers ahead.)
Blockbusters reflect interesting aspects of culture. First off, take stock of the bad guys. In Batman Begins, I thought the evil, masked ninja dudes demonstrated Hollywood's fear of passionate religious types. Their quest to annihilate immoral societies sounded strangely 9-11-ish to me. It's probably pop culture's dislike of "fundamentalism" in general — Muslim or Christian. Everything in moderation, thank you very much, especially when it comes to religion.
Next, what goals do they want us to root for? How are we supposed to achieve them? Acccording to this flick, the goals are peace and justice in Gotham City. Sounds good, doesn't it? Very American. Yes, but a vigilante equipped with unlimited money and combat technology is the way to achieve them.
Don't get me wrong. I definitely want peace and justice, I pledge allegiance to the flag, I know the lyrics to "Take Me Out To The Ball Game." But I LIKE our legal system; I rely on the checks and balances; I count on the American process where we the people make decisions and have the freedom to blog about whatever we want. As an immigrant, I especially like the regal Lady who defines the real Gotham City not as a place of lawless extremes nor as a terrorist target, but as a safe harbor for persecuted and oppressed people from every corner of the planet. And I don't want ANYBODY to preserve the peace singlehandedly, no matter how superheroic he seems: that sounds like a dictatorship, not a democracy. But I guess a movie about a superhero couldn't really focus on the people saving the day; Spiderman 2 tried to emphasize this, but it wasn't half as good as Batman Begins when it comes to the comic-book-to-big-screen genre.
Last but not least, check out the hero (in a godly, dispassionate manner, girlfriend.) Christian Bale made a fine Batman, the best one yet. (Plus, he was cute in a smart, kind way. Okay, stay on task; see previous parenthetical statement.) I loved his refusal to wreak vengeance and his decision to use his suffering, heritage, talents, and possessions for the sake of good. My favorite male character, though, was Gary Oldman's Officer Gordon, a law-abiding officer who refuses to be bought or bribed and ends up saving the day. At the end of the movie, Batman refuses Gordon's thanks, but I think Gordon was the one who deserved Batman's gratitude. No escape to the Himalayas or access to billions of dollars for him. He was the American archetype I like best — a regular family dude doing his duty, upholding and obeying the law through good times and bad. Now that's a hero, if you ask me.
Happy Independence Day, everybody! Batman may begin, but in real life, average people like you and me are the ones who finish the job.
Here's a review I wrote for teens, posted first on another blog: