Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Terror politics and Batman

Oh, those parents complaining that the new Batman is too creepy and disturbing for their kids to watch? They're so right.

This isn't about censorship, this is about how wigged out I am right now!!!! Yeah, I'm one of the lucky few who got to watch Batman on opening weekend. Of course I could only get a nighttime showing. I was all ready to hit the hay after the show but the movie has just left me shuddering and crying for mommy.

Heath Ledger does a bone-chilling job as the Joker, and the movie is really uncomfortable. Not just the violence, just the unrelenting darkness of it - the lack of hope. Damn, they have to put warnings on these things - "Do not watch in the middle of a recession."

I'm sure Christopher Nolan, the director, meant it as a parable of our times - a mirror of society. When I saw Aaron Eckhart as Two-Face (excellent excellent casting in this movie by the way - Michael Caine as Alfred, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Maggie Gyllenhaal as the female lead) I thought of Eliot Spitzer. I'm sure I'm not the only one. And no, it's not analogous - murder and prostitution. But I thought of how high the angels climb and fall and how all politicians are the same.

It was uncomfortable because it left us with no hope, no happy Hollywood ending. Everything was trashed and burned. The one or two bright lights at the end were minor in comparison to all the willful mayhem that had occurred. But strangely, if ever a movie were to serve as cautionary tale of where our country could go, damn this is one for our age.

This movie is all about terror and terrorism, and how far powerful figures go to construct an illusion of good versus evil. How far can one man or many be pushed to save themselves and their loved ones? The movie even addresses that the Joker is playing, toying with our fears and that we cannot give into a terrorist's demands. Without giving anything away, suffice it to say that the Joker effectively preys on fears by creating rampant instability and discusses how plans legalize and legitimize deaths. You could swap out the word plans here for laws. It can also be considered an investigation of natural law and justice versus civil law and vigilantism. Batman is a hero but also a villain, a complex Hell's Angel who is content with sullying his reputation to protect the city.

This movie is so dense, there's so much to unpack and the only way to do that is by rewatching except that my brain and guts are still in hiding. Compare this to the other movie I saw this weekend, Hellboy II, which was utter crap and so surface that I nearly walked out of the theatre. Except that I'm a cheap bastard. With wanton destruction that doesn't have meaning and no character development. What ever doubts I have about Zack Snyder, I'm glad Guillermo del Toro isn't doing the Watchmen movie after seeing this junkpile. Unlike Ironman, which struck a great balance between being over the top and smart alecky with some political notes thrown in, Hellboy was empty calories.

So Christopher Nolan, I salute you. You took the ugly and made it not glamorous but somehow more real, infusing it into our ids and unconscious corners of our brains. You left several men puddles of whimpering fear and you managed to question whether might makes right, the age old quest since the days of Arthur. You did it with pretty good cinematography and using the lie of makeup and the art of shadow, you've revealed the truth. Our nation's underside is base and depraved and if we don't watch it we're going like Nero.

Now if only I could sleep without fear!!!!

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