Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday miscellaneous (7/27)

Here’s another article on the student loan debt problem, this one from a personal perspective. Despite having a decent point about never being able to pay it off, the author’s attitude makes her hard to sympathize with. And of course there are other options, such as answering one of these recruiting posters and joining a Star Wars side.

The Aurora shooting last week brought out a chivalrous streak in several of the men present. And it also brought out this incredible story about Petra Anderson (whose family is known to several of our writers). A previously undetected birth defect had left a narrow channel of fluid in her brain, which the pellet traveled through doing minimal damage.

A new CBO estimate shows the recent healthcare reform bill costing less than previously projected. However, the cost savings is a result of fewer people being covered by healthcare insurance.

I’ve written before about how both political parties need reform. Front Porch Republic last week echoed the same thing:

[For the Left] Above all, you must embrace choice. Choice is the birthright par excellence. You should probably be against Late Capitalism, which, better than any ism, really puts choice on offer (think of your Netflix account), but opposing Late Capitalism is pretty damned hard to do in the coffee shop, where the wi-fi is free, the flat-screen is zeroed in on msnbc, and everything is a matter of choice—even the bagels and scones. (You couldn’t possibly live anywhere where you couldn’t get a good bagel.)

But otherwise you must celebrate choice. You must, zum Beispiel, be “pro-choice”—unless, of course, the choice on offer is to be against pro-choice. “Not Your Child, Not Your Choice,” as the bumper sticker says—next to the one that says “The Chair is Barbaric!”

(Leftist morality lends itself to bumper stickers.)
* * *
[For the Right] Above all, you must embrace choice: Choice is the birthright par excellence. You should probably be against social programs (also known as Socialism), which, better than any ism on offer, has put sidewalks, highways, fire and police departments, and especially Social Security at your disposal. But otherwise you must be pro-choice.

Besides, opposing Choice is pretty damned hard—especially at Wal-Mart, where prices are really really low on Cheese Doodles, hotdog buns, and flat-screen TVs. So you embrace choice. Plus you “choose life”—unless, of course, the life on offer belongs to those on death row or to those godless ragheads on the losing end of an aggressive and bellicose foreign policy, in which case you choose death. But at least you’ve got a choice, Choice being what it is (the birthright par excellence).

“Choose Life,” as the bumper sticker says—next to the one that says “Afghanigone!”

(Right-wing morality lends itself to bumper stickers.)

Election update: more evidence is surfacing that President Obama is abusing his official power by harassing those who oppose his reelection. That’s the sort of thing that helped get Nixon in trouble. Ane he’s running his campaign like he runs the executive branch--with little concern for budgeting. Considering all this, it’s tempting to wonder what keeps him even in the polls. But he may be running into some trouble in New Mexico and Virginia. And right on the heels of his “you didn’t build that” comment comes another: “We tried our plan and it worked.” Maybe Obama isn’t keeping up after all.

But James O’Keefe has a plan to revitalize the nation and put people back to work: dig holes and fill them back in. No really, that’s it. Might I humbly suggest that we paint our bridges to look like they’re made out of Lego instead?

And finally, I didn’t realize that mixing cornstarch and water led to such a weird result:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What is a Republican?

The Republican Party wins presidential elections when they successfully unite three groups:

1.    Fiscal conservatives.
2.    Social conservatives.
3.    Foreign policy conservatives.

I am shocked by recent movements within the GOP; some are actively trying to oust one or another of these groups from the winning coalition.

Recent attacks on this coalition started in 2007. Against the backdrop of the war weariness that had begun to set in, Congressman Ron Paul began a systematic effort to drive foreign policy conservatives out of the party. No one running for president, least of all John McCain, wanted more war. But Paul continuously attacked his primary opponents as being “pro-war” and began to divide the party. Paul wrapped his arguments in appeals for peace, philosophical jargon about Just War Theory, and endless name dropping about the separation of powers.

The funny thing is that, at face value, all these arguments are great. We all agree that peace is better than war. Although there are disagreements about details of Just War Theory, most agree with the concepts behind Just War principles. Finally, if there is an advocate for returning to a proper application of Constitutional law, I am their ally. But Paul used these winning arguments to attack a position that is not at odds with any of these principles. He worked relentlessly to tear down anyone advocating a traditional understanding of conservative foreign policy and insinuated that anyone with such views was unqualified to serve as president. This approach would disqualify even Ronald Reagan (and that shows a serious weakness in the position). Paul tried to persuade people that a conservative foreign policy is antagonistic towards peace, justice, and constitutionally. Not only is this not true, Paul’s efforts at spreading his belief also hurt the tripartite coalition that upholds the GOP.

The second attack on the coalition that I have seen recently is aimed against social conservatives. The argument: social issues distract from the “real issues” and Republicans need to come to a truce with the Democrats, holding off on social issues until the “real issues” are dealt with. This position was most openly advocated by Governor Mitch Daniels.

Daniels is neither as talkative nor as persistent as Paul. He hasn’t elaborated on the underpinning thought of his “truce”. This makes it hard to respond to his views in detail, but his willingness to drop the social issues entirely shows that he doesn’t value the unity of the coalition. The idea that the social conservatives should be quiet and go along with the fiscal conservatives without getting anything is an affront to all partnership.

The third attack is a small but growing (especially among Evangelical Youth) group that wants to break up the winning coalition by dropping the economic conservative branch of the Republican Party. They want to take George W. Bush’s “Compassionate Conservatism” to a new level. Their argument is still gelling, but it currently looks something like this: “We need to take care of people in our communities and the government is a way to do that.” Some argue that capitalism has failed and paying a little more in taxes isn’t all that bad. The bottomline is that those crazy Tea Party people are just greedy and maybe the Occupy Wall Street people are right after all.

All of these attacks on the coalition are falling into the same trap: each group thinks that they are the only ones who matter in the Republican Party and they insist on absolute purity in their candidates. Let’s look at Reagan again because both Paul and Daniels cite him as an inspiration: He believed in fighting Communism outside our borders and would have failed Ron Paul’s foreign policy test. He was pro-choice as Governor of California but became one of the strongest pro-life voices in America when he ran for president (during a severe economic crisis that was so bad fuel was strictly rationed). So much for Mitch Daniels’s “truce.”

Finally, Reagan was against government programs that tried to help people because the programs simply didn’t work. He promoted the phrase: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'” Yet his economic reforms set a new record for the longest peacetime economic expansion. This cut unemployment in half, helping the poor by allowing them to work - consistent with the principle of teaching a man to fish instead of just giving him a fish. And Americans’ standard of living increased 20% while Reagan was in office, showing that sound economics results in helping people better than any government program ever has. When the whole coalition works in harmony, as they did with Reagan, spectacular things happen.

I don’t agree with every plank in the Republican platform and hope that some things will be changed in the next 5 years. But the fact is, if we want to win, we need to stand together and not act like a bunch of hooligans fighting over a life raft. If we throw each other off the raft no one will be left to paddle us all to shore. But if we work together, we can not only survive but all make it home to a huge dinner that we can all enjoy. 

Post by Jeremiah Lorrig

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

David Barton v. the internet

The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You've Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson (Hardback)I wrote several weeks ago about David Barton’s new book on Thomas Jefferson (which recently beat out Howard Zinn’s Marxist retelling of the American Founding for the title of the “least credible history book in print”). At the time (as I stated) I had not yet read it, but was responding to the reviews of others. Now, however, I have had a chance to look through the book. In addition to standing by my original review, I have two additional observations.
First, there is significant weight to the argument that Barton is responding to straw men. While he claims to be responding to the “twentieth-century practices that now dominate the study of American history and its heroes: Deconstructionism, Poststructuralism, Modernism, Minimalism, and Academic Collectivism.” (xvi), an examination of his footnotes tells a very different story. For chapters 3-7, Barton takes a specific issue, shows what the “experts” say, and then refutes them. The problem is that his experts are largely not historians or academics but websites like,,, (one of his favorites), or The Secular Web. Even when engaging with serious academic works, he cites newspaper or blog reviews rather than the original work itself (Chapters 4 & 7). The one book he does cite with frequency to show mainstream Jefferson misconceptions is “Six Historic Americans,” a 1906 book by John Remsburg, an anti-Christian freethinking lecturer. This book, however, barely qualifies as a “twentieth-century” work, cannot be considered mainstream today, and appears to be a revisionist hit-job on the founders.

The most telling example of this straw-man argument is Barton’s response to Alan Pell Crawford, who stated that “No Jefferson scholar to my knowledge has ever concluded that Jefferson was an ‘atheist,’ as Mr. Barton suggests.” Barton replies:
[B]y this claim, Crawford proves that he has not even read the book he is critiquing, for I begin each chapter with a list of documented quotations from modern writers and scholars repeating a particular lie about Jefferson, and I certainly did that in this chapter as well. But Crawford, like Throckmorton and Coulter, says “to my knowledge,” thus again limiting historical truth to his own personal experience rather than to objective documents and facts.
I have read the book. Barton’s proof that Jefferson is regarded as an atheist, which he trumpets so loudly, consists of:
That is the entirety of Barton’s authority for his claim that modern academia has painted Jefferson an atheist, presented in order and without omission. None of those sources are mainstream historians or academics, and only one mentions atheism (two if one accepts Barton’s argument that freethinking is premised on atheism). Barton does not engage with serious historical writing; instead, he scours the internet for inflammatory blog posts and paints them as representative of the whole of liberal academia. This is not a proper approach to either history or research.

Furthermore, despite decrying the modern tendency of “writers and scholars quote each other and those from their peer group rather than consult original sources” (p. xxii), Barton has made this exact error in his review of the Jefferson “Bible.” Instead of consulting the original, he cited Charles Sanford’s 1984 book The Religious Life of Thomas Jefferson for the proposition that Jefferson did not exclude all the miracles from his edited bible (p. 73). However, although the cited book does include that information, it is not an accurate reflection of the original Jefferson documents, which show that Jefferson did omit the miracles (as you can see for yourself)

Second, Barton has fallen into the “Minimalist” error he accuses his opponents of committing. He writes in the Introduction that:

Our modern culture insists on easy answers, but the life of Jefferson does not accommodate that demand. He was an extremely complicated individual, not a man to be flippantly stereotyped or compartmentalized. In fact, he was probably much more complex than most other historic individuals from the same era. But many who write about him today try to conform him to a preshaped, preconceived, simplistic mold into which he does not fit. The image of Thomas Jefferson as presented by one modern writer will therefore often completely contradict the image presented by another, because each writer attempted to squeeze Jefferson into his or her own Minimalistic perception. (p. xxi-xxii)
However, Barton then proceeds for the next 200+ pages to make this very error. The book is full of overly broad categorical statements such as “While Jefferson truly was a complex person, he was not confusing, obfuscating, or disingenuous. He was straightforward and truthful on the topics he addressed.” (p. 166), “Jefferson was not only unassuming and humble but he was also good-natured, and his manners never deserted him—even to those who opposed him” (p. 211), and “Jefferson’s record of including, advocating, and promoting religious activities and expressions in public is strong, clear, and consistent” (p. 139).

Barton is right that Jefferson was complicated. But that complexity must be taken into account in his defense, rather than simply brushed away. Jefferson’s actions and ideals did not always act in harmony. Jefferson in particular had a significant blind spot in this area, which meant he thought he was being consistent when he wasn’t. (He does, however, appear to have taken in Barton.) Jefferson could engage in vicious political attacks while simultaneously calling for civility and trying to appear above the fray; he could call for using the navy against the Barbary pirates while simultaneously disapproving the building of said navy because of his fears of a standing army; and most notably, he could decry the evils of slavery while personally owning slaves. (Contrary to Barton’s assertion, Virginia law did not prohibit the freeing of slaves and Barton used cleverly placed ellipses to imply that it did.) As a result, it is easy to cherry-pick from Jefferson’s character, writings, or actions. But determining what Jefferson really thought about any given topic therefore involves much more than simply finding a quote or anecdote to support a claim. It involves a thorough examination of Jefferson’s life and works, as well as evidence of Jefferson's contrary thoughts or actions. I know Barton would agree with this—he said as much. Unfortunately, as with his hero, there is a significant disconnect between Barton’s rhetoric and his actions.

In sum, The Jefferson Lies is a very aptly named book. Just not for the reasons the author intended.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises: The Apocalypse

No article about The Dark Knight Rises can be written at this point without honoring the victims of the horrific shooting that took place in Aurora, Colorado last night. It is tempting to search for some sort of meaning in an event like this, either to condemn something we don't like or support something we do. Ultimately, this event defies explanation. It was a senseless act of violence. We don't yet know if anything specific precipitated it, but until we do, I suggest we mourn and pray for the victims.

The following article does contain spoilers. I will attempt to be tactful, but it is meant to be a serious discussion of the film, not a cursory review to encourage you to attend.

Batman Begins was the genesis of Batman. The Dark Knight had a strong sense of immediacy, relevance, and tangibility; it was Batman today. So with Batman Begins as the past of the character, and The Dark Knight as the present, The Dark Knight Rises becomes a look at the character's future. It is in essence apocalyptic. There is a certain level of detachment from the proceedings that to my view is the cinematic equivalent of peering into the future. This seems necessary because while the events of The Dark Knight certainly pushed the limits of what we have collectively experienced in the modern world, the events of The Dark Knight Rises go beyond anything in our modern American experience. This makes it less accessible, yet perhaps, in time, we may start to see this film as a sort of prophecy as to where we are headed.

It is appropriate, then, that this film, like Batman Begins, has more elements of the fantastical than its middle, grounded predecessor. It is still, at its core, a comic book movie. One of the things I originally noted about The Dark Knight was that its plot followed the patterns of one of the darker graphic novels, and not the simple build of most films. The Dark Knight Rises also seems to play out as a sort of novel, with large time jumps taking place within it. At midnight, on first viewing, it can be somewhat hard to keep up with, though I expect clearer heads and repeat viewings will clean most of that up.

Let us speak first of Bane. Christopher Nolan has spoken before of his fondness for Bond films (a ski sequence in Inception hearkened back to On Her Majesty's Secret Service as well as The World is Not Enough). I caught many shades of Renard from The World is Not Enough in his character, though Bane has a much better and poignant backstory than his Bond counterpart. Unlike the Joker, Bane has a plan, a backstory, and feelings. He is scary. The fantastic opening scene shows us just what this man is capable of. He is a mirror for Batman, but he has not lost sight of himself and his purpose like Batman has. Which leads us to what I think the key of the film is, Bruce's hubris. He became legend, and then left at the top of his game in what he thought was a noble lie. Now he thinks he can just step back into it. He completely underestimates Bane, and opens himself up to all sorts of manipulation due to his own pride and apathy. In fact, every bad thing that happens in this movie is a result of his own disengagement with the world. His hubris, his lies, and his foolishness result in his punishment. Throughout the series, we've seen him trained by evil only to then take the tools of evil and attempt to use them for good. He then lies to the people to save them. As Bane says, "you put on the darkness. I was born in it." Batman's tricks do not work on Bane. Bane does not fear the dark knight. It is only after suffering a horrible penance that he can regain the conviction and strength of character necessary to truly save Gotham and finally be free.

 AnneHathaway's Selina Kyle is a compelling character. From the beginning, Bruce sees something different in her. Yet even here he is vulnerable to hubris. Many parts of this film feel closer to the comics than either of the previous two installments. Not so much in tone, but visually. Nolan eschews some of the complete realism he embraced in The Dark Knight in exchange for something more visually operatic. Even the conclusion of the film is far more bombastic than anything we saw in The Dark Knight. As I compared this to the Star Wars trilogy, the first and third films have Death Stars. While the microwave gun itself does not make a reappearance from Batman Begins, a super weapon unwittingly built by Wayne Enterprises does play a part, and again is part of Bruce's detachment and apathy. When he was actively involved during the time of The Dark Knight, Wayne Enterprises didn't make such silly things.

This is not the triumphant third installment one would expect. Unlike the previous two films, which largely stood on their own, this one relies heavily on the others for its emotional punch. It feels most like "an installment," mostly I assume because of the long time jump. There is a lot of ground lost between the second two films, whereas the first two bridged seamlessly. Yet, at the same time, it feels almost like a direct sequel to Batman Begins, with the events of The Dark Knight sort of tossed into the middle. As you can tell, I am still processing the movie.

This is not The Dark Knight. This is not more of same. This is a completely new and different beast. Batman Begins could be compared to the first Superman. The Dark Knight was Heat on steroids. The Dark Knight Rises defies comparison. I need to see it again.

Click here for more movie reviews.

Friday miscellaneous (7/20)

Since there was no post last week, this one is especially long.

Here’s a chart showing what your favorite websites say about your politics.

Justice Roberts’ healthcare decision is still making waves. Some think he has ensured its unworkability, while others point the shifting positions of the political left and right with regard to judicial restraint.

On the presidential front, Mitt Romney gave what seems to have been an excellent speech to the NAACP last week. He is also receiving full support of the NRA. In the end, though, it will all come down to the Electoral College. And Thomas Sowell explains the competing job numbers that Obama and Romney keep tossing around.

We know President Obama likes green energy. I didn’t expect to see this much recycling in his speeches and press releases though. Oh well, we shouldn’t read too much into that.

But what we are reading a lot into is President Obama’s message to business owners: “You didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Here’s my favorite analysis so far:

It's as if President Obama climbed into a tank, put on his helmet, talked about how his foray into Cambodia was seared in his memory, looked at his watch, misspelled "potato" and pardoned Richard Nixon all in the same day. . . . These defining moments take hold most devastatingly when they confirm what a large portion of the electorate already believes. Taken alone, it seems unfair that a single moment, an unguarded remark or a slip of the tongue can carry such weight. They're often dismissed as "gotcha" moments, but when voters are able to nod and say, "I knew it," these moments stick and do terrible damage. We have witnessed such a moment.

Romney, of course, seems to be taking this opportunity and running with it.

The liberal leaning Atlantic has published an article calling for China to end its one-child policy.

The book lover in me finds this picture of someone’s abandoned personal library disturbing.

Did you know that The Hobbit was published in the USSR in 1976? Here are some of the illustrations from that edition.

Book reviewer Tim Challies has written a critical review of Debbi Pearl’s book on marriage. “In place of the wisdom and the fruit of the Spirit that ought to mark a mentor, she displays a harsh and critical spirit, she offers foolish counsel, she teaches poor theology, she misuses Scripture, and she utterly misses the centrality of the gospel.” (And don’t miss part II.)

These are for anyone who ever wanted to disguise their own footprints as animal footprints.

R.C. Sproul makes the case that Christians are not released from their moral obligation to pay taxes even when those taxes are used to fund immoral practices (such as abortions).

In an ironic twist, a feminist journalist managed to get herself accused of hate speech. Her crime: helping another woman with groceries.

You’ve probably heard about the classes within American society. But have you heard about the stark class dichotomy between those who are married and those who aren’t?

Estimates vary widely, but scholars have said that changes in marriage patterns — as opposed to changes in individual earnings — may account for as much as 40 percent of the growth in certain measures of inequality. Long a nation of economic extremes, the United States is also becoming a society of family haves and family have-nots, with marriage and its rewards evermore confined to the fortunate classes.

Here are eleven ways that marketers play with our brains to get us to buy their stuff.

A Washington Post editorial makes the case that our immigration system is bifurcated between permanent residents (keep) and temporary illegals (deport). But the reality is that there is a large group of transient workers that our system would do well to accommodate.

And finally, here's how to solve defense, unemployment, and education problems all at once.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Dark Knight: The Descent

The word that best describes the The Dark Knight is in the title, "dark." Even though Batman Begins is not a "light" film and has less scenes taking place in daylight than The Dark Knight has; it is much lighter in tone, and grounded in optimism. Batman believes his existence will lead to a brighter future for Gotham. The events of The Dark Knight threaten to prove him wrong.

If it wasn't already clear in Batman Begins, director Christopher Nolan intends Gotham to be a representation of our world. Not our planet, necessarily, but the space we live and breath in. If Gotham were a real city, people would just leave it and go elsewhere where they don't have killer clowns and scary scarecrows. But you can't escape Gotham. When characters like Lau leave it for Hong Kong, or when Bruce journeys to the Himalayas in Batman Begins, the places they go are symbols for things beyond our world. Perhaps even corresponding to the supernatural. Batman trains in Valhalla only to discover it is closer to purgatory. In The Dark Knight, he goes to the depths of hell to bring back Lau so he can face justice. These journeys have mythic significance.

Understood in this light, then, the battle for the soul of Gotham becomes the battle for our collective human soul. And the enemies presented begin to strongly resemble the demonic. When I first saw the film in 2008, I said that the Joker is the most complete and accurate depiction of the devil ever put on film. Satan knows that ultimately he cannot defeat God, so he wants to cause as much destruction and suffering as possible on his way down. He just wants to "watch the world burn." He even calls his struggle with Batman an eternal one; something I think the filmmakers would have explored further had not Heath Ledger's untimely demise occurred shortly before the film's debut.

Batman's answer to Gotham's (hence, the world's) problems is extremism. He goes to the extreme to solves the problem.  He flies across the world to bring back Lau. He knocks out Harvey Dent and hides him in a closet to keep him from attempting to fight the Joker. He throws Moroni off the roof. He bugs the entire city to find the Joker. The genius of the Joker is his willingness to match Batman point for point and try to force him over the edge. One could argue he comes very close to success. So close Batman can't recover.

But Batman has moral rules. Which, once his enemies see them, neuter the power of his extremism. Because he has limits. His technology can fail. His plans can be foiled. He can be defeated. Alfred says know your limits. Bruce says Batman has no limits. Alfred says he does and Bruce says he can't afford to know them.

What's scary is as far as he was pushed in The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises threatens to push him even further. How much more can he take?

The other side of this coin is Harvey Dent. Dent is the "White Knight" as opposed to Batman's Dark Knight. Dent prosecutes the mob without fear. And when Batman is willing to bend to the Joker's demands to save the innocent, Dent decides to sacrifice himself instead. To take Batman's "sins" on himself and allow himself to be used as bait for the Joker. But his victory is short lived. His attempt at self-sacrifice ends in his ultimate loss. Like many great fallen men before him, he can't take it. The descent of Harvey Dent is probably the most poignant and realistic thing in the film. Unlike Batman, Dent cannot endure the loss of his love. He insists that "the only morality in a chaotic world is chance." He cannot accept that the rain falls on both the just and the unjust. His story echoes that of Horatio Spafford, who endured so much throughout his life, but finally succumbed to despair at the end. Or as Dr. Crane would say in Batman Begins, "The mind can only take so much."

Yet in the end, Batman believes that this man is the true symbol of hope that the people need, and that a lie, a noble lie, is the best way to preserve that symbol; to make Dent incorruptible. Batman takes on himself all of Dent's sins. This is a messianic act, but it is also a deliberate lie. For unlike Christ who comes and says "I have taken all of your sins upon myself," Batman says "Dent was not the sinner, I am the sinner." A lie cannot bring true salvation. Which is why the ending of The Dark Knight is unsettling, and necessitates a proper conclusion.

All these things, along with fantastic production value and extreme verisimilitude easily makes The Dark Knight one of the best and most definitive comic book films ever made. It is The Empire Strikes Back for our generation. Yet while Nolan definitely hearkens back to the first Star Wars trilogy in The Dark Knight, his conclusion promises to revisit the second Star Wars trilogy, in that the final installment promises to be be darker, and perhaps more fulfilling, than any of the preceding ones.

The Dark Knight Rises opens in theaters tonight at midnight.

Check back tomorrow for our in-depth review.
Check out Jeremiah's review of Batman Begins.

Click here for more movie reviews.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Batman Begins: Birth of a Hero

Some people are snobs. They assume because a story is told in a movie theater is only entertainment and/or action. I completely disagree. Some of the greatest works of literature were penned for the stage. If Shakespeare’s plays can go down in history as great literature, I believe that there are some movies that deserve a place in the same category. One of those is Batman Begins.

This story grabs your attention with incredible action and cool gadgets, but more important than that, the dialogue, characters, and story not only delve into the soul but also unravel part of the Gordian Knot of human struggles.

Batman Begins, at its core, is a movie about Bruce Wayne. No other Batman movie has come half as close to being a story about the title character. Like It’s a Wonderful Life, we walk with the lead from his childhood to his young adult life and finally into the fullness of Batman.

As we walk with him we discover the same lessons that he learns. We learn that fear is something that we must all face. We learn that life is hard, but we have a choice as to what we are going to do with it. We also learn with Bruce that mercy is what defines good from bad.

As I watched the movie again last night I was reminded of why this movie is so powerful. When Bruce Wayne is struggling with understanding who is to blame for his parents murder, he struggles with guilt because he was the one who asks them to leave early exiting the building into a quiet alley. But Alfred reminds him that the killer is the only one to blame. Then later Henri Ducard (the movie’s dark Obi-Wan Kenobi) tries to coldly blame the deaths on Bruce’s father for failing to protect his wife. Finally, Bruce is forced to face someone who round claims 
about credit for their deaths by causing the economic downfall of the city. This was a deliberate action done in hope of creating people like the murderer to tear the city apart.

Because of its nuance, complexity, and realism (an uncommon description for a Super Hero movie), Batman Begins redefines the “character origins” film. Clearly the entire story is about the beginning of Batman, but what makes it amazing is the little things like the incredible supporting characters. 

Michael Caine is inspired as Alfred, the wise support that seems to hold the Bruce Wayne’s world together. The other characters Rachel Dawes, Lucius Fox, Jim Gordan, and even the homeless Russian play key roles in Bruce’s life making him better and inspiring him to fight for true justice. 

These supporting characters stand in sharp contrast with the bad guys who also each play a key role in making Batman who he is. First there is Falcone, a mob boss who “owns the town.” He shows Batman power that money cannot buy and that corruption obscures justice, sending Bruce into a tailspin leading him to a prison in Asia. Then we have Dr. Crane, who says “I respect the mind's power over the body. It's why I do what I do.” In a real way he is the linchpin of the plot against the city. He is no match for Batman’s strength but his mask and weaponized drugs disable Batman for two painful days. Dr. Crane is someone that isn’t beaten by power or strength. That is a new lesson one for Batman, that he must learn because strength is not enough to save the city. 

Now, let’s talk about Henri Ducard. He cannot be fully placed with the villains who stand in Bruce’s way or with the supporting characters who build him up to be the hero he needs to be. I mentioned it earlier that he is a dark Obi-Wan Kenobi character. He finds our hero and takes him in. Ducard trains Bruce giving him the skills he needs to fight evil. He reinforces Bruce’s desire to see justice and helps him to face his fears. But it is all because he wants to use the Prince of Gotham to take down the city.

Ducard is complex and clearly hides behind many layers of deception and is driven by a desire for revenge that he perversely conflates with justice. He is a mentor whose training is not lost on his prize student. In the end, however, when the choice comes Bruce chooses to reject his master's plan and returns home having learned a new lesson: justice must be carried out in the right way and through the right channel.

Batman Begins is the new standard for origin stories. It pulls you from the very roots of what makes the hero who he is into the relationships that shape him. Finally it launches you into a world where the person the hero has become is able to overcome and turn back evil.

Post by Jeremiah Lorrig

Check back tomorrow for Daniel’s retrospective review of The Dark Knight.
Check back Friday for our review of The Dark Knight Rises.

The Dark Knight Rises opens in theaters everywhere Friday, July 20th.

Click here for more movie reviews.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...