Batman: The trilogy
Christopher Nolan is one of the most popular, influential, and innovative modern filmmakers. Nolan’s movies are known for their intellectualism, psychological depth, and unorthodox storytelling. The director’s work has focused on male protagonists who try to come to grips with their past while working through complex challenges of the present. Women in his films have been written as allies, heroes and/or romantic interests, some of whom become casualties, as well.
Nolan has completed an epic of ambivalent good vs. multidimensional evil. He represented his characters as moral subjectivists, holding that values are expressions of emotions, attitudes, reactions, thoughts, and desires. His characters have no independent objective, external reality, or reference in the real world. The director desires to walk the audience through Bruce’s journey: we grow as Bruce grows. Nolan has juxtaposed the three movies as three unique pieces with three different central moral stories, which can be put together as a puzzle to represent a more complete work. Each movie will have its own central moral story and including an additional different moral story when put all together. I believe that if one puts all the movies together, Batman becomes a chaotic good hero. This can only occur if the movies are seen as a set. With this paper, I will try to show the moral of each movie independently by a complete analysis of each movie separately; to understand better the hidden moral and political value that Nolan shared, I will be combining all the three movies to come to the conclusion that Batman is a chaotic good hero.
Batman makes himself more than a man by targeting what the ideal could look like. Batman becomes a “vigilante lost in the scramble for his own gratification”; he soon realizes that no one but he can achieve the kind of justice for which he is searching. For example, he is constantly improving his costume. I believe that in Batman Begins, Batman believes with all his heart that no one can beat him at this stage. Especially since he has won the fight against his own master, Batman devoted himself to becoming something entirely different from his nature: a super “hero,” a legend who can barely relate to human physical restrictions.
Most people would say that Batman’s father was a great man who fought to feed the poor, but I believe that he helped the poor by day while he indirectly contributed to the corrupt system by night. As Batman is being trained in the camp, he says that he wants to use his anger against those who prey on the fearful, particularly against the scary ones. As the flashback constantly occurs during the movie, Bruce asks his father “where do you work?” His father replies, “ I work at the hospital, I leave the running of our company to much better men…maybe not better but more interested men.” I believe that the audience is being misled with the statement above. Many corrupt people worked for Bruce’s father, but the public had an absolute different vision of what his name stood for since he mainly worked at the hospital.
Nolan communicates that the right amount of guilt in humans is beneficial. Batman carried a certain kind of guilt over his parents’ death before he carried the feeling of being responsible for Gotham: “I made them leave the theater. If I hadn’t gotten scared…” I believe that if Batman did not feel responsible for what happened to his parents, he would have continued a normal life which would not have to be so “heroic.” Batman’s guilt, however, made an everlasting hero out of him.
Bruce had different perceptions of what justice looked like. At first he believed that justice and revenge are similar; he has been waiting to use a gun to kill his parents’ murderer. But Nolan believes that justice is about harmony, while revenge is about you making yourself feel better. Nolan wants us to believe that Batman’s personality tries to reflect this perception as best as it can.
Nolan forces his movie hero to look beyond his own pain after somebody else did what he first wished he could do to his parents’ murderer. Batman had to become more than just a man in the mind of his opponents, because criminals thrive on the indulgence of society’s understanding. Nolan seems to say that will is everything: without it, a man cannot achieve the basics, which is to live a decent life. A life without pain felt for others is not heroic.
Ordinary people, such as Bruce, have so much to lose, while Batman has nothing. Criminals are usually described as people who can buy fear with money or other instruments that the main victims, the civilians, don’t possess. No money can ever buy the power of fear that bad guys can put inside of someone’s heart. At least Batman seems this way. The character is a familyless hero who has no roots or attachments: therefore, he is flexible. I believe this led to his success.
When doing evil becomes a routine, one loses many assumptions about the simple nature of right and wrong. Batman first learns fear, then crime, and finally, the thrill of success. No one needs to travel the world to understand the criminal mind and conquer one’s own fears because a criminal is not complicated. What people really fear is inside of themselves; they fear their own power, or anger, which can drive them to do great or terrible things.
People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy: “I can’t do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man…I’m flesh and blood, I can be ignored, destroyed. But as a symbol…, I can be incorruptible.” Batman is uncommon and drives suspense. If every single civilian would know who Batman is, they would not respect him as much. When civilians are too informed, they often become too critical and disturb the plans the “hero” has. As a symbol, Batman will be everlasting and protected from the deceitful.
Nolan shows that the mind can only take so much. The work offered by organized crime must have an attraction to the insane or the corrupt who played around with what mental illness really meant. I believe that psychological insanities were viewed in different perspectives: a person is actually ill and cannot make the right decisions (Joker), a person is perfectly fine, but uses it as an excuse (one of the prisoners who got away with his crime). People can also make one become insane, such as with the case of Falcone, who was gassed and was sent to a suicide watch. When this mental limit has been passed, the individual reaches the stage of insanity and, eventually, evil.
Every time a civilization reaches the pinnacle of its decadence, evil seems to return to restore the balance. Evil loves to see people in miserable circumstances, where they are lost and disoriented. Evil gives hope, it rebuilds the individual with new foundations and morals. Evil is a way to never go back to one’s past life. Evil gives the illusion of taking away one’s fear; it builds a new path.
Batman decided what his fight would be: the better fight. At one point, Alfred points out to Bruce that he’s now getting lost in this monster of his. But Bruce replies by saying that he’s using this monster to help other people, just like his father did. I personally will stand for the idea that Batman’s motives to stand against evil were mixed. On one hand, Batman wants to be a great justice seeker; while on the other hand, Batman needs to make use of all he possesses in a more creative way; the title he will earn from his work will simply be “the icing on the cake”. Batman will use the evil he has in him to achieve good for the good guys and hurt the bad guys.
Nolan seems to communicate that whatever marks an individual the most defines what this person is for as long as he or she repeats the pattern of his or her actions. In the very last scene, Nolan makes us understand that Bruce is the actual mask while Batman is the real personality. Bruce is now gone, such a person no longer exists. Maybe someday, when Gotham no longer needs Batman, Bruce could resurrect. At the end, we can notice that what Alfred said earlier became relevant: Batman proved Rachel wrong; he can now feel better about himself and the creator he has become. Batman has become the real face: the one that criminals now fear.
The Dark Knight:
Batman’s main goal is to create an image and inspire others to action to fix the broken, corrupt city. Even now, people’s opinions about him are divided. Yet since his debut, Batman has become the champion of Gotham City. Despite being a dark mysterious figure of the night, he is seen by many as something of a savior: “The hero Gotham deserves.” He actually enjoys this spotlight, but he also recognizes it is not what the city truly needs. Yet his presence has been the spark to begin the true healing of the city.
Once again, tragedy and pain has the potential to send humans in great or terrible directions. Although the Joker’s exact origin remains unclear, something terrible clearly happened to this man, just as something happened to Bruce, sending him spiraling in the opposite direction. And in this case, it is a far more terrible path than Ra’s Al Ghul. Just as the city, through one terrible event, gave birth to its savior, so too did it create its purest evil. One uses his darkness to fight for good, while the other perverts the image of something innocent to bring about evil.
The Joker claims not to have any real plans, but I believe that he had one. Although it seems like his goal is simply creating chaos, what the Joker really wants is to show people that his is the natural way: he is the truth that no government can hide or put behind bars. He wants to demean them to do wrong, to show the poles of good and evil in human nature. The nature that is stronger is evil. To do so, he subjects our heroes to tests that continually prove him right. What the Joker does succeed in creating is a situation where there is no escaping pain, where even the right choice will cause doubt and uncertainty.
Being truly heroic, often means doing the thing that will not gain you praise: in which perhaps you are the only person who knows that you did the right thing. Batman does not, at first, do what is the right thing in the eyes of the public, and by choosing not to reveal his identity, he condemns himself in their eyes, losing that heroic praise he has gained and perhaps enjoyed.
It seems like people do not have the capacity to cherish several heros: it needs to be one at a time. Harvey Dent soon represents that legitimate hope. He is Batman’s opposite in a much more positive way: he is the other side of the coin. “A hero with a face,” Bruce calls him, and, “the hero Gotham needs.” The Joker could only be stopped by Harvey, who proves more righteous. But later on, when the woman he loves is threatened, Harvey nearly gives into rage and has to be halted by Batman. When one fails, as the Joker proved, the others can hold up. Gotham would never stay without a hero, even if it had to lie to its people.
There is evil in all men’s nature, even in the strongest men. It can often be brought out by the right temptations. In the next situation, the Joker’s forcing Batman to choose between Harvey Dent, the true hero of Gotham, and the woman he loves led him to win. Batman makes the selfish choice of choosing the woman he loves over the man who can save the city. The Joker also tricks Batman so that he actually saves the opposite of the one he intended to. It is his final game, trying to get two groups of people to kill one another, that is ultimately his downfall. For all of the Joker’s talk about not having plans, in the one thing he truly wanted to prove, he is proven wrong. Neither of the characters did the right thing because of their nature.
When Gotham seems to still have hope, the Joker is not smiling anymore: there is still Dent. The Joker’s greatest victory comes in finally bringing out Harvey’s dark side completely. He has now killed the woman that both heroes loved, and through this pain, has managed to change the better of the two into a creature more like himself. Gotham’s “hero with a face” has been defaced both literally and figuratively.
The Dark Knight Rises:
After eight years and two films that have pushed Batman ever deeper into the dark, as the title promises, day breaks in “The Dark Knight Rises,” the grave and satisfying finish to Nolan’s operatic bat-trilogy. Batman’s cerebral thrillers balance on the border between the real and the imagined. Gotham is now a city reborn. The lie has worked. Crime in the city is at an all-time low, and Dent’s martyrdom has made organized crime a thing of the past.
Bruce behaves like a dead man: he is completely isolated from the the outside world, grieving his uselessness since Gotham is doing so well. The night his parents were killed, Bruce turned into something else. Before he discovered that meaning, that purpose within himself, he was a restless malcontent. Once he did discover it, his one goal, his purpose, was the salvation of the city. Now that it has come, what is left for him? Apparently not much.
As, Bane arises in Gotham, Bruce rediscovers meaning in himself. Soon, Bruce convinces himself that the city needs him. The entrance of Catwoman is also a turning point because of the similarities she and Batman share. Both damaged by traumatic childhoods, both seeking meaning in a double life behind masks, they are two tortured, kindred spirits who are also self-centered. The only difference between Catwoman and Batman is that she earlier decided to follow the darker path. Her experiences leads her to live life as a thief, and she finds herself on the opposite side of the law as Batman. Nolan presents Selina as a very angry person because of the lack of crime in the new Gotham paradise: she depends on criminals and is now almost jobless. Clearly someone who has suffered poverty her entire life, she has learned the hard way to look out for herself, because no one else will.
Nolan believes where people come from defines how they will behave and live life, yet they still need to decide what path to choose: the darkness or the light, however, most paths are grey but some are much darker than the average. The characters’ childhoods are a predominant factor in how they will act in the future;one’s past is the best predictor of one’s future actions. Nolan supports the idea that past behaviours can, however, change with time; they don’t always need to follow the general path of the environment from which they emerge.
Miranda Tate played an interesting role: she completed the set of the characters by sharing once again similarities with Batman. She carried much hate for her father until someone achieved the work she wished she could: kill Ducard. This reminds me of the exact same story as Batman’s in the movie Batman Begins. Now that the work is done, she wishes to honor her father by finishing his work so she feels better about herself and changes the initial feelings she had for him since her very young age. Vengeance against the man who killed him became “simply a reward for her patience.” Miranda is one more person on Nolan’s list who made the decision to choose to stand on the darker side to satisfy her own personal desires.
This now finally emerges as the major theme of the third film: suffering builds character. Only after going through our worst do we become our best. Such is the case for any character who has to go through his or her greatest trials before finding fulfillment. For the first time, Batman is confronting someone as strong as him physically and mentally. Bane tells Bruce that his years of “peace” have made him weak; Batman used to feed his spirit of evil, when peace occured, his soul was left hungry. Bane places Bruce in the same pit that he lived in throughout his own childhood. Although he does this as a “punishment,” this will of course prove to be exactly what Bruce needs: more hardship to realize what he truly wants out of life.
The Trilogy–The Complete Work:
When Christopher Nolan first created Batman Begins, he was not thinking about a series of movies which will follow one another; he put everything he owned into Batman Begins. After the release of the first movie, the audience’s reaction contributed to the constructions of the second and eventually third movie. At the end of the Dark Knight, Batman was left at a very odd place: this can only mean that Nolan needs to bring one more piece to complete the picture. Nolan was himself curious to know what happens next to Batman: he decides that the story was worth being finished. Nolan’s greatest challenge becomes to take off the icons he has already put in people’s mind; the reaction is never the same and Nolan loves it. For everybody involved, the challenge is similar: how can one adopt Nolan’s new idea in each movie? After some research and reflection, I have come to the conclusion that Batman is a chaotic good which sustains throughout masterwork series. It is not obvious to come to that conclusion if one adopts the view from one lense of the movie only; by this I mean that one needs to consider all movies to come to that conclusion.
A character who acts as his conscience directs him with little regard for what others expect of him; only his expectations of himself seem to matter. Batman makes his own way, but he is kind and benevolent. He believes in goodness and right but has little use for laws and regulations. He follows his own moral compass, which, although good, may not agree with that of society, or anyone opposing him. Chaotic good is the best alignment: it combines a good heart with a free spirit. By good heart, I don’t mean a perfect heart, which has no trace of darkness. Chaotic good can be a dangerous alignment when it disrupts the order of society and punishes those who do well for themselves. The chaotic good being would not, however, take action that could unnecessarily jeopardize the lives of other persons or creatures. Life is valuable, but without sufficient personal freedom it is demeaned.
Batman will never attack an unarmed enemy and will never harm an innocent. He will not use torture to extract information or for pleasure, but he may “rough up” someone to get information. He will never kill for pleasure, only in self-defense or in the defense of others. A chaotic good character will never use poison. He will help those in need and he prefers to work alone, as he values his freedom to make decisions he considers the best.
Nolan guides us to the conclusion that there is a necessity for evil to achieve a greater good and greater change; coercion and oppression come automatically with this statement. Evil is its own force, less than good. It requires more evil to fight good. People were not born to do evil until a turning point in their lives when they decide to follow a path to better match the darkness of their soul. The highest good in this epic trilogy is, without a doubt, self-sacrifice for the love of somebody the hero actually cares about.
The true sacrifice in this film is not one of life, but rather one of desires. Wayne may live to see the credits roll…but Batman, both his alter-ego and his idol, is dead. This inversion reflects Nolan’s true screenwriting genius. It would have been easy to “kill Bruce Wayne and let Batman live on as a symbol.” But no – Wayne lives, and the self-aggrandizing Batman symbol perishes: so technically the true hero of the story dies, leaving the mask of the human face alive.