Where's the Dark Knight of the Soul?
'Batman Begins' has much potential, but ultimately fails to show us the inner bat we all must confront.
At one point, Bruce has a flash of insight. He realizes that as a man he can't deal effectively with the crime and corruption that has taken over Gotham. He says that a symbol would be more powerful. But as the movie progresses, he doesn't trust the symbol as much as he does the high-tech machinery created in yet another subterranean locale by a forgotten inventor played marvelously by Morgan Freeman. Somebody in the film even mentions Jungian archetypes, but the film falls far short of a true mythic, archetypal exploration of the bat-world. Instead, this is just another movie full of sword-bearing ninja-types, swarthy bad guys, frenzied car chases, bursting fireballs, and twin-towerish crumbling infrastructure. The hero of this movie is not a mysterious and powerful bat-creature from the Otherworld, but a guy with a great set of wheels that runs over the competition like a demolition derby champion.
Batman really begins in the comic book, a genre that is generally far more in the realm of imagination than fact. The comic book Batman, and even the Adam West Batman of television, were more figures of the imagination than life. These genres sweep us blessedly from this hard world of fact, so honored and worshipped by modern culture, to the deeper realities of fantasy and dream. Seeing the sociological Batman of this movie, his bat-nature explained as childhood trauma, I missed the old Batman and his crew, especially the stylized portrayal of the villains in Burgess Meredith's Penguin and Jack Nicholson's Joker. In this new film there is no conscious and artful camp, which cracks the literalism, but only unconscious moralism. There is no irony and little humor, except for the delightful Michael Caine who, with his soulful wit, as the millionaire kid's valet and nurse, brings some spirit to depressive Gotham.
A mantra is repeated throughout the film: "You fall so you can learn to pick yourself up." Maybe that's true, but in light of Bruce Wayne's fall into the well, I would think you fall to become acquainted with your deeper nature, to enter the realm of the bat, which is mysteriously a part of your interior, the dreamworld that has great impact on your emotions and sense of meaning.
Maybe it isn't fair for me to complain that this isn't the movie about Batman I want to see or I would have made. But I'm concerned about a number of issues raised by the fact of this film:
There is some fine acting, some inspired moments, and a great depiction of a dark archetypal city in this film. I think it's worth seeing. It's just too bad that it has little to do with us, the viewers. After all, at some level we are all batmen and batwomen.