Thursday 30 August 2012

I catch up with Batman: and Osama bin Lenin.

I'm a bit slow to reach the Batman franchise, but I sat through what felt like about six hours of the thing today: that Dark Knight thingy. (Don't ask me to justify it, it's a parent thing.)

Two main thoughts: the persistence of the dark,wealthy/aristocratic stranger figure as a staple in Gothic literature, along with his crumbling hall and (at the end) graveyard accoutrements; the ever-shifting hybrid enemy of civilisation.

On this latter point, the enemy in sensational, excessive literature of the late 19th, early 20th century was often a transformed representation of the very people that the 'civilised' world was enslaving, imprisoning, cheating and exploiting: Africans, Indians and Chinese. Boys comics were overflowing with invading Africans, drug-dealing Chinese and cretinized Indian servants. In the 1950s, the enemy had become the totalitarian Soviets or clones thereof, or Nazi-Communist mongrels.

So, 2012, we have what is a kind of Osama Bin Lenin figure who talks a bit like the nutters who kidnapped Patsy Hearst. The imagery of long-brewed revenge out there somewhere where it's hot and desert-like is redolent of the non-existent presence of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and of course there isn't room in the film to explain that Bin Laden's brewing was yeasted up by the longterm presence of Western oil interests in the deserts and not so deserted spots of the Middle East. However, when the film's Bin Laden figure gets to Gotham he morphs into a populist.

Batman is of course the saviour, mixing hi-tech obliteration techniques appropriate to the era of the Stealth bomber and prolonged fisticuffs borrowed from the cowboy era of film-making.

There's a good deal of muttering and guttural grunting from the men and the women mostly avoided pouting as the post-feminist norm for women in this kind of movie is to be dangerous: kicking and killing.

Even though it looked as if Batman was blown up by his own heroics with a neutron bomb, we note at the end that he has survived along with one of the dangerous women.

There is a theory that all US movies are Catholic, Protestant or Jewish. This one's Catholic. A priest walks about with some boys, agrees to bus them to almost certain death, but (of course) they survive. And I suppose Batman is Jesus. He dies but comes back to life. Though that analogy may fall down as Jesus didn't get the girl with lipstick and tight trousers.

I told you I'm late to the franchise.