Tag Archives: critique

The Lie of the Conservative Batman

I’ve waited a week to post this until enough people have had a chance to see the latest Dark Knight movie, but it bears mentioning: MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Batman mythos runs so deep in our culture, that parallels are easy. Claims now run rampant that the latest brilliant installment of Christopher Nolan‘s Dark Knight trilogy is anti-Occupy, or pro-capitalist in sentiment. That it purports ‘only a billionaire’ can save us. Chris Nolan has dispelled as much, though it’s not unreasonable to suggest that the phenomenally successful series may be inexorably linked to current events, as no writer or director creates in a vacuum, and both life imitates art and art imitates life. All films reflect their times, and the Batman is no exception. The imagery itself has seeped into everyday usage, (much like the protagonist masks in V for Vendetta), the war-painted Joker has been used by protest movements to vilify seemingly every elite from Bernie Madoff to president Barack Obama. Even without the gadgetry, moral code, genius-level detective skills, martial arts, cape or cowl, many billionaires see themselves as crucial heroes, their “sacrifices” necessary for the good of the system. And yes, the probably psychopathic James Holmes seems unable or unwilling to separate reality from fiction, modeling himself after The Dark Knight‘s villainous Joker (portrayed inimitably by Heath Ledger).

But Christopher Nolan’s version of the Batman (dubbed the Nolanverse), had already established an old Gotham rife with political corruption, a recession predating our own by a few years (Batman Begins began in 2005), the excesses of the rich and inequity of their system, and the thievery of Wall Street.

The script for The Dark Knight Rises was written during 2010, with location scouting happening in December of that year. Filming ran from May to November 2011, overlapping the rise of the Occupy movement by mere months. Any similarity is purely coincidental, and furthermore seen through the lens of Fox news analysis and FBI entrapment, where Occupiers have already been condemned as criminals and terrorists. The predominant Beltway philosophy already has established the ‘infallible rich’ as a cornerstone of its power structure.

And the story of haves and have-nots is as old as time anyway, as the Dark Knight Rises draws heavily from A Tale of Two Cities and its historical Red Terror. It’s a false dichotomy (which many pundits love) that one cannot have both a healthy opposition to violent revolution and sympathetic support for a protest movement. It really reveals more about the claimants’ ideology than anything else. Charles Dickens, for one, cared deeply for the plight of the poor, but not for the brutal atrocities of the French Revolution.

We humans will ascribe our own meaning and see what we want in film and comic book escapism, no matter how earnest the telling. This trilogy simply rings true because it dissects the hard ideological differences regarding justice, evil, truth, responsibility, and just exactly who is the real psychopath, anyway. We can all too easily see the divides and overlapping philosophies of the Occupy movement, the police force, the rich elites, and the League of Shadows. And yes, both lone vigilantes and lone nuts.

But even if the movie were a direct allegory to our failed structure, it could hardly be seen as a conservative endorsement, as bloggers on both sides have contended. More likely, the chilling dystopian vision of a city torn into a No Man’s Land reads as a warning against radical demagoguery and institutional deception. And though some may not agree with the aims of the Occupy movement, it takes a willfully ignorant or forcefully disingenuous mindset to equate them with the insane philosophy of either a chaotically sadistic Joker or a frighteningly focused and cold-blooded Bane (portrayed by Tom Hardy).

Indeed, Occupy remains a leaderless movement, constantly worrying about being co-opted by self-interested parties. Bane adopts a populist message in order to peddle false hopes to the citizenry he hopes to torture, populating his army with liberated thieves and killers. Yes, and there are those whom society has forsaken. Bane’s armed revolt plays to the same paranoid fears of Fox News and the State Department, and the same rhetoric of a much less radical Anonymous; it is made up of janitors, shoe-shiners, orphans, ex-cons, sanitation and construction workers. The under-served.

Bruce Wayne’s (reprised by Christian Bale) sins are spelled out for us at the beginning of the Dark Knight Rises. Not only has he taken the fall for the crimes of Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) and conspired to propagate a political lie, he has turned his back on society and the world. The streets have become relatively clean without him in the eight years since he donned the cowl, but the less obvious ills of a broken system still endure as Bruce neglects the city he loves, and literally atrophies in his elegantly rebuilt mansion.

Gotham’s sins are also many, where betrayal and lies are common political practice, where war heros are expendable during peacetime, where critical-thinking police are discounted as ‘hotheads’, and where even good men like Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) get their hands filthy. The Batman himself, as the Force-ghost of Ra’s Al-Ghul (Liam Neeson) reminds us, “for years fought the decadence of Gotham with his moral authority… and the most he could achieve was a lie.” The overreaching Dent Act, based on Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne’s falsehood, has robbed the imprisoned of any chance of parole. And though it was (hurriedly) agreed that if they world knew of Harvey Dent’s crimes, the guilty would be opened up to appeal, it is this very act of conspiracy that threatens to help blow apart the system, once finally discovered. The career politicians, police bosses, day traders and rich elite are anything but sympathetic figures.

Selena Kyle (Anne Hathaway) is the only decent representative of the 99%. She (as well as her politics and moral code) is adaptable, values anonymity, and doesn’t seem to care much for gun control. She embodies the ‘honor among thieves’ adage, she is generous, and sees herself as somewhat of a Robin Hood, at least more than the society types she robs from, who ‘take so much and leave so little for the rest.’ However, she is equally horrified, frightened and disgusted by the madness that ensues during Bane’s “revolution.”

John Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn), on the other hand, is your stereotypical corporate vulture, a literal blood diamond opportunist looking for his next hostile takeover, who doesn’t have time for “save-the-world vanity projects.” In fact, Daggett doesn’t care if the world is destroyed with his help, so long as he acquires more money, and the “power it buys.” It is the likes of Daggett and the other one-dimensional capitalists who worship the status quo when it suits them, and then collude with criminals on the side. Daggett only sees Bane as ‘pure evil’ once he realizes the imminent threat to himself and his riches. Once it’s no longer himself who’s in charge. It should be noted, for the record, that there are no real-life Occupy figures who could cow a crooked billionaire by placing a hand on their shoulder like an alpha dominant.

But of course these unsympathetic crooks are surely served up as contrast to our hero: the billionaire who would save us.

And though the Batman/Bruce Wayne may be heralded as the authoritarian’s dream; willing to employ mass surveillance, extreme rendition, and solely deciding what technology the people deserve and can be trusted with, he is no societal Superman. He is not a billionaire’s billionaire, for though he has more cars than cares to count, has never answered his own door, and “doesn’t even go broke like the rest of us,” he is also easily displaced within his own boardroom, decries the egotistical hypocrisy of charity balls, and has not been watching his own money carefully. Notably, he wants to fail. He relishes the opportunity to be destroyed as the Batman, if it means saving the lives of everyone; the rich, the workers and the poor alike.

Neither, however, has he been serving his own people and city of late, trading in his once rich playboy identity for a Howard Hughes shtick. Not only is his corporation floundering, his beloved charitable foundation is practically defunct. Orphaned boys age out of Gotham’s social programs, neglected by a city with no homes of jobs available. Here they become easy prey for vaguely Middle Eastern terrorists and organized criminals, where they die in the sewers and wash away once they are used up.

The progressive responsibility of socially conscious and civic-minded billionaires, (an extremely endangered breed both in Gotham and out real world) had to be summed up by an ecoterrorist acting the part of a lovely socialite (Marion Cotillard); “You have to invest to restore balance to the world.” Bruce has been lacking in his duties, and that evil that he and Commissioner Gordon buried isn’t dead, but rising up once again.

Bane’s movement is a false one, as he tells the people of Gotham that he is not a Conquerer but a Liberator, but in actuality he is neither. Bane is the Destroyer. Spinning a hopeful message in the wake of his havoc, telling the people to “take control” of Gotham, Bane uses his “truth” to get the citizenry to “tear down a corrupt city” and reclaim what is theirs from the rich oppressors who had peddled their myth of opportunism.

And it is not just any “ordinary citizen” who holds the detonator to their destruction, but equal parts rich girl and terrorist-anarchist. These masterminds did not just create a populist movement to fulfill their diabolical plot, but infiltrated powerful corporations with their subterfuge as well. For comparison, real-world anarchists, despite practicing just another political philosophy, are readily depicted by the media as murderous terrorists. Protestors, despite exercising their constitutional right to assemble, are either beaten or made into bridge bombers by the FBI. Even those who have read the anarchist or socialist literature pale in comparison to the bloodthirsty Bane army. But the fear has been writ large in the news: if a lone nut like the joker can inspire a depraved massacre in a theatre, what would an evil warlord and his army of mercenaries inspire?

Like the Batman, authoritarians do seem to create their own enemies.

What follows once the structures fail lacks even more subtlety; in the face of such wanton violence, the government will abandon you. The good cops will attempt to salvage the status quo, and the bad cops will either desert or work against the people. Idiotically and blindly following orders, in fact, could get orphans and priests killed. Only the Batman can save us.

As even Selena realizes too late, this is not what the 99% ever wanted. Their system has swung wildly from an authoritarian, decadent state to the bloody turf of a mad warlord. It is the Dark Knight who is the hero we need, but unlike any known billionaire, he is now humiliated and humbled, fearful, responsible, accountable, and thus strengthened, empowered, respectful and focused. “Hardened by pain… not from privilege.”

It really should go without saying, by the way, that is not until Bruce Wayne loses all of his money, loses nearly everything, in fact, and is dropped into a pit to rebuild himself, that he is worthy of becoming a savior. And even those he still uses all those wonderful toys that only his privileged life could have afforded him, there can be no analogue for his virtuosity. Nobody has done as much as the fictitious Wayne family. And no playboy industrialists don a mask and fight crime.

As super-fan of the Batman, Kevin Smith, points out:

“In our world it’s not the case. The richer one gets, the less moral one seems to become. Not in all cases, but you hear about everything that just happened to our economy in the last few years… at the end of the day, Bruce Wayne/Batman [is] a moral example of a billionaire… Right then and there you should be able to divorce yourself from reality because no billionaire would waste their time helping others.”

This establishes the film’s central conceit as high fantasy. The Batman doesn’t have what we’d normally call superpowers, and we’ve seen it’s not simply the gadgets or money that keeps him going, but his rigid moral compass and drive to do good that makes him superhuman.

It isn’t just allegorical. It’s not just a cautionary tale. It’s a mad thought experiment. Fiction. Fantasy. Though some of us do have trouble separating that.

For there is no Ayn Randian perfect citizen or engine of the economy that somehow magically makes everything better. There is no Nietzschean Übermench. In the face of the very real threats of depraved elites, deadly terrorist groups and savage gunmen, there are no real superheroes.

Batman will not save us.

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If adventure has a name, surely, it must be… well, adventure. Because it does have a name.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal SkullTM offers us references to the previous movies, a Harrison Ford back in shape for the role, fan service, few modern and flashy digital effects, follows a structure reminiscent of the prior trilogy, and thus begs the question: Was this really necessary?
George Lucas promises that this installment of his beloved movie franchise won’t disappoint, and he’s certainly an expert in not disappointing when it comes to expanding a beloved movie franchise.*
Steven Spielburg promises it will be better than his magnum opus, ‘Munich!’TM
With tie-ins from DKTM, Burger KingTM, LegoTM, Del ReyTM, XBoxTM, Random HouseTM, DisneyTM, Dark HorseTM comics, Hallmark CardsTM (a subsidiary of Doom, Inc.) and Hasbro®, this classic blockbuster of film history is sure to maintain the integrity we remember from our wonder years… get by with a little help from my friends. And Transformers’TM Shia Lepoof is in it! TransformersTM was nothing but one big commercial, so it was true to its source material!
I don’t know what I’m really more upset about, the bastardization of my childhood iconic hero Indy, or of the crystal skulls. The repercussions are much worse in terms of the ancient powers, who have better litigation attorneys and death-beam eyes. I really don’t want everyone who attends or even downloads the movie to be cursed for all eternity, the Earth engulfed in otherworldly flame, that burns not the skin, but the very soul.
An extra in the film, Tyler Nelson, violated his nondisclosure agreement with ParamountTM when he tried to leak key plot points. SPOILERS NOT AHEAD, however, as the bulk of his smuggled information is limited to “I’m totally in the new Indiana Jones movie! You can find me in there somewhere. Me, Tyler Nelson!”
And this, from the newswire agency wikipedia:
A number of photos and sensitive documents pertaining to the film’s budget were stolen from the director’s production offices. An official reported the missing items to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on September 24, 2007. Spokesman Marvin Levy said the director was concerned that the thieves would try to sell the materials and on October 2, the people believed to be involved in the burglary sent out e-mails to several entertainment gossip websites offering to sell the images. According to IESB, TMZ.com obtained some of the stolen property and was on the verge of running the story on its TV division until ParamountTM lawyers stepped in. After ParamountTM was notified about the emails, they contacted sheriff’s investigators. A member of the online press helped the detectives by posing as a potential buyer and setting up a meeting in West Hollywood. When the seller arrived, he was arrested on suspicion of receiving stolen property On October 4, Roderick Eric Davis, age 37, was charged with one felony count of receiving stolen property. He later pleaded guilty to two felony counts and will serve two years and four months in jail
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (whuUAAH?) can catch these guys in the two days that they were attempting to sell the stolen items, but child rapist-murderers roam free in the streets! Why? Just because they are children? Maybe the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department needs to spend less time on the treasure-hunting adventurers stealing from films about a treasure-hunting adventurer, and more time stopping children from committing horrendous acts of rape and murder! You gotta manage your time, better, mans! Don’t micro-manage! Strengthen and diversify your actualized proselytizing synergy statement!
Do you see what I did there? I retroactively scapegoated Steven Speilburg for some terrible crimes he had as little control over as you or I. This type of blind insinuation is a great debate tactic, right above calling someone a “doo-doo ca-ca-head,” but well below “what? I’m sorry, we can’t understand stupid.”
For example: if you wanted to imply that your opponent (or in this case an innocent Hollywood director) was in league with National ZocialistsTM without citing nonexistent hard facts, or outright invoking Godwin’s LawTM, then you could say something to the effect of, “Sure, Mr. Spielberg can craft an excellent biopic chronicling the persecution of the Jewish peoples by the nazis, but where was he when they really needed his help? Nowhere. The nazis had to do it on their own.”
For the record, I don’t actually believe that Steven Speilberg and (to a lesser extent) George Lucas are in any way associated with any neo-nazi groups. In their defense, their entire movie careers have been dedicated to the building of episodic tomes in defense of oppressed peoples. Oskar Schindler, before he harbored huddled masses of Jews yearning to be free, protected an entire planet from the threat of an evil Trade OrganizationTM. Of course, this did get us entrenched in a seemingly endless galactic war, culminating in the totalitarian takeover of an evil despot. Indy, meanwhile, fights against the nazis, though it is ambiguous as to whether he does this for personal gain, or the same chivalry that allowed him to free starving children from a bloodthirsty cult.
I do not mean this to be taken as a metaphorical indictment of the Bush administration, HalliburtonTM and its subsidiary, BlackwaterTM. Though by mentioning it where it might not have been apparent, I have purposefully drawn the interesting comparison in your mind’s eye. Another excellent debate technique.
And for the record, I do not believe that ‘innocent’ and ‘Hollywood’ can be placed next to each other in the same sentence this way. Just ask Jayne Mansfield.
And… hmmm.. yes… yes, I managed to misspell Stephen’s name every whichway but tango, that oughta cover all the bases.
*Mesa think, anyway.

Spider-Man Sucks So Hard

What the hell is with Spider-Man? Aside from the fuh-LAMING costume, which I won’t even get into, what kind of powers are those to fucking have?
Do spiders really have the ability to sense things before they happen? I don’t know any that did before I squished their asses. There’s a good villain for Spider-Man; the Indomitable Shoe, or Rolled-Up Newspaper-Man. Or; and this is my favorite, the Aerosol Avenger. Now, a fly I could buy, because they always jump away before I can fucking squish them. But spiders are slow as all hell.
On top of that, since when do spiders have super-agility? Aren’t they slow-moving? They don’t have to move fast, their prey gets stuck to their web and then they can take all the fucking time in the world getting around to eating it. It’s like a fucking roast just walks in your house and asks if you’re hungry.
“Hi, I’m the walking, talking roast dinner, want to eat me?
“No, roast, I just ate.”
“That’s cool, I’ll just wait in the fridge until you feel peaked.”
“Thanks, be a pal and grab me a beer, will you?”
See? No agility required. Okay, fine, spiders need to be able to balance on their webs, but doesn’t that come down to the wall-crawling more than anything else? They don’t get stuck in their own webs, and they use the little fibers on their legs to traipse about them.
To be thoroughly accurate, a real Spider-Man would just web every bank in New York, wait, and then eventually catch himself a villain. Then, he wouldn’t just leave them for police, but suck the juices from their bodies, the marrow from their bones, and leave an emptied husk to confuse the coroner.
And why the hell did he become all buff? Spiders aren’t buff! They have a giant fucking rear end! In reality, Peter Parker wouldn’t have had to throw away his glasses, he’d have to get three more pairs for his eight fucking eyes.
Oh, and for people who take the movie as gospel, let me tell you something; that webbing wouldn’t really come out of his hands.
Don’t give me that crap about him actually becoming a spider for a short time, because I read the Man-Spider saga, and it was lame. L-A-M-E.
And I don’t buy this whole ‘radioactive spider’ thing. Yeah, okay, fine. Change it into a DNA thing for the movie and the Ultimate Spider-Man series. I still don’t buy it. In fact, I’m more offended now that you’re trying to make it more scientifically viable, and its total bullshit. Last time I checked, DNA doesn’t get transferred from one species to another, otherwise there’d be a lot of half-human, half-sheep out there looking for child support.
At least a radioactive spider was campy. Back in the sixties, everything was radioactive. The Hulk, the cosmic rays that changed the Fantastic Four, even kryptonite radiates and harms Superman. I’m sure there’s some way to get the Green Lantern in on this, but I never really read that because it was crap, too.
A virus, now, that would explain it. Maybe some mad scientist (as they’re always a staple of comic book literature), injected his spiders with a disease that, if they bite a human, they get freakin’ spider-powers. Why? I don’t know, maybe he wanted to inject it into himself but then a freaking tour group of college students interrupted him. What, mad scientists can’t give tour groups? Okay, maybe it was a mad janitor. And he did it just to be mad. Do not question his methods! He will mop you!
Viruses explain everything! Vampires, zombies, werewolves… You know what Captain America got? A serum. A chemically manufactured and not biologically random injection. They created something specifically for the purpose of making him stronger; and that’s believable because I could actually see our government doing some guinea pig type shit for the sake of a military endeavor. Badass Sam Elliot in between Hulk-busting, trying to develop a super-soldier. Then it gets stolen, industrial espionage, happens every day.
Spider-Man? Gets bitten… BITTEN, by a spider who just happens to have been randomly altered or randomly fried by some random radioactivity in which its body randomly reacted by making its blood some sort of human-DNA-changing engine. Was it an all-encompassing DNA catalyst? I mean, had the spider bitten a cat would the cat walk up on your ceiling and then spray webbing out of its ass? And by the way, spiders don’t inject you with blood, they inject you with venom. Venom is not blood. What, in fucking hell, does a spider have to gain by injecting its prey or an attacker with its blood? And, in nature, if the spider-DNA infected its predator or prey as it did Peter Parker, that would only disadvantage the spider. “Oh, shit, I just gave this predator that’s attacking me, or prey that I plan on eating, all of my powers in addition to whatever it had before. I’m fucked.” If anything, a spider would develop, through DNA enhancement or radiated whatever, an ability to steal other peoples’ DNA. If the spider suddenly learned to talk, maybe, but not when it gives a human a useless injection of blood.
Go ahead, explain away that there was blood in the spider venom. I mean, he was fucked up. He was traumatized by radiation. I bet if I stepped into the path of some gamma rays I’d be spitting blood with my saliva, too. What they don’t tell you about Bruce Banner is that he shits green blood at least twice a week.
Let me go off subject for a second here and talk about Venom. Venom is awesome. You know why? Because I buy it. You try to explain to me, in Earth terms and scientific methodology, how a burnt spider, who just happened to survive a radioactive blast, imparts his genetic makeup onto a human being, and I cannot accept that. But you say, oh, some alien with incredibly adaptive abilities copies the superpowers of another, and, as it seeks a new host, takes those remembered powers with it, then I buy that. You know why? Because I have no reference for it. There aren’t any aliens coming down all offended and saying, “No, it would never happen that way.”
Whereas, I’ve micro-waved spiders. I know they don’t survive.
You know what else is great about Venom? He straight kicks ass, yo. He won’t leave your criminal ass for police to find. In fact, if somebody ever did find your ass, or any other part of your body for that matter, then Venom didn’t do his job correctly. He could have killed Spider-Man years ago, and would have too, buy they have some deal going on or something. A respect issue. Yeah, you fight crime too, I’ll let you go. You helped me stop Carnage, I’ll let you live. For now. And then Peter Parker’s all like, Gee, I wonder if it was a mistake to let Venom go. Bitch! He let you go! What were going to do? Take a picture of him? Okay, fine, you tricked him with the sound vibrations once. Whoopty-frickin’-doo. You’re a science whiz. But you can’t trick Venom again.
Let me quote president Bush here; “Fool us once, shame on you… fool us twice… uh… you can’t fool us a second time, that’s just the point. It ain’t happenin‘.”
Douche-bag! He knows your secret identity! Your secret identity. You know, the thing you told Mary-Jane, Doctor Octavius, Harry Osbourne and your fucking landlord, I’m sure. The thing that Robbie Robertson and Aunt May have figured out because it’s not real freaking difficult when your job is to take fucking pictures of yourself. “My, what a lovely shot of Spider-Man’s crotch, however did you get it?”
I tell you, if Venom or Carnage really wanted to fuck Spider-Man up, they could and all he’d be able to do is sit in a corner with his little web shooters all ready, which they can tear through like butter, and pray because they don’t set off your precious little spider-sense.
It seems to me that having spider-sense would be a very useless thing to have.
Let me support that; You see, Spider-Man, in the comics, would get his flashy little squiggles around his head anytime anything bad was about to happen. However, he didn’t know what form the bad thing was going to present itself in. It could have been a super villain, or a flood, or a burglary, or perhaps simply a punch in the face. But since you don’t know what it is, who really fucking cares that you’re going to know something is going to happen sometime. That’s like paying money for a psychic to tell you that, someday, in the future, you may possibly die.
Now, granted, this gives Spider-Man the advantage of being prepared for something. No enemy can really get the jump on him, because ten or twelve seconds beforehand, he knows, shit, something’s going to go down. In the comics and in the cartoon, immediately after he would see what it was that was going down, like a fire or the green goblin flying by. But, this doesn’t really prepare him for anything. Just because you know something is going to happen to you, it doesn’t really help when eighty pumpkin bombs are suddenly falling from the sky and decimating the roof you’re on.
Also, I’ve seen Peter Parker get the spider-sense for extended periods of time. He’ll be at a fancy party, or a press conference, or a gala event, some other photo opportunity for Jameson’s rag, and for like a solid twenty minutes his spider-sense is buzzing saying, listen! like that Goddamn fairy thing in Zelda 64. Then he gets all paranoid and starts looking all over the place for something that could be wrong. What, is the scaffolding going to fall down? Is Mary-Jane going to get bitten by rabid monkeys? Is the Shocker or some other 80’s reject villain going to jump into the building via the nearest window, with his goons in tow, and raise some hell? Granted, it gives ole Pete time to do a wardrobe change, but this never seemed like a problem for him anyways. All it would do for me is equal a great big headache and possible a trip to the insane asylum for worn-out superheroes.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. In the movie, Pete was able to duck Flash Thompson’s fist, and catch Mary-Jane when she fell down with a tray of food, then catch all of the things on her tray. Alright, I’ll give you that. But that is a distinctly different power. Those are spider-reflexes. When you see somebody fall out of the corner of your eye, or you see a fist coming at you, or even the Green Goblin’s glider, shit, yeah, move out of the fucking way. I mean, you’re fast. Jump, idiot. But that’s not the same thing as just having flashy squiggle things rotate around your head and you suddenly know, damn, it’s time to duck.
I mean, what the hell is that!?
So, in conclusion, Captain America rocks, and Spider-Man can take a giant metallic Octopus tentacle up the ass for all I care.
Thank you.