Saturday, July 19, 2008

Growing-up lessons from Batman

Pa had a day off yesterday, and since Sonny was at the infant care centre and Mum only returns to work next Tuesday, we caught the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight. Comic-book epic it may be, but it also made us really think about how a person's childhood can shape him.

The film's hero has a cool black Batmobile that is black and sleek, and packs a turbocharged wallop. It's a perfect metaphor for director Christopher Nolan's vehicle, which is grim, stylish and zips along smartly. Both movie and Batmobile are cleverly engineered (Nolan crams in plenty of social commentary along with wham-bang action), yet suffer what seem to be fatal crashes midway - thematic and fiery respectively. However, they emerge, stripped-down, and roar on to a satisfying finish.

There's been much publicity about how well the late Heath Ledger realises his villainous Joker. Still, the movie pivots around the ominous Batman, who never speaks above a growl and thinks he can best serve society by prowling the night in sable armour, terrifying the underworld. As anyone who knows the Batman back story can tell you, he's a billionaire who lost his parents when very young, after the wealthy couple were gunned down by a crook in an alley.

Despite his bereavement, and thanks to his being raised by a implausibly wise butler, the hero emerges with many of the aspects of a well-balanced personality intact: He has a sense of right and wrong, retains the benefits of a good education (including nonpareil fighting skills), is polite to women and can all in all pass for 'normal' at first glance. But, of course, he's actually scarred for life, his darker insecurities and rage expressed as the actions of a larger-than-life vigilante.

Strip away the fictive elements, and we have a story of someone who was deprived of being raised by his parents. These days, of course, millions of real-life children have to do with just one parent, or a cobbled-together family life at best. Many of those who have gone through this will tell you that, though they may have 'come out all right', they longed for the sense of security and completeness that an intact family unit confers. It would have made a difference to their lives, though they may not have ended up vigilantes or master criminals: Certainly, it would have enhanced their psychic defences and given them a better shot at happiness.

There will always people for whom adversity provides the very tools for their achieving glory. Napoleon might not have been the mighty conqueror he became had he not been laughably short, some have argued. But for the great majority of us, contentment and success are cast in more modest terms. We don't expect Sonny to achieve greatness - indeed, the sacrifices required to reach superlative heights might not be worthwhile - but we would be satisfied if we can provide the groundings for a decent life. In the Batman movie, one tragic character is a crusading prosecutor who falls from grace after tragedy strikes.

Perhaps if he had enjoyed a better childhood, things could have turned out different.


Unknown said...

any spoilers? Don't dare to read any further...

Cloudsters said...

Nope, spoiler-free! Can't abide reviewers (even though this isn't really a review) that give away crucial twists.

Unknown said...

wow what a way to look into the movie. very well thought. but then, there will be no batman...? haha :)

Cloudsters said...

You're right there. Win some, lose some... well, Gotham loses big if there's no Caped Crusader to keep the supervillains in check.