He seems to think I must have gone to the movie knowing not only that Scarecrow was the villain but also that Scarecrow’s modus operandi is steaming people insane. I hate to tell you but I hadn’t the slightest idea who the villain was, and I’d never heard of Scarecrow. I like to see movies without knowing the story, so I use methods of finding out only as much as I need in order to decide whether I want to see it. Thus, since I’m interested in the director Christopher Nolan (from “Memento”) and I saw on Rotten Tomatoes that his movie had 82% "fresh" reviews, I read nothing more about it.
Rickey takes issue with another post of mine about the movie. I wrote:
I noticed a right-wing edge to some key statements: "Criminals thrive on the indulgence of society's understanding." Take that, you Gitmo critics! And it was quite clear that we were supposed to think about the criminals as al-Qaeda. Here was this "League of Shadows," based in Asia, bent on destroying "Gotham." We were nudged constantly to make this connection.
OK, look, can I make a deal with folks like Prof. Althouse? If we leave things like the First Amendment in their bailiwick, can they please not drag their politics into our comic books?
Hmmm.... Fanboys and their comic books! They're possessive, aren't they?
Let me just quote David Denby again: the movie is “so overdone and underfelt that [it’s] hell to sit through.” Having endured that ordeal, I’ll blog whatever observations I happen to have. The whole point of this blog is to drift in and out of my bailiwick as the spirit moves me.
I don’t go to the movies that often, but when I do, I post in my own style. And I don’t review movies. I blog about them. Here’s the prototype for my movie-blogging, a post about “House of Sand and Fog,” written on January 15, 2004, the second day in the life of this blog. And here’s my post on “Kill Bill: Volume 2.”
Anyway, Rickey shares his comic-fan expertise in an attempt to refute my observation that the terrorists in the film represent al Qaeda:
Ra's al Ghul started off as a Batman villain in the early '70s, long before anyone had even considered something called al-Qaeda. And far from shoving an al-Qaeda riff down our throats, the movie does everything it can to move the film away from anything vaguely Islamic. He's played by Ken Watanabe, for crying out loud. The scenes with him in it (or, see spoiler below) seem to be set in Nepal instead of Arabia. And the "Society of Shadows"--a fanatical organization devoted to his will--is part of the character of Ra's and has been, so far as I know, since his creation.
Obviously, the filmmakers didn’t do everything they could to eliminate the al Qaeda feeling, since they kept the Arabic name Ra’s al Ghul (“the demon’s head"). (And we were certainly familiar with Arab terrorism back in the early 70s.) I didn’t go out of my way to think about al Qaeda. I don’t care whether the original comic writers meant to say anything about al Qaeda, the filmmakers would be obtuse if they didn’t see the connections people would make. Just attacking New York City is enough to push us down that particular thought path. As for using Nepal: it was reminiscent of Afghanistan, the source of most of our al Qaeda imagery.
But what really interests me is not whether we moviegoers see a terrorist group and think al Qaeda – of course, we do – but whether Batman is right wing. The line I quoted – "Criminals thrive on the indulgence of society's understanding" – struck me as distinctly right wing. But Batman, in this film, had some lefty instincts too. He was concerned with the roots of crime in poverty. On the other hand, he gleefully extracted information from a man by using torture (dangling him from a tall building and letting him drop part way).
Rickey points me to this old post of his in which he compares the politics of Spiderman and Batman, so it’s not that he objects to analyzing the politics of the film. He just seems to think you have to know the material from the comic books to analyze the movie. I can’t see why that would be. Movies based on books, including comic books, usually deviate from the books. Who feels they need to know the book to talk about the movie?