Last week I went to see the latest Batman movie which has been hailed by many movie critics as one of the best superhero movies ever. Well I must not be in to those movies or it might be the pick of a fairly bad bunch, but I was not so impressed – although Heath Ledger’s portrayal as the evil Joker was a fantastic performance, full of mania and mayhem. The friend who I went with and I laughed at some of the plot storylines; but then I should not expect too much of such a film then! And it was very violent of course – not one for the kids!
Throughout the film and after, I kept remembering the 2002 book by Zia Sardar and Merryl Win Davies Why Do People Hate America? In it, they look at the quintessential western, Shane, and how the story of the hero bringing order to a lawless land is translated in the American mythological metanarrative of the USA to its international affairs of bringing peace and democracy to alien lands.
The role of the American Batman hero is like Shane, as the custodian and keeper of peace, and not necessarily within the law. He is emotionally poor, who either does not need women or cannot keep them because he is beholden to his way of life. Truth does not matter and it is not important to know things that might hurt or alter your beliefs – instead faith in your beliefs and what is right is more important. As others fall around him, he holds to this way of life, the true way, no matter what, with a steel jaw, tough fists and guns blazing. And in the end, he rides off into the sunset to fight another villain another day.
Other familiar metaphors ran through the film as well – that of the real heroes as the cops on the street or the fighters on the frontline. And the best line of course was that of the Joker stating that Batman needs anti-heroes like him as competing forces of good and evil. And the particular line? “You complete me”. Just brilliant.
The other comedic attraction was the attitude of the locals in the audience, always fascinating in the Dubai crowd. Fortunately, the crowd was relatively well behaved with not too many mobile phones going off and given that the movie was quite loud, the talking in the crowd was indistinct. But the funniest part was seeing dozens of people leave the movie just before the end so that they could get away before the crowd rushes to the exit. As someone who is nearly always the last to leave a cinema, I found that simply amazing.