Saturday, February 28, 2009
The world is burning
There are a few movies that I enjoying watching again and again. One of the more recent movies is The Dark Knight, the sequel to Batman Begins. Of all the actors to play Batman, Christian Bale is by far the best and the closest to my idea of Batman, and I have had a love affair with the Dark Knight for many decades, starting when I read the comics. Don't get me wrong. I loved Superman, too, but Batman appealed to something dark and forbidden in me that I couldn't name or understand at that young age.
Batman is dark and dangerous, caught in the eternal dance between his own light and shadow selves and the movies starring Christian Bale capture that without camp or high gloss. Before Christian Bale's Batman, I found Tim Burton's Batman Returns to have just the right essence of darkness and light and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman was superb, as was Danny Devito's Penguin.
What sets The Dark Knight and Batman Begins apart from the rest aren't the villains, although they have been as riveting and on target as Christian Bale's performance, or Inspector (now Chief) Gordon played to perfection by that chameleon actor, Gary Oldman, but Michael Caine who creates a new persona for the ultra British butler, Alfred, by giving him a Cockney accent and a fascinating and varied background. Heath Ledger's performance is as enduring as the movie itself, all the more so because Heath is now dead and his portray of the Joker is a high water mark unlikely to be matched or exceeded in this or any future time.
One of the most memorable lines of the movie is not from the Joker or Batman, but from Alfred when he tells Batman about a bandit he was hired to find and kill in Burma. The bandit had been stealing jewel shipments earmarked for bribes to local village chiefs and no one could find out what the bandit was doing with them until a young boy was seen playing with a huge ruby. The bandit had been throwing away the jewels and not selling them on the open or underground markets. He considered the thefts good fun. He wasn't interested in profit or wealth but in chaos.
When Bruce Wayne asked Alfred why the bandit stole the jewels, Alfred told him that "...some men just want to see the world burn."
"Alfred, how did you catch the bandit?"
"We burned down the forest."
Those lines have haunted me and they remain in my memory as the most prophetic. Nothing else comes close to describing the world in which we live with terrorists on every side and even within our own borders. They can't be reasoned with or bought and the only way they can be stopped is to burn down the forest. I wonder how long it will take before the powers that be realize that.