Begin The Begin

Man, I gotta’ get me one of those utility belts.

A great piece of fiction — a novel, a film, a comic book — needs to leave one transformed, if only just a little bit. At the end, when the curtain closes, or the last page folds, the world need look just an iota different. A film that finds me walking thirty blocks, one that leaves me with slightly sharper senses, and even a fraction more resolve, then, must be great.

“It is not what you wear on the outside that makes you who you are,” Bruce Wayne tells Rachel Dawes in Christopher Nolan’s brilliantly realized “Batman Begins,” “It’s what you do that defines you.”

I am a man of diminished expectations. The higher I hope, the harder I fall. And so, as I walked through Times Square towards the Warner Bros. screening room tonight, a bit dizzy from a whirlwind day at the office, I told my companion, “I refuse to be excited.”

The lights dimmed, and a swarm of bats formed the Bat Signal against a cloud-strewn sunset, and we met our protagonist — or is it antagonist? — in a dingy Nepalese jail cell. I thought to myself, “This is going to be one messy hero.”

And he is. That’s what makes Batman so great: his conflict. He is filled with rage. And in Nolan’s rethinking of the hero’s origins, with fear. And aren’t we all? Isn’t the black of night, the desolate city street, the looming sense of loss, isn’t that what restrains us? What keeps us from greatness? What prohibits us from finding our own inner hero?

Nolan muses on fear and its deformative and transformative powers with great success. His Gotham is Every City. His Batman is Every Man. And his victory, his insistence to mine his hero’s — his Dark Knight’s — tormented inner life for the fuel that burns through injustice and evil is a slam dunk, Cinemascope love letter to us all.

“Why do we fall?” Alfred Pennyworth asks Bruce Wayne. “So we can learn to stand up again.”

Get up. Find the hero in you.

Related Posts