Forty years. That’s all – just 40 years. The original TV series “Batman” aired from 1966 to 1968, and the release of the movie Batman – The Dark Knight comes forty years, exactly after the series was canceled.
Now, chronologically speaking we are only talking about a measly four decades, but take a look at this clip and you might agree with me that although forty years is but a mere hiccup on the big clock of history; however, culturally, and socially- “we are not in Kansas anymore“.
My simple question is this: “What happened to Batman?” or perhaps the better question is “What has happened to us?” I am not a movie expert, therefore I am not a movie critic. I know nothing about special effects, sets, props, pacing, lighting, acting – but I do know this – I know what a good story is, and I know when a good story is told well. So the question remains, “Did you like it ?” “What’d ya think?” and my answer is simply this: I don’t know? I mean I really don’t know. Like any responsible parent we read the reviews; everything from mainstream secular opinions to the most fundamental conservative Christian voices out there. We heard it all from “…amazing, brilliant, breath taking, authentic, gritty and real…” on the one hand – to “…dark, disturbing, violent, evil, nighmare-ish and depressing…” on the other hand. All I can truthfully say is that the 2 hours of movie moved so fast, was so intense, and had so many deeper levels of story line going that frankly I was (and still am) overwhelmed with its message. First, let me say that it was not as “wicked evil” as some of the fundamentalist conservative reviewers said it was, and yet it was, in my opinion not as “awesome good” as some of the mainstream media pundits proclaim it to be.
What makes it so complicated for me is this: I was born in 1963. I remember when my dad and I would turn on the black and white TV, we would select one channel (of the three that were available!) and we would watch “classics” like: Lost In Space, McHale’s Navy, F Troop, the Beverly Hillbillies and our favorite Batman. Week by week we watched the “Caped Crusaders” foiled the bad plans of the bad guys, and in the last scene we were always treated to a knock down – drag em out – good ol “Ka-pow, Splat” fist fight. It was a simple formula that we could escape to each week: bad guys were bad, good guys were good – and in the end good always won. Now fast forward to our time, the present world and, yes, I know what they say: “…this movie is real, gritty, authentic…it deals with evil and good, it shows the titanic struggle between what is right and wrong…”now that all may be true, but in the end I like the Batman of my childhood better! Yes, I know that we are more “sophisticated” today, and that our culture is more “honest” with the “real truth” of who we “really” are as a people, but are we better for it? I often find that our “honesty” is often fatalistic, and is often seen as predictive of what “must” be, as if mankind can do nothing about the evil. But where Hollywood gets it wrong everytime is this: we are creatures not made in the image of a comic book illustrator, nor evolutionary accidents created by luck through natural selection – rather we are moral beings. Each of us made in the image and likeness of God who created all things visible and invisible. Yes, morally mankind has lost the likeness of God, but we are still – icons – images of God and capable of not only knowing the truth, but believing the truth, and making moral choices for life through love. Evil never wins, because it can’t. Jesus Of Nazareth, not Batman, “tramples down death by death, and upon those in the tombs He bestows life”. In the end I can’t say The Dark Knight was a bad movie, but I can’t say that it was good either, partly because there was no moral universe, no “bigger eternal picture” of existance found in the characters and in their world – there was a dark fatalism that no one seemed able to solve.
But I guess it’s always hard to make a real case, for real world issues, when we are dealing with fictional comic book characters. Is there a struggle between good and evil? Yes. Hotel Rwanda showed us this. Does evil exist in our culture? Yes. Shindler’s List and 9/11 reminds us of this. But in the end it is not a superhero wearing a Bat outfit that is the hope of the world. In the end, it is Christ, and Christ in us that becomes the agent for goodness, rightness and morality in a world filled with Jokers. We need not look for the “Bat” image to be shined into the night sky of Gotham CIty for our help, when in fact, the hope for change in the world is staring back at you in the mirror. It’s you and I, and the choices we make every minute of the day for life, love and liberty. In Christ we are new creatures born again through Love itself. We love – and defeat evil, because we have been loved by the God who is Love -and who alone has overcome all evil.
“What can you do to promote world peace?”
Go home and love your family.” – Mother Teresa of Calcutta