Thoughts on Batman Begins

Last night I watched Batman Begins, which was absolutely rock-solid. Any movie with Michael Caine, Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman has definite potential. Throw in Christian Bale as the lead, and we're rocking. I highly recommend the movie to anyone even remotely interested in Batman, martial-arts movies in general, or movies with awesome soundtracks.

***WARNING: Spoilers to follow. If you have not seen the movie yet, stop reading.

****I mean it!

Batman is one of the vast majority of superheroes (if you could call him that) who have an aversion to killing. This is a significant plot element this time around, as an act of mercy ends up costing him dearly later on, and the entire city of Gotham as well.

The Talmud has a saying, "He who is kind when he should be cruel, will eventually be cruel when he should be kind." The immediate context is a discussion of King Saul, who lost his divine mandate when he spared the life of Agag, king of Amalek. Later, while hunting for his rival David, King Saul massacred the priestly city of Nov, whose inhabitants were innocent of any crime.

But the general idea holds true in Batman as well. Bruce Wayne's teacher in the League of Shadows derided him as being too weak to do what is necessary in the pursuit of true justice, i.e. to kill people. Though the League has a perverted view of justice, the point remained true; when Bruce learns of the League's plans to destroy Gotham City and turns on them, he spares the life of his teacher. Yet his teacher simply continues his plans, and when next they meet, the League has sent a large portion of the city into hallucinogen-inspired anarchy. To save the rest of the city, Batman is forced to destroy the greatest legacy of his father's idealism.

Employing death as a tool of justice is repugnant to some, for many reasons. First is the possibility of error; killing an innocent man is perhaps the most horrible perversion of justice imaginable. Second is the thought that human life is infinitely precious, and therefore we have no right to kill anyone, no matter what his crime. Finally, death (by this reasoning) precludes the possibility of repentance, and whatever good the dead man might have done.

But sometimes the choice is not between death and incarceration; it is between death and freedom to continue doing evil. In that case, not killing an evil man may simply let him murder more innocents; to say that we have no right to kill him, therefore, is to say that his life is implicitly worth more than the lives of his victims. And that is truly repugnant, and a mockery of justice.

And as for repentance, it is not something that we mortals can dare to rely on. While some evil men do repent on their own, most do not. Can we be so heedless of the cost to others, to allow such a man to go free in the slim hope that he can find atonement?

The deeds of an evil man are ultimately his responsibility; but some small share of the blame must fall as well on those who could have stopped him, and did not. Bruce Wayne's moral code, which did not let him kill one who desperately needed killing, led to the murder of countless people. And even when he does finish it, Batman will not do so directly, keeping his code intact by the merest of technicalities. It is such moral codes that allow otherwise good men to confuse their passivity in the face of evil with principle.


Sabba Hillel said...

Thank you,

The parable to our time and the current events in our world is obvious.

Jack's Shack said...