Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Batman, human?


Amazon UK link
Amazon US link


OK, so I've seen The Dark Knight now. Much better than Batman Begins, to my taste, and another very visual movie that makes me pleased to have blu-ray despite irritations that the machines don't remember how far they played a disc last time*.

As often happens, I only become moved to blog a subject if I come upon a more or less philosophical idea about it. This one is: we hear often (and many times in the extras for this film) that Batman is the coolest superhero because he has no super-powers...

But is this really true? Sure, ostensibly he hasn't. It's stated that he's just a human, albeit highly trained and disciplined. But let's face it: is there a single human being on the planet who can do what Batman can? Build and use super-gadgets beyond any others on Earth? Swing between high-rises on a thin line? Beat up big gangs of thugs with guns, night after night, year after year?

I think not. Ergo, he is super-human. And if he wasn't, he wouldn't be a super-hero. But it shows that the argument is fallacious. He is cool not because he is not super-powered, but because he is.

Another issue entirely is: Batman is only Batman by being really violent. Is this truly a hero? Do we really want to admire a highly violent person? But I guess that's a bottomless philosophical issue.


*Actually I've established now that this seems to be established by the disc not the player, since the Bat Bonus disc is being remembered, unlike all other discs I've played. Odd, why do they want to do that?

Update: The Dark Knight is, like Hell Boy II: All My Sins Remembered, a movie which takes pride in doing as much as possible in-camera rather than in the computer, and is better for it. Particularly its car chases and crashes are very impressive.
Also impressive is the "Bat Pod" (has a built-in iPod?), the motorcycle-like thingy that Bats has. I must admit I thought it was faked, it does not look like it would be able to turn at speed with those wide tyres. But they actually built it, and though it took a world-class driver to handle it and it's very different than a motorcycle to drive, it actually works. Neat.

posted by Eolake Stobblehouse @ Wednesday, December 17, 2008   27 comments links to this post

27 Comments:

At 17 Dec 2008, 20:19:00, Blogger Alex said...

* - to force you through the trailers at the beginning?

 
At 17 Dec 2008, 20:23:00, Blogger Alex said...

Hero?

The way I understand it, violence doesn't count when it comes to being heroic. You have to smite the bad guys, but somehow remain above their level.

During Knightfall we see that Bruce has the discipline to stay above, but only just. Jean Paul does not, he becomes a dark avenger. Sure at that point he is clothed as, and acting for Batman, but he does not embrace the essential aloofness of Batman.

Batman draws the line at killing his enemy. Heck, even Superman roughed people up, but with the minimum of force.

Heroes are the ones who save and protect without regard for their personal safety, or rather having a higher regard for other peoples lives. They have a sense of duty.

 
At 17 Dec 2008, 20:38:00, Blogger eolake said...

"to force you through the trailers at the beginning?"

Possibly. Though that seems to me to be like slapping people's face to get them to accept the flyers you're handing out.

 
At 17 Dec 2008, 21:57:00, Blogger Joe Dick said...

Build and use super-gadgets beyond any others on Earth?

One of the things established in Batman Begins is that those devices are developed by the R&D people of his company. Using them is a whole different ball game. It's unlikely anyone would be physically capable of doing what he does, at least not for long. An interesting article on that here.


And if he wasn't, he wouldn't be a super-hero.

He doesn't qualify as a superhero. I hadn't really thought about that before reading Jules Feiffer's The Great Comic Book Heroes. He also includes guys like The Green Hornet and The Shadow among others, calling them frauds. They are frauds if they are thought to be superheroes but can still be heroes.

Is this truly a hero? Do we really want to admire a highly violent person?

Batman couldn't do his job without employing an extraordinary amount of brutal violence. Sometimes good people have to employ violence (like the police). Of course Batman's a vigilante, but these days Batman would probably admit to being a criminal.

another very visual movie that makes me pleased to have blu-ray

To get the benefit of blu-ray probably requires a more modern TV than I have so there's probably not much point in getting one just yet. Besides, I read somewhere recently that blu-ray still has only a 5% market share anyway.

 
At 17 Dec 2008, 22:02:00, Blogger eolake said...

Yes, at most.

"One of the things established in Batman Begins is that those devices are developed by the R&D people of his company."

Yes, that goes a little way to addressing this issue.

 
At 17 Dec 2008, 22:05:00, Blogger eolake said...

When I bought a 26-inch TV four years ago, I thought it would work for HD. But even if it'd had full 1080 resolution, it makes no sense, I've found out now. You need at least 40 inches to make use of the resolution. I have a 40-inch one now, and it's made that clear to me. It's a lot of pixels and you need to have a big field of your vision covered. (Depending on eyesight, I guess.)

 
At 17 Dec 2008, 23:08:00, Blogger Joe Dick said...

"One of the things established in Batman Begins is that those devices are developed by the R&D people of his company."

Yes, that goes a little way to addressing this issue.

I don't know if it was necessary. Maybe I'm in the minority on this one but comic books - or at least superheroes - are inherently ridiculous and it doesn't seem any more implausible that he could come up with the tech than that he could perform the feats he does. And still pretend to be a hard-drinking, womanizing playboy by day. (You know, the kind of thing Tony Stark did for real.)

It's like in the Spider-Man movies where they gave him biological web shooters because they thought it was too unbelievable that a teenager could have come up with mechanical ones. To me those were the least ridiculous part of the whole comic book.

 
At 17 Dec 2008, 23:18:00, Blogger eolake said...

Yes, those are both good points.

I don't think the silliness is a weak point, necessarily, I was just addressing the idea that he is "just a human".

 
At 18 Dec 2008, 01:03:00, Blogger Joe Dick said...

a movie which takes pride in doing as much as possible in-camera rather than in the computer, and is better for it. Particularly its car chases and crashes are very impressive.

This reminded me of a bit from Tarantino's Death Proof - a car chase scene that's more than just a car chase. It's superbly well done and when you see it you understand the value of doing some things for real and not using CGI. As one of the characters said of 1970s-era car chase movies, "Real cars crashed into real cars with real dumb people drivin' 'em." As Tarantino said in an interview, when it's done with CGI you don't feel it in your gut.

What you're saying here reminds me also of what I thought watching the Star Wars prequels - that it's a good thing CGI wasn't available to George Lucas back in the day because he would have made a mess out of the original series.

 
At 18 Dec 2008, 01:34:00, Blogger eolake said...

Well, I really liked the cityscapes and spaceships.

 
At 18 Dec 2008, 09:54:00, Blogger Pascal [P-04referent] said...

"it took a world-class driver to handle it"
Score another "humanly possible" super-power for the Batman! :-)

Actually, Alex, for milleniae (and until very recently, there wasn't the slightest hint of change), heroism was violence's siamese twin. "A real man is strong. A hero fights for his country. A noble patriot mercilessly slays the Nation's enemies." Etc.

The paradigm shift that there might be something intrinsically wrong with violence itself, migh have occurred in the wake of both World Wars, I think. SOME of the world (not all by far, alas!) has finally understood that violence is heavily loaded with negative consequences for he who resorts to it.
Of course, the main "wisdom" that the former WW2 countries drew from this, was that "we should not get involved into a war ourselves..... better get the stupid others to wage wars for us, far from the homeland!"
):-P

Is it any wonder that figures like Batman, Rambo, and Steven Seagall's many cloned roles are very popular "heroes" in the USA and all the places which receive its influence?

Okay, so Batman's rationale tries to be plausible: "the police is corrupt / inept / in over its head, somebody's got to help balance the scales, sometimes the rulebook becomes a hindrance", etc.
But let's face it: what would be left of the entertainment potential if our rolemodels were "assertive mother", "non-violent civic activist", "independant responsible teenager" and "hard-working single dad"?
Gandhi was an awesome human movie. But honestly? It didn't exactly kick ass, and wasn't rewarded for its ACTION scenes of visual effects, was it? Give me a good Bruce Lee any day. (And he did stuff that today's CGI wouldn't DARE.)

Ironically, one of the most ethical super-heroes I know of is ultra-badass Ghost Rider. From what I understand, his trademaked "penance stare" awakens remorse in the targeted criminal, and it is this remorse that is the "penance". Rather intelligent. It means that should Ghost Rider target by mistake an innocent or somebody who's been set up, that innocent would feel no pain.

"Heck, even Superman roughed people up, but with the minimum of force."
In the modern version of Superman, he's carrying the guilt of having killed Zod and his two mates with green kryptonite, in an alternate dimension where they had ravaged Earth and left nobody alive. Not as a sanction, but because he saw no other safe way to stop them for good.

"Though that seems to me to be like slapping people's face to get them to accept the flyers you're handing out."
I've recently decided it was high time I watched those DVD movies I've bought years ago. Including the 2-disc edition of the Fantastic Four movie. Official, of course.
Well, I've found a further argument for preferring the cheaper pirated versions one can easily find in Lebanon. Not only are those all ZONE-FREE, but they spare you the systematic clip "downloading-pirated-movies-is-a-crime!!! this means YOU!!!!!!!!".
Um... hello? If I were that "criminal", would I be enduring your stupid clip, which is only found on OFFICIAL RELEASE DVDs?
I thought the general idea was that the people doing something wrong were supposed to be the ones getting annoyed?
This is SO just like that "waranoia" against terrorism, which essentially terrorizes decent citizens taking harmless photos on the street. Unless they are considered as being pedophiles! Bah.

When the System makes you regret being honest, you know something's definitely very wrong with it. Do you know how much one has to pay for a bootleg, zone-free, threats-free, perfect image quality DVD movie? As little as two U.S. dollars.
And I'm talking about those children movies, whose prices on the official versions never seem to go down, remaining obscenely high many years after their release. "Don't anybody" tell me they're not counting on the brats annoying their parents into buying those no matter the price tag!

"It's unlikely anyone would be physically capable of doing what he does, at least not for long."
If you mean the inventing (yeah, I know you don't, but let's assume), what about Gyro Gearloose? ;-)
Awright, so one might argue that hitting your head with a hammer to get ideas isn't a sustainable way of life either!
I would wish for a Gyro Gearloose movie, but Honey, I shrunk the kids aleready had three movies AND a TV series.
:-)

"but these days Batman would probably admit to being a criminal."
Under "Patriot Act" police questioning, sure, even Batman would admit anything you want him to!
Him and the little old ladies taking photos in public. Abominable criminals, all of them!

"comic books - or at least superheroes - are inherently ridiculous"
They've made notable efforts in becoming less grotesque than in the Seventies or the Fifties, though. No more "oh, there's a big bad menace, it's written «Big Bad Menace» on this giant stiff robot with no knees or elbows, the police are trembling because they haven't seen the clothesline trick in Star Wars, I'm going to wear my gay skin-tight costume and jump in with the most ludicrous tactic I can think of, provided it allows me to take poses and has dramatic moments, yabba-dabba-doo let's ride!".

"(You know, the kind of thing Tony Stark did for real.)"
Definitely proving that BRUCE is the idiot who's too dumb to enjoy anything in life. What's the use of having millions...
At the very least, he could afford a good shrink. Then he could start working on his obsession with running away from his issues by wearing shiny weird black skin-tight attire and looking to get beaten up every night.

"It's like in the Spider-Man movies where they gave him biological web shooters"
Well, I've always found that the most silly element wasn't him designing the shooters and fluid, but that his spider mutation didn't give him biological web! I mean, what gives? A spider with no web is like a scorpion without a tail, a rhino that has no horns, a wingless wasp, an ant-man devoid of antennae, an octopus with just four limbs, a mysterio that's not mysterious.
Now, if he had been bitten by a radioactive FLEA...

"Real cars crashed into real cars"
You couldn't film Gone in 60 seconds with the nitpicking laws they have today, that's fer dang shoore. A classic, that film.

"with real dumb people drivin' 'em."
LOL! That's the best definition of a realistic car chase/action scene!
How come those morons I can never get away from never cut James Bond's damn way when he has priority?
Heck, not even when he DOESN'T have priority. Another falsely normal superhuman, right there! His power: flawless luck that spares him any encounter with catastrophic moron drivers, no matter how recklessly he himself is driving. Oh, I forgot: "non-super" heroes are all world-class drivers! And sharpshooters. And endurance runners. And free climbers. And irresistible sex studs with incredible endurance in bed, a penis like my garden hose, and... Sorry, got carried away.
Jealous, meeeee? Why, what ever cave you THAT crazy idea? ;-)

"As Tarantino said in an interview, when it's done with CGI you don't feel it in your gut."
CGI looks great on stills. Especially in HD, I'll bet. But don't let them move too much, or else!
Either they're too stiff, or they clearly have no inertia. This bothered me in the otherwise superb Hulk movie: these muscles moved as if they had no mass!
For a sampling of how REAL big muscles shake in motion, one only has to view Schwarzenegger's peplums and furrums (or whatever they call movies about barbarians clad in animal skins).
Unless your whole body is on the verge of tetany, muscles swing, and wobble, they don't just woosh like so many balloons.
Okay, so they're huge, visually impressive balloons. But silicon-based is like silicone-based: feels artificial, it doesn't move well.
Yet.

This is something I noticed in that FF movie: most of the time, the Thing did NOT seem to have null-inertia powers, and those facial expressions were surprisingly believable. Disc 2 revealed it was all facial prosthetics and latex suit. Wise choice.
Besides, the Thing has an excuse for moving like a guy with a heavy costume weighing 60 pounds. It's made of living rock!
Now I'm eager to watch the sequel. Pity the games sucked soccer balls through a perfusion hose.

I don't mind scenery made in good GCI. It's not such an artistic challenge as imitating living beings in motion. CGI cities can work perfectly. Same for spaceships. As long as they don't shoot slow laser blasts, fer cryin' out so loud that you'll be heard in the void of space!
8-P

P.S.: the name of that invincible guy is not Hu-Man, it's He-Man. Please fix that typo in the tytle.

 
At 18 Dec 2008, 13:16:00, Blogger Eric said...

"The paradigm shift that there might be something intrinsically wrong with violence itself..."

That's the interesting thing about The Dark Knight. I would never call the film deep, yet there's more to it than there first appears. For instance, it's implied that if Batman hadn't shown up then the Joker would have never come to town.

So here's the dilemma: is Batman a boon or a liability? He's got criminals running scared but he's attracting villains like the Joker who only want to, to quote the movie, "watch the world burn." Yet there's no reasoning with these criminals, and it's unlikely that doing anything less than what he does would send a strong message.

It's similar to how he monitored calls to find out where the Joker was. On the one hand it's unlikely that he'd have been able to get there on time if he hadn't created that device, on the other you have to ask whether or not there's something intrinsically wrong in listening in on people's conversations.

I like how the movie doesn't provide any solid answers. It treats its audience like intelligent adults.

On the subject of violence itself, I don't think it can be said that it has no place in this world. Even killing is sensible in the right context... But only because there are people who will strike without just cause. Can we ever be rid of it? Can Gandhi's philosophy ever be applied on a mass scale?

We all have violent urges, I think. It's one thing to condemn war but it's another thing entirely to look at the components within our own minds that cause us to go to war and figure out how else we can use them. Because that impulse doesn't go away; it has to be calmed and channeled into something. We'll have an answer to, "Why can't there be peace?" the moment we have a reply to, "What else are we supposed to do?"

 
At 18 Dec 2008, 16:00:00, Blogger eolake said...

"That's the interesting thing about The Dark Knight. I would never call the film deep, yet there's more to it than there first appears. For instance, it's implied that if Batman hadn't shown up then the Joker would have never come to town."

Exactly. That's an important idea.
And it's taken directly from Frank Miller's books The Dark Knight Returns.
In that one, the Joker is apathetic, in Arkham Asylum. The Batman comes out of retirement: "Batman! Darling!"... and he busts out and murders hundreds.

Posing the question: who is creating evil?

 
At 18 Dec 2008, 21:48:00, Blogger Joe Dick said...

Gandhi was an awesome human movie. But honestly? It didn't exactly kick ass, and wasn't rewarded for its ACTION scenes of visual effects, was it? Give me a good Bruce Lee any day. (And he did stuff that today's CGI wouldn't DARE.)

Gandhi II was much better.

Ironically, one of the most ethical super-heroes I know of is ultra-badass Ghost Rider. From what I understand, his trademaked "penance stare" awakens remorse in the targeted criminal, and it is this remorse that is the "penance". Rather intelligent. It means that should Ghost Rider target by mistake an innocent or somebody who's been set up, that innocent would feel no pain.

I always thought Ghost Rider had so much potential, but never got the best writers or artists to really make it cook. I haven’t seen the movie but I hear it sucks giant elephant cock.

In the modern version of Superman, he's carrying the guilt of having killed Zod and his two mates with green kryptonite, in an alternate dimension where they had ravaged Earth and left nobody alive. Not as a sanction, but because he saw no other safe way to stop them for good.

Like Batman, the early Superman was more of a badass. He had edge. He wasn’t the Boy Scout of later years. He didn’t outright kill people, but as Jules Feiffer pointed out the way he threw people around he probably killed quite a few of them. He definitely didn’t shed a tear if someone he was killed in some way either. That goes way back. Doc Savage was the same – he never killed anyone directly that I know of but he didn’t care too much if a bad guy bit it some other way. (I mention Doc because of course that thief Superman stole his Fortress of Solitude. He tried to get it back, but Doc’s only a man of bronze.)

I've always found that the most silly element wasn't him designing the shooters and fluid, but that his spider mutation didn't give him biological web! I mean, what gives? A spider with no web is like a scorpion without a tail, a rhino that has no horns, a wingless wasp, an ant-man devoid of antennae, an octopus with just four limbs, a mysterio that's not mysterious.

I guess he considered himself lucky, since really he wouldn’t have webshooters on his forearms –he should be shooting those webs out his ass! Besides, there’s a fine line when it comes to these insect mutations. Have you ever seen The Fly?

I don't mind scenery made in good GCI. It's not such an artistic challenge as imitating living beings in motion. CGI cities can work perfectly. Same for spaceships. As long as they don't shoot slow laser blasts, fer cryin' out so loud that you'll be heard in the void of space!

Scenery in CGI is okay but I don’t know about spaceships. The CGI Enterprise in the redone versions of Star Trek TOS don’t feel as solid as a model. Cheaper, though, I guess. And it moves more smoothly. Still, not as good.

 
At 18 Dec 2008, 22:06:00, Blogger Alex said...

The CGI Enterprise in the redone versions of Star Trek TOS don’t feel as solid as a model. Cheaper, though, I guess. And it moves more smoothly. Still, not as good.

Erm, how can re-doing something that exists be cheaper than not re-doing it.

I heard Jonathon Miller talking about his version of Alice in Wonderland. He said he wished he could just change a few things, but there it is "committed to celluloid". The things he was talking about could be done by just a little editing. I wonder if the cut footage had be discarded, or archived.

Anyway, re-master TOS? I saw an ad for it on-line, looks like it wasn't taking liberties. I can hardly see them adding a masturbation machine like they did in THX-1138.

psyclous

 
At 18 Dec 2008, 23:09:00, Blogger eolake said...

"I haven’t seen the movie but I hear it sucks giant elephant cock."

Pretty nigh. Donkey cock at least.

I don't know why (apart from the money) Nicolas wanted to become an action hero star. The films aren't any good.
Well, apart from Face/Off, that rocked.

 
At 18 Dec 2008, 23:09:00, Blogger Joe Dick said...

Erm, how can re-doing something that exists be cheaper than not re-doing it.

I wasn't talking about the remastering of TOS there. In later Star Trek series and in other, recent science fiction TV the ships are done with CGI. Once you've got the equipment it's probably cheaper than making new models.

Anyway, re-master TOS? I saw an ad for it on-line, looks like it wasn't taking liberties. I can hardly see them adding a masturbation machine like they did in THX-1138.

I haven't seen the original THX, sans masturbation machine. The remastered TOS was a bad move in my opinion. The new shots are so much better looking for the most part that it can be jarring. In the redone Star Wars movies of the 90s before the prequels, it was obvious there, too, where the new effects were.

 
At 18 Dec 2008, 23:12:00, Blogger eolake said...

The Spaceship in Wall-E was awesome. They had a "fly-around" in the extras.

 
At 18 Dec 2008, 23:45:00, Blogger Joe Dick said...

That's animated. I'm talking about mixing live action with CGI effects. WALL-E was awesome.

 
At 19 Dec 2008, 04:13:00, Anonymous Jes said...

Regardless of whether or not I agree with the moral implications, like Pascal said, the violence just makes it a more interesting movie. I wouldn't want to see a movie where Batman comes crashing through a window, Joker's got a gun pointed at a hostage, and Batman says, "Hold on just a second! We can talk this through! Society still loves you!"

 
At 19 Dec 2008, 05:31:00, Blogger Eric said...

"Society still loves you!"

The Joker lowered his gun, his eyes thoughtful and wanting. Batman met his gaze and put his hand over his heart.

"I... Still love you."

The clown dropped his gun and ran into his knight's arms. A single tear rolled down Batman's cheek as it began to rain and Snow Patrol's "Run" played quietly in the background: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Qen3Xovtfc

Bruce contemplated removing his mask, but... He knew. The Joker knew. There were no secrets between them (goddamn Google). He caressed his lover's cheek, not saying a word but with one clear admonishment: go. Get out of here, before they come and take you away.

And that's what he did... And he killed a few hundred people in the process, laughing madly all the while.

Bruce crouched on the edge of a skyscraper with his mask off and he rubbed his forehead with a sigh. "Dear Christ I have issues."

 
At 19 Dec 2008, 06:03:00, Anonymous Jes said...

Okay, I was wrong. Maybe it would be more entertaining without the violence.

 
At 19 Dec 2008, 12:56:00, Blogger eolake said...

Eric, ROTFL!

---
In Alan Moore's The Killing Joke, there actually is a good moment when they have a big laugh together.

And Neil Gaiman tends to do the cunning trick on his audience that he builds up to a big conflict, and then it never comes.

Anyway...

 
At 22 Dec 2008, 12:33:00, Blogger Pascal [P-04referent] said...

Jes & Eric:
Golly. :-D

And here I thought I had issues for following that naturist site's advice and googling images for "Daniel Radcliffe naked"!
Yes, that's right: now-a-man Harry P is starring naked in a very controversial (surprised?) theatre play.
[But is seems the "explicit" photo of him is a fake. Sorry, ladies and some gents.]

WALL-E? That little cubic guy's badass hardcore, he rocks! Okay, so he's a little rough around the edges...

Here's one slightly deeper question for youse guys:
If there wasn't a Batman, would the Joker be any less mad and homicidal? Or he'd just be less on the "costumed criminal" side?
Do you really feel that the existence of a costumed vigilante is the CAUSE for mad criminals to emerge, in some twisted jealousy?

In Batman Begins, were it not for Bruce Wayne, the League of Shadows would've obliterated Gotham. What's THEIR excuse?

I seriously doubt that somebody as psychotic as the Joker would turn out any less criminal if he didn't see a cape on the TV news. Was Batman also involved in him falling into a vat of industrial acids, like the comic? (I haven't seen the movie yet)

 
At 22 Dec 2008, 14:08:00, Blogger eolake said...

"If there wasn't a Batman, would the Joker be any less mad and homicidal? Or he'd just be less on the "costumed criminal" side?"

Maybe, maybe not, but I feel it's a good symbolic representation of the philosophical idea that there's no evil unless we create it.

 
At 22 Dec 2008, 17:11:00, Blogger Alex said...

Pascal,

Though I haven't seen the recent DR version of Equus, I must say that the play is very engaging. I was not enticed by the ad's on TV when C4 ran this back in 85, but after reading the play I tried the film version, and it was very good.

If you get to read the play you will see in the notes how the stage was set, fantastically it was a one room set, placing audience members in the jury box around the paddock/court/psychiatrist's office.

And Jenny Agutter.

So if you want to see a 1960's psycobabble dissection on religion and deity, then this is a great play.

Alex

 
At 22 Dec 2008, 18:28:00, Blogger Eric said...

In the movie, the Joker has been around for a while. Not under that alias, I'm sure. He was, as he put it, "ripping off mob bosses" until he heard about the Batman. At first all he wanted to do was kill him, but then he had a change of heart because he was having too much fun.

So yes, without Batman the Joker would have still been a criminal, except he wouldn't have been nearly as prominent. Of course Harvey Dent may have drawn him out at some point but that seems unlikely. Harvey wouldn't have been able to accomplish as much as he did without Batman's help, and a District Attorney is a lot less interesting than a guy in a bat-suit.

Within duality, good and evil exist without either side having to create the other. Evil men inspire good but they don't make it, and the same applies in reverse. It appears otherwise because the other side often hides itself until it's sufficiently agitated. Batman spat in the face of the criminals of Gotham City so he gets to take the fall for this one. Similarly, the guys that used to run the place can take credit for Batman. It's the eternal back-and-forth.

 

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