Monday, June 20, 2005

Batman, Star Wars, and The Path to Evil

I finally got around to seeing the movie Batman Begins yesterday with my husband and daughter. It was an absolutely fantastic movie--far superior to any of the previous Batman movies, and in my opinion, the best movie of the "comic-book" genre. I am not going to review the movie, as there are plenty of opinions out there for you to read if you are so inclined. Just go see it.

What struck me so forcefully, though, was the similarity of the "defining moments" for both Batman Begins and for Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. In this defining moment, the main characters of each movie are ordered to behead someone. In Star Wars, Anakin is told by Palpatine to take off Dooku's head; and in Batman, Bruce is ordered to execute by beheading a common criminal to demonstrate his committment to the League of Shadows.

Anakin follows Palpatine's orders, and thus commits himself to the Dark Side. Bruce rebels against his master, and remains on the side of Light.

The symbolic meaning of the beheading in both cases seems clear to me. Both protagonists are symbolically being asked to cut off their own minds and submit to the will of the "Master"--to essentially behead themselves. By suspending their own independent judgement, reason, and compassion, Anakkin and Bruce would submit themselves to the desires of the higher authority and lose their individuality and free will. Unable to control his anger, Anakin follows Palpatine's order--and Palpatine forever becomes his Master as he completes his journey to Evil. Bruce courageouslly refuses Ra's Al-Ghul and Ducard--and therefore remains on the side of Good.

In each instance, the "beheading challenge" (reminiscent of Gawain and the Green Knight)is issued and depending on the choice--to submit and obey the Master, or to retain one's individuality--the hero's fate is determined.

One of my favorite quotes (which can be found in the sidebar, and which is generally attributed to Edmund Burke) is, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

Abandon thought. Abandon reason. Abandon judgement. And you will inevitably find yourself on the path to Evil.

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