((Warning: Reveals the plot. So those who intend to watch the movies please do not read any further))
It was late in the night when I came out of the theater, having watched the latest Hollywood flick, The Dark Knight Rises, with my ten year old son Tintin. Both of us had had a whale of a time – great action, superb story and some tasty popcorn.
Tintin: Awesome. (He gave his verdict.)
Me: Yes, great movie. Less humor than Spiderman, though.
Tintin: That Miranda Tate was a villain. I was so surprised. She was the kid in the well?
Me: Yes. And the Catwoman was not so bad after all.
Tintin: (With a scowl of disapproval) She was bad. She got Batman into the trap of Bane. Imagine if he had failed to escape. But why did Miranda hate Batman?
I explain the plot to him. That Miranda was a victim of the ‘system’ and hated it. Batman was the defender of the city of Gotham. She wanted to destroy Gotham and Batman was in her way. I also explain that Gotham city symbolized the World, but more specifically the Western Civilization, while Bane and Miranda can be equated with today’s terrorists and Maoists.
Tintin: (Confused) Why were the poor people being tortured and put into prisons?
I realized that I had opened a Pandora’s box. I decided to change the track to bang-bang.
Me: Did you notice that Batman rarely uses guns. Most of his fights are hand to hand.
Tintin: That’s why Catwoman said she did not believe in his no-guns policy, when she shot Bane?
Me: Batman wants to restore order with minimum of bloodshed. He normally wants to put criminals into jail, and not kill them.
Tintin: But they said jails were full. Why?
Me: (falling into the trap again) Jails are full because there are extremely rich and extremely poor people. When the poor are exploited, they resent. When they rebel violently, they are thrown in jails.
Tintin: (with conviction) That’s wrong.
Me: (trying for a quick course correction) That is what the movie says, but people cannot be allowed to kill innocent children. For example, even if our system is wrong, you are not responsible. Why should a terrorist kill you?
Tintin: (thoughtfully) The terrorists are wrong.
I sighed. No one really understands who is wrong and who is right any longer. Up till now such dilemmas were part of the vocabulary of the ‘bleeding heart liberal’ intellectuals. But now such questions are being posed in the popular culture by superheroes. Difficult times ahead for the next generation.
Me: Yes the terrorists are wrong. By the way, Alfred the butler was really happy to see Batman living a normal life as Wayne at the end of the movie. (I tried to draw his attention to the good ending.)
Tintin: Ye…es, but what will happen to the people who were in the prison?
I realized the movie had had a deep impact. I quickly changed the subject to the upcoming flick Superman, to avoid getting deeper into world politics and ruining the moment.
But I could not help but thinking that the movie had damned both the system and the challengers. The movie itself gave no answers – Batman could only just restore the fragile old order. It raised questions that probably the next generation will have to answer. For me, that was not a ‘good’ enough ending, but I guess, for the moment that is where we are. And in that sense it was an honest movie, definitely a cultural milestone.