Exploring the True Nature of Justice through Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy – Preview

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After watching the Dark Knight Rises last weekend, and then re-watching Batman Begins, the first film in director Christopher Nolan’s stunning three-part interpretation of the Batman myth, I have been thinking about the thematic connections that tie the whole story together.  The strongest thread is perhaps the question of the true nature of justice.  As Nolan explores this quintessential theme of the Batman story and character, he particularly emphasizes the related question of who or what we should hope in to bring true justice to the world.  I am planning on writing a couple of posts on how the Dark Knight Rises raises and attempts to answer these questions, and as usual tying the ideas in the film to biblical understandings of life and the world.  Some of the questions I plan to explore are:

1.  Where does our sense of injustice come from (and why do we care about it in the first place)?

2.  Given that there are opposing views of justice in the world (e.g. Bane’s and the League of Shadows’ vs. Batman’s and friends’), how can we know which view is better/

3.  What hope is there, if any, for true justice to prevail on earth?

I hope that these posts will be illuminating and worthy of your reading time, and that you’ll joint the conversation.

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11 comments on “Exploring the True Nature of Justice through Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy – Preview

  1. Look forward to reading these posts!

  2. Joshua Dyar says:

    I like what you wrote in this Dark Knight post. I’ve started reading a lot of Batman and Superman, and with the new Man of Steel out, I’ve started thinking about what Batman and Superman represent in those movies.

    • Glad you read it, Josh. This was one that I intended to do more with but lost focus.

      So, what then are some of your latest insights about the symbolism of these characters?

      • Joshua Dyar says:

        I saw in Man of Steel that based on Kal-El’s origins, and his raising by Jonathan and Martha Kent, it made him a symbol of what we should be as individuals. He always does what’s right, even if it doesn’t benefit him, and even though Clark Kent never takes responsibility for Superman’s heroics. This is also shown in other minor characters in the movie, who try to be their best, i.e., when Lois Lane is shown how to use Kal-El’s phantom drive to defeat Zod, when Christopher Meloni’s character sacrifices himself, and when Perry White stays begind and risks destruction to save one of his interns. Superman shows what we must do, and how our actions can inspire others.
        However, in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, specifically The Dark Knight, Batman can be seen as a metaphor for how justice should be held in a society. Batman represents the ordinary citizen who takes responsibility for the safety and security of others in his community, and tries to stop wrongdoers from hurting others. However, he does not prosecute or really punish these criminals (best seen in Batman’s one rule that he will not kill). Then there is Jim Gordon. He represents the police force and how they take the criminals off the street and fight to protect the citizens of their community (This is best exemplified in the climactic battle in TDKR, when the police, including Matthew Modine in his dress blues, fight Bane’s mercenaries.) Finally, there is the legal system as represented by Harvey Dent. Whereas Batman and Gordon take the criminals off of the streets, Dent actually prosecutes and helps to sentence these men. He is possibly the most important man in this triumverate, as his actions determine if criminals are actually punished for their crimes. However, his transformation to two-face, (on this matter, I suggest you read Batman: The Long Halloween, btw) represents how easily this man is corrupted and how citizens and the police have to ensure that the law does not become corrupt.

      • Interesting and profound…I’m going to see Man of Steel tomorrow, so I’ll send you some thoughts afterward. In the meantime, here are some links to articles that made me think of you when I read them:

        http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/06/21/4-reasons-zombies-wont-die/

        http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/06/20/superman-isnt-jesus-hes-your-dad/

  3. Josh –
    I saw Man of Steel last week. Much has been made of the obvious Christ symbolism in the story (unusual circumstances of birth, sent to Earth to save humanity, 33 years of age when he begins his public ‘ministry’ and so on). Where the analogy falls short significantly, though, is that Christ is first and foremost a suffering servant – meek and humble in spite of his power. Though he had supernatural powers and used them to perform amazing miracles, this is not in the end what saves humanity. He saves humanity by submitting himself to a humiliating death – a death he could have stopped but chose not to.

    I once heard a pastor make a distinction between a hero to you and a hero for you. A hero to you is someone, like Superman, whose example may inspire you to live a better life. A hero for you is someone who rescues you by doing on your behalf what you could not do for yourself. Sure, Superman is a little of both, I suppose, but Jesus came to be a hero for us, not a hero to us.

    Please let me know if you get this. Not sure if you are following the comments.

    • Joshua Dyar says:

      What about in 1990 “Death of Superman” where he sacrifices himself by dying in an epic confrontation with Doomsday? Or All-Star Superman where he saves an expedition at the sun and his cells begin to literally burst with energy, and instead of spending his final time on Earth for his own good, embarks on twelve trials to save the world from Lex Luthor?

  4. Joshua Dyar says:

    I don’t know too much about Superman, because I just read my first Superman graphic novel about two weeks ago, but I love me some Batman. I probably have five or six Batman graphic novels.

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