'Batman' and Straw Man (spoiler alert)
But there's plenty more to say, as became evident when my friends and I left the theater and had a "parking lot philosophy" discussion about some of the themes which turned us to capital punishment and similar topics. I decided I needed to explore some of my negative reactions to the movie and the way it deals with the issues we discussed.
First of all, there's the portrayal of bad guy Liam Neesen's character. The taste left in my mouth is not just a fantastical bad guy striving with a clear conscience for the destruction of a city. I see also a bad guy who is simply striving, according to the film maker's view, toward what is the logical conclusion of a conservative (Texan? Cowboy?) sense of justice. Let me just say that the early introduction to Liam Neesen's character made me want to stand up and cheer. Quotes like, "criminals thrive off the understanding of society" really animated my sense of justice and got me initially on his side. I was impressed.
Perhaps my surprise when our hero turns his back on him was not the intended emotion of the director. At a scene where it is a simple matter of executing a murderer, our hero suddenly starts insisting on a litany of extra hurdles like a full-blown trial.
Now before I get too far along, there is no doubt that--looking at the big picture--the "league of shadows" is a twisted bunch. They have a huge self-importance complex, along with a Godless philosophy. Also, my judgment of Bruce's insistence on refusing the "executioner role" changes when he is back in Western society (explanation farther down). But I can't ignore the minor fact that the bad guys look, at one point, like Lockean purists. Is this just an accident? I don't know. If it isn't, I can't help but think the director has painted a picture that initially looks like what I saw (the Lockean purist) and then makes the case that there is only one logical conclusion to that way of thinking (the twisted blow-up-cities conclusion).
Finally, if I were to pick apart the specific situation facing Bruce at his botched initiation into the "league," I would have to say he made the wrong decision. Here's why:
His primary argument against following through seems to be about due process. With all due respect to due process, I must say this is an admirable impulse--albeit misplaced. For here he is in the middle of nowhere (the Himalayas!) with the closest thing to established government being the league he is joining--what kind of due process can he expect? I'm reminded of a memorable John Wayne quote from The Green Berets: "Out here, due process is a bullet." Even more importantly, I'm reminded of John Locke when he says in his Second Treatise of Government:
And thus it is, that every man, in the state of nature*, has the power to kill a murderer, both to deter others from doing the like injury, which no reparation can compensate...(*Note: Locke's state of nature is one with no government, where the laws of nature, and I would add, nature's God, are the only rule, and all men are free, equal, and independent within the bounds of the law of nature.)...and also to secure men from the attempts of a criminal, who having renounced reason, the common rule and measure God hath given to mankind, hath by the unjust violence and slaughter he hath committed upon one, declared war against all mankind; and therefore may be destroyed as a lion or a tiger, one of those wild savage beasts, with whom men can have no society nor security: And upon this is grounded the great law of nature, "Whoso sheddeth mans blood, by man shall his blood be shed." And Cain was so fully convinced that everyone had a right to destroy such a criminal, that after the murder of his brother, he cries out, "Every one that findeth me shall slay me;" so plain was it writ in the hearts of all mankind.
If someone has any doubts about how influential was Locke's thinking on our founding documents, especially the Declaration of Independence, just let them read the complete Second Treatise and the Declaration and see if they can come away thinking Locke was just a crock.
I don't have the knowledge or credibility to claim the 'Batman' directors tried to denigrate Lockean justice using a Straw Man argument. So for now I guess I'll just be content with pointing you to the potantial.
I'm sure Robin will replace Straw Man as the sidekick in the next one.