staring down batman in robinsons pasig & westfield wellington

BESIDES THE reunions, homecomings and the reinforced memories of anticipated pleasures and updated conveniences, most of my trip home earlier this month seems a blur.

At the risk of trivializing the bulk of the remainder that happened, the news highlights of July were the death of durable comedian Dolphy, Roger Federer‘s restoration to tennis glory, and, the one we could have seen coming, the Denver Colorado massacre identified with the Dark Knight Rises premiere.

There were two flash floods that literally swept me aside, the second rendering the only road out of my subdivision into Ortigas Extension and immobilizing me 3.5 hours before my departure back to NZ, but in hindsight the first three were more momentous.

The shooting, tragic as it may be, obscures two facts of life in American society, sorry for the simplistic view: the accessibility of lawful firearms available only to highly trained professionals in war conditions in other countries  makes psychotic mass murderers out of what would otherwise be the unlikeliest daydreamers.  The second fact of life is that many brands in the conveyor belt of American TV and film  glorifiy crimefighting, and to achieve realism a necessary byproduct is the glorification of crime itself.

Which is just a four paragraph, roundabout way to get me talking about DK3, my own acronym by the way.  I’ve always been partial to the DC stable of superheroes, and because of his flawed, not-quite-superpower-endowed and millionaire-playboy-MMA-ascetic duality, this partiality extends all the way to the hallowed (and hollowed) Batcave.

Before I forget, may I add that this is probably the only movie I’ve seen from the milieux of two moviegoer demographics half a hemisphere apart.  Waiting for the first flash flood to subside Wednesday evening of the 18th, I chanced to pass by the cinema at that favored mall by Ortigas.  Idle hands motioned me aside and furtively asked me if I wanted to watch an advance screening of DK3.

Are you kidding?  half of me disbelieving, but the other half already conjuring images of raspy Caped Crusader one-liners and Batman-Bane ultimate showdowns.

Yes, yes.  You don’t even have to pay me right now.  Just show this ticket (a glossy mini-reproduction of the DK3 poster), come out after you’re stamped, and pay me.  No risk, diba?  And all for less than the cab ride back to Cainta, hardly scalper’s prices.

So scruples gave way to momentary weakness and I handed over coin, and saw the advanced screening of my favorite anti-hero, for a nameless fundraiser I didn’t even bother to find out.  It was a back alley, black market, secondary economy transaction, and I couldn’t waste valuable Batfan time stressing over it.

[ I saw it a second time, over the Amazing Spiderman and Kitkat Perry’s Part of Me, with esposa and Ganda, in the midst of an equally rapt and focused Wellington audience last night. So I have first hand, personal knowledge of the universal appeal of the Cowled One.]

***     ***     ***     ***     ***

Right away I can tell you that I’m somewhere between the casual fan and the ultra nerdy geek who has followed all the various Batman titles (Detective, Batman, the Brave and the Bold), seen and dissected all the permutations of Batman in TV and Cinema (starring among others Adam West, Michael Keaton, George Clooney, Val Kilmer and now Christian Bale), all the different story arcs and subplots in animation, etc.  I resurrect my childhood interest every now and then, but only as it coincides with every new movie offering (and new Batman action figures, of course).

But you don’t have to be a specialist in Batman dogma to know that Tim Burton has yet again taken liberties with the fundamentals of his legend as well as with common sense:

Secret identity. Outside of faithful butler Alfred and maybe the Justice League and of course his forever young ward Dick Grayson, no one is 100% sure who Batman is , although they can suspect it’s his powerful friend Bruce Wayne.  In DK3, everybody except the young clueless orphans know who owns those eyes under those pointy ears, and even the latter might have a vague idea.  Catwoman / Anne Hathaway, Bane the Churchill sounding wrestler terrorist, Morgan Freeman / Mr Fox the mentor and weapons specialist and even Blake / Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the young policeman turned detective, anybody who’s got at least a line of dialog here knows, making one of Batman’s last lines in the movie truly ironic : if you’re gonna fight crime alone, wear a mask.  Logical, but what if the mask is transparent?

superhero mash-ups and love teams.  Except for isolated, spontaneous fight scene situations, Batman never takes it upon himself to team up with a super-hero colleague, he’s a lone wolf and loathes needing help; it’s part of his damn-the-torpedoes shtick.  In this movie, not only does the Caped Crusader need an assist from no less than one of his most famous foes Selina Kyle; aka Catwoman, it actually requires a paradigm shifting, self-preservation instinct fighting sacrifice from the latter to save the day for him (watch the scene later), very un-Batman like if you ask me.  In fairness to the Catwoman, there is a famously conflicted love-hate relationship played up again and again between bida and contrabida, but for them to triumph as King and Queen of Gotham Crimefighting is a bit much to take.  Well, they do look good together, costumed or otherwise.

The three most glaring assaults on logic came from my female coviewers who by the way were anything but Batman afficionados and on whom I had to give kudos for their incisive comics IQ.  Sez esposa hermosa : first, if Bane was really that troublesome, that evil and that stress-causing for everybody in the Big Apple, why didn’t NSA or Obama have him terminated using ultra-accurate assassin shooters from beyond reach?  Even better, why not just incinerate him from satellite-based lasers with minimum risk to everybody concerned?  It only occurred to me after the movie, courtesy of some discussion from Ganda, that a clinical hit on Bane would have done away with gargantuan, million-dollar logistics to battle him or give in to his absurd “restore the balance” demands on the good citizens of Gotham City.  But it looked like this practical option was foreign to the eggheads in National Security, despite the fact that a city of 12 million was hostage to a decaying neutron bomb and its mindless triggerman.

Porous borders and blast radii.  Stretching my credulity most was the fact that this same neutron bomb, with a blast radius of 8 kilometers would be detonated if even one citizen left the city premises via this suspension bridge that looked quite frail and rickety.  I could not suspend even my accommodating Batfan mind for a few moments and accept that a huge city the size of Gotham could be monitored and all of its inhabitants kept within by at most, a modest platoon of Bane loyalists.  And what loyalty could hold the latter to the arch-villain when he would kill his lieutenants at the slightest whim?  While we’re at it, how could the Batman transport the same bomb to open sea, drop it, and negotiate the necessary 8 kilometers to safety, all within 5 seconds of available movie time?

But movie time stretches amazingly, and by the way it’s a Batman movie, and Batman movies are supposed to suspend your disbelief while entertaining you to pieces. Who cares if realism and reality happen to fall by the wayside?  In Manila, and Wellington, and anywhere else, the Bat is and will always be the Number One Draw, and you better not trip on your cape rushing to your seat, if you wanna catch the Dark Knight 3 start to finish!

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