Why Batman began

Image © Warner Bros.

The full length and presumably final trailer for Batman Begins is now available and it’s a dozy.

The movie explores the beginning of Batman’s career, a period that’s only been occasionally touched on in the comics. What I think excites me most about this movie is that Chris Nolan may be the first director to properly tap in to what Batman is really about – mythology and symbolism.

The basic premise of Batman, that a man with no extraordinary abilities except for a decent workout regimen and a lot of cool gadgets can dress up as a bat and fight crime, is completely ridiculous. So why do so many people love Batman? I think the answer lies in why a man might choose to do that.

In Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One Bruce Wayne dons a ski mask to fight crime in Gotham City and he’s practically laughed at by the criminals he confronts. Bruce doesn’t have his eureka moment until later in the story when he stumbles on to the imagery of a bat and ponders its symbolic power. After all, man in a ski mask might be scary, but a black shadow flying around in the night? That’s terrifying.

I think Liam Neeson sums it up best in the trailer:

“…if you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, you become something else entirely…a legend.”

If you want to tell a truly great story you have to make it more than just a story. You have to make it big. You have to make it symbolic. You have to make it mythic. You have to make it the kind of story that touches people on a primal level. Because that’s what all great stories do.

Puppetry is an ideal medium for telling big, mythic stories because at their most basic level puppets are symbols and as a culture we believe in symbols. We believe in myths. We believe in Batman, even though we know he’s not real.

Because he’s not just a story…he’s a legend.