Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Alfred's Story

I recently watched The Dark Knight Rises, and like many others came back slightly disappointed that it didn’t live up to its promise. It all started off with the somewhat gargantuan task of bringing Batman to this world in Batman Begins. Unlike all previous attempts where Gotham City was some twisted fairy-tale land, Batman Begins tried to make the movie feel as normal and real-life as possible (for a Superhero/Disaster movie anyway). Suddenly it showed up the silliness of all other superhero movies that were still stuck in that fantasy land script.
The villain selected for the first movie was also very interesting. Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Shadows were no mutated half-man half-beast character with an army of minions, but they were in fact normal human beings with a mission. A mission, in fact, which seemed very closely to mirror the narrative on Al-Qaeda – Gotham had become too decadent and must be destroyed. So, in effect, they were high-functioning, highly sophisticated terrorists. Some say Americans have a slight obsession with the concept, but who can say? Obviously, all ends well when Batman intervenes and Gotham City can go back to its decadent ways. Well, not quite, while Bruce Wayne and Wayne Industries work tirelessly to give back to the community, his alter ego is out at nights cleaning up scum the old-fashioned way. A two-pronged long term approach to a complex problem – so far so good.
And then came the Joker. The simple fact is, the second film of the trilogy was just too good to be matched. The Joker was the ultimate villain, and if I may be so bold, the ultimate terrorist. A man whose simple pleasures of dynamite and gunpowder meant he had no higher purpose than to instill terror, making him impervious to reason or threat. The randomness of his actions was what made The Dark Knight thrilling and brilliant; there literally was no telling what he might do next. And to top it all off, the movie gave you a feeling of depth, as if some profound philosophy was being imparted amidst all the cool gadgets and explosions. Phrases like “the hero Gotham deserves but not the one it needs right now” just blew your mind.
When the law was powerless to deal with a genius madman who brought Gotham to the brink of destruction, the caped crusader took things into his own hands. Not just being the vigilante warrior against organised crime, but also going all Patriot Act on everyone in the end because desperate times called for desperate measures. This was not the time for heroics but for practicality, because as Alfred described the Joker, they were dealing the kind of man who just wanted to see the world burn.
*Screeching to a halt*
Now this is what I couldn’t understand. I watched the movie end to end and was enthralled by it, but Alfred’s little story stuck in my head. I couldn’t make any sense of it. For a revision, here’s the link.

So, Alfred and his friends were working for the local government in Burma. The first thought that sprang to mind was ‘colonial government?’, but considering Alfred’s age, possibly not. This ‘local government’ is trying to bribe tribal leaders with jewels to get their support, but someone keeps looting the caravans, and throwing the stones away. Why? Only one possible explanation comes to Alfred’s mind – he was a madman who wanted to see the world burn. In all the time since, it hasn’t occurred to the old man that maybe, just maybe, it was someone who didn’t want the tribal leaders bribed. Possibly someone from one of those tribes wary of having his leader sold to the government for a few precious stones? Perhaps someone from the government who thinks this is not the best way to reach out to the people?
Bruce Wayne also sees no problem with Alfred’s diagnosis of the problem. Of course, it would’ve been perfectly understandable if the thief had been selling them on – someone stealing to get richer is a normal human being. But a man unswayed by money is very obviously a mad-man who only wants to see the world burn! So what happens next? Alfred and co. burn down the entire forest to get the thief!
Wow. I don’t mean to berate Batman and Alfred, after all, they made one hell of a movie, but with reasoning skills like this, I can’t help but feel that Gotham City dodged a bullet having them both leave. After all, the next time someone did something where they couldn’t immediately fathom the motive, like I don’t know, trying to prevent bribery in the city by stealing the bribe money and giving it to charity, these two may well have nuked Gotham!

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