My estimation of the movie hasn't diminished from a second viewing. But I found myself watching it from a different perspective in several ways. For one thing, it felt more like a Batman movie this time, and I'm not sure why. I was also watching it after learning that a number of right-wingers have decided to see the movie as a defence of the Bush administration's methods in the war on terror. Keith Olbermann mentioned a couple nights ago, in an almost offhand rebuttal to Glenn Beck (one of the right-wingers espousing the "Batman as Bush" argument) that Christopher Nolan had actually seen Gotham City as a metaphor for Iraq, so I was thinking about this, too, as I watched.
It wasn't hard to think of a million counterarguments for the right-wing interpretation. I wanted to present a decently constructed right-wing argument to rebut in this post, but the Glenn Beck piece makes arguments more stunningly misguided than I'd anticipated. For example; "at one point they were like, he's a terrorist; he's going to kill. Well, we should understand him. What do you want to understand about him? He wants to kill everybody. Kill him before he kills you."
How many times and in how many ways did the movie tell us that Batman doesn't kill people, and that his refusal to murder is what sets him apart from the people he's fighting? That the rule of law should decide life or death before fear or vengeance?
So let me address the slightly more cogent arguments I imagined right-wingers making.
There really are a lot of differences between Batman and George W. Bush.* The most relevant difference here being that Batman wasn't elected as a representative of the people. An elected public servant's power is granted by the people in order to enforce the best judgment of the people, which, ideally, is reflected by laws. What a president does reflects on the people, what Batman does, does not. Torture makes the American people look bad when the government does it, torture makes Batman look bad if Batman does it. This is the whole point of the "hero Gotham needs versus the hero Gotham deserves" concept in the movie. It's also the point of "You die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become a villain." As the movie points out, the position of power to which Caesar was originally appointed was considered a burden, not an honour.
As for the issue of domestic spying as presented in the movie, the scenario only works in Bush's favour if you take the argument under the false parameters set by right-wing pundits, which suggest that political opponents of the administration would not allow the government to spy on American citizens under any circumstances. If a warrant wasn't granted to spy on a wanted felon like the Joker, something would be very wrong. However, the sonar system Batman uses, which is capable of spying on everyone in the city simultaneously, it must be pointed out, does not exist. If such a device existed in a city where a terrorist like the Joker was capable of assassinating public officials, destroying multiple hospitals, banks, buses, and police convoys on a daily basis, something tells me FISA or the Supreme Court would grant the warrant retroactively if necessary. If electronic surveillance had been deemed necessary by the administration on 9/11, it wouldn't have gotten them into hot water. The issue is in fact that the Bush administration is guilty of spying on American citizens without reporting to the courts ever, which calls into question the administration's motives. If we're to look at Batman as someone acting in the spirit of the Bush administration, this doesn't gel. We know Batman's motives are true.
I'd better get to work now. I'm feeling a little foggy to-day, I hope this post makes sense.
*Stay with me. Remember how I said it was often dangerous to assume something was obvious?