Batman Begins isn't so much a Hollywood summer blockbuster as a Hate Crime against the Future.
The first act seemed innocent enough. We are thrust into the story of Bruce Wayne's tumble into the dark cave of fear and hate -- precipitated respectively by a traumatic childhood bat-attack and his guilt over his parents' murder by a mugger that resulted from his chiropteran fears. It begins, without so much as opening credits, in the midst of his Dantean trip into the underworld of crime, searching for the Ways of Wrongdoers and the means to stop them, and leads to his fiery rebirth from the Himalayan hideout of the League of Shadows as a Dark Avenger against Crime.
ironically on display in the Sky Church in the EMP
, through which the Monorail traverses.
But all this Sturm und Drang is just a façade, cobbled together from well-tread comicbook plots and backstory outlines, for director Christopher Nolan's real agenda: anti-monorail agitprop.
The gleaming monorail system that runs through Gotham in Bruce Wayne's childhood flashbacks -- made stereotypically retro in design by the art director to suggest it belongs to a future passed -- is at the center of both the city -- its rails spoke out from the hub of Wayne Tower -- and the film. It is showcased during a pivotal scene in which Bruce's father explains to him the troubles of Gotham. We learn that the monorail was built by him as a symbol of Hope and Unity for a city faltering on the verge of Poverty and Despair. This portentous scene takes place during a Wayne family trip to the opera that will result in the parental deaths at the heart of the Batman mythos. Here we see the monorail as grim Charon, ferrying the Waynes to their doom.
Years later, after Bruce Wayne's return to Gotham as the Batman, the monorail has become a symbol of degradation, covered in graffiti and sparsely occupied by muggers and Mafia hitmen. The propaganda message here is clear: Monorails are a False Hope and city planners would do well to reject them as a means to Urban Renewal.
But this isn't the final depth to which Nolan's propaganda will sink.
We eventually learn that the monorail is to become a tool of the League of Shadows, lead by immortal archvillain Ra's Al Ghul, to destroy Gotham by using it as a transport for a microwave weapon that will vaporize the water in the pipes that run beneath the monorail line, unleashing the fear-inducing psychotropic drug that the League has surreptitiously poisoned Gotham's water supply with, thereby hurling the city into chaos. So in the end, the plot is this: Only by destroying the monorail can Gotham be saved. If we were to believe the filmmakers, monorails attract terrorists and ninjas, lead to Madness, and need to be demolished for any hope of Salvation.
(I think it's fair to say that the anti-monorail motives of the filmmakers were shaped by their love of SUVs, as evidenced by the worshipful portrayal of the tank-like Batmobile. Upon seeing the Batmobile, Police Sergeant Gordon enthuses: "I got to get me one of these!" He later goes on to use the Batmobile to blow up the monorail. Not exactly subtle.)
As further evidence that the whole film was thrown together for the sole purpose of attacking monorails, consider the poorly thought-out doomsday scheme of the League of Shadows. If the microwave weapon were capable of vaporizing the Gotham City water supply, why did it not also vaporize the aqueous portions of the Gothamites? Why did the eyeballs of those in the Narrows not explode when their vitreous liquid was made gaseous by the microwaves? The only possibly explanation -- apart from an abject lack of understanding of Science on the part of the writers well beyond the norm for even the most curmudgeonly Ludditic anti-monorailist -- is that the filmmakers started with the idea that the monorail was to be destroyed and only later came up with a slapdash reason why. Their limited imaginations, typical of those who dismiss monorails, were simply not up to the task.
As I left the IMAX theater at the Pacific Science Center and took the Seattle Monorail back to my apartment, I was left shaking my head in befuddlement as to why a prestigious Center of Science would agree to show such an unscientific, hateful film so out of touch with the self-evident wonders of the Monorail so near to them. Is not the goal of Science a truer understanding of our World for the Embetterment of Mankind? How is that goal served by attacking what is not only the most significant discovery of Modern Science -- the Principle of Monorailular Transit -- but also the only means of lifting Humanity up out of its congestion, both traffic and moral, and into the sky so that we may ride swiftly and confidently into our Destined Future? It is not served at all by that, I say! Rest assured that I will be writing a strongly worded letter of complaint to the Science Center's Ombudsman.
As for Batman Begins, on a railular scale from one to five (one being a Supreme Achievement of the Human Soul and a Shining Beacon of Hope for our Children, five being Ignominious Refuse for the Junkpile of History), I give it four rails.