Thursday, September 5, 2013



Batman: “There is a difference between you and me. We both looked into the abyss, but when it looked back as us, you blinked.”

- To Owlman, fighting him on Earth Prime 

I think this will be my last Batman analysis for a while, then I’ll cover some more movies and games directly incorporating disabilities. I didn’t mean to get so into Batman, but then Ben Affleck happened. Anyway, superheroes are great sources for disability theory because it’s all escapist fantasy. When you don’t have the ability to deal with issues physically, you develop coping mechanisms that address the conflicts in other ways. But, that’s a theme for The Watchmen or Professor X to deal with directly. 

    Anyway, since I introduced Owlman last time, I thought it would be fun to examine his choices in comparison with Batman’s. In this world, the Justice League (Crime Syndicate) are the villains, and the usual villains are the heroes. Good Luthor travels to the world where the familiar Justice League exists, at the expense of the life of his Joker counterpart, Jester. Every hero has a counterpart and Harley Quinn is a monkey.  
  Ultra Man and Superwoman are counterparts to Superman and Wonder Woman. The evil Wonder Woman is a conqueror and likes the idea of conquering other worlds. Owlman is a nihilist who‘s built a reality-destroying bomb; the QED device. The Crime Syndicate holds their world hostage. 
    Until the other Justice League shows up. Wonder Woman, according to this story,  steals her invisible plane from Owlman. Superwoman actually manages to take down Batman until he outwits her. But, the key here is to recognize that even though they have opposite values, the characters still make choices to act on them, which leads to Batman’s above quote in his showdown with Owlman on Earth Prime. Batman’s a deontologist…someone who believes actions have value…his countepart is a nihilist…someone who thinks our actions are meaningless…in this case, because of parallel worlds.

    This point and its counterpoint are of course paramount to any philosophy, and reveals Batman’s central philosophy, like the abyss. Actions have inherent value. There may be other crime fighters out there, but he makes the choice to punish criminals his way. One of the things this animated movie does well is highlight each heroes worldview, and how they act on it. For example, Superman is adamant about not killing, but jailing, the Crime Syndicate and says: “All it takes for evil men to succeed is for good men to do nothing.” Superman is compassionate, unlike his gangster counterpart.

   Speaking of Superman, I have a few quibbles about Superman’s powers in this movie. Superman claims that good Luthor’s “internal organs are reversed.” but when he X-rays him, clearly only his heart is reversed.  I know this is a metaphor for his heart being with the other side, The Good Guys. But, was it necessary to reverse all his organs? And since we see that they’re not, does that mean Superman lied as justification to intervene on another Earth? And why doesn’t Batman (Who doesn’t want to get involved at first.) double-check? Surely, he’s not going to just take Superman’s word for it. And yet, he totally does. Thank goodness Martian Manhunter can read minds, and discovers good Luthor’s intentions. Otherwise, that would be a major plot hole.

   And speaking of Martian Manhunter, several lesser-known superheroes make appearances, which is nice. Among them are Aquaman, Black Canary, Black Lightning, and Green Arrow. Okay, Aquaman is well-known but, I haven’t seen Aquaman in a position of respect since his comedic appearances in Batman: The Brave And The Bold! Also, Flash’s counterpart is Australian, for some reason? Possibly as a joke about running to the other side of the globe real fast…? Don’t think about it too hard…it doesn’t make sense. (Plus, he’d be The Reverse-Reverse Flash!)

    Overall, I have a lot of minor quibbles with this film. It doesn’t approach its own questions very seriously, and doesn’t obey its own mirror-world logic. I think it’s a noble effort though…to show that how we act with our abilities and values makes a difference. Especially because it shows that everything contains the quintessence of its opposite. (Even if it doesn’t always follow it logically.) Especially for those of us with disabilities, I find that true. Our disabilities are secretly abilities, it just depends how we act on them.
In closing, I give the film credit for dealing with some of philosophy's Big Questions. Are we alone in the universe? What gives our actions meaning? But, it is somewhat ironic that Batman and Owlman fight on Earth Prime. Because in the world we know, superheroes cannot be the solution. Superheroes do not exist. I guess I just worry that some will confuse this reality with the fantasy one. But, even if you do, that’s still your choice. I’m glad to be done with Batman for a while at least. A good film, but Watchmen (The comic, not the movie.) deals with its themes in a more mature way. 2 stars for this Justice League adventure.    

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