Batman: the Quintessential Existentialist

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Batman: The Quintessential Existentialist

Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins is the start of a saga in which its themes are deeply rooted with many existentialist ideas. As the story unfolds, Bruce Wayne sets on a path to beat the evil nihilist, Ra’s Al Ghul, and becomes a truly authentic individual in the process.

Bruce Wayne, at the start of the film, is in prison for committing petty crimes in China. He ended up there after dropping out of Princeton, witnessing the death of his parents’ killer, and attempting to go after the biggest crime boss in the city. He claims he left in order to get into the mindset of a criminal, so as to understand why someone would kill people as wonderful as his parents. Existentialist Soren Kierkegaard experienced something very similar to this, when he broke off his engagement because he believed it would hold him back from a higher calling.

As Bruce Wayne begins his training to become a part of the League of Shadows, he realizes it will take a great deal of commitment, which of course is one of the five existentialist themes. His guru (of sorts) is the evil Ra’s Al Ghul, who has a plan to destroy all of Gotham City, which is rotting from the inside out. His reason for this is explained when he states, “Every time a civilization has reached the pinnacle of its decadence, we return to restore the balance.” Freidrich Nietzsche classified someone who thought this way, a nihilist; someone who thinks modern day morals and values are worthless and should be cast aside. Bruce Wayne’s ultimate goal as Batman: overcome nihilism.

Ultimately, with his commitment to fighting crime as Batman, he has become a truly authentic person. But as it seen throughout the film, Bruce constantly had to explore the darker side of himself to become an individual. Do you have to explore the dark side of yourself in order to become an authentic person? For Bruce, it provided a new perspective on things, as well as learning his limits. For...
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