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DISCUSSION GUIDE

Batman Begins
A hero in the making.

Batman Begins has been hailed as the high-water mark for films
about superheroes. Everything clicks in this film: the special
effects are astounding, the characters are intriguing, the
relationships are dynamic, the plot is plausible, the story is epic.
A bit too frightening for children, the film rewards adult fans by
establishing without a doubt that superheroes are a
contemporary mythology that thus fulfills the task of all
mythologies: to define reality, to outline ethics, and to inspire
nobility. This study looks at the movies themes of justice,
courage, and following our calling.

Based on:
Batman Begins (Warner Bros., 2005), directed by Christopher Nolan, written by Bob Kane and David S. Goyer, rated
PG-13 for intense action violence, disturbing images, and some thematic elements

C HRISTIANITY T ODAY
I N T E R N A T I O N A L
2005

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MOVIE DISCUSSION GUIDE
Batman Begins
Page 2

Movie Summary
The latest take on the Batman mythology, Batman Begins introduces us to the child Bruce
Wayne, who witnesses his parents murdered on the street. Plagued with guilt and haunted
by this childhood trauma, the adult Bruce (Christian Bale) leaves home on a quest: to
become a pure channel of justice.
Bruce falls in with the League of Shadows, who have mastered fear and offer to train him in
the art of combat. When Bruce is confronted with the scope of their harsh worldview, he
rejects the League and returns home. Meanwhile, the League has hatched a plot to destroy
Bruces city: Gotham will be consumed by its own fear.
Gotham is effectively run by organized crime. Bruce begins his career as Batman with the
help of two mentors, and with the cooperation of apparently the only uncorrupted police
officer and attorney on the citys payroll. Batmans efforts bring him into contact with the
Scarecrow, the self-proclaimed master of fear, and ultimately once again with the League of
Shadows. Whose vision will determine Gothams fatethe harsh hand of the League, the
terror of the Scarecrow, or the call of the Bat?

For more coverage of Batman Begins, visit


http://www.christianitytoday.com/movies/reviews/batmanbegins.html

Rated PG-13
The film is rated PG-13 for intense action violence, disturbing images, and some thematic
elements. Take the rating seriously when it comes to younger children. Besides some harsh
street fighting, martial arts, swordplay, and other comic book violence, the movie is also
very dark. There are some genuinely scary moments as Batman is hunting criminals and
when drugged people are seeing frightening visions.

Discussing the Scenes


Select one or more of these themes to discuss:
1. What Is Justice?
2. Embracing the Call
3. Courage in the Face of Fear

1. What Is Justice?
(Proverbs 28:21; Micah 6:8; Isaiah 42:17)
Justice is a nebulous term. In the name of justice people have done some patently unjust
things, and ethicists have effectively argued that morality sometimes compels us to violate
the laws of an unjust society. In fact, Batmans own heroism has often been called into
question, and the justness of his tactics has been hotly debatedboth in his mythical
universe and in the culture surrounding his audience.

[Q] How do you define justice?


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[Q] Read Proverbs 28:21. What social factors do you see as major contributors to crime?

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MOVIE DISCUSSION GUIDE
Batman Begins
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[Q] How should an awareness of such factors impact a societys execution of justice?

[Q] What about Batman makes him seem heroic to you?

[Q] What about Batmans tactics or worldview cause you concern?

[Q] How would your community change if its criminal justice system were inspired by
Batmans example? Whats improved? Whats sacrificed?
Scene to Watch:
Bruce Wayne is invited to an execution
The League of Shadows has invested considerable time in training and indoctrinating
Bruce Wayne. He has endured his worst fears and defeated the Leagues best warrior in
combat tactics. One test remains: he must execute the Leagues harsh justice against a
condemned criminal.
Ducard: You must demonstrate your commitment to justice.

Bruce: Im no executioner.

Ducard: Your compassion is something your enemies will not share.

Bruce: Thats what makes it so important.

[Q] What stays in Bruces hand in this scene? How might he define compassion?

[Q] How would you characterize the difference of conviction between Bruce and Ducard?
Who argues his position better? Who displays better character?

[Q] Read Micah 6:8. How does a love of mercy impact our pursuit of justice?

[Q] Where does humility fit in a conversation about justice and mercy?

[Q] Ducard defines justice as balance; Rachel Dawes characterizes justice as being
about harmony. Read Isaiah 42:17. How does the Bible characterize justice?
Leaders note: This passage is quoted in Matthew 12 as a prophecy of Jesus
ministry. The justice sought in the Bible is practiced in humility and meekness (vv.
23) and characterized by redemption and deliverance (vv. 67). The pursuit of this
divine justice led Jesus to the cross.

[Q] How would your community change if people took up the mandate of justice found in
Isaiah 42?

2. Embracing the Call


(Psalm 139:1416; Matthew 17:15; Luke 9:25; 2 Timothy 1:17)
At the heart of every tale of heroism is a call, something that sets our hero apart from the
crowd. In Batman Begins that call to heroism is extended to Bruce by many characters,
and the fate of his city rests on whether he will embrace it.
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MOVIE DISCUSSION GUIDE
Batman Begins
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[Q] When have you felt as though you were doing something you were born to do?
Describe the experience.
Scene to Watch:
Bruce is visited in prison
We first encounter the adult Bruce Wayne in an Asian prison, where he is met by Ducard, a
self-styled spiritual advisor who introduces the idea of a transcendent call: If you devote
yourself to an ideal, then they [forces of injustice] cant stop you. You becomea legend.

[Q] What is appealing in this declaration?

[Q] What ideal is Ducard offering Bruce? Whats the end result?

[Q] What would it mean to be called to be a legend? What larger purpose would it serve?
Theologian Sren Kierkegaard argues that the one who desires the Goodfor the sake of
some reward also fails to will one thing. He is double-minded. The person who in truth
wills the Good thinks only of the Good, not of some resulting benefit. For the Good is its
own reward.

[Q] In what sense is Ducards offer an appeal to double-mindedness?


Leaders note: Kierkegaard is famous for saying, Purity of heart is to will one
thingthat one thing the nearness of God, who brings only good purposes with
him. To seek God is thus to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

[Q] Read Luke 9:25. Jesus cautions against self-exaltation while warning his followers of
his coming trial and execution. How does Jesus call contrast with the call Ducard
extends to Bruce here?
Scene to Watch:
Rachel confronts Bruces self-absorption
Childhood friend Rachel Dawes has watched Bruce withdraw from his birthright in the
wake of his parents death. With their death, the conscience of their city seems to have died
as well. Rachel refuses to enable Bruces self-absorption: Look beyond your own pain,
BruceGood people like your parents who will stand against injustice are goneYour
father would be ashamed of you.

[Q] How does Bruces family history factor into his calling?

[Q] How does the shame implied in this comment influence Bruces journey as the film
progresses?

[Q] Read Matthew 17:15. How does God the Father honor Jesus in this passage?
Leaders note: God affirms Jesus authority to his followers by word, spectacle,
and the witness of Moses and Elijah. He expresses his love and pleasure with Jesus
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as his Son.

[Q] How do shame and honor differently affect our pursuit of our calling?

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Batman Begins
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[Q] To what degree is shame appropriate in the process of self-discovery? In what sense is
it counterproductive?
Rachel later confronts an adult Bruce Wayne by saying, Its what you do that defines you.
At a climactic point in the film, Bruce (disguised as Batman) will throw this line back at
Rachel and so reveal his secret. In learning that Bruce is Batman, Rachel also learns that
what Bruce was doing actually did not define him. He was pursuing his call as Batman all
along; he was something more than what she saw him do.

[Q] What appeals to you in this statement? What troubles you?

[Q] How does your interpretation of this line change in this second instance?

[Q] How completely does a call define us?

[Q] What are the limitations of thinking solely in terms of call?

[Q] Read Psalm 139:1416. What are the implications of this passage on the notion of a
calling?
Leaders note: The passage indicates Gods intimate knowledge of created persons
and sovereignty over each persons future. But the days ordained for us are distinct
from Gods work of creating. Gods creation is wonderful, regardless of the nature
of our days on earth.
The story of Bruce and Rachel resolves with her benediction: When Gotham no longer
needs Batman, Ill see [the man I love] again. What kinds of sacrifice are appropriate to a
calling?

[Q] What is the life span of a calling?

[Q] Read 2 Timothy 1:17. How does Paul encourage Timothy in his call?

[Q] How can we help one another transition from calling to calling?
3. Courage in the Face of Fear
(Esther 4:155:8, 7:110; Isaiah 43:14; Ephesians 6:1020)
What is the antidote to fear? Batman Begins offers the solution of a hero delivering a city
from its worst nightmares. However, we cant expect a costumed hero to save us from our
fears. Lets look at how a normal human beingone of usmusters up the courage to be a
hero.

[Q] What gets in the way of people intervening when they see people in need?

[Q] What role does fear play in the sense of isolation in our culture?
Scene to Watch:
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Gordon drives the Batmobile

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MOVIE DISCUSSION GUIDE
Batman Begins
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Jim Gordon is a good man in a bad situation. In the face of crooked cops trying to
intimidate him into not reporting them, he replies, In a town this bad, whos there to rat
to, anyway? But again and again we see Gordon enter into awkward or fearsome
situationsdespite his own discomfort.
Leaders note: If people think this character study is a stretch, see Gordon sticking to
his guns despite pressure from crooked cops, entering Arkham Asylum during a hostage
situation, walking out into a city filled with escaped psychopaths, and driving a suicide
mission.

[Q] What compels you to intervene on behalf of people in need?

[Q] Just because were compelled to do the right thing doesnt mean were not scared.
Read Isaiah 43:14. What is there to be scared of in this passage?

[Q] What does God say that offers courage? What promises does he make?

[Q] What else is happening that Gordon can take courage from?

[Q] Whats already happened up to this point that can encourage Gordon?
Leaders note: This isnt Gordons plan; its the plan of Batman, whos already
proven himself as trustworthy and competent and is simultaneously attacking the
source of the citys threat. In fact, the Batmobile does most of the driving; Gordon
just needs to be present.

[Q] Who saves the cityBatman, Gordon, or both?

[Q] Think of some biblical stories of big acts of deliverance. What did the heroes of these
stories do?

[Q] What role did God play in the same stories?


Leaders note: Moses held his staff over the Red Sea, but God parted it; Esther
exposed Hamans treachery to the king, but God orchestrated events to make it
possible; Gideon amassed an army against the Midianites, but God struck them
down. The apostles healed in the name of Jesus.
Read Esther 4:155:8 and 7:110.

[Q] What gives Esther pause as she prepares to approach the king?

[Q] What steps does she take to protect herself?

[Q] What role should prudence play in acting on the behalf of others?

[Q] How can we protect ourselves when God calls on us to intervene somewhere?

1 [Q] Ultimately, courage and fear are simultaneously present in every challenging
situation. Read Ephesians 6:1020. How can we cultivate courage in everyday life?

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MOVIE DISCUSSION GUIDE
Batman Begins
Page 7

As the Credits Roll


[Q] Discuss the father figures in Batman Begins: Thomas Wayne, Alfred, Ducard, Jim
Gordon, Earle, and Lucius Fox. What does each contribute to Bruces self-
understanding?

[Q] Read Proverbs 22:6. How does our experience of being parented or mentored shape
our worldview? Our ethics?

[Q] Read Hebrews 10:23-25. Rachel Dawes has enormous peer influence on Bruce. How
can we encourage our friends and acquaintances in their spiritual formation?

Study by David A. Zimmerman, author of Comic Book Character


(IVP, 2004), a spirituality of superheroes. Read his weblog Loud Time
(www.loud-time.com).

2005 CHRISTIANITY TODAY INTERNATIONAL


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