The purpose of this series is to consider how film can be used to communicate the Biblical theme of ‘Transformation in the Wilderness’. In each edition we explore a film-hero's journey in key scenes and match them to their closest Bible character. By comparing the film hero’s journey to their Biblical counterparts, we will see the lesson being taught. This time round we will be looking at the superhero epic by Christopher Nolan, Batman Begins.
The film follows the story of Bruce Wayne (The Batman), an elusive hero who battles crime to free Gotham City from corruption. We will use the art of film theory to analyse key scenes in his ‘wilderness transformation.’
In addition, we will see how Bruce’s wilderness story is a type or a picture of Moses in The Bible. I will be exploring some of the parallels between the two stories. As we will see, both men overcome fear by discovering who they really are. In the end, Bruce Wayne does this by transforming into an anti-hero, whereas Moses is transformed by discovering who he is in God.
THE SET UP
Our heroes transformation journey begins in a diner. Billionaire, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is looking for retribution and vengeance for the tragic murder of his parents when he was a child. After failing to exact revenge on the culprit himself (Joe Chill - who was murdered in a previous scene), Bruce decides to go after crime lord and drug baron, Carmine Falcone. We are told that Falcone is ultimately responsible for Bruce’ parents murder since his business keeps criminals like Joe Chill on the streets. Bruce is reprimanded by Falcone in front of onlookers for daring to come to him with his anger. He is then beaten up and thrown out onto the streets by Carmine’s body guards.
We discover that Bruce fears the criminal world responsible for his parent’s death. He doesn’t understand it because he is from a life of money and luxury. This is the catalyst that drives him into the wilderness. His transformation journey is about overcoming his fear by venturing into the criminal world itself.
1. Bruce lays down his comforts
The beginning of Bruce’s journey is signified when he gives up his wallet and exchanges his jacket with a homeless man. This connotes danger and realism and shows that Bruce is stepping into another world. This is a significant moment for his character as it shows that he is letting go of his control.
2. He gains new wisdom and experience in the wilderness
In the following scene, Bruce is busted by the police. Ironically, for trying to steal his own ‘Wayne’ products. We see a transformation in his character's costume and makeup here.
His hair is longer and he is now sporting a beard which has connotations of wisdom and experience. The cold blue and green colours of his outfit and his stern facial expression also makes him seem cool, calm and collected.
His transformation journey is about overcoming his fear by venturing into the criminal world itself.
This also marks a turning point where Bruce gains new, or hidden knowledge about himself. This is revealed in the dialogue from his trainer, Duckard (Liam Neeson).
“What you really fear is inside yourself,” he explains. “You fear your own power, you fear your anger: the drive to do great or terrible things. Now, you must journey inwards…”
This transitions us to the next scene and the next step in Bruce’s transformation in the wilderness.
3. His new strength is tested by his master
Bruce’s new found strength and experience is tested during his training with The League of Shadows, a Ninja syndicate group led by Ra’s Al Gul. Props and lighting are key.
In order to pass the test Bruce has to open an ornate golden box which contains his greatest fear. There is strobe lighting on the prop of the box giving it a mystical presence. Bruce slowly opens it and symbolically finds the key to unlocking his fears and his destiny. Bats fly out at him which show that Bruce has passed the test and has emerged as a new man. In this case, The Batman.
MOSES WILDERNESS TRANSFORMATION
Despite having different endings, there are several interesting parallels between the transformation journey of Bruce Wayne and Moses in The Bible:
- Moses begins with much wealth, power and security in Egypt
- He sees the plight of his brethren (the hidden world)
- Moses flees Egypt and its comforts and ventures into the desert (the unknown world)
- He is trained by God Himself
- He struggles with fear and doubt from his past
- He is tested (Stands before Pharaoh and faces his past like Bruce with Ra’s Al Gul)
- He emerges as a leader who is revered by the people (a hero)
Ironically, Batman actor Christian Bale went on to play Moses in a subsequent film, Exodus: Gods and Kings (Ridley Scott, 2015)
THE POWER OF IDENTITY
Ninja-trainer Duckard (Liam Neeson) tells Bruce that in order to defeat fear, he must become fear itself. He must become an idea. The way Bruce faces his fears is by becoming something else, The Batman. So his identity is lost, or masked behind an outward shell. This is a great picture of how the world deals with fear. Rather than recognising their helplessness and turning to God for strength, people put a mask up to the world. By establishing this barrier, they feel safe and protected, even powerful. But it’s an illusion. It’s not who they really are, and sooner or later they will be exposed because they are alone and they will die.
Moses on the other hand is able to defeat his fear by finding his identity in God. It is God's power that sustains him in the wilderness. It is God's power that enables him to face his past and free the people of Israel from Egypt. God alone is the one who can truly deliver us from our fears. Because with Him, we are not alone, and with Him death has no power.
Adam Brennan is a Digital Producer at Premier