Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Many Loves of the Batman

Potential spoiler alert: If you have not played the game Batman: Arkham City and intend to, then you might want to stay away. But, seriously, do you really intend to? And even if you do, the gameplay and atmosphere seem to outweigh the story which, like its predecessor, is really more a fun excuse to shoehorn as many characters from the Batman mythos as possible than the second coming of Bioshock. In any case, I fully intend to spoil a major twist (well, again, as far as this level of storytelling goes) in the game so be warned!

Okay, so, with that out of the way, let me preface this all by saying that I am not the obsessive connoisseur of all things Batman as I may appear. I’ve never even read so much as a single Bat-comic book (but I’ve read very few comic books in my life), although I’ve seen the movies (and greatly enjoyed Nolan’s trilogy) and have played both of the great video games from this generation. It’s just a coincidence that I am now playing this and wanting to weigh in on it so soon after my post about The Dark Knight Rises. I clearly am saying this so you don’t think I’m a bigger nerd than I am, but this is pretty much impossible since I’ve seen every film and episode of Star Trek ever created, so it’s just that my nerd flies in a different direction than graphic novels. That’s all.

The plot of Arkham City, as I indicated earlier, while fun, is not one of the great reasons for playing the game. Oh, I think it’s perfectly enjoyable, but it’s clearly driven by the desire to include as many villains as possible, that’s all. It’s not like we need a realistic explanation for anything in a game where the lead character dresses like a bat anyway, and it’s just fun to interact with Joker, Penguin, Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, Catwoman, Two Face, Ra’s al Ghul aaand a bunch of characters that I didn’t even know existed, but I’m sure Batfans everywhere appreciated it.

I want to fast-forward through most of the shenanigans to put us toward the end of the main story. Joker gets the upper hand on Batman at one point, but the Dark Knight is saved by Talia al Ghul, a sometimes-villain and sometimes-Batlover who, at one point in the game, is called the only woman Batman ever loved. Talia is intentionally putting herself in danger by going off with the Joker, but she wears a homing device that lets Batman track her down.

It’s bad timing, though. As Talia goes off with Joker, missiles start rocking the massive prison complex called Arkham City. The Powers That Be have implemented a sort of “final solution” for the prisoners and the criminals—which include innocent civilians locked up as political prisoners—are being slaughtered en masse. Talia is in danger, but the death toll is already reaching the hundreds just minutes after the bombing begins. It’s the whole “the needs of the many” versus “the needs of the few (or the one)” dilemma. But come on. This is Batman. We know he’ll prioritize the greater need of Gotham over his sometimes-girlfriend.

So Batman prioritizes his sometimes-girlfriend over the greater need of Gotham. Or he tries to, anyway. He actually needs Alfred’s help, back in the Batcave, to follow Talia’s homing device, and Alfred refuses to help until Batman deals with the countless deaths that are racking up while they debate the issue. Begrudgingly, the Batman—who would give his own life to save Gotham most days of the week—agrees to save the lives of the prisoners before going after the woman he loves.

I totally get it. I feel like self sacrifice is much easier than sacrificing those we love. Those of us who are parents have dealt with the disappointments and broken hearts of our children, and I don’t think there’s been a time when I wouldn’t gladly take that pain upon my own shoulders if I could spare my daughters. I’m always shaken up when I’m reminded of the story of one of the apostles (Philip, I think) who reportedly was threatened with the slaughter of his daughters in front of his eyes if he did not compromise his faith. The apostle refused to recant or worship another, so the threat was carried out. His three daughters were each, one by one, slain in front of him before his life was taken as well. I can’t imagine he cared much about his own life at that point. Death, quite frankly, was probably a relief.

I cannot imagine denying Christ. I also can’t imagine standing by while someone hurt my girls. I pray I’m never in a situation like the one described. I would rather die a thousand times over than to sacrifice my daughters.

And that’s why I’m eternally grateful that God is greater than the Batman (not that there was any doubt, right?). God did not spare His Son, but gave Him up willingly—for us (Rom. 8:32). I know it’s not Christmastime as I write this—and this thought may well recur in these musings at some point in December—but I always think, in the midst of our joy and celebration, how God must have felt on that first Christmas. We can and should rejoice because our Redeemer had come! But His birth was the first step on a road that would culminate in the cross.

It’s the ultimate act of love. That of God the Father is even greater, I feel, than the self-sacrifice of the Son. He loved us so much that He gave up His only Son. It’s incredibly. You know those arguments, so often born of genuine hurt and pain, that start with, “How can a loving God. . .?” I’m sorry, but I feel that it doesn’t matter what the grievance is; I feel that His act of sacrificial love trumps all.

Because He gave His Son.

He gave His Son.

He did it for us. As a parent, I can’t even imagine the love that God possessed for us, that He was willing to give up His Son. I can tell you that I don’t think I have ever loved someone that much, but God is love (1 John 4:8). He is love, and that’s not referring to gooey feelings or mere affection. It refers to action, one of the most powerful actions this world has ever known.

And when I think that God
His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die
I scarce can take it in
That on the cross
My burden gladly bearing
He bled and died
To take away my sin
-          How Great Thou Art
Written by Carl Boberg and Stuart K. Hine

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