Ever dance with the devil by the pale moonlight?
Seeing as how my older brother almost disowned me for even suggesting that "The Dark Knight" ran a weeeeeeeeee bit too long (in his defense, I did see it at midnight and was ready to strangle some high school students by 12:04 a.m.), I know there are quite a few Batman fanatics out there who would absolutely eat this latest special up.
I stumbled upon it accidentally -- Heath Ledger's smeared, scarred Joker face tends to jump out at you in HD.
But the basic construct of the hour long program was to delve into Batman's psychological origins as a vigilante hero who devotes his life to sweeping the streets of crime after witnessing his parents' murder as a child. Batman's self-restraint and moral code is counter to those who he must lock up -- the Joker, in particular, acting as the yin to Batman's yang. The show does an excellent job of breaking down the essence of Bruce Wayne, and those who've used tragedy for the opposite effect, namely Batman's rogues gallery, possibly the best of any character in the history of comic books (just my opinion).
If you're a fanboy who already knows all this, the special will still be entertaining by way of linking real life psychosis to Gotham's underworld. For example, the show compares the killing patterns of Ted Bundy and Ted Kaczynski to the Riddler and Two-Face while noting how insanity is a legal, not clinical term as it applies to mass murderers like Jeffrey Dahmer. Psychologists and professors also discuss how Batman's appeal lies in his humanity -- the fact that he battles real demons and doesn't possess super powers or weakness in the Kryptonian sense. In one particularly revealing segment, it's noted that President Teddy Roosevelt was director Christopher Nolan's inspiration for much of Bruce Wayne's personal arc in "Batman Begins."
It's a testament to the sense of reality Nolan has created with his two "Batman" movies that a special like this could even be taken a face value while discussing comic book characters. But "The Dark Knight," especially, succeeds on that front -- a far cry from the campy Batman that dominated the '60s, and even Tim Burton's relatively cartoon-ish vision that had Prince doing the "Batdance" with Kim Basinger doubles. The way the special intersperses classic comic book art with movie clips and historic footage is also phenomenal.
Since History Channel (a Batman technology special was also on last night) doesn't have future airings listed on its Web site, here's Part One off YouTube. You can also find all but Part Two (of five parts) on the site ... though that could change as soon as today once someone manages to post it.
-- Thomas Rozwadowski, email@example.com