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Joseph Campbell pointed out correctly that in every culture the hero’s journey can be found embedded in the stories and myths of the community. This is because the hero’s journey as Campbell understands it is a powerful commentary on human nature especially when it comes to the clamor for heroes and leaders that will make this world a better place. Campbell’s ideas when put into film is a powerful ingredient because deep down in the heart of every person is the desire to find meaning in life.
The hero’s journey is one of the tools that will help a person understand that in the great scheme of things an ordinary person can become the hero that will save the day. This can be seen in the movie Batman Begins because in this film the director and producers were able to illustrate the three major steps in the hero’s journey namely: departure, initiation, and return.
It has to be made clear that although the creators of the said film included the three elements of the hero’s journey in the movie, they made it complicated by combining the steps and repeating it all throughout the story. Some commentators said that the three major phases can be expanded into 17 steps.
This includes the call to adventure, the encouragement of a wise old man, the hero falls in love, the hero is in the belly of the whale, magic flight and help from friends, battle with evil, home and many more. These steps can be found in Batman Begins but not in the order listed. In addition the director and producers of the movie sometimes duplicated the steps or crammed them together in the beginning, middle, and end of the story which makes it more exciting to study Batman Begins.
In the beginning of the film the viewers were ushered into the world of Bruce Wayne. He was a child born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He was the son of a prominent entrepreneur and philanthropist. He was the only child and therefore groomed to take over his father’s business empire. He lived in a mansion and everything that he needed was taken cared of. It can be argued that he did not want to leave this world. He had the love of his father to protect and nourish him.
All of a sudden there was a call to adventure. But it was a call that was rejected outright because the young Bruce Wayne did not understand it to be the call to adventure. In front of him was not a clear message that he was chosen. In front of him was his dead parents. His world was turned upside down. He was forced to depart his homeland to find peace, retribution, and power in a foreign land. Yet, he did not heed the call. He refused to go.
Many years had passed and the young Bruce Wayne grew up into a teenager. He was supposed to go to college but the death of his parents continued to haunt him. In his heart, hate was the main reason for living. He wanted to kill the man who murdered his father and mother. In the same stage of his journey he fell in love with a young girl. This complicated his life. He wanted to kill the murderer and moved on with his life but this love for the girl seemed to have changed the way he looked at the world.
After the trial, Bruce Wayne, no longer a boy and not yet a man, pulled out a revolver to kill the person that he hated most. However, he was unsuccessful. It was the frustration and the anger that drove him to the edge. Love and hate proved to be an overpowering mix. Thus, the call to adventure was answered in the most unexpected way. He decided that he had to face his fears and to find a way to uproot the source of crime. Bruce Wayne left everything behind to learn more about the criminal underworld.
It is at this point of the hero’s journey where one can see how the storyteller tried to combine the elements described by Campbell. For instance his time spent in a notorious prison in China can be considered as the step wherein the hero was forced to stay in the belly of the whale. This is also the beginning of his entry into the second major phase of the journey which is the initiation stage. This is also the stage where one can see the hero traverse the road of trials.
It can be argued that Bruce Wayne went past the initiation stage when he left home and dove into the criminal world and exchanged his rich man’s robes with that of a pauper – one that is characterized by desperation, hunger, and lawlessness. He did it to learn how to destroy criminality from within. However, his initiation did not only consist of what he learned through his own cunning and sheer bravado. He was about to experience the rite of passage of a hero through the hands of a teacher.
When he was in prison he was recruited by a member of a secret organization that prides itself in the eradication of evil. The man who recruited him was Henri Ducard. Naturally, Bruce Wayne wanted to become a member of this organization and as a result he was rescued from that prison facility and transported into the lair of ninja-like assassins who maintained that they were a force for good and not for evil.
The hero spent a great deal of time learning the black arts of the assassin. It can also be argued that during his stage of the journey the hero had his first encounter with a wise old man. He learned fast and he acquired the skills that will aide him in his quest to become the hero that will save Gotham City.
He was supposed to go back to Gotham to destroy the crime syndicate that controlled the city. It was the ultimate battle of evil for him but surprisingly Bruce Wayne discovered that evil has many faces. It is not only represented by Crime Boss Carmine Falcone but also by zealots and extremists like Henri Ducard and his secret organization of shadow warriors. Thus, he had to battle it out with Ducard and his men. He was partially successful. But more importantly he was able to go to the next step.
His ultimate quest was not yet completed and yet he has to go home. It is in his homeland where he will have to battle the ultimate evil. He could not go home without encountering the next step of the process in becoming a hero. He needed the help of his friends and the so-called magic flight to bring him home.
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He received it in the form of a private jet and the assistance of his trusted old butler. It is also interesting to note that this is his second time to receive encouragement from a wise old man and it is this encouragement that intensified his resolve to become Batman.
It is also interesting to note that Gotham City is not only his home it is also a battlefield. Furthermore, the story became more interesting because the storyteller allowed the hero to re-experience the steps mentioned above. Thus, when he assumed the mantle of authority as a true heir of the Wayne dynasty he entered into the belly of the whale.
He also went int the second phase of his initiation. This time not to learn the skills that would make him Batman but the skills needed to make him Mr. Wayne the head of a business empire. It is at this stage when he received encouragement from another old wise man, Lucius Fox who helped him transform himself into a businessman by day and Batman by night.
He had his final battle with the ultimate evil and it is a multi-headed monster. The first head symbolized the crime families, the second head symbolized the corrupt businessmen who tried to control Wayne Enterprise, and the finally the third head symbolized the secret organization headed by Ra’s Al Ghul and his right hand man Henri Ducard.
It was an intense battle. At the end he succeeded in destroying the crime syndicate. He also succeeded in defeating Ra’s Al Ghul and Henri Ducard. Finally, he took control of Wayne Enterprise. He entered the final stage, the hero wins. He comes home to rebuild his home.
Batman Begins is an amazing film because the storyteller used the elements of the hero’s journey as described by Campbell. It was a compelling story because the producers of the film did not only create a simple presentation of the hero’s journey and proceed to tell it chronologically such as departure, initiation and return.
They made it interesting by mixing and combining the steps to keep the audience guessing what will happen next. For example the hero went home but the quest is far from complete. He did not know that he will have to battle evil in his homeland. The storyteller also repeated the process of initiation, receiving encouragement from wise old men, spending time in the belly of the whale and finally the transformation from a scared boy into a powerful hero that saved the whole of Gotham City.