The trailer for the latest Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, begins with the following intonation: “If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, then you become something else completely: a legend.” Holy causa sui, Batman! I didn’t know it was that simple. Of course it isn’t that simple, but the line from the trailer struck me as an example par excellence of the human desire to transcend our mortality. Failing that, some of us help ourselves along by sharing vicariously in heroics of another. I suspect Bruce Wayne will be thwarted in his bid for legendary immortality. Even legends die out eventually. But perhaps the movie patrons will leave with their anxiety temporarily assuaged.
I have another suggestion. Their time might be better spent on Woody Allen’s latest film, Midnight In Paris. Set in modern-day Paris, the plot centers on protagonist Owen Wilson’s love for the Paris of the 1920s, the Paris of Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, and Stein. Director Allen employs magical realism to allow Wilson to travel through a time portal back to this golden age, meeting many of his heroes. Without giving away too much of the plot, he comes to realize that every age is golden, every age has its luminaries, and there is no time like the present. He returns to modern-day Paris with his love of the city intact and a commitment to live in the here and now. He forgoes magic for everyday reality. This acceptance and willingness to engage the present reflects the existential “courage to be” that theologian Paul Tillich described. As I left the theater and walked into the sultry Louisville, evening I felt a certain satisfaction, a calm if you will. The time is now. Thank you, Mr. Allen. Good luck, Bruce.