2005 saw the release of two star-studded big-budget action films that were unrelated other than that they both told the story of how a troubled young man, trained in combat and philosophy in part by Liam Neeson, grows into a fearsome alter ego who wears a black helmet, black armor, and a black cape. One of them sucked, and the other, Batman Begins, kicked ass.
That’s not to say it couldn’t have been improved in a couple of small ways. When Bruce Wayne is doing his carefree playboy act and the maître d’ complains to him that the pool in which his gorgeous model dates are splashing “is for decoration,” I really wanted him to confide to the maître d’, “So are the women” (instead of his lame quip, “Well, they’re European”). Although come to think of it, “So are the women” could be taken to mean, “I am gay.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but while Batman Begins offered a fresh perspective on many aspects of the Batman mythos, ambiguity about his sexual identity would have been taking things a little farther than I suspect audiences were prepared to go.
Next: there is a point in the film when Jim Gordon arrives at Arkham Asylum, where Batman is busy rescuing Rachel from The Scarecrow. Gordon sees a bunch of cops standing around outside and asks the chief, “What are you waiting for?” The chief responds, “Backup.” Impatient to act, Gordon runs in anyway. A short time later, Gordon is with Batman when he hears the sound of a zillion bats approaching. He asks, “What’s that?” and Batman says, “Backup.”
Here’s the improvement: instead of “What’s that?” Gordon again says, “What are you waiting for?” to Batman (as Batman pauses for a beat after he’s given Gordon some marching orders for helping Rachel), and Batman answers, “Backup,” exactly as in the earlier exchange, and Gordon again does not wait for the backup to arrive before leaping into action.
But as I wrote to my sister a few months after seeing Batman Begins, the best improvement of all “would have been a scene with Batman rescuing Katie Holmes in real life.”
INT. HOTEL ROOM - NIGHT TOM CRUISE and a spaced-out looking KATIE HOLMES are involved in heavy petting on the sofa in the penthouse suite. Things progress until Katie, under Tom's Svengali gaze, obediently wriggles out of her panties. TOM Tonight is the night. You will conceive my child. Crash! The door splinters from its frame under the weight of BATMAN's boot. With a deft leap he swooshes his cape between the two lovers. Tom falls backward off the couch, naked, in surprise. Katie appears to snap out of a trance. TOM Batman! BATMAN This time you've gone too far, Cruiser. KATIE (dawning horror) You're "The Cruiser"? Tom seems about to answer, then launches himself feet-first into Batman's chest, toppling both men to the ground. Tom rolls deftly across the room before Batman can recover. He grabs an item from a dresser drawer and whirls around with it. A gun? A knife? No: it's the terrifying mask of The Cruiser, vicious arch-nemesis of Gotham's law-abiding citizens. BATMAN Katie, get out of here! CRUISER (donning mask) Katie, stay! Katie's paralyzed. The Cruiser comes at Batman again, still naked but for his mask. Batman defends himself but can't land a blow on his amazingly nimble enemy. Batman manages to shove him across the room long enough to dash back to the sofa and shake Katie out of her paralysis. BATMAN Go! The Cruiser regains his feet and punches a hidden button. An entire wall of the room rotates aside, revealing The Cruiser's secret laboratory -- and A DOZEN BURLY HENCHMEN! CRUISER Cruiser Crew -- attack! Batman now has a full-fledged melee on his hands. Far from fleeing, it's the best Katie can do to protect herself from the fists and bodies flying around the room. In the confusion, The Cruiser grabs her arm and pulls her roughly into a concealed escape chute. Katie fights back but is no match for the highly trained action-star-slash-supercriminal. KATIE Stop it! Stop it! INT. CHUTE - NIGHT Katie and The Cruiser, both still naked except for The Cruiser's mask, slide in tandem down a spiral chute leading from the top of the hotel down to the street. The Cruiser presses a switch hidden in his mask, illuminating a strange glow in the mask's eyes. He turns his masked gaze on Katie. She immediately returns to her earlier trance state. CRUISER You will conceive my child. Now! Hypnotized, Katie swings a leg over The Cruiser's torso even as they spiral downward together. Unseen by either one, Batman drops through the center of the spiral on the end of a Batrope. He tosses a Bat-grenade onto the chute, obliterating a long section of it. At the sound of the explosion, The Cruiser looks away from Katie and sees the smoking gap, which they are fast approaching. He abandons his efforts to penetrate her. CRUISER Oh no. There is no way to stop, but that doesn't stop The Cruiser from clawing frantically at the smooth slide. CRUISER No! No! Xenu! Batman dangles at the end of the Batrope just beneath the gap. As The Cruiser and Katie sail into space, he deftly plucks Katie from the air and allows The Cruiser to fall. CRUISER Noooooo...! As he disappears into the darkness below, only the mask's strange glow remains. Then a crash and silence... and the glow is gone. CUT TO: INT. OPRAH'S TALK SHOW - DAY CHRISTIAN BALE is OPRAH's guest. OPRAH But how did you know that Tom Cruise was really The Cruiser? CHRISTIAN There were little hints everywhere -- the too-perfect, vaguely artificial good looks; the disproportionate power over women; the gay rumors designed to conceal the true nature of Tom's contacts with porn star Kyle Bradford, who's really a genius chemist in the criminal underworld. And I knew that the chemicals that gave The Cruiser his powers would slowly destabilize his mind, just as we've all seen. OPRAH (nodding) What's going to happen to Katie Holmes now? CHRISTIAN She's been through a lot, and her rehabilitation is going to take some time. Luckily I reached her before it was too late. The police now have Bradford in custody and he's cooperating with Bale Enterprises to manufacture an antidote. Plus Katie's strong, and she's in the care of the finest minds at the Bale Institute of Mental Health. I think we'll be able to welcome Katie back to your show in no time.
I know, picking on Tom Cruise these days is too easy and not entirely sporting, especially since Jonathan Coulton has done it better. Plus this is a bit more perverse than my usual imaginings. But what can I say? I just couldn’t keep this attempt at symbolism to myself:
Hypnotized, Katie swings a leg over The Cruiser’s torso even as they spiral downward together.