28 July 2008

Lucius Fox: In the Know

Yesterday I discussed how The Dark Knight uses the character of Alfred Pennyworth differently from how he first appeared in the Batman comics, back in 1943. Today I'll talk about the movie's approach to another supporting character, but this one goes back only to 1979.

Lucius Fox was introduced into the comics that year as a talented corporate executive who ran Bruce Wayne's corporation and foundation for him so he could sleep off his late nights chasing criminals as a vapid playboy. Fox is African-American, and his arrival expanded the "Batman family" beyond White Anglo-Saxon Protestants.

In the comics, Fox's acumen lies in managing corporations and managing money. He even built Dick Grayson's small inheritance from his parents into enough money that the young man could live apart from Wayne Manor and buy the circus where he grew up.

Batman Begins, the first of the new Batman movies directed by Christopher Nolan, gave Fox a new role: chief inventor of Batman's stuff. He's an engineer at Wayne Enterprises, unfairly shunted aside by a usurping CEO. Fox slips Bruce some of the technology that helps him become Batman, and eventually Bruce makes him the new head of the company.

The comic-book Lucius Fox has yet to tumble to his boss's secrets (or at least he has yet to let on that he has). Once Hollywood cast Morgan Freeman in that role, however, audiences wouldn't believe that he'd remain that ignorant. After all, he's the industry's current choice to play God. (A very long way from holding cue cards as Marcello on The Electric Company.)

Therefore, The Dark Knight shows Lucius Fox as fully cognizant of Bruce Wayne's activities. In essence, he's a second Alfred. Which brings me to this New York Post interview with Freeman:

What's the secret to making a superhero movie?

You gotta make the superhero believable. Batman is not super. He has extensive training in order to be able to do what he's doing. What made "Batman Begins" work is that you saw how he begins. He's not bitten by a spider or bathed in atomic rays or anything. The guy was trained in a certain art. That's very believable.

Part of that believability is also that Batman is disturbed.

He is. This is one of the things the new movie brings out. He sees his path, and he knows the price he pays for it. His mentors, the people watching over him, are saying, "You're getting into dangerous territory here."

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