05 May 2007

The Friends and Foes of Batman - Ra's al Ghul

Welcome to the new weekly look at the friends and foes of the Batman. For the most part I expect this to follow an alphabetical progression (by last name of course), but you never know. I may mix it up now and then. Anyways, lets get started shall we.

Ra's al Ghul, (رأس الغول in Arabic), is Arabic for "The demon's head." He was created in 1971 in part as a response to the success of James Bond to give Batman a global scale Bondesque foe. Ra's has appeared in Batman: The Animated Series and most recently in Batman Begins where he played a key role in Batman's origin. While his portrayal in Begins was fairly accurate, his immortality was presented as metaphorical rather than literal.

Ra's al Ghul was born five hundred years ago as desert nomad somewhere in Arabia. Ra's was interested in science from an early age and abandoned his tribe to live in the city to conduct scientific research. He became a physician and marries a woman named Sora, the love of his life. Later, Ra's discovered the secret of the life yielding Lazarus Pit, and saved a dying prince by lowering him into it. The prince, who was sadistic to begin with, was driven completely insane by the Lazarus Pit. He strangled Sora on whom he had had his eye for some time. The ruler of the city, unwilling to admit his son's culpability, declared Ra's guilty of the crime and sentenced him to a slow, tortured death in a cage with Sora's corpse. Ra's escaped and returned to his tribe only to lead them to slaughter the prince and his city.

Using the Lazarus Pit to prolong his life, Ra's spent the next 500 years mastering many forms of combat. He also built up vast wealth and created The Demon, a vast international organization of which Ra's was the head.

After Ra's daughter Talia fell in love with Batman, Ra's began to consider Batman as a possible heir in light of his great abilities and skill. Ra's deduced Batman's secret identity when he realized that the Dark Knight had to be rich, and learned that only Bruce Wayne has bought the equipment that a crime fighter would have. Ra's surprised Batman in the Batcave, seemingly to enlist Batman's aid in rescuing both Talia and Robin, both of whom had apparently been kidnapped. Batman soon discovered that the whole affair was a charade orchestrated by Ra's to test Batman, which he passed. Ra's asked that Batman become his heir. Batman refused appalled by his genocidal plan to "cleanse" the world of "corrupt" societies. From that point forward, Ra's al Ghul and Batman were mortal enemies.

Villain Profiles:

Ra's al Ghul

The Dark Knight returns in 440 days!


TeacherHst said...

Chief Chip...thanks so much for the Spiderman villains but I am really looking forward to the Batman ones.

tomsaville said...

Woo hoo! I'm really looking forward to the Batman villains summaries!

I'm curious what you thought of Ra's al Ghul's presence in Batman Beyond? Did you write a review of it?

Chip Chief said...

Are you talking about the Batman Beyond episode Out of the Past? I know that episode is highly regarded, but I think it is a little twisted for my taste. I always enjoyed seeing Batman foes appear in the future, and it was nice that they tied Ra's in, but it was bizarre. I preferred Ra's appearance in the Superman episode The Demon Reborn.

tomsaville said...

I'm really dumb...I meant Batman Begins. Guh...

Chip Chief said...

I thought you might have meant that. Ironically, I almost typed Batman Begins in my last comment. I guess Begins and Beyond are easy to mix up.

So, as for your question, I liked Ra's adaptation to the movie. I was a little aprehensive about how he would carry a whole movie, and even though he had a little help from the Scarecrow, I think he had a strong presence on his own. Tying Ra's into Batman's origin was genius. His fanatical eco-cleansing motive was also adapted well (though the execution using a microwave laser beam was a tad silly). They even sort of pulled of the idea of immortality in reputation without him being supernatural.

It was a bit of a shame that there were no Lazarus Pits, but they wouldnt really fit into the world of Batman Begins. The real travesty was the lack of Talia who could have been a strong female presence carried on into part 2 or 3.

Overall, Liam Neeson was great and I am very pleased that they switched things up rather than depending on the tried and true Joker or Penguin. Ra's was a different sort of foe that we hadnt seen before in a Batman movie.

johnnykool said...

Sweet! I loved the Spidey villains, but THIS is gonna be cool. Rock on, CC!