There were harbingers President Barack Obama’s government surveillance controversies in the 2008 film “The Dark Knight,” where Morgan Freeman plays Lucius Fox, a sidekick technology genius for Gotham billionaire Bruce Wayne. Wayne, of course, is Batman and in the hunt for The Joker, played by Heath Ledger.
In one critical scene, Christian Bale playing Bruce Wayne, who was dressed up and talking like lounge singer Batman, shows Fox the massive array of computers and monitors he has rigged up to tap and scan every phone call in the city. Fox, the upstanding gentleman with morals as straight at his bowtie, recoils at the impropriety of spying on 30 million good people of Gotham—even it is the only way to capture The Joker.
To be fair, the screenwriter Jonathan Nolan said to io9.com he wrote the scene without Bush-era Patriot Act politics in mind.
“I wrote that material for Dark Knight in 2005. We filmed in 2008, by which point a lot of things had changed. I don’t like things I work on to have political didacticism — there are questions, but not messages,” he said. “So when we saw the similarities between Dark Knight and the warrantless wiretapping scandal during the Bush Administration — well, that put a political spin on something that was intended to be more general.”
Freeman, who gave the 2012 Obama campaign $1 million, told Jay Leno on the “Tonight Show” that he could get the president on the phone whenever he wanted to talk to him.
Leno asked the actor how often he called Obama and Freeman said hardly ever. But, really what’s the harm in giving the president a call? You already know he’s listening either during the original call or in reruns.
Watch the scene here:
Transcript of scene:
Bruce Wayne (dressed as Batman): Beautiful, isn’t it?
Lucius Fox: Beautiful, unethical, dangerous. You’ve turned every cell phone in Gotham into a microphone.
Wayne: A high-frequency generator receiver.
Fox: You took my sonar concept and applied it to every phone in the city. With half the city feeding you sonar, you can image all of Gotham. This is wrong.
Wayne: I’ve got to find this man, Lucius.
Fox: At what cost?
Wayne: The database is no-key encrypted. It can only be accessed by one person.
Fox: This is too much power for one person.
Wayne: That’s why I gave it to you. Only you can use it.
Fox: Spying on 30 million people isn’t part of my job description.
Wayne: This is an audio sample. If he talks with range of any phone in the city, you can triangulate his position.
Fox: I’ll help you this one time, but consider this my resignation. As long as this machine is at Wayne
Enterprises, I won’t be.
Wayne: When you’re finished, type in your name.
[After he is done and Freeman character types in the name “Fox,” the machine fries itself out.]