This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
dean’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
i don't think i will ever not be angry with the nolan batman films.
but let's just focus on this one scene. the "some men just want to watch the world burn" scene. because it is the perfect evidence for just how committed nolan's films are to casting anyone resisting oppressive systems as villains.
alfred: a long time ago, i was in Burma, my friends and i were working for the local government. they were trying to buy the loyalty of the tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. but their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. so we went looking for the stones. but in six months, we never met anyone who traded with him. one day i saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. the bandit had been throwing them away.
bruce: so why steal them?
alfred: because he thought it was good sport. because some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. they can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. some men just want to watch the world burn.
first of all, alfred can only have been in Myanmar as part of the british colonialists (or a desperate remnant of that government) who occupied the country for over 100 years. and their motivation for "trying to buy the loyalty of the tribal leaders" would have therefore been to get them under british colonial powers and influence. but this manipulation tactic is being sabotaged by a "bandit" who is giving the precious stones to the people. alfred calls this "throwing [the stones] away." and neither he nor bruce seem to be able to fathom another reason the "bandit" would be raiding the caravans.
now framing the actions of a revolutionary who is resisting british imperial powers and redistributing hoarded wealth to the people as illogical, chaotic, unreasonable, and "just [watching] the world burn" seems a little bit... evil? (not to mention that nowhere in this story did alfred point to anything harmful the bandit did besides depriving the government of their leverage over the people (which, if that's all it takes to make someone evil in the nolanverse, then yikes.))
and then alfred lists the way you can tell if someone is illogical. 1. they aren't looking for money; they can't be bought. 2. they can't be bullied. (it is incredible to me that he begins the list this way to be honest. as though those attributes are bad. as though trying to manipulate people with them is somehow logical and safe?) 3. they can't be reasoned or negotiated with. (in this instance of course this frames the british colonialists as the only "reasonable" ones and acts as though any "negotiations" they offer would be honest or safe.)
but then comes the most famous and most baffling line. "some men just want to watch the world burn." how? HOW?? how is what the "bandit" doing burning the world or watching the world burn or chaotic or anything other than resisting an occupying colonial force?? and then later in the film, when alfred finally explains how they caught the "bandit," he says "we burned the forest down." who did? alfred. and the other british colonialists. they were not only the men watching the world burn; they were the ones burning it. and look who he blames. fuck.
tl;dr: angharad [to alfred]: "who burned the world?"