The Dark Knight

dark_knight_movie_PosterThis second part of the Batman Trilogy, as directed by Christopher Nolan, introduces Batman’s arch nemesis.

He comes in without a story, an intro, or a motive, and offers to the mobs, who have been crushed under Batman’s and Jeff Gordon’s rule, that he will kill Batman. All they have to do is chalk up half of all they have.

So desperate to be rid of Gotham’s knight and hero they agree, and so sets in motion the most twisted and vile actions of Gotham’s newest super-villain.

The Joker.

 

Things I liked

The reoccurring theme of the Dark Knight, if it could be summed up in one word, would “Sacrifice”.

Batman, once again, is a light in the darkness of Gotham. He keeps his rule of “no killing”, even when faced with the temptation and perhaps, justification to do so. He is Gotham’s “White Knight”, who takes all guilt upon himself for the good of the city.

Harvy Dent, a statesman who does not succumb to the the threats of the Joker and the Mobsters sacrifices his career for Batman, he chooses to fight crime not to get votes, but because it is right. He is the hero which the public people of Gotham grow to love, and as such, the Joker grows to hate.

Another man familiar with sacrifice is Chief of Police Jeff Gordon. He faces death many times, and is prepared to give his life for ordinary citizens, Harvy Dent, and even Batman. He puts his position at stake by providing the help Batman needs, and stepping back when is necessary.

When we see a man act in a manner which is extremely selfish, and we see him almost lose his life over that action. Anytime a person acts for himself, the consequences are quite bad. Save for the Joker, he didn’t get that memo.

Lucius Fox and Alfred are two men who serve as mentors to Bruce Wayne. They speak some profound wisdom in the movie in dealing with the Joker and acting in a manner which is good for others and not self. The Civilians of Gotham also choose to stand up against the Joker, and don’t participate in his final social experiment.

Things I didn’t like

The reoccurring thing I didn’t like can be summed up into one word. The Joker and his murders.

The violence in The Dark Knight is not of blood, gore, and mass killings. They are mental, the camera looks away, and try as you might not to, makes you imagine what happened behind that closed door. The Joker puts is best.

“Do you want to know why I use a knife? Guns are too quick. You can’t savor all the… little emotions. In… you see, in their last moments, people show you who they really are.”

And he does use the knife. In terrible, mesmerizing, and horrifying ways. He tells stories. Stories of how he got the scars on his face. You are drawn into the 30 second tale of family abuse or a broken marriage. And then… A swift movement and the camera cuts away. Letting your depraved heart fill in all “those little details”.

Many people are shot, some villains, some police officers. We see a men hung, dressed like batman, hanging from the Gotham bridge. Another hostage is “played with” by the Joker on a News Station. The Joker blows up buildings, cars, and more. He sets on fire a pile of money with an accountant strapped to the top. He kills a man with a pencil through the eye. A man is blown up with a bomb implanted in his stomach. We see a man’s face catch on fire, and a full closeup of the damage afterwards in gruesome detail. A young woman is killed with a bomb…. And that is not even all of the examples.

There are about a dozen profanities, God’s name is used in vain, and so is Jesus’ a few times as well.

There are a few low cut dresses shown, as Bruce has to maintain his public image of a reckless and dumb young guy.

Closing Thoughts

I’ll say this now. These thoughts are going to be long and many. The Dark knight is a complex movie of many themes to consider. There are no plot spoilers though.

What is perhaps most disturbing about the Joker isn’t the fact he uses a knife, enjoys killing, or does not recognize a moral compass. What is most disturbing, is he understands man’s natural state of depravity, and he embraces it.

“These people’s morals, their code. It’s like a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you, when the chips are down… These… “Civilized” people… They’ll eat each other. See, I’m not a monster, I’m just ahead of the curve.”

We see and read here the Joker understands man is flawed and naturally evil. However, he rejects the hope there is something better, rather, chooses to live without a spiritual mask, and be who he truly is. The result is a man whose methods are so disturbing and evil, it makes you ask “Is that really inside me?”

If the motive of the Joker could be fleshed out, I would say it is making Batman see how society and even himself are living under a self placed spirit of delusion. That they are being “clowns” in their nice little societies, putting their faith in Laws and Rules.

“You have all these rules and you think they’ll save you! The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules.”

Instead, he advocates anarchy, because that is living in reality, not hiding who you really are.

“I just did what I do best. I took your little plan and I turned it on itself. Look what I did to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets. You know… You know what I’ve noticed? Nobody panics when things go “according to plan.” Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all “part of the plan”. But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds! Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It’s fair!”

This movie without doubt shows there is evil in the hearts of man and in the world. What it fails to do is provide the viewer with equal confidence of there being “good” in the world as well. This actually isn’t surprising though, as Christ is absent from the movie. Without Christ, there is no good in man, and honestly that is what we see in the Joker and in many other characters.

The sole redeemer is Batman, who plays the role of of the literary “Christ Figure”. He sacrifices for those he loves, his name, and his well being to save the people of Gotham. Not from physical destruction, but a societal one. He takes the blame, for which he has done no wrong, in the form of a lie. A lie in which does not serve or protect himself, but ultimately serves and protects others.

The Dark Knight is a mesmerizing, horrifying, and thought provoking film. I cannot think of another movie which demonstrates man’s natural state anymore clearly than this one, and does so in a manner so well done. What is no joke however, is the lack of hope, which I expected to be shown in the Dark Knight Rises. The fact is, the Joker, and his ideals are all but disregarded in the third movie, which leaves the lack of good still in question. Ultimately we know good will conquer evil in the end, and there is Good in this universe, which is the Trinity of God the father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

This is where The Dark Knight falls so terribly short. Instead of combating such a terrible evil with a greater good, the evil is allowed to win. Maybe not on the script, but it definitely does in our mind. Making us imagine and feel murders, while watching the Joker gleefully go on his merry path of heartless destruction, is enough to turn anyone’s stomach sour. Then the best we see our hero do, the Batman, is take the blame for an action the Joker did? It is heroic, but hardly a victory. In fact, one could argue Batman still lost, because the Joker got his way and killed the Batman, just not physically.

Evil triumphs over good in this movie, which is something I can neither advocate nor recommend. The Joker plays masterfully from his hand, while Batman desperately claws for any card which will give him a hand to play. That hand never comes, because it was the Joker’s game all along. Batman was just the inexperienced opponent to make the game interesting.

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  1. Gotta say- haven’t seen the film, but from what I’ve gathered from other sources, this was an EXCELLENT review.

  2. You did a great job of fleshing out the Joker’s understanding about man’s natural depravity. On that, we totally agree. TDK isn’t a particularly gory film, but it’s incredibly disturbing because of the accuracy of its depiction.

    But I’m gonna disagree with your conclusion about the film as a whole. 🙂

    You wrote that “evil triumphs over good in this movie.” How so? Evil would only have triumphed in TDK if the people on the ferries had given into their baser instinct and pushed the detonator buttons. They didn’t. And the Joker couldn’t believe it. After all the chaos and carnage he had perpetrated in Gotham – and caused others to perpetrate – his “victory play” failed. Miserably.

    Also, I think it’s a mistake to try and make a full-scale assessment of the worldview of one film in a trilogy. That’s like judging a play before its final act. The final act of Nolan’s Batman “play” is TDKR, which is one of the most hopeful and redemptive things I have ever seen. They say the night is darkest just before the dawn. TDK is dark, and extremely so, but without that darkness, the beauty, redemption, and light in TDKR would not have had the same impact.

    Just something to think about. 🙂

      • Austin Harrison
      • January 8th, 2013

      Great thoughts sir! Sounds like you have thought about the movei quite a bit, which is really cool to see.

      You make a good point that one act (trying not to give away plot) the people did make a good choice. But it was out of the ordinary, not usual, and was shown as such. The Joker successfully manipulated the key “role Model” into something twisted and terrible. I also think he killed batman not physically, but symbolically. That is what the whole movie was about. The Joker was trying to take symbols of good, and destroy them. In that, he succeeded. One of the two had to fall, it was just left to Batman and Gordon to choose who would take that fall.

      I also agre, The Dark Knight Rises is an awesome tale of not only redemption, but perseverance, and good triumphing over evil. So, yes the movies are a trilogy and tied together, but they also can stand apart. It is completely possible to watch “the dark Knight” without a frame of reference to the third, and come away with different conclusions than if you know the ending. THat’s how I reviewed it, as a single movie, because I honestly don’t know whether my readers or not have seen the first, or the third of the trilogy. If they have seen all three and think about it, like you and I have, they will see a trilogy a lot like Star wars. The Intro, The Fall, and the Redemption. And you are right, the light of the Dark Knight rises in contrast with this one is indeed stunning and masterfully done.

      Thanks for your thoughts!
      Austin

      • That’s one of the things I love about Nolan’s films – they’re always so rich and full of thought-provoking material. I sincerely believe him to be the best (and brightest) director currently working in Hollywood. 🙂

        The Joker successfully manipulated the key “role Model” into something twisted and terrible. I also think he killed batman not physically, but symbolically. That is what the whole movie was about. The Joker was trying to take symbols of good, and destroy them. In that, he succeeded.

        Ah, but did he? 🙂 I would contend that his success was temporary at best – similar to Satan’s “victory” at Golgotha. But TDKR sees the truth reseated in its rightful place, and good emerges victorious. It is Batman’s “resurrection.”

        It is completely possible to watch “The Dark Knight” without a frame of reference to the third, and come away with different conclusions than if you know the ending.

        Possible, yes. But that’s like watching The Two Towers while excluding The Fellowship and Return of the King. 🙂 Not very smart. If someone told me they had done so, I would tie them to a chair and make them watch the trilogy as a whole.

        Okay… so maybe that’s a little extreme, but you get my point. 😉 Thanks for the great discussion.

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