Muchness Dump: The Tale of a Bat Man and a Dead Man

The Dark Knight is a 2008 American superhero film co-written and directed by Christopher Nolan. Based on the DC Comics character Batman, the film is a sequel to 2005's Batman Begins. Christian Bale reprises the lead role. Batman's primary conflicts in the film include his fight against his arch-nemesis the Joker and his rivalry with district attorney Harvey Dent for the affections of assistant D.A. Rachel Dawes.

This post may contain spoilers.

The above is obvious to anyone who has either seen the first Batman, Batman Forever, the trailer for the Dark Knight or read any of the many many reviews that are appearing everywhere. But no means is this post going to “review” the film but I am going to point out the faults in some critics problems with the films and add my concepts as a fan of the grittier Graphic Novel parts of the Batman lore.

Heath Ledger’s Joker
The Joker in this film is simply sensational. The fact that it was played by a dead man is inconsequential. The performance is electric and rather terrifying, and the little tics that have been put into the Joker’s personality (such as the lip smacking, licking the wounds, telling the origin story three times and three different ways) are incredibly detailed. The most exciting part of seeing the Joker in this way is that this is the real joker – Frank Miller wrote a novel about the Joker and his origins, called The Killing Joke, and crafted a terrifying villain that in the original batman films was a clown, but in this film is effectively a terrorist.

Still, the manic actions of the Joker are obviously opposite to that of Batman and Harvey Dent, as where they seek to find order in the chaos, the Joker fancies creating more and more, which is an interesting point – Harvey Dent uses the coin to show his more chaotic side and this makes his turn to Two-face more interesting, as it is suggested it was always there.

Post 9/11
A recent review called out on the film for it’s allusions to post-9/11 America. It seems that no film set in a big city about a hero and villain can be released without some September 11th 2001 connotations. Sure, the fact that hostages are taken and bombs are used to destroy buildings, this does not mean that it is an analogy to the terrible actions of a real life terrorist. I can see why you might feel that way, but basing a bad review of the film on something you infer, rather than something explicitly mentioned, is rather sloppy and quite wrong.

Harvey Dent
Having seen Batman Forever, you will know that Harvey Dent is the villain Two Face. This might be a spoiler, but it is such common parlance that the film is always building up to that. Luckily, the character is shown to have some serious flaws – seen when Dent threatens an officer early in the film. The most common complaint I have seen is that this transformation is not handled correctly. I don’t know about that, as I always knew Dent as Twoface and it is hard to see them as anything other than the same person. Dent is Two face.

In the film Batman Forver, a heinous crime is acted upon the Dent character. Not only is Tommy Lee Jones playing him, he flips his coin until he gets the decision he wants. This is not the Dent from the comics. Dent flips the coin and goes with the decision, as his 50/50 chance logic is deep rooted. In The Dark Knight it is obvious that this is understood, and at the end, Dent acting upon the coin toss, it is handled well.

The Ending
I am writing this assuming you have seen the film, or at least understand the more recent arcs of the Batman story. The end fills me with hope and pleasure as I know that the Nolans get it. The understand batman better than Burton did and infinitely better than Schumacher did. The whole vigilante ending, where Batman is pursued, is excellent foreshadowing as readers of the novel The Dark Knight Returns know.

Batman in the first film is needed to be masked as the villains are in control of the law enforcement. The need for a mask is to create a symbol for the Gotham citizens to love and the villains to fear. The reason why Dent is so integral is that he is opposite of Batman as a public face – someone who has the courage to stand up as themselves in front of the public and the villains, to show that there is no need to fearful. Batman is rendered useless. This takes us to the point of the recent film. Now, in his aging career, Batman is the masked vigilante. He is now feared by both the public as a villain and the criminal world for being off the wall. This increases the symbolism that was needed in the first place to create the environment that is required to allow for someone like Dent to stand up against the criminals. With Dent now two-face, and the Joker still around, Batman needs to be more for Gotham and for the citizens. It sets up the next film to be an adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns perfectly.

Other points
I really enjoyed the film. I liked the Batman impersonator at the beinging (like in the novel) and the fact that Scarecrow (Dr Crane) makes an appearance, even for a few lines, as it solidifies the concept of a range of villains in the city.

The ending was expected, but how the film got there was always going to be a surprise, and it was well balanced in that respect. My favourite character from the comics is Lt. Gordon, who is also my favourite in this film. Whereas batman is the masked vigilante and Dent is the politician DA, Gordon is the simple family man who is brought along for the ride. The true hero of the film and series is Gordon. Or maybe Alfred.