I’ve waited a long time to review my favorite movie of all time.
Well. I guess that’s a giveaway. Hopefully you’ll keep reading. Or not. Either way, I get a vanity project.
I should probably actually start reviewing the movie now. Right.
Let’s pick up where Batman Begins ended. Gotham was saved, Ra’s al Ghul was dead, and everything was tied up with a pretty little bow. The only caveat was a Joker card at the end of the movie, a hint at the coming madness.
That’ where The Dark Knight comes in.
Describing Heath Ledger’s Joker as madness might be the understatement of the year. The Joker is bone-chilling evil in package of makeup, jokes, and wit. He’s heartless, but he does magic tricks. He’s wicked, but he describes himself as a dog chasing cars. The Joker is diabolical, twisting everything he can, only to create chaos. He wants to disrupt the plans of the schemers. He’s the sort of man that will blow up a hospital just to keep things from getting too boring.
So naturally, he kills someone every night that the Batman’s identity remains a secret. This creates a moral dilemma of the most tragic kind. He fights The Joker in a way the police cannot with resources the police do not have. He has the best shot at stopping The Joker, and were he to give himself up, that best shot would be lost. Yet if he doesn’t give himself up, more people will die.
Moral dilemmas are all over the place in the film. Another is present when The Joker sets bombs on two boats (one full of convicts, one of civilians) and gives each boat the detonator to the bomb on the other boat.
Batman, despite being the best superhero ever (a fact undisputed by all of the people with correct opinions on the matter) has his work cut out for him. The conflict features some of the best action in cinema. Bazookas, tanks, knives, and good, old-fashioned hand-to-Bathand. Had Heath Ledger lived, Christopher Nolan could have made an entire trilogy of Batman-Joker conflict, had he wanted to.
But you see, the story doesn’t end with The Joker. Because even when he’s arrested (for the second time), there’s still the matter of Two-Face, the fiend that The Joker created. He makes the comment “you didn’t think I’d risk losing the battle for Gotham’s soul in a fist fight with you, did you?”
Evil always creates more evil. Always. Satan is not content to be alone in his engrossment in evil; he must pursue conversion. He is constantly working to turn others into the same horrid entity that he is. So did The Joker to Harvey Dent, Gotham’s white knight. If even Harvey Dent can be corrupted, should we not take care to ourselves?
One of the film’s truly telling moments comes at the end, when Batman gives the whole “the hero Gotham deserves but not the one it needs” speech. It tells us a lot about Batman. About heroes. About what makes a superhero super. As Alfred says, “That’s the point of Batman. He can be the outcast. He can make the choice that no one else can make. The right choice.” A hero does valiant deeds and stands up to be honored. A superhero sacrifices himself or herself without any reward. Running from reward, even. Bruce Wayne doesn’t care about reward. He doesn’t care about recognition. He only cares about what’s right. In a very real sense, what makes a superhero a superhero is the mask. The complete and utter lack of self-service. That part of them which says “I will do the right thing without reward, simply because it is the right thing.”
May we all be like Batman.
May we all be superheroes.