The Dark Knight: Commentary

I watched The Dark Knight for the second time last night. This is an action-packed, well-acted, complicated, mature, dark movie. Finding all those qualities in the same movie is quite rare. I like dark movies. Somehow they seem more real to me. The Dark Knight reminds me of Munich in some ways, as it explores choices, consequences, and the question of why. Yet, these movies, by being dark, make the underlying theme of hope shine brighter. In The Dark Knight, there is cosmos amidst the chaos.

A lot of us live fairly ordered lives, and though give lip service to faith, a little chaos often shows the depth of our faith. The character of the Joker, written by the directors Nolan, and played by the late Heath Ledger, likes to turn the tables and see what happens when we are faced with the unexpected. He enjoys disrupting the social order. He enjoys showing how little control we really have.

I’m an idealist, so I relate to the character of Harvey Dent. There’s always a question of cost. How much are we really willing to give up for our ideals? What cost are we willing to pay? Is there a point where we grow disillusioned? Is there a point where we just fall in line and become like everyone else, or worse?

What does it take to ‘be pushed’ over the edge? Harvey Dent, along with Batman, fought the mob, pushed them into a corner, caused desperation, and there was a price to pay. People died. Loved ones died. Dent and Batman’s souls were scorched.

We like to have clear lines between us and them. In the boat scenario, this was all the more apparent. How do we value human life? How willing our we to sacrifice those we view as ‘less than us’ for the greater good? Yet, does killing lesser human beings then take away some of our humanity, and in essence, make us less human? There are evil people in the world. The Joker, in this story, is sadistic. Yet, Dent and Batman, while heroic, aren’t as good as we’d like them to be. All the heroes in the movie are very human, and at times, lose their nobility.

Batman is a vigilante, an outlaw. While good people did nothing, organized crime took over. People got comfortable. They lost hope, and stopped trying. They went with the flow…because it’s easier. This was very clearly expressed in the movie, and very true of the world we live in. Batman’s methods are harsh. But he has his limits, and his own ethical code. He’s willing to put himself on the line, though only in a mask.

A lot of us talk about ethics and morality and justice, but when it comes down to it, we prefer to talk about what others should be doing rather than get involved ourselves. Because if we get involved, it will not only take effort, it may negatively affect us or our loves ones. While Gotham is fictional, corruption exists in our country. I know of a city mayor who people said was using his position for illegal financial gain. When he was indicted, it validated that this was true. In the end, he was fined, but got what amounted to a slap on the wrist. A guy like Batman is outside the law, and his methods are violent, but at times, don’t we just want to see justice?

In an effort so save lives and catch the Joker, Batman resorted to a type of surveillance that is both unethical and illegal. A question that haunts our country right now is: At what cost do we want security? If the government, in order to protect us, tracks us and knows everything about us, do we trust them not to abuse this power, and even if they don’t, are we okay with this? Is is worth giving up our privacy and other rights to be secure? Is it worth torture to save lives?

And what of truth? Batman and Commissioner Gordon conspire in the end to hide the truth for the greater good. They don’t want the Joker to win by people seeing Dent fall. But Batman and Gordon lie on more than one occassion, so the Joker finds ways to push them past their ethical code. They decide what truth people can handle. I don’t like that, I prefer truth. And I’ve even known churches who decide what truth their congregation should know. Truth hurts.

Truth is lost so false hope can be gained. In a city of apathy, perhaps false hope can be as real. Hope is a powerful, yet fragile idea. For all those that fall in The Dark Knight, normal people choose to retain their humanity in the end. They choose not to be manipulated. They choose to hope. And because we don’t know what the future will bring, there is always hope.