The Dark Knight : A True Romance?

Film: The Dark Knight (2008)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Genre; Superhero/Action/Drama

Starring:

Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman

Heath Ledger as Joker

Gary Oldman as Lt. James Gordon

Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent/Two-Face

Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth

Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox

Maggie Gyllenhall as Rachel Dawes

The Plot

A gang of criminals rob a Gotham City mob bank,
murdering each other in turn for a larger share of
the ‘loot’ until only the Joker remains, who
escapes with the money in a school bus.

Batman, District Attorney Harvey Dent and
Lieutenant Jim Gordon have formed an alliance
to rid Gotham City of organised crime that is
infecting the city.

Bruce Wayne believes that with Dent as
Gotham’s “White Knight”, he can retire from being
Batman and lead a normal life with Rachel Dawes
– even though she and Dent are in a relationship.

Mob bosses Sal Maroni, Gambol, and the
Chechen hold a video conference with their
corrupt accountant, Lau, who has taken their
funds for “safekeeping” and fled to Hong Kong.
The Joker interrupts the meeting to warn them
that Batman operates outside the boundaries of
the law and with delight, offers to kill him in
exchange for half of their money. The mob
bosses disagree about the offer, and Gambol
places a large bounty on the Joker.

The Joker finds Gambol, discusses the ’origin’ of his scars,
and then swiftly kills him and takes over his gang.
The mob decidedly takes the Joker up on his
offer.
Batman finds Lau in Hong Kong and brings him
back to Gotham to testify, allowing Dent to
prosecute the entire mob. The Joker threatens to
kill people unless Batman reveals his identity and
commences his campaign by murdering Police
Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb and Judge Surillo
that was presiding over the mob trial. The Joker
also tries to kill Mayor Anthony Garcia at
Commissioner Loeb’s memorial, but Gordon
sacrifices himself to stop the assassination.

Dent kidnaps one of Joker’s henchmen and threatens
him with a seemingly deadly game of heads or
tails using Dent’s lucky coin; in fact, Dent’s coin
has heads on both sides. Dent learns that Rachel
is Joker’s next target.
Bruce decides to reveal his secret identity to
prevent more deaths. Before he can, however,
Dent falsely announces that he is Batman. Dent is
taken into protective custody, but the Joker
appears and attacks the convoy. Batman comes
to Dent’s rescue and Gordon, who faked his
death, apprehends the Joker, securing a
promotion to Commissioner.

Rachel and Dent are escorted away by detectives
on Maroni’s payroll; Gordon later learns that they
never arrived home. Batman interrogates the
Joker, who reveals that they have been trapped
in separate locations rigged with explosives and
that Batman must choose one to save.

Batman races to save Rachel, while Gordon attempts to
rescue Dent. Batman arrives at the building but
realises that the Joker has sent him to Dent’s
location instead. Both buildings explode, killing
Rachel and disfiguring Dent. The Joker escapes
with Lau, who leads him to the Mob’s funds. The
Joker burns the money and kills Lau and the
Chechen.

Coleman Reese, an accountant at Wayne
Enterprises, deduces that Bruce is Batman and
threatens to make the information public. Not
wanting Reese’s revelation to interfere with his
plans, the Joker threatens to destroy every
hospital unless Reese is killed within an hour.

All hospitals are evacuated and Gordon travels to
secure Reese. The Joker, disguised as a hospital
nurse, discovers Dent’s ward and hands him a
gun, convincing him to seek revenge for Rachel’s
death. The Joker destroys the hospital and
escapes with a busload of hostages.

Dent goes on a killing spree, deciding the fates of people he
holds responsible for Rachel’s death by flipping
his lucky coin, one face of which was corroded in
the explosion. Dent eventually apprehends
Gordon’s family, believing Gordon’s love for his
family is a parallel to his love for Rachel.

After announcing that Gotham City will be
subject to his rule by nightfall, the Joker rigs two
evacuating ferries with explosives; one carrying
civilians and the other prisoners. The passengers
have been supplied with a trigger to the other
boat’s explosives, and the Joker announces
through an intercom that he will blow both
ferries if one of them has not been destroyed by
midnight. Batman finds the Joker by using a sonar
device that spies on the entire city, with the
reluctant help of Lucius Fox. The civilians and the
prisoners, after much trepidation, refuse to kill
each other, while Batman apprehends the Joker
after a fight with his henchmen and averting
being caught by the Gotham Police. Before the
police arrive to take the Joker into custody, he
gloats that Gotham’s citizens will lose hope once
Dent’s murderous rampage becomes public
knowledge.

Gordon and Batman arrive at the building where
Rachel died and find Dent threatening to kill
Gordon’s family. Dent again flips his coin and
shoots Batman, spares himself, and aims to kill
Gordon’s son, claiming that Gordon’s negligence
is responsible for Rachel’s death. Batman, who
was wearing body armour, tackles Dent off the
building to his death.

Batman persuades Gordon to let him take responsibility for the killing spree
to preserve Dent’s heroic image. As the police
launch a manhunt for Batman, Gordon destroys
the Bat-signal, Fox watches as the sonar
technology self-destructs, and Alfred burns a
letter from Rachel saying she plans to marry
Dent.

What Do I Think About It!

This film, prior to the much-loved development
of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has been
considered by many, to be the best superhero
movie of all time.

Is it because the casting was right? Is it because
the costume no longer had nipples? (poor George
Clooney in Batman & Robin 1997) Is it because
the ‘camp’ element had been wrung dry from it?

The answer is, more than likely. All the previous
manifestations of Batman have been
appreciated, but this one, with its focus on one of
the best interpretations of obsession and
unrequited affection has captured my heart.

My first impression of the Joker was during the
flawless execution of the mob bank heist which
opens the film. I sat there and thought how
someone can sit down and think that out and it
be played out without a hitch? Well a slight
hitch, the bank manager wasn’t supposed to have
a pump action shotgun under his desk, was he?

Moving forward it now becomes apparent that
the Joker is intrigued by the Batman and has used
this heist so establish a game of chase, or in the
Joker’s mind a battle for the soul of Gotham.

The Joker always seems to be one step ahead of
Batman (and Gotham’s finest) with his elaborate
plans of mischief and mayhem, but leaving clues
for them to keep up, even if it is just for a tad of a
second.

After the Joker’s foreshadowing of Lau’s capture
and ‘extradition’ from Hong Kong back to
Gotham, he uses this opportunity not only to
retrieve Lau for the mob but to be in an intimate
space with Batman. It is here that Batman is at
his most savage as he beats the Joker in the
police interrogation room. The Joker is not
impressed by this and reminds him that he is not
like the onlookers through the two way glass. He
is almost seducing with his words, but maybe
wrong time, wrong place!

Batman had not long admonished Harvey Dent for
inflicting torture as it seldom provides any new
or helpful information. Of course, here though, Batman is
provided with economic information. Batman
believes that he is going to save Rachel, his love,
his physical embodiment of normality. He is not
yet in tune with the Joker to know that
everything he does has a twist to it. It should
have come to no surprise that Harvey Dent is the
one to be saved.

The Joker sees and portrays himself as an agent
of chaos who thrives on thrusting Gotham into
anarchy and delights into pulling Batman over the
already now hazy line of heroism and vigilantism.
During their final meeting in the Prewitt building,
and Joker’s capture, he says “Oh you just couldn’t
let me go, could you? This is what happens when
an unstoppable force meets an immovable
object. You truly are incorruptible, aren’t you?
You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of
self-righteousness. And I won’t kill you because
you’re just too fun.
I think you and I are destined to do this forever”.
(The Dark Knight’s Batman and Joker was but a
brief encounter, due to the untimely death of
Heath Ledger in January 2008, six months before
the film’s release).

The film does not rest solely on the complex
relationship between Batman and the Joker, it is
a viewing of a well-executed taking of Harvey
Dent’s soul and subsequent birth of Two-Face.
Harvey Dent, the District Attorney who has
waged war against the Gotham criminal society,
the beau of Rachel Dawes affection, the White
Knight.

Bruce Wayne the man is awe of Dent because of
his ability to rid the city of the criminals without
having to wear a mask. Because of Dent’s
popularity as the white knight, Bruce feels that he
can soon lose the bat persona and try to live a
normal life hopefully with Rachel. Ultimately it is
because of his seemed inertia that prompts
Rachel into the decision to agree to marry
Harvey.

Even though the Joker is a serious threat to
Gotham, the viewer does not have an origin story
as such. The film has relied on the fact that the
Joker’s origin has been pretty much inconsistent
throughout the Batman canon and so it only
seems appropriate that one is not established
here. What is established is the character arc of
Harvey Dent/Two-Face.
What is most evident about Dent is the early
exposition of his duplicitous behaviour as it
demonstrates that there was a villain waiting
to get out but was smothered by the ideals that
Harvey holds so dear. Until the circumstances that unfold
forces his hand and his mind.

Harvey Dent agrees with Batman’s vigilantism. In
the dinner scene with Dent and Rachel being
encroached by Bruce and his Russian principal ballerina  (Natasha) date, he compares Gotham to Ancient
Rome that suspends democracy in order for one
man to protect the city. However, Rachel’s sharp
retort is to remind him that this is how Cesar
became an emperor.

It is the sad truth in foreshadowing that Dent reveals in a further
response to Rachel is “You either die a hero or live long
enough to see yourself become the villain”.
Alike “The Killing Joke” the graphic novel, the
Joker demonstrates to Batman that all it takes is
one bad day to lose the plot. In the graphic novel
Joker chose to use an unwitting James Gordon as
his experiment participant.

The Dark Knight’s Joker has chosen to focus on
moral ambiguity. He has Batman, Dent and even
Gordon have crossed the line in order to rid
Gotham of the mob and eliminate Joker who is
more trouble than they can handle.

And what of the woman? Rachel Dawes has two
hot love interests. Do either of them really love
her though? I want to say yes for Harvey Dent
because it is her death that ultimately uncoils
him, and furthers the plot.

Bruce Wayne is blindly in love with the idea of being in
love and he does not yet realise that he is
probably incapable of a ‘normal’ relationship with
anyone.  Let us not forget that Bruce Wayne left
Gotham for about eight years to gone his skills to
become Batman, was he thinking of Rachel then?
Apparently a year has passed since Batman
Begins (2005) why hadn’t he tried to get with her
within this time? The mind boggles!

The action set pieces are quite reminiscent of any
Michael Mann film, alright its Heat (1995) that I’m thinking
of!  I really like the heist at the start as previously
mentioned, but it is the Hong Kong extradition of
Lau. It is beautifully shot and the editing is great,
but it’s the mere fact that it happens in real time!
Two minutes really is two minutes here, no counting
down in your head and then waiting a little while
because you and the film aren’t synchronised.

Bruce Wayne has two ‘guardians’or even mentors
in his corner. Alfred Pennyworth, his loyal butler
of many years not only admired what his master
is doing, but will aid him in any way necessary. It
is during a discussion between Bruce and Alfred
where the latter has to almost explain the
mindset of the Joker, that is he does not have
one. “Some men just want to watch the world
burn”, Alfred tells his adult charge.
Lucius Fox who is now CEO for Wayne Enterprise
and continues to develop equipment for the Batman
campaign, is however, disgusted with Batman’s moral
ambiguities when he discovers that his sonar
technology has been used to effectively
eavesdrop on all of Gotham.  His loyalties are quickly reversed when he understands that the tech was single serving only.

So what has been learned here? The mob have
opened a Pandora’s box in the name of the Joker.
Batman and Gotham PC do not know what to do
with him (for ages). The Joker’s meticulous
planning has enabled Harvey Dent’s duplicity to
come to light.
With reference to the Killing Joke again, for all of
Dent’s idealism, a bad day did in fact turn him
into a villain, and showed the viewer that the
best of men can be corrupted.

This film that is second in the Dark Knight trilogy can easily be seen as a stand-alone film.  There isn’t anything said from the previous that makes the viewer feel like they are missing out from not viewing the first film.  It is as well thought out and executed as one of the Joker’s elaborate plans.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s