So everyone’s talking about how fantastic The Dark Knight was, and I’ve got a theory on that. The more I think about the dialogue, the less impressed I am with it, especially Batman and Harvey Dent’s lines; Dent’s descent into madness seems like a bit of a rush job, and his conclusion that chance is “the only morality in a cruel world” seems to come out of nowhere (which is why he has to make a strained explanation for it when confronting Batman and Lt. Gordon).
Meanwhile, Batman’s affected cigarettes-and-diesel rasp worked well enough when it was scaring the piss out of mobsters in Batman Begins, but it seems incongruous when he’s growling about high-minded ideals and all the nice people in Gotham who “still believe in good.” He went from a brutal, vengeful, uninhibited vigilante to a Boy Scout who happens to cling to some gothic aesthetic sensibilities.
But, like everyone else, I loved this movie, and I think it’s because of humanity’s vestigial reverence for Christ. Our favorite heroes are the one who demonstrate what He exemplified, who remind us of what He was to us when we were with Him. He stepped down from glory to walk with us, incognito as it were, soliciting no worldly recognition and shunning it when it was offered, and willingly agreed to endure our ridicule and abuse so that He could save us.
Harvey Dent, then, is our symbol of all the righteous men who confront evil and inevitably fall–not merely failing to overcome the evil, but actually being corrupted by it themselves–who are redeemed by Christ. When Commissioner Gordon’s son asks why Batman should take the blame for Dent’s crimes, the answer is, “Because he can take it.” Any man could be a scapegoat, but Batman couldendurethe penalty and go on saving Gotham even as it hunted him down. Commissioner Gordon is his lonely prophet, like Jeremiah or Mormon; his only liaison with the world who can’t know him yet, the light-bearer, the truth-teller.
The Joker, of course, is corruption itself… one of the most apt portrayals of Satan you could find, because he loves to murder, but what he loves more is to tempt; and even at his most sinister and psychotic, he’s likable. He effortlessly fabricates “reasons” for his physical and mental disfigurement to humanize himself, and just as casually calls himself a “dog chasing cars” to conceal his motives.In claiming to be utterly directionless, pleading insanity, so to speak, he convinces Dent that he isn’t the real enemy (even as he is deliberately corrupting Dent to the bone); but just like the adversary, the Joker is utterly consumed with a compulsion to prove that we’re all just as depraved as he is, if you scratch deep enough. “It’s just like gravity,” he says, “All you need is a little push.”
But even watching him do it, with the litany of contradictory lies all laid end-to-end before you, he’s still almost sympathetic. His gruesome appearance and wild brutality aren’t nearly as chilling as the fact that you laugh at his jokes.
We loved this movie because it’s a parable of a true memory, even if that memory is nameless and buried in some. It’s the war in Heaven, the Atonement, the Church’s flight into the wilderness… it means something to us because it happened to us; and there’s still some part of us that remembers it.