“The Dark Knight”: Grim, Disturbing,…Dark, Awesome!

Posted: July 20, 2008 by limabean03 in Film, Pop-Culture, Rob's Thoughts, Uncategorized
Heth Ledgers stunning Joker
Heth Ledger’s stunning “Joker”


The first Batman film under the helm of new leadership released in the summer of 2005 was a welcome addition to the franchise after the laughable direction that it was taken in by director Joel Schumacher.  These films, dark and gritty, are far superior to the outrageous camp that the films turned to after director Tim Burton pulled out in 1992.

Having said that however, I’m almost afraid that this film will do more harm than good to any future sequels.  Why?  It was just too darn good.  It will be hard to top, or even get close enough to this film to please future audiences whose appetites have been whetted by the “The Dark Knight”. 


The film is a melee of mutilation, explosions, stunning action sequences, and quality performances by Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Michael Cane, and of course Heth Ledger, who far outshines the rest of the cast as the Joker.  I would look for him to be nominated for best supporting actor come Oscar time.  He was a talented actor who will certainly be missed. 


If the film were simply violence and explosions, then we would have a fun summer flick, but nothing worth remembering past five minutes from leaving the movie theatre (think Transformers). What pushes this film through the shallow waters of most summer fun flicks and into the depths of great story telling is its bold stare deep into the resolve of human morality.  This is, at the same time, the very thing that makes the film so disturbing.  The message of the film (and it clearly has one) is the fickleness of human morality.  Joker acts as an agent of chaos, destabilizing the city of Gotham by robbing them of the safety, justice, and fairness that each of them takes for granted.  Joker’s “social experiment” largely revolves around witnessing what happens to the human condition when lives, livelihood, and cherished values are jeopardized.  The result is not pretty.  When pushed to the wall, all bets are off for the people of Gotham.  As the Joker’s schemes increase in scale, so does the moral depravity of the city.  Even Gotham’s “White Knight” (Harvey Dent, Gotham’s D.A.)  who the entire city looks to as an example of wholeness, is not free from plumbing the depths of his own dark heart, a darkness which will eventually overwhelm and defeat him.  The tale of this particular character is obvious.  Even the best of us has a monster veiled underneath a veneer of decency, waiting to emerge from the shadows like a cornered animal ready to fight for its life….whatever the cost, principles be damned.    


Alongside this grim take on the human condition is the story of Batman, who does not so much fight to counteract the chaos as he does to preserve the moral heart of the city.  Indeed this becomes his mission.  As the Joker’s antics increase in madness and violence, Batman’s role is not so much to save lives or prevent destruction as it is to preserve the city’s sense of goodness and justice.  He does this largely through stock super-hero gadgets and karate chops.  However, and I will try to say this without ruining the film for you, there comes a point where Batman must restore the innocence of one of the city’s great fallen heroes (Harvey Dent) by taking on the guilt of his crimes.  Batman becomes the willing scapegoat of the city so that they can retain their idealistic sense of innocence and purity.


I find it interesting that the director and screenwriters took on such heavy themes.  I find it even more interesting that these themes have appeal.  The film is essentially one of a city, locked in moral strife and chaos.  They need a hero, a deliverer, but not just any hero.  They need a hero who is able to fight to defend them from evil, but they also need a hero to rescue them when they become evil themselves.  How does he accomplish this?  By bearing their guilt by scapegoating himself.  In a society that has long sense practically rejected the cultural baggage of its Judeo-Christian roots, is it not ironic that one of the summer’s biggest blockbusters and finest films deals with themes that could have been lifted from any one of the four Gospels?  Perhaps contemporary America isn’t as far from Jesus as they would like themselves to be.


Check it out for yourself. 

“The Dark Knight”: starring Christian Bale, Heth Ledger, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Michael Caine.  2 hours and 32 minutes.  PG-13 (Do yourself a favor, don’t take the kids unless you want to deal with the nightmares and therapy sessions).




  1. David Gravely says:

    Rob: You should be a movie critic!! Very interesting analysis of The Dark Knight. Lee and I just got home from checking out Batman and it is indeed not a movie for children as the violence is perhaps a tad overdone. I enjoyed the acting, primarily of the Joker, as he reminds me of some of my clients. Your scapegoat analogy is interesting and I see that but thought it was done primarily to set up the sequel for The Dark Knight II–Batman Cleared. I think you can take your view one step further and say many in the movie try to understand who Batman really is and focus on that “mission” in life rather than accepting him as a super hero and trusting in him to protect them. Have a good evening! David

  2. Tim Melton says:

    Rob, this was an excellent article. i thoroughly enjoyed your take on the latest Batman film.

    “Alongside this grim take on the human condition is the story of Batman, who does not so much fight to counteract the chaos as he does to preserve the moral heart of the city. Indeed this becomes his mission.”

    This is one of the things that makes me so angry at Jesus. He does not fight to counteract the chaos, but rather to preserve the heart of the Church…to make her (us) his own. He does this, as you say, by scapegoating himself. I don’t like this! I’m like Peter. I want to end the chaos, to lop off heads with a dull blade. Restore order! Maintain the peace!

    This is not Jesus’ mission. He undermines the whole deal by laying His life down and then calls us to do the same. His mission is to preserve the heart of the church, to win her heart, to make her his own, to woo her to himself. And this should likewise be our mission, to want our hearts to be won, to desire that Christ call even more hearts to himself as he builds his church.

    I like the goal. I hate the plan. In our participation in the Gospel Life, the plan calls for us to die with Christ. To share in his sufferings. To work subversively, often without recognition or encouragement.

    Thank God that Jesus does for us, underneath, around the corner, and behind, what we could never do for ourselves from our feigned positions of power. Our power is hot air and gas. Sound and fury signifying nothing, save the broken gasps of drowning men – men just like Harvey Dent – Saints and Sinners, Angels and Monsters, our own worst enemy.

    I also need a hero to rescue me when I become evil itself. I need this hero everyday. Every moment. I need him even now.

    Thanks again…not just for the article, but for being the kind of guy who writes stuff like this.


  3. sandrar says:

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

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