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The Dark Knight

January 4, 2016

TDKA disfigured man goes around shooting everybody.

Batman confronts the criminal mastermind known as the Joker, who brings chaos and terror to the streets of Gotham City.

Themes: good and evil, the use of violence and a surveillance society.

To what lengths do good people go in order to conquer the worst sort of evil? Must they become a little evil themselves along the way?

“You got rules!” a broken mob boss tells Batman. “The Joker—he’s got no rules!”

None of them escape unsullied. “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain,” says Dent. But it’s when they refuse to compromise that the movie soars.

Dent starts as a bright knight—a blond, bold DA who aims to clean up Gotham’s streets for good. Though there are ever-so-slight indications that he’s not altogether wonderful (the boys at the station call him “Two Face”), he’s sincere about his crime-fighting calling—a sincerity that wins over even billionaire-celebutant Bruce Wayne. “Gotham needs a hero with a face,” Wayne says. Dent and Batman are two sides of the same coin, Dent the unsullied face of incorruptibility and Batman the black-caped heavy. Dent even sacrifices his career and good name at one point to keep Batman out on the streets—a favor Batman returns.

Lt. Gordon, Gotham’s only honest police officer, is prepared to sacrifice his own life for both his city and family.

When the Dark Knight creates a gigantic sonar net by tapping into all of Gotham’s cell phones (a hefty invasion of privacy), Lucius Fox tells him that either the machine goes or he does. “Spying on 30 million people isn’t in my job description,” he says—though he acquiesces to use it for one specialized mission.

Batman is willing to sacrifice everything that’s precious to him for the sake of the city. He never, ever kills, and he rigidly keeps this special vow even when the Joker more than deserves death.

“Madness, as you know, is like gravity,” the Joker says. “All it takes is a little push.”

Batman argues that the world’s not governed by chance, but by choices. When Dent dies, Batman makes the movie’s most interesting choice of all: He takes the blame for the people Dent killed. He becomes, unjustly, a fugitive hated by the very people he’s protecting.

“Sometimes, truth isn’t good enough,” Batman says. “Sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded.”

Some have made the following equations:

Gotham: Zion – The City of Bruce Wayne and home to his people he must save.

Bruce Wayne: The Eternal Logos, Second Person of the Blessed Trinity and Man. He possesses the wealth of his father and remains Gotham’s watchful and invisible ordering principle and protector. Wayne also represents Man as such, viz. Prodigal Son, best exemplified in Dark Knight Rises when he separates from Alfred, the Father, and wakes up the next day to find himself penniless.

Batman: Jesus,The Incarnate Word. The man, condescends to join natures with a lower being, the Bat-Man, ie. the Man-God. He returns to save the city after 8 years (8th day being the day of resurrection). He gives everything to save Gotham and ultimately endows the city with his limitless wealth.

The Bat Symbol: The Cross, a sign of fear, must be lifted up to save the city.

Alfred: God The Father and Joseph. God the Father: A constant theme in The Dark Knight Rises is the will of Alfred for his beloved son, Bruce. It is Alfred who does not want to watch Wayne die but understands the mission at hand to save the people. Ultimately all that is Bruce Wayne’s is given to Alfred in addition to providing a home for the orphans. The final scene of the movie finds Wayne, his new bride in a new place, reunited with Alfred. A Joseph Figure: Foster Father of the Son and the just man of old concerned with burying him.

Selina Kyle (Cat Woman): A Mary Figure. Mary Magdelene: The harlot who is saved from attack by batman and reluctantly chooses to follow him rather than Bane. Wanting only “the clean slate,” she is also the first witness to the resurrection of Batman. The Woman: Her turning point in the movie comes when she is eating a stolen APPLE, and then throws it away and agrees to follow Batman who is trusting her a second time. Mary (the Church): First appearing as Wayne’s handmaiden, her weapon is in the sharp heel (cf. Genesis 3:15) and she is ultimately the one to crush the head of Bane. Before the ultimate saving plan is accomplished, Batman instructs her to stay with John and “be on the ground” while he is in the air. Ultimately, in the new land, she is also the new bride of Wayne, united to him under the delighted gaze of Alfred, the Father.

Bane: The Anti-Christ (the beast). Appearing to Gotham as it’s saviour, he bears the sign of Batman and offers poisoned hope to the people. An excommunicated member of the league, he comes preaching liberation and social justice, but his ultimate motive is the death of Batman and the ruin of the city. He is the rejected son of Ra’s al Ghul (Lucifer) and the one who props up Miranda Tate, the whore of Babylon. (cf. Revelation 17:3). Those, such as Daggett, who seek to serve Baine are ultimately find themselves condemned in Jacobin fashion. He and Tate taunt Batman with the thought of making him watch the “fire of 12 million souls [he] failed.” With Ra’s al Ghul, and the Joker, Bane serves Nolan’s allegory as the third representation of evil, thus exemplifying the demonic parody of the Blessed Trinity.

Ra’s al Ghul: Lucifer. Bruce Wayne must undergo his trials to become Batman and save the city which is first accomplished by defeating him. “Ra’s al Ghul” is literally translated in Arabic as “the Demon’s head.” He is the Father of the whore of Babylon (Miranda Tate).

Miranda Tate (Talia al Ghul): The Whore of Babylon and The world.

Under the guise of clean, unlimited energy, Miranda Tate explicitly wants to save the world and bring balance to it. Ultimately, she is found to be the Daughter of the Devil (Ra’s al Ghul), coming propped up on a beast, Bane, (Revelation 17:2) and will pierce the side of Batman and attempt to put Wayne’s city in fire for him to watch burn. The Whore also is said to fornicate with the kings (Wayne) of the earth (cf. Revelation 17). Wayne trusts her, knowing she will betray him. Upon her embrace of Wayne (the man), the light turns to darkness and Wayne expresses that he has ‘lost his power.‘ After sleeping with her, Wayne sees that she has the mark on her back.

John Blake aka Robin: John the Baptist and John the Beloved. The Baptist: John Blake is the first to recognize Batman as Bruce Wayne and herald his coming because ‘he knew him as a child.‘ He is irascible and upsets the hierarchy by pointing out their error and encourages the city to hope in Batman’s return. The Beloved: The disciple that is favored over his superior (Peter Foley) and elevated to the status of detective. His sign is that of a bird and he stands before Batman’s ultimate sacrifice with Cat Woman. Unlike Peter Foley, who dies after his conversion in battle, John Blake remains alive. Ultimately, he will return to the cave, foster the orphans, and tell the story. Along with Selina Kyle (Mary), John Blake is the only character outside of Alfred and Fox (The First and Third Persons of the Blessed Trinity) to recognize that Batman is Wayne and follow him to the end of his mission.

The police: The Church and clergy. The three most prominent policeman in the Dark Knight Rises are named Peter Foley, Jim Gordon, and John Blake. Yes, Peter, James, and John. Here the allegory loosens especially with the character of Jim Gordon who throughout the trilogy is a Peter figure. The reader will remember in the Dark Knight, even Gordon, the trusty disciple of Batman, draws his weapon in protest of what Batman must do to defeat the Joker. In the Dark Knight Rises, Gordon first recognizes Batman when he is walking out onto the water (which is ice). Batman comes walking towards him over the water and commands him to light up the bat sign (the cross) to give the city hope of salvation. Gordon’s role in the salvation of Gotham is essential. He must go along for the final ride with Tate (the world) to disable the device of destruction and crash through the gates of the underworld as he leads the rest of the police force to assisting the Bat Man in his saving mission. His final profession of faith is to recognize that the pierced Batman, now ascending, is indeed Bruce Wayne.

The US Army: The Angels. They are put at the opposite side of the bridge to prevent any man from passing to salvation before Batman has saved the city. They can deliver assistance and offer support to Gotham but ultimately must wait in hope for the saving plan of Batman to be accomplished.

Lucius Fox: The Holy Spirit. It is through the power of Mr. Fox that Bruce Wayne is incarnate as the Batman. His constant support offers Batman the tools he needs to defeat the enemy and he remains a trusty overseer of the board. He is sent to remain with Ms. Tate (the world) and notably exclaims in the film’s climax, the power of “a little air support.” The ‘Pentecost’ in the movie occurs when the police (Church) are noticeably timid and confused while marching into their battle mission. Unexpectedly, Fox’s vehicle, the Bat Wing drops from the sky and disables the enemy’s artillery.

The Triumph of Evil Over Good: “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” These words, spoken by Harvey Dent in the film and its trailers, portend the inevitable corruptibility of heroes in the Batman universe. At the beginning of the film, Dent represents absolute good, a goodness that’s so pure, that has so much potential to change Gotham, that even Batman is thinking of hanging up his spurs.

Dent is referred to frequently as Gotham’s “White Knight,” a term used throughout the course of the film.

The Thin Line Between Anarchy and Order: As Nolan has stated in interviews, this movie was not meant to explore the Joker’s backstory because it’s really not that important to the film. Simply put, the Joker represents anarchy and chaos, a constant and near-unstoppable force whose origins are inexplicable.

 

The Terrible Logic of Human Nature: What do people do when they are put in the worst of situations? When Batman breaks into Wayne enterprises and gives Lucius Fox free reign of the cell phone hackery he has perpetrated upon all of Gotham. Fox demurs, believing that one person should not have this power. People are so easily corrupted that even an initial desire to do good can ultimately lead to evil, the film seems to be saying. This is further confirmed as the entire video interface comes to a fiery end, in a spectacular Batman-programmed self-destruction. At the very end, when two separate sets of people are given the ability to destroy each other, both criminals and everyday citizens conclude that they won’t take another’s life just to preserve their own. Throughout the whole movie, Nolan seems to be trying to tell us we are all easily subject to the temptations of the dark side, but the rest of the movie is already so relentlessly dark that perhaps this ending was more palatable to general audiences.

Humans can’t handle power responsibly. But maybe, in our shared humanity, there is still hope for compassion.

The Dark Knight holds a mirror up to us as viewers and asks us to look closely, to examine ourselves as humans and as citizens.

Gambol’s Bodyguard: Yo, Gambol, there’s somebody here for you. They say they just killed the Joker. They brought the body. [a body bag is brought in and dropped on the table; Gambol unzips it, revealing Joker’s face]

Gambol: So. For dead, that’s 500…

The Joker: [sitting up and sticking a blade in Gambol’s mouth] How ’bout alive? [Joker’s men hold the bodyguards]

The Joker: You wanna know how I got these scars? My father, was a drinker, and a fiend. And one night, he goes off crazier than usual. Mommy gets the kitchen knife to defend herself. He doesn’t like that. Not. One. Bit. So, me watching, he takes the knife to her, laughing while he does it. He turns to me and says, “Why so serious?” Comes at me with the knife. “WHY SO SERIOUS?” He sticks the blade in my mouth… “Let’s put a smile on that face.” And… [glancing at thug] Why so serious? [kills Gambol]

Batman: Then why do you want to kill me?

The Joker: [giggling] I don’t, I don’t want to kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no, NO! No. You… you… complete me.

Batman: You’re garbage who kills for money.

The Joker: Don’t talk like one of them. You’re not! Even if you’d like to be. To them, you’re just a freak, like me! They need you right now, but when they don’t, they’ll cast you out, like a leper! You see, their morals, their code, it’s a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you. When the chips are down, these… these civilized people, they’ll eat each other. See, I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve.

[Batman slams The Joker’s head on the table] The Joker: Never start with the head. The victim gets all fuzzy. He can’t feel the next… [Batman punches the Joker’s hand. The Joker pauses for a moment waiting for it to hurt] See?

 

Bruce Wayne: Targeting me won’t get their money back. I knew the mob wouldn’t go down without a fight, but this is different. They crossed the line.

Alfred Pennyworth: You crossed the line first, sir. You squeezed them, you hammered them to the point of desperation. And in their desperation, they turned to a man they didn’t fully understand.

Bruce Wayne: Criminals aren’t complicated, Alfred. Just have to figure out what he’s after.

Alfred Pennyworth: With respect Master Wayne, perhaps this is a man that *you* don’t fully understand, either. A long time ago, I was in Burma. My friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So, we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never met anybody who traded with him. One day, I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.

Bruce Wayne: So why steal them?

Alfred Pennyworth: Well, because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

Bruce Wayne: The bandit, in the forest in Burma, did you catch him?

Alfred Pennyworth: Yes.

Bruce Wayne: How?

Alfred Pennyworth: We burned the forest down.

The Joker: [to Det. Stephens] Do you want to know why I use a knife? Guns are too quick. You can’t savor all the… little emotions. In… you see, in their last moments, people show you who they really are. So in a way, I know your friends better than you ever did. Would you like to know which of them were cowards?

The Joker: All you care about is money. This city deserves a better class of criminal. And I’m gonna give it to them!

Batman: Sometimes the truth isn’t good enough, sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded…

The Joker: Oh, you. 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 much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.

Batman: You’ll be in a padded cell forever.

The Joker: Maybe we can share one. You know, they’ll be doubling up, the rate this city’s inhabitants are losing their minds.

Batman: This city just showed you that it’s full of people ready to believe in good.

The Joker: Until their spirit breaks completely. Until they get a good look at the real Harvey Dent, and all the heroic things he’s done. You didn’t think I’d risk losing the battle for Gotham’s soul in a fistfight with you? No. You need an ace in the hole. Mine’s Harvey.

Batman: What did you do?

The Joker: I took Gotham’s white knight and I brought him down to our level. It wasn’t hard. You see, madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little push! [the Joker laughs hysterically as Batman races off and the cops come to take the Joker into custody]

Harvey Dent: The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming.

Two-Face: You thought we could be decent men in an indecent time. But you were wrong. The world is cruel, and the only morality in a cruel world is chance. [holds up his coin] Unbiased. Unprejudiced. Fair.

The Joker: Don’t talk like one of them, you’re not! Even if you’d like to be. To them, you’re just a freak, like me. They need you right now. But when they don’t, they’ll cast you out, like a leper. See, their morals, their code… it’s a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you, when the chips are down, these… these civilized people? They’ll eat each other. See, I’m not a monster, I’m just ahead of the curve.

Batman: [grabs Joker] Where’s Dent?

The Joker: You have all these rules and you think they’ll save you!

Lt. James Gordon: [as Batman slams Joker into the wall] He’s in control.

Batman: I have one rule.

The Joker: Oh, then that’s the rule you’ll have to break to know the truth.

Batman: [getting impatient] Which is?

The Joker: The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules. [mimicking Batman’s voice] And tonight you’re gonna break your one rule.

Batman: I’m considering it.

The Joker: Oh, there’s only minutes left, so you’re gonna have to play my little game if you wanna save one of them.

Batman: [softly, fearful] Them?

The Joker: You know for awhile there, I thought you really were Dent. The way you threw yourself after her. [Joker laughs, Batman throws Joker on table, barricades door] Look at you go! Does Harvey know about you and his little bunny?

Batman: [slams Joker into mirror] Where are they?

The Joker: Killing is making a choice.

Batman: [punches Joker] Where are they?

The Joker: Choose between one life or the other. Your friend, the district attorney, or his blushing bride-to-be… [punches Joker] [laughs] You have nothing, nothing to threaten me with! Nothing to do with all your strength! [grabs Joker] Don’t worry, I’m gonna tell you where they are. Both of them. And that’s the point. You’ll have to choose. He’s at 250 52ND Street and she’s on Avenue X, at Cicero.

The Joker: [over the PA] Tonight you’re all gonna be part of a social experiment. Through the magic of diesel fuel and ammonium nitrate, I’m ready right now to blow you all sky high. Anyone attempts to get off their boat, you all die. Each of you has a remote… to blow up the other boat. At midnight, I blow you all up. If, however, one of you presses the button, I’ll let that boat live. So, who’s it going to be: Harvey Dent’s most wanted scumbag collection, or the sweet and innocent civilians? You choose… oh, and you might want to decide quickly, because the people on the other boat might not be so noble.

The Joker: If you are good at something, don’t do it for free.

[Rachel discovers Dent’s coin is two-faced] Rachel Dawes: [smiling sardonically] You make your own luck…

GORDON: The Joker won. Harvey’s prosecution, everything he fought for—undone. Whatever chance you gave us of fixing our city dies with Harvey’s reputation. We bet it all on him. The Joker took the best of us and tore him down. People will lose hope.

BATMAN: They won’t. They must never know what he did.

GORDON: Five dead—two of them cops! You can’t sweep that—

BATMAN: No. But the Joker cannot win. Gotham needs its true hero.

Gordon starts to realize what this means. Batman will somehow cover up the crimes that Dent did.

BATMAN: You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain. I can do those things… because I’m not a hero. Not like Dent. I killed those people. That’s what I can be.

GORDON: No, you can’t! You’re not!

BATMAN: I’m whatever Gotham needs me to be.

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