The Dark Knight
Whenever a superhero is faced with some kind of ethical dilemma, an imaginary line is drawn between good and evil. This is encompassed in the idea, which we’ve all heard, that if you behave like a criminal, then you’re no worse than the criminal. Didn’t your mother ever tell you, for instance, that if you respond in kind to some action that was hurtful you become “no better than the person who did that to you?” A good example for me would be in eighth grade when this fat kid annoyed me in gym class, so I clothslined him when he was running by and got the entire class of 75 students to dogpile on top of him. He annoyed me, so I annoyed him back and suddenly I was no better than he was. That’s a load of crap.
This whole ethical conundrum is, of course, complete bullshit, which means that “The Dark Knight” is complete bullshit. My bullshit thesis is fully supported by the simple comparison between Batman’s (Christian Bale) choice to allow his former girlfriend, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), to die in order to save Gotham’s potential savior, District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). So let’s put aside other valid criticisms like the absolutely ludicrous idea that a lawyer can be the savior of anything and also throw aside the obvious sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen given that Dent is dating Dawes and she works for him and just deal with the ethical problem – Batman chooses for Dent to live and Dawes to die.
What Batman can’t do, apparently, is rip The Joker’s (Heath Ledger) head off during an interrogation sequence and end Gotham’s nightmare. He can sentence the love of his life to death, but he can’t kill the guy responsible. And I’m not writing figuratively about ripping the Joker’s head off. I’m talking literally. Objectively, the guy is a menace and guilty beyond doubt. Besides, Batman is perceived as a vigilante anyway, so what’s the problem? The problem is that if Batman commits murder, then he’s a murderer and subject to prosecution, which is why one should never save a lawyer from anything if at all possible.
The entire movie is like a set of ethical stepping stones, except most of them are made of Styrofoam and you sink when you step on them. Batman only reaches the end of his ethical chain when he considers killing The Joker. Batman’s assistant, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), reaches the end of his ethical chain when Batman starts using technology to spy on everyone in Gotham so that he can locate The Joker. “Where does it all end?” Fox cries. Here’s what Batman’s answer should be: “What do you not understand about the employer/employee relationship you ungrateful twit?”
Perhaps Batman sees a conflict given his limited, subjective point-of-view. Fortunately, my point-of-view in this whole thing is omniscient and objective. I know the Joker is guilty, so get rid of him. No problem. And do I see a real world correlation to all this in the war on terrorism? Sure I do, but that doesn’t absolve George W. Bush of crossing the ethical line of wire-tapping my phone in the name of anti-terror because, well shit, it’s my phone.
One thing is real life. The other is a damn movie. If we’re going to extract life lessons from Hollywood, our war on terror is going to be in a lot of trouble, if it isn’t already.
To spread the word about this The Dark Knight review on Twitter.To get instant updates of Mr. Cranky reviews, subscribe to our RSS feed.