Friday, July 25, 2008

The Dark Knight

After all the hype the lights went down and the noise began. An audio visual assault that provides significantly more than most summer blockbusters. But then this is action film by Chris Nolan with Bale and Ledger.

Understandably all the talk has been about Heath Ledger's performance, and on this occasion the talk delivers. I imagine sentiment plus the performance may well equal an Oscar for him. It would be deserved. He's surrounded by a solid cast in Bale, Caine, Freeman, Oldman, Gyllenhaal and Eckhart.

The film continues with the good vs. evil theme of Nolan's reboot. This time things aren't as simple as good and bad, justice and revenge. The Joker arrives bringing devilish chaos: “Some men aren't looking for anything logical. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

Nolan's Gotham is outwardly worse than our world. It is a dark world that needs a white knight who will come and save it, not some superpowered superman but a man who will rise from among the people. Evil has been opposed and good is beginnning to triumph, but can all this spitting in the face of evil triumph? Can good overcome when it is so closely focussed on evil?

The issues become clear and more pressing as Nolan poses the questions. What will the people do when evil reigns, will they find good within themselves? Will heroes arise who can lead them? And what if those heroes aren't 100% heroic? Can we still believe? What will we do with them?

Enjoy the show. Enjoy the questions.

12 comments:

  1. Post about much hyped film I enjoyed last night - 0 Comments.
    Post about theology - 18 Comments.

    Today I learned something about the readers of my blog.

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  3. Is it just your readers boyo? Do you think that you put the same amount of thought and time into culture / film / art / real questions ?

    Seems to me, that your posts on doctrine and theology are extensively researched, often quoting interesting views, and interested in stretching your thinking. Your film / cultural interactions often feel a lot lighter. Perhaps cutting for the gospel presentation, before you've really given the questions some space to brew for a bit.

    For example: How often do you offer logical (rather than biblically based) critiques of Naturalism and Eastern Monism too? Most of the time, I find your posts stronger on theology, and explaining doctrine, than on interacting with questions. You quote from the bible, then sit back and expect people to be convinced quite often. I'm not convinced that, that is a biblical strategy. It's not terribly persuasive. Yet the apostle Paul was persuasive. What have we missed?

    Having said that, a lot of your blog readers come across as boffiny theological types, so perhaps they read other blogs where they interact with film / art / culture with equal energy and insight. But then, perhaps my remarks about too much energy and devotion being given to theological study and reflection, at the expense of evangelism, apologetics, philosophy and missiology is starting to hit home? I'm going to keep bleating about it regardless.

    Schaeffer recognised that theological reflection without philosophical interacting, left people knowing the answers, but unsure of what the questions where or how to present the answers in such a way that they could be understood as well as heard.

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  4. Bish, I'm quite surprised that you, of all people (not that I really know you at all), make such a distinction between films and theology. Batman may not have been based on Biblical theology but I think it was definitely trying to make comment on the state of man, which is surely a large point of theology?

    I left the cinema with all those questions you asked, trying to work out how my understanding of God and myself answers them - as well as buzzing with general awe and excitement at possible the best film I've seen in years! I think the thing that most struck me was the whole question of 'what is a hero?' I love the fact that (as far as I can see) this wasn't a film about a superhero but about a real bloke trying to work out what it means for him to be a hero, when he clearly isn't 'super'.

    I do have a serious question though, was what's her face meant to be replacing Katy Holmes or did some crazy plot-acrobatics take place involving characters leaving and coming without explanation? My friend and I were quite confused as to how/why you would replace an actress and then pretend as though nothing had happened, when that lass (I have no idea what her name is) doesn't really look anything like Miss Holmes!

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  6. maybe bish was quicker to see the film than anyone else? But good call on this christian subculture though Tom.

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  7. Hey, here's my two-same-sided-dollars for the record.
    What Christopher Nolan really seemed to tap into with Batman Begins was fear and madness. Obviously, on the surface the films are about justice - the battle between good and evil - but the common theme running throughout is fear. Bruce Wayne is scared of bats - until he conquers his fear. He wants to scare his enemies in the same way. The Scarecrow also uses fear to cause mayhem, etc, etc.

    The theme is continued in "The Dark Knight".
    Everyone is scared of something. Mostly they are scared of losing things.
    The Mob are scared of losing their power and investments. Individuals (Gordon, Harvey Dent, Bruce Wayne) are most fearful of losing their loved-ones. Batman is scared to see Gotham descend further into the hands of the mob and in this case the Joker and he's scared of losing Rachel - who he lost a long time ago if he's honest.
    By the end of the film, everyone fears everyone as the mob has infiltrated the police and the general population is caused to make dangerous moral choices regards life and death.
    These fears motivate the characters to do things - either for good of for bad.

    A lot's been made of the 9/11 and "war on terror" references and that it provides a critique of our culture of fear around terrorism, the loss of individuals close to us and the loss of our contemporary civilisation. It definitely asks the question - what are you going to do about it?"

    Batman wants to see justice, knows it will only come through the rule of law, sees the failure of the rule of law and therefore gets his hands dirty, invests a lot of money in gadgets and will break his enemies but never kill them.

    The Joker fears nothing. This is what makes him such a disturbing and powerful character. You can shout at him, beat him with your black gauntlets, ride a motorbike straight at him and he won't flinch but will just come back for more because he really doesn't fear anything, least of all death. He's got nothing to lose. He's a terrorist in quite a pure sense. He's not driven by anything other than causing destruction and death to anyone and everyone except Batman through whom he is able to find greater self-realisation.

    The Joker will only cease when he's dead. Only the Batman can kill him, but the Batman doesn't kill people.

    That's the question that really needs to be answered - why won't Batman kill anyone? Clearly there's a moral framework behind that decision and it's a matter of conscience. He knows the Joker is guilty, does he need to wait for a court to convict him? Would such a character ever get to court? In the comics he's a lunatic and just spends various terms in Arkham Asylum, except for The Joker: Devil's Adovacte. In this story Batman actually saves the Joker from the electric chair from a crime he didn't commit, even though he 'deserved' death. Which he essentially does in The Dark Knight too.

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  8. I saw the film yesterday and thought it was a brilliant film! The visual and audio, especially the way in which the soundscape racked up the tension was incredible. Still can't believe it was a 12A - I'm 23 and found it scary!

    I thought they really hit home the idea that 'the man who fears nothing should be feared by all'. It made me think about the differences between the Joker and the Christian, who do not fear death? Are they equally dangerous to society?

    Whilst the Joker fears nothing (but boredom?), the Christian rightly fears God. Yet if God is real then this fear isn't the human created stick used to construct more self-imposed rules to constrain human behaviour that the Joker shows to be bankrupt, (other than in making people self-righteous). In this way as Greg Boyd said in his review, "The Joker’s mission is to expose what a joke this thin veneer of human righteousness is. Throughout the movie he creates anarchy to reveal the evil that lurks just beneath the surface of our orderly lives."

    What the film does well is make people face the world of morality by social contract or chance: where in the ultimate and final analysis: doing "evil" is no different from doing "good". People are left with the question: so why play by the rules? Though the people in the film (think the two ships) seem to recoil or rise up against this conclusion there is no refutation of the Jokers worldview given. It is simply rejected as repulsive: "not the kind of world we want to live in".

    If this is the world we live in then we must face it, if we have any value for the truth and any awareness of our inability to change ultimate reality by 'wishing things to be different', yet if there is a God from whom an objective morality flows then things are quite different. Jesus' incarnation, life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension really is good news!

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  9. Hmmmm, yeah. I think Batman's refusal to kill is interesting. From what I gather it's actually mainly based on fear - the fear of becoming like those whom he is fighting to stop. It seems his intense clinging to his (almost arbitrary?) code of conduct is one of the few things that actually makes him different to the joker, especially if you buy into the of relative nature of good/evil. At parts it seems that this actually makes Batman as dangerous as the joker and those who don't share his valour/fear only tolerate it so far. I wonder whether this can also be brought across to the comparison of what makes Christians 'dangerous' - on some levels we want the same thing are society (peace, well-being, etc) but are unwilling to compromise our beliefs to achieve them as to do so would bring them about in only a superficial way.

    Something else I found really interesting was the input of 2-face, especially his idea that 'the only thing that is fair is chaos' (something like that anyway). It seems to me to be the only logical conclusion of making good/evil relative and in a way he does seem to be able to absolve himself of some of the guilt for his actions by relying on a coin. I'm not really sure what I think about all that but I'd be interested to hear what others thought of 2-face's ideology?

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  10. Levi,

    "From what I gather it's actually mainly based on fear - the fear of becoming like those whom he is fighting to stop"

    Where do you get that from?

    This is the jokers view of Batman, certainly, but is it really what is happening? It's actually hard to say, that it's the Jokers point of view too, because part of what fascinates the Joker, is the nature of what makes Batman 'uncorruptible.'

    Think back to the conversations between Fox and Wayne {spoiler coming} after the Joker tries get to Dent at Wayne's fundraiser. Doesn't Wayne say something like, "They have really crossed a line now."

    I don't think we know exactly what it is that holds Batman back. Perhaps it's fear, but that makes a nonsense of the embracing the bats scenes in Batman Begins. That was all about embracing his fears wasn't it?

    Perhaps it's not that Batman fears becoming a 2-face or a Joker, but that he chooses not to?

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  11. Loved it. I've tried my first review here

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  12. Tom,

    Fair point - I do need to come back and do more analysis and thinking on the film/culture posts.

    Point taken - particularly having spent the first day of my holiday reading the Schaeffer biog.

    In this case - I didn't want to drop any spoilers but hopefully draw out comments from others. Hence more asking questions (thoughtfully)

    It's a reflection on me, and on readers. Film is something I'm very interested in but do probably feel less qualified to write on than the Bible. Though I want to grow in that.

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