Dark Nights

Benjamin Society Today

Fr. J: So you finally saw The Dark Knight. What did you think?

Fr. B: It was powerful. It was long and rather dark, but the director moved the plot along well so it didn’t drag. I like the fact that the action followed the story and not the other way around.

Fr. J: I found it a very heavy movie. It was very well written and also very well acted; the dialog was superb. Heath Leger did a tremendous job with the character of the Joker to the point that he really stole the show. Perhaps it should have been named “The Joker” instead. I felt that the character of the Joker was pure evil and it made the movie more than just dark.

Fr. B: I agree that the Joker was a heavy character, and some of his monologues were just too much, but what do you mean “more than just dark?”

Fr. J: The Joker was really kind of an incarnation of Satan. He was pure evil. He had no history, no name, and existed just to do evil. Batman had a difficult time with him. The movie calls into question the meaning and purpose of Batman in Gotham City but it never really answered the questions. What is his purpose? He exists to stop evil, which means he is constantly reacting to the Joker and always a step or two behind.

Fr. B: I thought in a way the movie did answer the question. The Joker is so completely evil that his only motivation is to cause destruction, but this forces a kind of reckoning on the characters, a judgment of their real motivations. Harvey Dent “falls” because his motivation is not pure, and his character becomes a living representation of this, but Bruce Wayne’s true quality is shown through the film.

Fr. J: And what is Bruce Wayne’s true character? Why does he do good? He could end all the mahem just by killing the Joker, yet he refuses. The movie should have ended with the showdown in front of the tractor trailer truck. It could have too, if Batman had killed him.

Fr. B: I think that would have been the “easy out” that most movies take. Remember that Bruce was afraid of what he would have to become to stop the Joker; an evil character, one who deals death at will.
Because he refuses to take this path, he only has one other way open to him, the way of self sacrifice. He sacrifices his personal desires for the good of the city.

Fr. J: His sacrifice certainly isn’t appreciated by Gotham, which would prefer to sell him out. Batman puts Harvey Dent forward as the hero who can save Gotham, but ultimately I guess you’re right. Harvey is unwilling to suffer. That makes the difference between the two characters.

Fr. B: The Joker thinks that every person is fundamentally evil, and if pushed hard enough their evil side will dominate. Harvey Dent proves him right, at least for a moment. However, the episode with the ferries is the ultimate example. The Joker thinks that, out of fear, the people will destroy each other in a dog-eat-dog attempt to save themselves.
Batman believes that people are fundamentally good, and the episode with the ferries proves that he is correct, and I think it shows the movie’s message: if you are willing to suffer rather than do evil, then evil cannot ultimately hurt you. That is the solution to the “unsolvable” problem that the Joker perpetually poses.

Fr. J: I also loved the scene with the two ferry boats. It was played out very well and really showed what human nature is capable of. I was a little disappointed with the way the movie ended — I felt the end of the Harvey Dent plot line was just added frustration on top of an already difficult movie. Batman was fighting against lies — people who were cops, and yet were on the take as well. And in the end, he seems to choose a lie over the truth when he says, “Sometimes people deserve more than the truth.” In fact, the whole voice-over at the end was disappointing. It didn’t explain what had happened; it just set us up for a sequel.

Fr. B: The biggest weakness of this movie, and the previous Batman Begins, is that Bruce Wayne/Batman’s character is underdeveloped. He isn’t submerged by the Joker, but still we don’t know what he is thinking and we don’t know why he is good or what his hopes are. I wonder if perhaps the writers don’t know. It is so much easier for us to believe a purely evil character than one who is good; good characters in movies are generally twisted and struggling people who happen to do good.

Fr. J: Or they are simply good with no explanation, as in this case. The Batman character was the one real weakness of the movie. I suppose he believes in the goodness of Gotham and is willing to fight for it, even if it means he can never live a normal life. Which leads to my own personal conclusion about the movie — superheroes need to be celibate. Look at the last Superman movie. Look at the struggle played out in the three Spiderman movies between Peter Parker’s loyalty to MJ and his loyalty to the people of the city. Maybe that’s what priesthood is all about — fighting for the goodness in others at the expense of a “normal” life.

Fr. B: Sorry to end this, there’s a light in the sky…