Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Dark Knight

Last night, Farrah and I watched The Dark Knight, the highly acclaimed sequel to Batman Begins, and I wanted to share some elements that allude to the redemption that Jesus Christ bought for us.

Movie review

As a whole, the movie was too long. Half an hour could have easily been left on the cutting room floor (or the digital bit bucket), without losing anything relevant to the plot.

This movie is also quite violent. It avoided an R rating by pulling the camera away, just before several potentially gory scenes, but the implied violence definitely exceeds the comparatively mild PG-13 rating it actually got. We watched it on our ClearPlay DVD player, which muted the occasional bad language and skipped past a slew of violence.

Even though the whole world was enamored with the late Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker, Jack Nicholson did a far better job, when he played the part, nearly twenty years ago. This Joker was too crazy; the lack of a background story or a motive greatly took away from his character. To me, he was more of an annoyance, than a worthy foe to Batman.

By contrast, the Harvey Dent character was extremely well written and acted. In my opinion, he was the one who stole the show.

The highlight for me was the tension and resolution of the scenes with the two ferries, jam-packed with people, and rigged to explode. Without spoiling anything, I'll just say that I was very moved by the performance of a big, buff, former wrestler, nicknamed "Tiny" (whom I've seen in other imposing roles).

Batman's sacrifice

(SPOILER WARNING!)

A running theme in the movie was Batman's quest to find a "hero with a face", that the people of Gotham can look up to. He thought he found that hero in District Attorney Harvey Dent. As Bruce Wayne, he held a fundraiser for him, lifting him up as a hero to be looked up to. Unfortunately (for all involved), the Joker decided to make it a project to turn Dent to the Dark Side (a la Emperor Palpatine and Anakin Skywalker). Like Satan, he knew that even if he could not defeat Batman directly, he could achieve victory by destroying his creation. He is marvelously successful in turning Dent to a villain, scarred inside and out.

Upon the death of Dent, Batman makes a familar decision: in order to preserve the people's good perception of Dent, he takes the blame for the five people Dent murdered, clearing Dent's name and reputation, while becoming a fugitive himself. Only his closest allies, including Police Commissioner James Gordon (and Gordon's son), know the truth.

As Batman speeds away, chased by scores of K-9 units, Gordon tells his son (paraphrased), "He's the hero the people deserve, but not what they need right now." The implication, if I understand it correctly, is that Batman is a true hero, but is forced to play a lesser role, for the good of the people of Gotham.

Jesus, the Son of God, God Incarnate, and Lord of all, deserved to be praised and adored as the King of Kings, when He first came, 2000 years ago. But instead, "he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5). What we needed at the time (and still) was for the King of Kings to redeem us, by becoming sin.

When the time comes, He will return and assume His role as Lord of Lords... and all will recognize Him for what He truly is.

11 comments:

Tamela's Place said...

Hello Greg,

We watched the movie as well. We were also talking about how it related to Jesus/God's Word. I enjoyed the movie but i would have to agree that the Harvey Dent character did indeed steal the show!

Have you noticed that those movies that seem to do really well are those that mirror the Word of God somewhat when it comes to Jesus?

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Greg,

Isn't it amazing that the ideas of "sacrafice" and "redemption" (as well as the general category of "morality") are innate to all of us as human beings (yes, even Hollywood producers, writers, actors, etc.) yet the "theory" of evolution is so prevelant in our society? As Paul reminds us in Romans, people really do know the truth...but suppress it in their unrighteousness.

Anyway, I appreciate the spiritual connection that you made.

However, I would have to disagree about the movie itself and Heath Ledger's performance in particular. I thought the movie was outstanding (I don't judge by "Christian" principles only) and not long enough. Sure there was a lot of violence, but I expected as much going in, so it didn't bother me. And as the Joker, I thought Ledger brought a realism to the part that was lacking is previous Batman incarnations. I also enjoyed Jack Nicholson's performance, but the early Batman movies were more "comicbookish" than the new Batman series' are. They were good (well, the first few were anyway) for what they were--campy, like the t.v. series (which I love, by the way!). The new ones (both of them) are great for what they are--more "real" and reflective of the original (and "dark") Batman comics.

Anyway, I thought Ledger's performance was brilliant and "perfect" :-) for what the new Batman series is attempting to do--make it real! I also agree that the Dent character was fascinating (though, as you can tell, I still like the Joker character the most). I'm interested to see how they portray the Penguin without his character becoming "comicbookish".

Oh well, different tastes and all....

GGM

Connie Marie said...

I've never watched the movie.

Nitewrit said...

Greg,

My son gave me the DVD for Christmas. In movies, books, even music, we constantly see truths hidden, even when the writer isn't necessarily thinking these have Christian implications. When my kids were growning up, we would discuss things we watched and how they showed morality or didn't. This is something we need more of rather than calls to bioycott things. It is a good opportunity to witness in ways people will lesson to.

The lack of a backstory or motive for The Joker may actually be a good metaphor for our times. We see a lot of violence today that makes no rhyme or reason and has no purpose except causing choas.

I think Jack Nicholson's Joker was coser to the comic book version of the character in my youth. (Comics of the 1940s and 1950s). Ledger may be closer to the more modern "graphic novel" approach.

My thoughts on the character when I was watching it were it was a role any actor would want. It was almost fool proof.

Two face (Dent) is a real interesting character, too, for examining ourselves in these times and is half Batman and half joker.

Larry E.

Greg said...

Thanks for all your comments!

Tamela, the best movies do indeed have something to teach us, and it's neat to draw parallels to the Bible, even they were unintended.

GGM, I don't mind disagreeing with you on Ledger's Joker. ;) The original 1989 Batman movie was of the same basic tone as these Batman movies (from my memory), although these latest incarnations are defintely better and more realistic. If there could be a Batman in our world, Christian Bale's version is the most likely, out of all the versions I've seen. Batman Begins is one of my favorite movies of all time, largely because they took the time to explore the character and explain how he came to be. If you watch the recent Gotham Knight Batman cartoon, you'll see a much more serious Penguin. They could definitely make him as dark as they want, although I didn't know he would be the villain in the next movie. I'd like to see Bane, too.

Connie Marie, thanks for stopping by! Superhero movies are definitely not for everyone, and the mdern ones are so violent and have such language, that we would not watch them at all without ClearPlay. I thank the Lord that ClearPlay is there, to give us another option... although I know He doesn't want us to be watching movies all day.

Larry, I believe that 99.9% of strife and violence in this world has a cause that we can learn something from. In most cases, things happened in people's lives, and they reacted in the wrong way. Soneone wise once said that life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it. Your own testimony is a perfect example. Or look at all the strife in the Middle East. Understanding how and why it came to be can help us understand how to stop it. Ultimately, if Batman were a Christian (no pun intended on the actor's name!), he would be trying to understand the Joker, in an effort to try to help him. In fact, he's done that numerous times, in the comics. More than just locking bad guys up, he truly cares about them, which is one main reason he does not kill.

Farrah said...

Honey, I think it's amazing how you keep seeing symbolism in these action movies!

I have to say something to GGM here: I had a worse opinion of Ledger's performance than Greg, so we REALLY disagree. It seriously bothered me that the guy's plans were so fool-proof. I need to see the bad guy fail sometimes, make mistakes, become upset or frustrated. Nothing seemed to phase the Joker, and every mishap was planned out by him. To me that's just not real. He was too invincible and unstoppable.

I guess I kept thinking of the shooting sprees and bomb threats we occasionally read about in the news. These guy's plans never get carried out completely before they are forced to commit suicide or get shot or wrestled down. I believe God is intervening, and these crazies can only get so far . . .

satire and theology said...

Hi Greg,

I viewed the movie twice in theatre. I thought the film was excellent overall. The Joker was very well played and an improvement from the Batman movie version from the late 1980s. The transformation of Dent to me was not all that believable within the context of the movie.

Russ:)

Greg said...

I don't know, Russ... think maybe Dent was a Calvinist? ;)

satire and theology said...

No, a good Calvinist anyway, would make more sense.

Cheers, Greg.

Russ;)

jeleasure said...

I did not see the movie. As I remember past Batman episodes, they are just too dark and depressing, as well as violent.

I do see what you are drawing to the surface for us, though. And, I want you to know that I also noticed a quazi spiritual battle of the kingdoms in Star Wars.

Hey Greg, visit a new blogger and see if she will exchange hosting links. I have already told her to expect readers. Help her build her blog.

Here is a link to her page;
Seeds In My Heart.

Her name is Randi Jo.

Thanks,
Jim

Anonymous said...

I saw The Dark Knight when it came out in theatres and as a Chritian I didnt notice at first how the ending has a christian message. I recently saw it again on cable and honestly it brought tears to my eyes. Theres a quote in the ending when Batman is being chased by the police and the police dogs and Gordon played by the actor Gary Oldman tells his son why Batman is being chased. He tells his son "because he can take it. He is not a hero he is a silent guardian a watchfull protector a dark knight." After hearing this I immediately thought about Jesus how he died for our sins and yet he does not expect any thanks or any praise by the people. Instead he is ridiculed hes blamed for things he did not do and yet he still watches over us protects us even though we dont deserve it. Its very interesting how Hollywood even though they may not notice how they are taking on the role of gospel spreaders and who alone can do such miracles but God. For me it is an amazing thing to see and experience it lets me know that even though as christians we struggle so much in our lives but yet we still have a powerful God who knows no boundaries and cannot be contained when it comes to demonstrating his power to the people. Also to those of you who saw Superman Returns this movie is also full of comparisons to Christ for example when Superman takes Louis Lane to the top of the city he tells her "you wrote that the world doesnt need a saviour but yet everyday I hear the people crying for one." Again tears came to my eyes. Right now I believe we are living in the end of days spoken of in the bible and that is why we are seeing these images of Christ in secular movies. As Christians I believe we should have an open mind about these things and try to use them to speak to non-believers about our God who in a way is like Supeman or Batman. God bless you all.