“Because he's the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we'll hunt him, because he can take it. Because he's not our hero. He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight.” Commissioner Gordon spoke these words at the end of the 2008 epic, The Dark Knight. I think that this is one of the greatest movies of all time. I think that the portrayal of the Joker by the late Heath Ledger is a big part of the movies success. Also, the brilliant writing and psychology of the characters is a major factor. It was written by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, with Christopher directing.
This immensely entertaining movie is a dark, gritty, and extremely thrilling venture into the world of a superhero, but with much more psychology than I’ve seen before. By looking at the psychology and development of the characters I found what I think is the meaning behind the movie. It’s not just about the battle between good and evil, creates a sense of a watchman, a dark knight to do what is best for us.
The story is focused around three key characters, whose conflicts and progression establish the plot and theme of the movie. Harvey Dent is the new District Attorney in Gotham City, and he aims to correct the balance of power by getting rid of the crime bosses. The Joker is a maniacal psychopath with chaos on his mind. Batman is the vigilante alter-ego of Bruce Wayne, watching over the city. The Joker convinces the crime bosses that the only way to get back their power is to “kill the Batman,” which puts the story in motion. Throughout the story, the conflict between the Joker and Batman becomes centralized around Harvey Dent. They both believe that he is the symbol for the soul of Gotham.
Later in the movie, Dent is ‘transformed’, physically and mentally, into Two-Face, which creates a feeling that the Joker has won. He has taken Gotham’s ‘White Knight’ and turned him. This is the biggest game that he plays. The Joker plays these games in the form of social experiments throughout. He says that people will die everyday until Batman reveals his true identity. This leads Harvey to turn himself in, taking Bruce’s place. He does it knowing that the Joker would come after him and Batman would save him.
Joker later makes Batman decide between Rachel and Dent, to see which one he would let die to save the other. As a result, Rachel is killed and Dent is burnt as Batman saves him. The transformation to Two-Face is completed when Joker visits him in the hospital and convinces him that everything happened because of Gordon, his men and Batman. He blows up a hospital after Reese wasn’t killed. There is the last experiment with the two ferry’s full of people, which he rigged with explosives, giving each boat the detonator to the other. He uses these games to show people that the only way to live is without the rules they’ve been following.
At the end of the movie, Dent takes Gordon’s family to where Rachel died. He wants to punish Gordon for her death. At the end of the scene, Dent falls to his death. Batman decides to take the blame for the people that Two-Face killed. He says that he’s not a hero like Dent, and that “I’m whatever Gotham needs me to be.” The idea is that no one can see what Dent became. He needs to stay the White Knight. With the Joker captured and Dent’s image saved, Batman bears the burden to save Gotham.
I think that the characters are the biggest thematic element of the story. The meaning of the story comes from what they represent and how they interact throughout the plot. Each of them is a symbol for a different part of society. They represent anarchy and chaos, law and justice as well as protection and sacrifice between them.
In the simplest terms, the Joker is the bad guy, the evil villain that Batman is fighting. As a character he is very complex, but I think that he is a vivid expression of anarchy and chaos. Everything that he does seems both random and very well planned at the same time. He even says to Dent in the hospital that he doesn’t plan. He’s like a dog chasing a car, he wouldn’t know what to do if he caught one. He can’t even get his story straight as to how he got the scars on his face. He puts Dent’s gun to his head and tells him to introduce a little anarchy.
The Joker calls himself an agent of chaos. He wants to show people how pathetic their attempts to control things are. Bruce talks to Alfred to find some insight, and Alfred tells him a story about a bandit in Burma. He uses it as a parallel to show that the Joker is the kind of person that just wants to watch the world burn. Later, when Bruce asks how they finally caught the guy, Alfred tells him that they burned down the forrest.
Oppositely, Harvey Dent represents the order of the law and justice. His focus is putting away the crime bosses. He is repetitively referred to as the White Knight. White is pure, heavenly. He represents the good of the world. Bruce Wayne tells him that he is the face that Gotham needs. He throws him a fundraiser to show his support.
Dent’s strength is shown during a scene in which there are gunshots and people running all around after Joker takes a shot at the Mayor that appears to kill Gordon. He is focused on the guy in the ambulance and doesn’t seem to care about anything else.
When the Commissioner,and Judge are killed, someone asks where Dent is. Another guy responds by saying, “if he’s smart, he’s halfway to Mexico.” Just then, Dent walks in.
The major change in the movie comes when he is burned, changing him to Two-Face. At this point he seems to become a completely different character. He isn’t the pure savior of Gotham, but another psycho that the Joker has created. The change is shown in a few ways, the most obvious of which is his physical appearance. Another is the coin that he carries with him throughout the movie.
He uses the coin several times to make decisions. It decides whether he or Rachel work the court case in the beginning, and a few others early on. He gives the coin to Rachel when he turns himself in as Batman, and it is revealed that it is a double headed coin. This seems to be a metaphor for him creating his own luck. The next time he sees the coin, it is burnt on one side. I think this is another way to show how he is changed. From that point on he uses the coin to decide whether other characters live or die.
Batman is a very complex character. He is the protector of Gotham, a billionaire playboy, and a symbol of strength and sacrifice. Bruce Wayne is a man whose money allows him to become his vigilante alter-ego, Batman. Batman gives people the strength to not be afraid of criminals, which is shown through the fake Batman’s early in the morning. Those misguided copies show how he has inspired the people of Gotham, but not in the way he intended. In the beginning, Bruce comes back after a night of being Batman and Alfred tells him to “know his limits”, but Bruce says “Batman has no limits”. Alfred responds by making sure Bruce knows that he does.
After Rachel is killed and Dent is burnt, Bruce sits in a chair in the Batman suit without his mask on. This shows how the line between Batman and Bruce Wayne is becoming blurred. He blames himself for her death, and sees Dent’s injury as losing to the Joker. He thinks that Rachel was going to wait for him, but she wasn’t.
Bruce Wayne sees Dent as the man that Gotham needs. He is the face of justice that he cannot be. Batman can only do so much, and Bruce Wayne is trying to find the man that can allow him to stop being Batman. He spends the entire movie making Dent that man. When Dent takes the man from the ambulance to the alley to get information out of him, he tries to scare him by flipping the coin. Batman asks if he would leave a persons life to chance. Dent responds by saying “Not exactly.” This is another way that Dent’s character is shown as good.
Throughout the movie, the Joker is trying to get Batman to break is one rule: Batman cannot kill anyone. When Batman is interrogating Maroni, Maroni tells him that the Joker has no rules like he does. This is one of the things that every superhero has to deal with; they have to follow certain rules. In the jail cell, Joker tells him that the only way to win is to break that one rule.
In the end, when Dent falls from the building, Batman takes responsibility for all of the people that Dent killed. He does this because he knows that Dent’s reputation is the most important thing to Gotham. Everything that he had down to get the criminals off the streets would be lost. The tells Gordon to call it in. He wants them to chase him so that no one can learn what happened to Dent. The Joker had won by turning him, but Batman gets the ultimate victory by protecting Gotham from knowing about it.
Two-Face The Joker
I think that Batman and the Joker are oppositions based on what they represent. The Joker represents chaos, while Batman represents order and protection. They are representative of good-vs-evil also. They are battling for Gotham’s soul. The implicit relationship between Batman and Two-Face is that Batman is almost two-faced himself. On one hand he wants to get away form being Batman, wanting to be with Rachel. On the other he knows that that day will never come. He is a billionaire-vigilante.
Batman wants Dent to replace him as the face of protection for Gotham. The Joker sees Dent as a way of showing Gotham that even the best man can be brought down. When Rachel is killed he accomplishes that and creates Two-Face. Two-Face is the result of a transformation in Dent from lawful and good to vengeful and evil.
The way that the movie is produced creates an image by itself. There is a dark and almost doom covered feel throughout. There are a lot of Dark color, even in the Joker’s purple suit and white makeup. This creates an ominous feel that made me feel like nothing good was ever going to happen. No matter what, the ending would have a negative feel, which I think it did. Even though the police had a ‘policy’ to bring him in, no one ever did. In the ending, it felt like they really wanted to catch him, but we know they can’t catch him. He’s Batman.
The way the story plays out is a huge indicator as to the theme of the story. As it starts, Harvey Dent is the man that will save Gotham. He is going to bring back law and order. Batman is doing the same things we know him to do. As we are introduced to the Joker, we learn that he is absolutely insane. There is an instant conflict created between the Joker and Batman, but Dent quickly becomes the object of Joker’s attention.
Joker sees Dent as a way of showing Gotham that chaos and anarchy are the only way to live. Once Dent becomes Two-Face, the story becomes two parted. Not only does Batman have stop the Joker, but he must also find Dent and protect everything that he stands for. The Joker tries to change how Batman thinks about himself, calling him a freak just like him. He wants him to think that he will be outcast as soon as he isn’t needed.
After the Joker is caught, Batman turns his attention to the situation with Two-Face and Gordon’s family. Dent shoots Batman, which appears to be the climax of his turn toward evil. When Dent flips the coin to decide the boys fate, Batman stops him and Dent falls of the building to his death. In the end, Batman goes on the run, taking blame for Dent’s sins to protect the idea behind the White Knight. This shows me that the moral of the story can be see as the protector who is willing to sacrifice everything to do what he thinks the people need. Even if that means they have to hate him.
I think that the coin that Harvey/Two-Face carries is representative of him and the hope that he represents for Gotham. It is a two headed coin that Harvey uses to show that you make your own luck. After he is injured, the coin becomes charred on one side, symbolizing the evil side of him. The coin is used to show the change in Harvey and he uses it to decide peoples fate, which shows that there is a bit of conflict within Harvey/Two-Face. He can’t just kill someone; he leaves it up to faith.
I think this movie is about the sacrifice of a protector, giving us hope and faith that someone is looking out for us. The Joker, Harvey Dent/ Two-Face and Batman show us this theme through their psychology and involvement with each other. Batman makes the sacrifice of taking the burden of hate. He knows that Dent’s reputation is the most important thing. He says he’s not a hero; not like Dent. I think that the last sequence of the movie sums up what everything was about.
As Batman is running, there is a cut to the memorial for Harvey Dent. Commissioner Gordon says about Dent, “A hero. Not the hero we deserved, but the hero we needed. Nothing less than a Knight. Shining.” He is the pure White Knight and Batman is unpure. They smash the Bat-signal, breaking their bond with him. Batman says he is whatever Gotham needs him to be. So that’s what he is. The man that bears the burden. The one that watches over. The Dark Knight.