Saturday, August 2, 2008

Beyond The Dark Knight: Why is it not “just another superhero movie”

Sinking into the seats of cinema watching the dark knight, for the second time and this time in IMAX, brought a kind of revelation I was not expecting. I was among the few fortunate of having watched The Dark Knight for the first time on the preview show of Thursday at 8.15 pm(yes,before the 12.01 am premiere show) , a day before the film was released (and for free).

I loved every bit of it. It is a great summer blockbuster, a bit longer, but it still had enough content to keep the audience interested. I found it more of a Joker film than Batman movie, in the first viewing. Joker commits the biggest robbery in the movie, he steals the show!Little did I know that everything would change when I would dig deeper.

The second viewing made me realize that vision of director is not merely make a superhero summer blockbuster, his vision of Batman is much more realistic and much in line with current times , It’s more like a political drama packaged in superhero format that would make it reach to more audiences. Much like Matrix was a take on Philosophy.

Every pivotal character is a reflection of something more real. Take Joker. Joker is mystical, crazy, his motives has no real justifications and is insanely terrifying, his only known motive is to deface batman, he does not work for money, he keeps appearing on TV from nowhere, giving out his messages and no one knows about his whereabouts. He does not carry any gizmos or gadgets except knives, (this is shown when he is caught). Now tell me what real life character he sounds like. No surprises here, He is obviously a movie avatar of Mr. Bin Laden, an agent of chaos epitomized. Like him, he does not work for money, his only motive is destruction of America and has no solid justifications for it, and he keeps appearing on Al-Jazera TV channel and no one knows where he is? One has to give full marks to Christopher Nolan and Heath Ledger for developing a character of Joker so very well and so much real. It is unlike other joker, which were more funny and dramatic, this Joker is scary and crazy and yet much more real.

Harvey Dent is a symbol of What America has been so far. Pre 9/11 it was a righteous country the world looked up to, it was one of the most successful democracy, the country that was built by people and for the people. It had fought World War 2 for the right reasons and changed the course of history. It stood up against Iraq in the Gulf war. There was little to blemish on American character before 9/11 happened (exclude Vietnam war). Same goes true with Harvey Dent; he was the “White Knight of Gotham” as put by Gordon, who fought against the mob. He was righteous, young, bright, white and successful; he was the symbol of America, as perceived by outsiders. However things have changed post 9/11 , first time ever America has been attacked on its own territory, excluding the Pearl Harbor. It has been distraught and fearful since then and has wiped out two countries since then, in its mere frustration to find out one person, Bin Laden, who might be already dead. In short America does not know whom it is hunting for? America is now viewed by some countries as their "Foe"(which is evident why the Arabs have bloated the fuel prices, when perhaps it was not required). Still for Europeans, America is still is the symbol of “The Friend”. America, today has “two faces”

Harvey Dent follows the same path, he is hopelessly distraught after loss of his girlfriend Rachel Dawes and is hunting for the responsible person. Even his election line is “I believe in Harvey Dent”, this sounds similar to the very popular opening line of the movie The Godfather-“I believe in America”. His emergence to two face, from a mob fighting District Attorney is similar to emergence of America from a progressive, capitalist, democracy (democracy is debatable) to a tyrant and anti-Muslim nation.

Lau, the business man, who takes care of the mob money, is not a Chinese by mere coincidence. He is positioned as successful businessman who has business ties with America and is trying to set up a business with Wayne Enterprise. His actual role is to manage finances for the mob. This is the reflection of what Americans see China as, although they use China made cars to ipods, they have reservation about China and the way they operate.

The last climax scene, where the Joker gives detonator in the hands of the people in two boats asking them to blow the other boat by midnight, has a more religious take, the people in two boats may be perceived as Christians and Muslims, they both have power to blow each other or to make a choice to survive together. Whether this gets on their nerves and they kill each other is for them to decide. In the movie though, they both survive.

Now who is Batman? This is hinted when Gordon says to his son-“he's not a hero. He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector...a dark knight.” Batman according to me is what America has to be…”Because he's the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now”...America is richest country, it is powerful, strong and influential just like Bruce Wayne is. It has all the resources to be a watchful protector and guardian to the world which is in midst of anarchy and brisk with problems like global warming and terrorism to name few. It has to make a right choice here a choice only America can make, the choice to be “Two-face” or a choice to be “The Batman”. As said by Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred-“Endure, Master Wayne. Take it. They'll hate you for it. But that's the point of Batman, he can be the outcast. He can make the choice that no one else can make, the right choice.”