FINALLY finished watching The Dark Knight. It's just as good as I remember it, from Heath Ledger's performance to the intelligence of the action (e.g. Batman fighting the SWAT team with their rappel lines).
I wanted to talk about a couple of things I noticed that stayed with me ever since my first, aborted, attempt to watch the movie in the theatre. First off, right from the beginning you notice there's a kind of a buzzing background noise--a tone might be the best way to describe it--whenever the anticipation builds up for action that's about to take place. I especially associated this noise with the Joker for some reason. It reminded me of a maddening, insane buzz that's also frightening, hellish.
Coming thus to the Joker--easily the most interesting character in the movie, and rightfully so. The Batman may be a complex creation--and some of that was delved into this time around as well--but in any story with the Joker, he deserves to steal the show. What interested me was--what's the driving force for him? He tells us he just wants to show us that underneath the thin veneer of morality and civilisation, everyone is just as savage as we accuse him of being. He sees civilisation as something that can be pushed over the edge and broken down, leaving the world in ruins.
And of course, the movie shows us the breakdown of civilised life in plenty of ways. The burning fire truck placed by the Joker in the middle of a road at night, the takedown of the helicopter, the hospital and the ferries carrying people across Gotham Harbour, these are all things that are unthinkable in modern cities, in the thick of law and order, and plenty of witnesses. But we see how easy it is to break it all down--how much we trust in each other to do the right thing in everyday life, and thus keep the system functioning. If people started abusing that on a massive scale, it would all crash rather quickly. Is the current financial crisis a good example of that? Probably, but even so, in a more subtle way.
And that's just looking at the movie from the Joker's point of view. What is the Batman thinking all the while he's tracking down fingerprints in shattered shards of bullets, keeping Harvey Dent on the straight and narrow, and scrambling to take out the mob and the Joker on two fronts? He says that he wanted to inspire people; we know he wanted to frighten criminals as well; but Alfred rightly points out that when he started waging war on the mob, he should have expected escalation and casualties.
But if the Batman does one thing and one thing only, he endures. I'm reminded of a scene from the classic Superman: The Animated Series episode where the Joker, come to visit Metropolis, finds Bruce Wayne and Lois Lane on a dinner date in a really high-rise restaurant, and in the course of a scuffle, throws Bruce over the edge of a balcony. He goes to check if Bruce has fallen to his death, and finds him clinging by one hand to the edge of another balcony, some eight or ten floors down. The Joker chuckles, saying, `My, my, aren't we tenacious?' and starts raining machine-gun fire down on Bruce--who quickly scrambles up the balcony ledge and into the offices/apartments below.