Here are a few impressions after seeing The Dark Knight yesterday:
- The Joker, as inhabited by Heath Ledger, is perhaps one of the most compelling villains of comic book history, a veritable ha-satan from the book of Job (for more about the satanic vision of the human person, see my review of War of the Worlds)
- Harvey Dent’s character provided some interesting commentary on the current political climate, in which some people seem to be looking not for a president, but a messiah. I think of paragraph 676 of the Catechism:
The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgement. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the “intrinsically perverse” political form of a secular messianism.
- The title of this post suggests that I would draw some parallel to the treatise on the spiritual life by St. John of the Cross. It would be a bit of a stretch to do so, especially in a movie as agnostic as this. Evil appears in stunning technicolor, while goodness is far more obscure and muted. If any references to the Dark Night could be sustained, it might be the way the story strips away illusions from characters who imagine themselves to be self-made solutions to the problem of evil. (See Fr. Robert Barron’s YouTube video for the best treatment of this concept that I’ve seen). I’m also reminded of one of John’s Sayings of Light and Love:
Never take others for your example in the tasks you have to perform, however holy they may be, for the devil will set their imperfections before you. But imitate Christ, who is supremely perfect and supremely holy, and you will never err.
- The motivations and demeanor of the Joker are truly diabolical. Loyal only to disloyalty, gathering men only to divide them, baiting men with ideals only to break them, and purposeful in spreading purposelessness. He’s a character with no illusions of grandiosity and no false hopes of victory. His only desire is to pervert the noble and to drag as many as possible into the abyss of his chaotic hate and self-loathing misery. The absence of love drains him of any creative potential, and the only way he can assert himself is to seduce others into a life of destruction.
- The last half hour dragged a bit, I thought… but the very end was quite satisfying, and had some interesting religious resonance… disabusing the hopes of a false messiah, yet hinting at the need for — and the possibility of — atonement.
- ADDED 7/27/08: After viewing the film a second time, I have to take back the part about the satisfying ending. There is a line given to Batman near the very end about people needing something better than the truth. Either this attractive lie was a very sloppy piece of writing, or the whole movie collapses into nihlism and becomes a pointless charade of over-earnest silliness.