27 August 2012

on the dark knight

In what is one of the best movies (of any genre) that I have seen, The Dark Knight left many viewers stunned by the epic battle between good and evil, and chaos and order, all bound up in the conflict between the superhero Batman and his archenemy The Joker.  Even before the movie was released to the theaters, there was a big buzz about the onscreen portrayal of The Joker, acted superbly by the late Heath Ledger.  (Yes, he gained an Academy Award for portraying a villain in a superhero movie.)  At the time, I considered it one of the most spiritually-powerful movies one could watch and I have yet to change my opinion.

The Dark Knight (2008)

It will be too difficult to unpack all of the themes and give any of them justice in this particular setting.  Please understand that my intent is to give the broader strokes of what I see emerging from the film.

In this film there is a portrayal of evil that is menacing and gratuitous.  Not only is Ledger's Joker a masterful piece of acting, but it develops the insanity which underlies the character.  As Alfred points out, "Some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money.  They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with.  Some men just want to watch the world burn."  This is the face of pure evil - the disruption of the goodness of creation and the will of the creator for the sake of destruction.  What one sees in Joker here is one who gleefully delights in the anarchy he perpetuates, leaving the world to wonder if it can actually be overcome.

The night does indeed become darker in this movie, as escalation becomes one of the primary issues - Batman has upped the game for the good guys, thus causing the bad guys to up their own game.  Bruce Wayne wrestles with the amount of loss that he endures as the chaos grows greater.  He has a choice: either back down from that work to which he believes he has been summoned, or go even further into the battle.  "I've seen now what I must become to stop men like him."  Knowing that he must enter deeper into the darkness in order to bring salvation to the people for which he fights, this line sounds much like 2 Corinthians 5:21, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

The final scene is one that can be a bit odd for some, and there are probably various ways of interpreting it in a theological manner.  (I have not researched what anyone else has written on this.)  Batman takes the fall for Harvey Dent, so that the "White Knight" of Gotham will stand as an example of goodness, that people would not lose hope in the leaders of the city (though he had become twisted himself).  Batman runs away and the shaken Commissioner Gordon tries to explain what is happening to himself and his son, ". . . Because we have to chase him . . . 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."

So also we must follow hard after God, who so many times requires us to look for him in ways that are different from what we initially expect.  For he becomes not what we want, but what we need.  And he is beyond that of a hero - frankly, I believe that God is tired of heroism - he is protection, he is healing, he is salvation . . . he is life.  As Tozer once wrote, "To have found God and still pursue him is the soul's paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily-satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart."

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