The Dark Knight or American Psychos

the dark knight

The Dark Knight is an intriguing docudrama about two paranoid schizophrenics, one dressed as a giant bat and the other dressed as a reject from an Ivy League clown school. Encompassing such grand themes as the nature of good and evil, mental illness and deontological ethics, it leaves no metaphorical or metaphysical stone unturned in its quest to delve into the darkest recesses of the human psyche.

The basic premise is straightforward enough. Two guys in an asylum for the mentally divergent are both shown a Rorschach card by a psychiatrist and invited to give their own opinion on what they see. The first, Bruce Wayne, is inspired to dress in black, talk in a ridiculous accent and strive to do good. The other (known only as the Joker) is inspired to dress in purple, talk in a ridiculous accent and strive to commit evil. Thus begins the eternal struggle between Ying and Yang as the two protagonists use the sprawling city of Gotham as the platform to act out their grandiose delusions.

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Bruce Wayne. Playboy. Billionaire. Local oligarch to aforementioned Gotham city. Wayne is haunted by the traumatic experience of losing both his parents to the scourge of gun crime. Rather than spending his vast fortune on ostentatious yachts, private planes and vacuous supermodels he decides what he really wants to do is become a vigilante and dispense some much needed justice to the mean streets of Gotham. And if he can do it under the nom de guerre ‘Batman’ whilst wearing a costume that makes him resemble a blind nocturnal rodent then so much the better.

Wayne cynically exploits his family company and employees to aid him in his obsessive quest. He makes a vow to never maim or murder the criminal quarry he so relentlessly pursues before assembling a terrifying arsenal of military grade weapons and tools which could easily be used to maim or murder. Batman launches his crusade against crime, laughing in the face of gangsters, rogues and villains. In one shocking incident that demonstrates his total disregard for his own safety as well as domestic and international law, he kidnaps a wanted fugitive from the sovereign territory of Hong Kong.

Meanwhile the Joker has also been busy. Without the advantage of a trust fund to fall back onto he displays his entrepreneurial instincts by brutally seizing control of the major organized crime syndicates in Gotham. Simultaneously he is able to prove the old adage of being able to go much further with a gun and a smile than you can with just a smile… even if the smile has been carved onto your face.

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Thus they are set on an inevitable collision course with anyone in the vicinity of these two forces of nature faring pretty badly by either dying or suffering deep emotional and physical scarring. Gotham is turned into a war zone with the local judiciary and police about as much use as a chocolate utility belt. The Joker indulges in a sophomore ethical experiment by placing bombs on two boats, one carrying convicted felons and the other full of nuns and puppies. Each boat contains the detonator for the other vessel with the proviso that if one of them doesn’t detonate by an allotted time then they will both be blown to smithereens. Thrillingly, neither boat decides to condemn the other to death. Hurrah for basic human decency as well as schmaltzy Hollywood sentimentality.

In the film’s denouement Batman faces his nemesis head to head and is offered the opportunity to permanently end the menace of the Joker by letting him fall to his death. Once again, morality triumphs and he spares his old cellmate from a squishy end. It’s clear that both Batman and the Joker are deeply troubled individuals with a history of passive aggressive behavior that has finally manifested itself with both of them transferring their rage and desire onto the fictitious alter egos they have created. At the end of the film, as both Batman and the Joker were arrested and led away to their padded cells, I couldn’t help but think that all of the mayhem, carnage and terror they had caused could have been avoided had they just had access to the appropriate level of care and treatment. And therein lies the real tragedy.

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