cinema review: Batman - The Dark Knight

It's never good to be the last person to see a movie adored by millions of fans. The expectations are too high. Hence, The latest Batman installment, The Dark Knight, disappointed me. But I'm suffering from more than disappointment. I feel like I've been slimed, and I'm not sure why.

Perhaps, it is because I find the solution the movie offers to the problem of evil so superficial. Perhaps, it is because the movie attempts to present evil without turning away yet falls so short. My readings on atrocities, genocides, and human rights confirm my theology, that we all are evil and are capable of all evil. The movie shows people who are forced into moral dilemmas of killing others in order to save others or themselves. Perhaps this movie would be a great example of "morality porn." Pornography slimes its watchers. An uncomfortable residue remains on the watcher that clouds one's perceptions.

It's rated PG-13 for its violence and menace. It's not a child's movie, but it's too foolish for an adolescent and adult presentation of evil. Several opinions I've read or heard, including Christian ones, find the presentation of such intense evil, chilling. But I disagree. Solzhenitsyn talks about the pleasant home life of sadistic jailers, interrogators, and judges in the Soviet Gulag. So what if Mr. So-and-so keeps a little garden and gives his children horsey rides on his knee, none of that diminishes the violations against humanity, those bearing the image of God, committed by the offender. Depravity is not personified by the Joker, who at least is consistent, sort of, but by the judge who denies justice, the priest who rapes children, the gym teacher who swaps child pornography online, or the father who marries off his pre-pubescent daughter to a 50 year old polygamous pedophile. It's the inconsistency, the public manners that do not indicate the private depravity, that demonstrate the true horrors of our depravity. The Joker is presented as someone who has thrown off any tether to humankind and finds enjoyment in causing them to turn on each other and cast off their restraints.

The good news, the gospel if you will, of the movie, is that some people, will not respond in kind, but will choose self-sacrifice, at least before their peers. I think this is where I get depressed. If that's all the hope there is, if this is all the good news, then we are sunk. First of all the hope is in something unreliable. Second, the sacrifice is to what end? Third, it's a premise of diminishing returns. However, I know that God intervened in humanity to save us from destroying ourselves and to enable us to redeem us from our wickedness and give us a hope for an eternity in righteousness.

Why does Batman let the Joker live? To what end? Christians hope for repentance and redemption for our enemies as we were once enemies of God but by his kindness and patience we were brought to repentance. Christians can sacrifice themselves because they are certain of their heavenly homecoming. Batman has no answers to the problem of evil, because he can't redeem those who practice it. The Joker and Two-face only killed a few people anyway. Batman stopped them but they are small fish. Stalin killed over 20 million of his own people. Mao killed over 30 million, perhaps up to 70 million. They both died in old age, never facing justice in this life. As a Christian though, I know they have met their judge and they have received their consequences. Who else has this peace?

Onto disappointments other than philosophy and theology.
Heath Ledger's acting was no different than any other bad guy, and he licked his lips like Wormtail in the recent Harry Potter movie. He was adequate for the job but I don't think he deserves an award. I mourn for his family who lost him to an overdose of drugs after the filming. All the Batman actors only have to walk around looking pensive and carrying around the world on their shoulders. There is a reason Robin the clueless sidekick was introduced, to distract the children from the nihilism. So Christian Bale did an adequate job looking pensive. The hand to hand fight scenes were lame. The jeopardizing of children to effect was the slimiest part of the movie. I think I have a problem putting children actors in scenes with guns pointed at their heads. Hitchcock would never stoop so low. Isn't this how the Joker would film it?

O Batman, you Dark Knight, in a sea of happy movie goers, I give your movie a thumbs down.


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