The lights are on
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I recently bought The Dark Knight for Blu-ray, just in perfect time for my newly purchased PS3. I instantly played The Dark Knight from Christopher Nolan, and I have to say is one of my favorite movies of all-time, and since it had been a lot of time since I had watched the movie in theaters, I never realized the stadium-sized field of ethics in the movie. I started analyzing the whole movie and wrote down a whole essay of the ethics found within the film.
The Blockbuster of 2008 touched upon things few people would have noticed, Nolan went beyond the principles of morality, ethics and Bentham's utilitarianism. I was shocked and happy, happy to knew another round of ethics examining was about to begin for me.
Let's start right, The Dark Knight will go down as one of the most succesful and disturbing movies of all-time.
Heath Ledger delivered one of the most nihilistic characters I've ever seen on a film, the movie tests your ethics like no other has done before, the question here is: who's the good guy in the whole movie?Who holds the spot of pure good in the movie? We know who holds the one for pure evil. But is Comissioner Gordon the purest form of good in the film, or is it Batman?
Gordon stays dispassionate in the face of injustice, he maintains control while the Batman does not, he loses it. Batman sacrifices his reputation at the end of the film for something he didn't do. The most astute film watchers with some theological bakground knowledge should have seen the action of the Batman as the atonement of Christ. The act of self-sacrifice for good. This makes the Batman take redemption of himself to a whole new level.
On the other side, The Joker is so nihilistic that he values money like absolutely nothing, he never in any moment of the film get tempted for the desire of having gigantic value of money, he evens burns his promised "half", that "half" being the "half" of an everest-like mountain of money.
The film succesfully balances good and evil, and chaos and order (Batman vs Joker)
But yet Batman is an idealist, he believes people need to have a hero with a face is more important than having the final truth. That being Harvey Dent. Harvey is a good guy, a fearless district attorney at the beginning, and yet it only took the death of his girlfriend Rachel and being constantly pushed by the Joker to finally flip to the dark side, becoming the infamous Two-Face. Batman COMPLETELY hides the truth no matter the cost, in order to protect people's faith, order and hope into Harvey. Yet Harvey becomes a cruel monster.
What the film's trying to say is that Truth's not good enough sometimes.
"Sometimes, truth isn't good enough. Sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded." -Batman
Batman constantly throughout the movie faces ethical dilemmas, the one most obvious to say is when the Joker makes him choose between saving an imprisonated Harvey or an imprisonated Rachel. It's either love or "faith" for the people. Most of us would probably let our personal feelings get over us and try to save the person we love. However, Batman chooses Rachel without rationally believing that saving the District Attorney would be the more honorable action because a larger amount of people now and in the future would benefit from it, but in a dirty move by the Joker he swaps the adresses and Batman ends up saving Harvey, If Batman originally had saved Rachel then it would be less directed towards the common good, but more in the satisfaction of the Batman, and where few people would only benefit.
In the end was it the right "accidental" choice? According to the movie, NO.
Harvey stays traumatized by the death of his girlfriend and in the process losing half of his face, the rest of the movie he keeps wondering why is he the one that lost everything, and so starts a quest looking for those responsible behind the death of Rachel, him believing everyone betrayed him.
And so comes another depiction of morality in the film:
"The only morality in an amoral world is chance."
"Two-Face" keeps deciding people's lives and fate just by chance, Head, you live, Tails, you die. "Fair's Fair".
Harvey has completely lost it. And since the beginning that was the primary objective of the Joker.
"You didn't think I'd risk losing the battle for Gotham's soul in a fistfight with you? No. You need an Ace in the hole. Mine's Harvey. I took Gotham's White Knight and brought him down to our level. It wasn't hard. You see Madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little...push."
The Joker had succesfully completed his mission, one that perhaps didn't quite show itself to the people or leaved an entire city in it's destruction, no, he went towards something more important, towards something no one ever predicts, one's Soul.
And another moral dilemma comes, but this one is towards the own citizens of Gotham. One boat transports federal criminals and another one the ordinary and innocent citizens. The question involved here is which ferry should be saved, Joker morally tests the people to see if anyone could ever make a moral transgression happen. After time passes, the boat with the criminals ultimately make a decision, thanks to a moral criminal, no matter how redundant that sounds, who tells the guard holding the detonator: "I'll do what you should have done 15 minutes ago." In an unexpected event, he throws the detonator to the sea. Abandoning all chances that they would ensure survival.
The utilitarianism would claim that the maximum benefits that the innocent citizens would bring clearly outweigh the overall benefits of the group of criminals who are usually regarded as a menace to society and would be considered as something counterproductive.
Batman makes two questionable choices. The first one involves wire-tapping cell phones, invading people’s civil and privacy rights to gain information about the location of the Joker. In this case, the action of breaking privacy laws is morally incorrect, but it leads to the greater benefit and the desirable outcome of stopping the Joker and saving people’s lives.
The second and most important one being to preserve Harvey's identity, saving his image as a hero and preserving people's faith.
To manipulate people’s beliefs in a hero. By covering up Harvey’s failings he is turned into a public deception, Batman creates the lie that he is the one responsible behind all these deaths and ultimately ruining his reputation.
In the end what the whole movie was trying to represent is that the ENDS JUSTIFY THE MEANS.
The means, meaning the methods, are justified by the end, that is, the outcome. If you kill one person, a dangerous and evil psychopath, to save a group of people, the result makes your immoral action the correct choice.
And thus comes one of my favorite speeches and scenes as Batman tries to escape, now as a public menace,Gordon and his kid reflects on the whole movie's struggling moral decisions made by Bruce.And in the process creates one of my favorite quotes regarding the Universe of the Batman:
"It's not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me"
Really nice analysis, except for the slight error Apozem mentioned. You obviously put a lot of thought into it. Of course, that movie deserves to be analyzed.
Sorry about the problem with the video, I can't figure out why it won't play. Nevertheless I invite you to see it on Youtube. Great Ending.
Nice post. Very intelligent. That's nice once in a while.
I love this movie, so I could read analyses of it all night. :)
This was definitely a good one, too.
Keep it up!
Great blog Anti, glad I could read it now that I watched the movie!