Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Dark Knight: "It's All Part of the Plan"

At the risk of sounding like a moony geek I'm going to subject all of you to a post about my current obsession, the movie The Dark Knight. ***spoilers ahead***

For those of you that don't know I'm a woman in my early forties and I have almost no acquaintance with comic books and graphic novels. I know nothing about the DC Universe and even less about Batman except what I've gleaned from random watchings of the 60s TV show and Tim Burton's movie Batman.

At the center of my moony feelings is the late Heath Ledger's Joker. Far beyond just a flamboyant killer clown, the Joker as he was written and performed has mysteries and layers much of which are only hinted at in this movie. I couldn't figure out why I was so fascinated by this character. True, Ledger's performance is amazing, but there's something else going on here and for the life of me I couldn't figure out what it was.

My favorite Joker quote sums up my interest very well:

Gambol (one of the mob gangsters): "You're crazy."
Joker: "I'm not. No...I'm Not."

I love that line. Sure, the other lines are great but this line, the expression on his face and how he enunciates it gives me chills. I know the Joker's not crazy, but what exactly is he? He says he's an agent of chaos, but is that true?

I was surfing around on the web and stumbled across this post which shed some light on my curiosity. This post explains what I knew instinctively, but couldn't articulate and that is the Joker is a meticulous planner and criminal mastermind, but everything he says and does, even how he looks, points to someone who is insane, "without rules." All the characters buy into this deception (as do people like me who know almost nothing about the comics) and go through the movie without figuring it out. The Joker passes himself off as a "dog chasing cars" and someone who has no plan, but specializes in turning other people's plans on their heads. The truth is the Joker is the biggest planner and organizer in the movie. It takes an enormous amount of work and brains to pull off the things he does even if you are talking about a comic book universe.

Figuring all this out has been a lot of fun. There are other things about this character that are fun such as his happiness at having found an adversary such as Batman and the implication that these two characters could battle each other forever.

Batman: "Why do you want to kill me?"
Joker:[laughs] "Kill you? I don't want to kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no complete me."

This implies a very interesting relationship where one needs the other even if they are in constant opposition to each other. Conventional ideas state that if you have an opposition, particularly one on the "bad" side, all you have to do is defeat that opposition and it's over. A situation like this makes me wonder about the relationship between the two and how it evolves over time. I suppose this is the beauty of comic book superheroes and their villains as opposed to characters in a novel, for example.

These ideas get my mind whirling and thoughts going, particularly in the context of writing my stories. All books on crafting fiction talk about having conflict and how the story's purpose is to resolve that conflict for the reader, but if the opposition between two forces goes on forever what happens then, what does the story evolve into? I think of comic book superheroes and their villains, the Roadrunner and Coyote, the Lazarus and Anti-Lazarus from the original Star Trek episode "The Alternative Factor." While "Alternative Factor" is considered one of the weaker Star Trek episodes, I recall the ideas of matter, anti-matter, parallel universes and battling your enemy for all eternity being particularly fascinating when I was a kid.

I've gone on enough about the Joker. The rest of the movie performances were very well done, including Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Two-Face, but none were as well done as Gary Oldman's Commissioner Gordon. Talk about disappearing into the role. Oldman's Gordon is a complete full-bodied character and so well done that he doesn't stand out because he completely belongs in that movie universe.

There's a lot more going on in this movie, but I'll stop now. I'm really looking forward to Dark Knight 3.


Marcus said...

I know I need to see TDK again because I was in the second row at the Imax (too close to take it all in, really), but to me it was crammed with too many setpiece fights and a lot of senseless fighting in the dark. However, any time Heath Ledger was onscreen, I was riveted. And did you notice that slow buildup with the music during a couple intense Joker scenes -- the shrieking crescendo? That was intense. I wonder if there will be a director's cut because to me it looked like a lot was cut out. It was two movies crammed into two and half hours. Who do you think the villain will be in the third movie? Was there a clue I missed? The Riddler? The Penguin? (I think you'd like to see the Penguin! But would anyone be able to take that seriously?) Will there be a Robin? I'm interested in checking out the animated Batman programs and the graphic novels for clues.

Mock Turtle said...

So good to hear from you.

The first time I saw TDK I was completely overwhelmed and found it difficult to focus on what was going on. It must have been even more so for you if you were in the 2d row of the IMAX!

I did notice the Joker music and thought they did very well with that shrieking crescendo. It really adds to the "insanity" aspect of the character.

According to what I've read TDK 3 might feature Johnny Depp as Riddler and Philip Seymour Hoffman as the Penguin. Supposedly there will be no Robin. Those are just rumors though so we'll have to see how it turns out. For myself, I'd revel in seeing what Seymour Hoffman does if he plays the Penguin, and I would also wonder if we could take that character seriously.

I believe the original intent was to have Heath return as Joker for the TDK 3.

Nolen says he took the "sense" of story of TDK from two graphic novels: "Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth" and "The Killing Joke." Arkham Asylum is literally crazy dark and although short for a graphic novel has magnificent, twisted art work. I have not yet read "Killing Joke" but its reputation proceeds it.

Apparently Nolan gave both graphic novels to Heath so he could read them while he was spending his month alone in a hotel room getting into character. Heath said he never read either graphic novel.

Hit me up if you want to see it again in the theater and you need a companion. I'd love to go.