Higher Movies: The Dark Knight

by Stan Lemon

“You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain,” says Harvey Dent to Bruce Wayne at a party thrown for Gotham’s White Knight.

The Dark Knight is perhaps the best movie yet to grace the big screen this summer. Following in the Batman franchise and the excellent work done in Batman Begins we find our everyday superhero once again struggling with purpose. Batman is still portrayed as a vigilante to much of Gotham, but there is hope in the eyes of Harvey Dent, a recently elected District Attorney for the City of Gotham.

SPOILERS FOLLOW: Today’s bad guy is the Joker, and if you know anything about the comic then you know that Batman is always struggling with “the rule” when it comes to our smiling friend. The rule is simple: don’t take a life. At every turn Batman finds himself faced with more than one life hanging in jeopardy; whom will he choose to save? The Joker seems to thrive on watching Batman struggle with this question.

This question will eventually kill his childhood friend and secret love Rachel Dawes. Rachel’s death is yet again another trick by the big bad Joker. If only Batman would break his rule just once…how many lives could be saved by killing the Joker? Of course, there’s always the possibility that the Joker would repent and live a normal life. Does that ever happen though?

In the end Gotham’s White Knight, Harvey Dent, is ruined by sin and he finds that the good he wants to do he does not do, and the evil he does not want to do he finds himself doing. So driven by sin, Harvey “Two-Face” Dent goes after the one man who could have saved his future bride—Commissioner Gordon. All the while he’s convinced that he is choosing his own fate, throwing a little chaos into the picture.

Batman saves the day and Harvey meets his demise, but then Batman swears Gordon to secrecy. The city must not know what Harvey had done. Batman tells Gordon to tell all of Gotham that it was he who committed the five murders, not Harvey. Harvey must appear blameless and right before the eyes of the men and women of Gotham city. That burden and sin will become Batman’s, though he was blameless. He became sin so that Harvey would not be sin!

Our Old Adam (the Joker) will drive us to do many things that we do not want to do. We find ourselves in a heap of sin, doing the very thing we know to be wrong. Like Harvey Dent (you and I) we throw a little chaos into the picture and kill the God-Man Jesus Christ. Death by our hands has no sting, Jesus (Batman) prevails and in His victory He takes on our sin (five murdered, two officers) and claims it to be His own. Then when God the Father (Gotham) looks to us they do not see a sinner, but a saint. Jesus redeems us from ourselves and by His stead our sins are washed away.

Jesus could be done with us. He could just simply end all of sin and destroy humanity in one foul swoop. Likewise, Batman could save all of citizens of Gotham by killing the Joker. Break his one rule and sin is solved! But that’s not how the Lord works, is it? The Lord would rather work bear the burden himself, and rather than wipe out the people of Gotham, save them from the sin that has infested them.

Some have talked about Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker character and whether or not the portrayal itself contributed to his death. Much of this has come out since the release of The Dark Knight and the realization of how twisted the character of the Joker is in this film. Bottom line is that Heath Ledger did an amazing job as the Joker, his role as that character will go down in infamy as perhaps one of the best portrayals of a villain ever. Whether or not the specific character of the Joker drove him to take a fatal cocktail of prescription medications no one will ever know.

The Joker, as I have pointed out, is the epitome of sin. His character is really our Old Adam struggling to survive the waters of Holy Baptism. There’s no rhyme or reason to Old Adam’s sin, he just does it, and sometimes he does it for fun! Sin will drive any man to do things he would normally not do. Sin will even drive a man to take his own life. What we do know about Heath Ledger’s passing is that whether or not it was the Joker that drove him to have a fatal cocktail, it was without a doubt sin.

The story doesn’t end with the Joker though, and it doesn’t even end with suicide. It ends at Calvary where our “Batman,” the Lord and Savior of the world, hung on a tree once and for all. Salvation’s achievement on the cross does not leave us bondage to our inner Joker and does not let us despair in our sins. Salvation’s delivery points us back to the Word delivered by the mouths of our pastors, back to the Blessed Waters of Holy Baptism and back to measly bread and wine as they become Flesh and Blood, Given and Shed FOR YOU.

If you haven’t seen The Dark Knight yet, go now! It’s a must see, and without a doubt the best blockbuster of the 2008 Summer. Yes, it’s even better than Ironman – so much better that this one gets all the Lemon money can buy! Like every good comic book movie you’ll see Christ in the character of the hero, Batman and yourself in the character of the villain, the Joker. You’ll also see the hero save the day, despite enormous odds against him. Our hero will overcome death and the devil to save the world. Thanks be to God we have a loving Lord who sent His only Son into human flesh to save us from our sins.

Stan Lemon lives in Pittsburgh with his wife Sara and his dog Ivan. He serves as the Higher Things webmaster and is a huge Pirates fan. He has also written a many other movie reviews for Higher Things.

Created: July 27th, 2008