The Dark Knight is more than a comic-book movie

Published 9:20 pm Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I was one of the crazy people who went to the midnight opening of The Dark Knight this past Friday morning.

The movie was two-and-a-half hours long, and was delayed by at least 15 minutes of previews (expected) and by technical difficulties in theater No. 8 at Tuscaloosa’s Cobb Theaters (unexpected).

My fiancée and I got there an hour early, so the whole ordeal seemed to take forever — until the movie began.

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After that, it was worth every moment of waiting, every bit of anticipation, every penny spent on admission, popcorn and Diet Cokes.

Everything you’ve heard about The Dark Knight is true. It’s incredible, amazing and any other adjective you can think of. I’ve never been a fan of Heath Ledger — thought he was overrated, as a matter of fact. But watching his interpretation of the Joker in this movie was a revelation.

It is no exaggeration to say that his Joker makes every other actor who previously filled the role completely irrelevant. No one else has been as good at capturing the sheer insanity, anarchy and nihilism of the character.

I was in awe. I kept thinking about the sheer anger and pain it must have taken for Ledger to dredge up the darkest depths of the Joker’s psychosis. No wonder the actor was exhausted toward the end of his life. His role is a herculean effort preserved on film.

And of course, the villain in this movie gets all the best lines and all the best moments.

This movie has plenty of action, yes — it does enough to please, and more. But there is also subtext aplenty.

The film is a subtle commentary on life — with Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent/Two Face character, it’s easy to see where each decision leads to consequences, and the consequences of each decision come back to the character in spades.

Isn’t it like that in real life, too? Our good decisions come back to help build our lives to where we want them to be. Our bad decisions come back to haunt us.

Even more subtle is the Christianity subtext in the movie. And the odd thing is that it’s not a stretch to make that argument for Christian Bale’s rendition of The Dark Knight.

Read on carefully, if you haven’t seen the movie. There are spoilers ahead.

At the end, Batman takes the blame for a crime committed by Harvey Dent/Two Face. Batman took the sin of his world — Gotham City — onto his shoulders. He took the sin of an increasingly bizarre and crumbling world because he was the one strong enough to bear that burden, to preserve the hope of the few that believed and were faithful.

And he made that decision consciously.

Sound like anyone you might’ve heard about in Sunday school?

It does to me. And that’s how The Dark Knight goes beyond what makes a good comic book movie and became a great crime drama in its own right.

Bobby Mathews is managing editor of The Times. Reach him at or (334) 289-4017.