Warning: There are major spoilers throughout this post.
So, desiring to attend a movie premiere for the first time in my life, and preferring to attend a good movie and a fantastic sold-out show, I went to see "The Dark Knight" last night. And it happened to be fabulous. What is it that made "The Dark Knight" so good? In very short, the movie has managed to redefine the meaning of the word hero, which I believe is a very valuable contribution to our society nowadays. The hero is not always the one who does something for which he is publically acclaimed or recognized; in fact, it is far more difficult to be a quiet hero, an anonymous hero, or to give up one's glory for the sake of the people. And yet, in a trend which I personally adore (see my other post, true heroes, for elaboration) Batman sacrifices his own glory by sullying his reputation in order to save that of a friend.
This raises many questions, because the idea seems to echo that of our dear Colonel Jessep, that people cannot handle the truth. People need to believe in something greater than themselves, the hero with a face, the martyr for a greater cause, and therefore everyone must cover up the evil things a different man (the fallen person, who changed from supporting good to becoming evil himself) did and pretend instead that he was a great man who lived well, and whom everyone ought to respect. All this while Batman takes the fall for this man's crimes. (Now, in the movie, Batman's taking the fall is made less strong because this man originally takes the fall for Batman at the beginning of the film. So it seems to come full circle.) But this too is an ethical dilemma and question- what is more important, the people's morale and belief, or the truth? And this is a question that can apply to Judaism as a whole, in addition to our world as a whole, in terms of what people are taught or fed- is it more important to give people something to believe in, or to tell them the truth...
The movie contains many ethical dilemmas; the problem is that they are major rather than being subtle. One of the clearest is a situation where there are two ships at sea, each of them wired with bombs. One ship is filled with criminals, while the other one is filled with civilians. The Joker has given a person onboard the ship the detonator to the other ship. So the civilians can blow up the criminals, and the criminals can blow up the civilians. The caveat is that if neither group chooses to blow up the other, the Joker will blow up both of the ships, whereas whomever blows up the other ship will be allowed to stay alive. Now, in such a situation, there would be mass panic, and whoever could push the button first definitely would. However, in the movie we allow for an organized vote where finally people find something good within themselves and refrain from killing each other.
I'm a fan of all the psychological problems or moral questions, so I also loved the scene where the SWAT team is originally aiming at the wrong people, because the hostages (from a hospital- Gotham had to clear out all their hospitals due to a threat from the Joker) have been given Joker masks while the criminals are walking around wearing doctors' uniforms. I love that Batman beating up the SWAT teams makes him seem like the villain when of course he is not the villain at all.
As for the Joker himself, and the great debate- who makes a better joker, Heath Ledger or Jack Nicholson? I have to say that Heath Ledger does not have Jack Nicholson's distinctive, scary, high-pitched laugh, or his casually elegant portrayal. Nicholson is less brutal and more entertaining; Ledger is clearly unhinged. And since I truly love Nicholson's laugh, that's something I missed. But Ledger's portrayal is definitely psychotic and brilliant, and one gets the sense that this man really is a person who would just like to see "the world burn" for the hell of it, and who does not want anything out of the game. He enjoys anarchy and chaos, without any rhyme or reason to it...
Highly recommended- go see it, and then we can discuss all the ethical dilemmas and other fun situations.