180 Seconds: A Down Low Valentine to Dubya? No ...

  • Russell Brown,

    Craig Ranapia can't get behind the "real moral complexity" theory on The Dark Knight.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22825 posts Report Reply

5 Responses

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Bugger. I thought I'd forwarded the script to RB, but obviously haven't. This includes edits made for time, and be warned there are mild spoilers for __The Dark Knight. Here we go...__


    Sigmund Freud is reputed to have said sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and not an expression of psychosexual angst. Pop culture isn’t so lucky, especially in the age where neurotic geekery is only a mouse-click away and The Dark Knight is no exception.

    I seem to be the only person on Earth seriously under whelmed by Christopher Nolan’s latest entry in the Batman franchise. I suspect it will (deservedly) hoover up every technical gong on offer. And while Heath Ledger’s flesh-crawling performance as The Joker has been getting the lion’s share of attention, there’s nobody in the cast I’d finger as being outright bad.

    But novelist Andrew Klavan unintentionally put his finger on what I find so disturbing about this film, in a rather moist Wall Street Journal op-ed headlined **What Bush and Batman Have in Common**.

    A small taste should give the flavour of the whole:

    [L]ike W, Batman understands that there is no moral equivalence between a free society -- in which people sometimes make the wrong choices -- and a criminal sect bent on destruction. The former must be cherished even in its moments of folly; the latter must be hounded to the gates of Hell.

    A very good English teacher warned me that a clever subtext isn’t worth jack if the text just doesn’t support it. If you want read The Dark Knight as a down-low valentine to Dubya then you’ve certainly got enough extraordinary rendition, ‘coercive information-gathering’ (or torture, for those who don’t speak euphemism) and the mother of all illegal wire-taps to make Jack Bauer — or Dick Cheney — pee their pants with glee.

    But it’s hard to miss the screamingly obvious text:**__ None of it works__**. The “heroic” Batman might well torture The Joker. But it doesn’t stop him destroying a (conveniently evacuated) hospital. Or triggering an unwitting human bomb in the cells of a police station. The Joker murders the love of the Batman’s life — and we’re shown her last minutes in excruciating detail, but not her dead body. For a city of thirty million, there’s remarkably few civilians around while the Dark Knight and the Agent of Chaos work through their psychodrama.

    I find it rather ironic that the same Andrew Klavan is also the author of a a sharp critique of another comic book movie, Sin City, where he says:

    {T}he translation of daydreams into art — even violent, sexy pop art — requires at least some minimal interaction between the raw material and a compassionate conception of the terror and dignity of being human.

    I guess in Klavin’s idea of “real moral complexity”, all violent, lawless vigilantes most certainly are not created equal. I certainly don't find anything moral, let alone complex, about a fictional universe where we're being fed a false equation (and one where the real human suffering we saw in New York, Madrid and London is carefully sanitised) as some profound insight.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Smart,

    The Neo conservatives fueled by Christian evangelism believe that Israel is on the plains of Armageddon and the final conflict will take place and all the true ( christian ) believers will be saved.

    Why are you so surprised that they should pin their hopes on a Utopian dream that some "batman" like figure will come to the rescue the world and that he should look like George W Bush.

    Yes, I am a "Joker" ( I think?).Ha Ha

    Since Nov 2006 • 71 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,


    To get all Freudian for a moment, sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar. And a slick, but ultimately hollow comic book movie is just a slick but ultimately hollow comic book movie. And there's nothing wrong with that, but if you're going to try to strap on some sociopolitical superstructure it should at least have some kind of internal logic. The funny thing is that when Klavan is off his soapbox, he's a halfway decent thriller writer -- a genre that's unusually dependent on a rock solid, and internally coherent, structure if it's to work at all.

    Myself, I'm with Samuel Goldwyn who once observed, "Pictures are for entertainment, messages should be delivered by Western Union.”

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Smart,

    I agree you read it too literally

    Since Nov 2006 • 71 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Believe it or not, Neil, you're not the first person to suggest I over-think stuff that's not really worth the effort. But was I the only person waiting for Aaron Eckhart to show his best profile and intone, "Gotham City does not negotiate with terrorists". :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

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