Mario’s Movies: The Philosophies of ‘The Dark Knight’

By Mario Ricciardi

Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” is accepted as one of cinema’s greatest works. The film is dark, suspenseful and about Batman — three things that just speak to the times, right? Along with being widely accepted by fans and making Batboat-loads of money, “The Dark Knight” is deservingly revered by critics.

Critics are a strange breed. They’ll give credit where credit is due, but it’s hard to get them to revere something. Apart from “The Godfather” and any Coen Brothers film with a nihilistic ending, what does a critic actually like? Well, Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight.”

You can catch a dark movie in theaters just about every week now, so that’s resolved. Superhero movies are a dime a dozen as well. Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker undoubtedly factors into it, but there has to be more. It’s not just greying of the line between good and bad either. That’s too easy. Critics are suckers for that though.

I would say the appeal comes from the questions “The Dark Knight” asks viewers to consider. During my last viewing of the film, there were three big questions that stood out to me. Three big questions that I want to put out there for you to ask yourself.

The first, and most relevant, involves Harvey Dent. The question gets brought to light after Rachel Dawes is killed, and Dent’s broken mental state completes his transformation into Two-Face. As district attorney, Dent had done nothing but good, as Two-Face he became a murderer.

The film ends with Batman evading the cops while claiming Dent’s crimes as his own. He does this to preserve the good Dent had originally achieved.

Question: Is it okay to live a lie as long as it’s for the greater good of society?

Question number two is more straightforward, but no less complicated. The Joker demands that Batman reveals his true identity to the public. Every day that Batman does not comply Joker will murder people.

Question: Is it ethical to preserve your right to privacy at the ransom of others?

The final big question, and most common, in “The Dark Knight” is posed by the The Joker.

Question: Is true clarity the belief that society is a facade? Is madness the only answer to a true reality?

Good stuff. What are your thoughts?

Of course, these are not the only worthwhile questions “The Dark Knight” asks, but they are the ones that hold the most relevance in terms of the epic Greek tragedy that the film is. These questions are challenging decisions to make and they cleverly engage the audience. Instead of setting out to convince the viewer of right and wrong like most movies, the film takes on the position that the audience can decide for itself.

I think that is what ultimately attracts the critics to to the film. “The Dark Knight” isn’t a film that panders to the audience; it challenges them. In terms of art, isn’t posing such a challenge what denotes the important stuff?