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Deconstructing The Dark Knight

Heath Ledger as the JokerImage via Wikipedia
I never gave an adequate review to The Dark Knight. At the time I was mesmerized by its awesomeness and afraid I wouldn't be able to do it justice. I never really intended to go back and do a good review, but this movie continues to crop up in every-day conversation. And after so long of thinking about it, I believe I really have a handle on it now.

A few things before I dive in: I may be giving a few minor spoilers before the Spoiler button. If you haven't seen it yet... well, first of all, it's only $14.99 for the Blu-ray and $12.99 for the DVD on Amazon, what are you waiting for?? Secondly, depending on your tolerance for spoilers, you may want to just move along. I won't get very detailed, though, until after the Spoiler button.

Ok, that should be it. So, without further adieu, let's set the stage...

Gotham. Without a doubt, beyond the Joker and even beyond Batman, this is a story about Gotham. It may be described by wise old men as a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Being cautious is the least of your concerns. Built on the industry of Wayne Enterprises, Gotham has a reputation for dirty cops, powerful gangsters and a thriving criminal society. It's enough to make the best of men go mad, as we saw with Scarecrow in Batman Begins. Gotham is a city so dangerous and so vile that it takes a vigilante in a bat suit to exact any kind of justice on a criminal element that uses even the police department as a place to hide. So who has the Saronite Balls to live there? Consider the following:

The Joker.
STATS:
STR - 8
CON - 10
DEX - 13
INT - 20
WIS - 14
CHA - 20
Affiliation: Chaotic Evil
Before Batman, before Harvey Dent, the first character we see in The Dark Knight is The Joker. He begins as your average criminal, stealing money from a bank. But as time wears on, he becomes more and more of an enigma. It's easy to pin him as an insane anarchist, but The Joker knows exactly what he's doing. And Alfred, Bruce Wayne's butler, has seen this kind of thing before. "A long time ago," he says, "I was in Burma, my friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never found anyone who traded with him. One day I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away." He continues: "He thought it was good sport. Because some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn." The Joker wants to see Gotham burn. Not out of any misguided belief that this is the only way to save such a wretched place, but just because... it's fun! And he has a perfect plan for how to go about it, all centering around its white-horse DA, Harvey Dent.

Batman
STATS:
STR - 13
CON - 13
DEX - 14
INT - 14
WIS - 10
CHA - 8
Affiliation: Chaotic Good
Bruce Wayne does not want to be Batman. He doesn't want to have to roam the streets at night protecting the weak and bringing bad-guys to justice. He roams the shadows because he believes he has to. He believes there's no other way to keep Gotham from burning to the ground except to take justice into his own hands. And he's the only one with the means by which to do this both effectively and secretly. But he has a plan; a glimmering spark of hope. Harvey Dent has come to town promising a new Gotham. He's going to clean up the streets and, as opposed to Batman, do it within the confines of the law. As soon as Harvey gets elected, Bruce thinks, he'll be able to quit being Batman and leave Gotham to heal on its own. So now the fight is on not only to save Gotham from itself, but to save Harvey from the clutches of The Joker.

Harvey Dent
STATS:
STR - 8
CON - 20
DEX - 8
INT - 15
WIS - 15
CHA - 20
Affiliation: Lawful Good (later, Chaotic Neutral)
The White Knight of Gotham, Harvey Dent, is poised to clean up Gotham and do it right. It's really too bad for him that he becomes a pawn in the Joker's game. To the Joker, he's a tool. To Batman, he's his out. Harvey's ok with Batman. He knows what Batman is doing is for the greater good. But in order to play the game of politics (and in order to save the lives of the Joker's hostages) Batman must go. Harvey decides to tell the world that he is Batman. Media flurry ensues, Joker doesn't buy it, kidnaps Harvey and his fiancée in order to lure the real Batman, there are explosions and fires, Batman saves Harvey, but not before he falls victim to severe burns to half of his face and all of his soul. His fiancée is dead. His hope for a family of his own is lost. And all it takes is one little shove before something happens that Hollywood chagrins. The bad-guy wins.

On to the real spoilers...