Monday, July 28, 2008

Dark Knight of the Soul

I made it to Comic-Con, the largest and proudest collection of nerds and geeks in the Northern Hemisphere.

Before talking about the Con itself, a few words on that little heard of comic book movie, THE DARK KNIGHT.

So much has already been said, I don’t have a lot to contribute. Which, of course, isn’t going to stop me.

Why so successful? Because it is a movie that succeeds in its genre, but also exceeds its genre.

Y’all know that I like movies that are about more than their type – thrillers that dig deeper than just scary; romances that speak beyond finding “the one;” action movies where the action means something.

So it is true with THE DARK KNIGHT.

Without changing topics (but seeming to), let me tell you one of the things I like about Jesus.

The notion of WWJD is more complex than the movement ever allowed, because the choice of what He “would do” was usually devoted to an either/or.

Would Jesus give this money to the homeless guy, or would he spend it on himself?

Would Jesus let this driver in, or would he block him out?

Would Jesus order the chicken or the steak?

The thing is, virtually every time that Jesus was offered a choice between two things, he always chose a third one that wasn’t on the menu. (Jesus ordered the fish, by the way.)

This, of course, drove those around the guy crazy.

Stone the woman or let her go? Let the sinless guy stone her.

Honor the Sabbath or heal the guy? Honor the Sabbath by healing the guy.

Fight or flight? Neither.

Attack or defend? Love.

Being so attuned to the notion of “the third way,” (and feeling strongly that Christians will not make a difference in this culture until they start finding “third ways” in their stories), I was sharply drawn by the trios in THE DARK KNIGHT.

(Now I am not equating Batman to Jesus – and I’m not even sure if I think that BW and friends came up with the best “third way” – I’m just noting the process…)

You see, Nolans/Goyer are being tricky, pretending that the world of Gotham offers this or that – ala Two-Face and his coin. But they really are seeking the third way – represented in a myriad of triangular choices.

The love triangle – Rachel, Bruce, Harvey.

The justice triangle – Gordon, Harvey, Batman.

The injustice triangle – Joker, mob or money launderer.

Even Batman’s personal counselors come in threes – Wayne (the physical), Alfred (the emotional), Lucius (the moral).

The Joker’s one fatal mistake is in thinking that there is only this or that – anarchy or totalitarianism; egocentricity or loss of self; good or evil. He believes that once he proves that Gotham is not good (“there is none righteous, no not one!”), then he has proven that the citizens are irredeemably evil.

(Semi-spoiler alert!)

Which is why it is critical to watch the already-proven-evil convict on the ferry in order to understand what makes this movie great.

(And please notice where the convict goes immediately upon taking action.)

There is a classic Batman comic book, where he defeats Two-Face by tricking out the villian’s coin so that it lands neither on the scarred nor the good side – but rather lands always on its edge.

Two-Face can’t handle the notion that there is a third way, and thus is immobilized in indecision.

In the movie, the Joker falls victim to the same flawed belief system.

He thinks Gotham can have either a dark chaos (himself) or a white knight (Harvey Dent).

Not counting on the third choice.

A Dark Knight.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

9 comments:

Megan said...

Found your blog randomly and loved this post. Your points on Jesus made me laugh, well done! I will definitely be coming back here in the future!

Linds said...

Awesome thoughts. That's just what I came away from the film with - which made me confused about the Christians worried about its darkness (which is worrying, but in context, the film is so Christological!).

I was also reading Jim Wallis's God's Politics which is a really long book trying to say that Christians must forge a third way rather than blindly ally with either political party (part of being prophetic in our culture).

It dovetails nicely... :)

Alexa said...

Love it! A great way looking at this film - I think you said all the things I've been feeling but haven't put into a coherent manner.

Breadwig said...

Some really interesting thoughts my friend. Often creativity is about that third choice.

Anonymous said...
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Gaffney said...

Thanks all. Welcome, Megan.

Here's to the third way!

David Goulet said...

My only beef with DK is that it could be intepreted as an endorsement of redemptive violence.

I can see where some folks have compared the Bush administration's vision of America to Batman. Someone has to do the dirty work, so America shoulders this cross and takes out the bad guys -- alone. The references to terrorism/insurgency are not subtle in the film.

In DK we never are presented with the Christ option, which is transformation of evil (our enemy). Batman doesn't transform bad guys, he brings them to justice. He's still an Old Testament character, despite his noble desire not to exactly repay an eye for eye.

Now I realize igniting inner repentence isn't the usual m.o. for comic book characters. But if we're going to discuss the Christian parallels in DK, which there are, we must also discuss the elements that are missing.

Funny, I liked Iron Man more than DK. Maybe because it had a little more hope in it.

Gaffney said...

Wise, brother David. And now I know the topic of tomorrow's blog...

Philip Mar said...

Actually there is somewhat of a Christ option, especially near the ending- where it is Batman who takes the "punishment" for Two-Face's sins, rather than Harvey Dent and his reputation.