Response to a Response to the Dark Knight.

July 20, 2008

(When I first wrote this I mistook who a three year old mentioned in Brant’s post belonged to.  For the record the three year old is not Brant’s child.)

I guess its time to waste some pixels.

I don’t really read blogs, at least not like quite a few of the people I know do.  Of the few blogs I read my favorite is Brant Hansen‘s and finally I disagree with him.  I went to see The Dark Knight in the very early morning of the day it opened because I was so excited about it.  I was not disappointed.  It is the best thought out and executed superhero and/or action movie that I’ve seen.  Brant disagrees, so let me start with where I agree with Brant Hansen.

The rating is inapprioriate.  Brant talks about taking his someone taking their three year old son to see the movie which I could have told him probably wasn’t a good idea.  The realism implied by Batman Begins as well as the image of the joker in the trailer was enough for me to know this wasn’t the 80s Batman.  I was shocked that Focus on the Family gave it two and a half stars especiallys seeing as this movie is an especially graphic portrayal of relativism.  Especially when their own subsidiary Plugged In highlights both the violence and the twisted ethics of the movie.  As well as highlighting that it is not a movie for children.  But ratings have always been weird, the PG for Titanic comes readily to mind. and PG-13 for The Dark Knight is a little low.

Brant calls the movie a jolt of excitement for a dying culture.  It is more a reflection of a culture trying to figure out what good and evil are or whether they even exist.  It does unfortunately ring strongest as an ode to utilitarianism more than anything else. If you are going to treat Wall-E as a wonderful tribute to the importance of life*, than you should respond to this movie as a filmmakers questioning of relativism, utilitarianism, and the nature of good and evil.  I’d love to say this movie was just entertainment but in the same way people get their theology from what they sing in church they get their philosophy from what they watch.  We need to engage movies as such.

If your problem with this movie is that it is escapism then it isn’t just this movie you should have a problem with.  It should be movies in general.  The same world that gave us Wall-E gave us The Dark Knight.  Hollywood knows we want to spend a few hours escaping the mundane.  To be honest, I just wanted to see a good movie.  I got to.  The script and direction were great.  I’m pretty sure anyone whose looked at a newspaper has heard about Heath Ledger’s unreal performance.  His death unfortunately overshadowed Christian Bale and Aaron Eckhart’s also amazing performances.  For someone who is something of a film buff this was a movie I thought would be great and it did not disappoint.  If you are not opposed to both graphic and implied violence I recommend it.

Just don’t take the kids.

I’m not entirely sure I’ve been as good at explaining the philosophical content of the Dark Knight as I would have liked.  Brian Walton, who I found in the comments does a great job on discussing Christopher Nolan’s (director/cowriter) examinations of nihilismEd Brenegar is a brilliant thinker who also does a good job of breaking down the characters as philosophical representations in this movie.

*For the Record I have not seen Wall-E, although I do really want to.

Bonus Feature:  My dad pointed out this hilarious video to me.


  1. Good thoughts. It’s great to see Christians thoughtfully responding to the film’s they see. As a Christian working in the film industry, this only brings me joy!

    God bless.

  2. Liam — Great thoughts.

    Just to clarify, I don’t have a little son. I was talking about the guy next to us. No way would I even take my 11 and 14 year-olds to this. This isn’t a “rule” for everyone, but I know my kids, and there isn’t enough in this movie to justify the other stuff for them.

    My critique is a cultural one. One can “like” this movie and still agree with me on my larger point, even. Yes, many movies can be dismissed as escapism, but this movie — you’ll admit — comes with endless reviews and defenses of its deep meaning.

    And, it’s a phenomenon. So it’s fair to use this as a jumping-off point for a more wide-ranging cultural discussion.

    I have learned, though, that to use something that people *like* as such a jumping-off point may provide more distraction than necessary. No one likes to a) be entertained by something, and then b) see it put in a context of societal decay.

    Not all movies are equal. Some have more meaning than others. This movie has less story, most admit, than “Batman Begins”, which I liked.

    This movie is well-made, but that still doesn’t negate the critique of our culture that I’m advancing. Yes, there are themes of “good and evil” (present in just about every slasher movie, too) that we can point to. But I’m saying there’s a level deeper still. This is the acclaimed phenomenon? That’s it? …on to the next jolt.

    That’s where our culture is. Even if one is convinced “The Dark Knight” is high art at it’s finest…it’ll be old news in a month. That’s all, folks…next amusement?

  3. Hi Brian,
    Thanks for the kind words, I’ll be stopping by your blog to read more about how a Christian lives in the film industry.

    I think my favorite line of the week has to be “No one likes to a) be entertained by something, and then b) see it put in a context of societal decay.”

    I think you’re right about the societal decay. I just don’t see this movie as part of it but more reflecting it. Do I think the Dark Knight is high art? No, I wouldn’t have liked it if it was. Will it be a classic? I think its too early to tell, especially with the waters being clouded by Heath Ledger’s death. I do think this movie stands a better chance of being a classic than movies like Grindhouse or Hostel. In the Dark Knight the violence was a product of the narrative, maybe done a little too exuberantly at points, whereas in slasher and horror movies the violence is the point of the narrative.

    I know for sure that this movie treads a fine line. I think violence as amusement is a dangerous entertainment, especially as amusement unto itself. I think where we disagree on this movie is that I think the violence is necessary to the philosophy of the movie. Especially to highlight the distastefulness of the Joker’s character. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think you see this movie as nothing more than our version of the gladiators, a reflection of a culture so desperate for entertainment that we’ll watch anyone or anything die for a few seconds of exhilaration. I don’t disagree that this is where we’ve come as a culture, and that some people will love the Dark Knight for just those reasons. I just don’t see violence as the be all and end all of this movie.

  4. LIAM I LOVE YOU but I haven’t seen the movie – yet. I’ve also been wondering what would happen if the book of Judges was made into a feature film.

  5. I liked “Batman Begins”. I really did.

    I like some violent flicks, too.

    It’s my subjective opinion that spectacle overcomes story in this one. It’s well-made.

    I don’t see this movie causing societal decay. I see our culture as one of amusement, and for all the hype — amusing in itself — this movie is just part of that. That’s all.

    Same things for “Batman Begins”, which I liked, but it didn’t merit a culturally teachable moment, in my opinion. Just not as big an event.

    My contention is not against violence, per se. The book of Judges might make a really good movie, or a horrible one. Chris Nolan might be a great director for it, might not, and in the end, maybe it can amuse some people for awhile.

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