The Dark Knight. Characters. Introducing…The Joker. In Gotham city there is a representation of the typical evil that exists among men. There are the mob bosses like Maroni. Criminals who lack any true complexity; they are lovers of money and lovers of power.
There is no exact origin story given for The Joker in The Dark Knight. Other Batman tales show how he became what he was but Nolan keeps it vague. The Joker himself offers various accounts (“You wanna know how I got these scars?”).
Batman is like his toy, a force of good that strives to heal the world while Joker thrives on the bottled chaos that flows in the subconscious of the civilised human.
It could even be argued that Batman needs The Joker. Not Bruce Wayne, but whenever The Joker is around Batman cannot retire.
Alfred Pennyworth: A long time ago, 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.
Bruce Wayne: Then why steal them?
Alfred Pennyworth: Because 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.
Batman’s uncompromising moral code, seems to be the very thing that continues to feed The Joker’s motivation.
The mass exodus of Gotham, after threats from the Joker, leaves two ferries broken down in Gotham River- one with criminals and one with citizens- both rigged handsomely with explosives, the triggers in the hands of the other boat (chaos is a complex game to play sometimes). But the people of Gotham, though quick to panic when provoked by the Joker, still have a conscience.
“You just couldn’t let me go could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You truly are incorruptible aren’t you? You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness, and I won’t kill you, because you’re just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.”
We all know the story of Batman’s childhood, his saintly parents needlessly murdered. He grows up, never freed from that traumatic experience and seeks to bring justice to those responsible.
He finds an intricate mob system in place; corrupt police, low level thugs and ruthless evil bosses perfectly out of reach of the long arm of the Gotham law.
Most people crave and even need recognition for doing good– but who can give Batman recognition?
Batman, despite his vigilante approach still has faith in the law and order of society.
Batman’s initial intentions and final results are always pure and aligned with the view of modern law, it is in the middle where he treads a thin line.
Vigilantism is against the law.
But as the stakes get higher so does the need to push the boundaries of means/ends justification.
It may be difficult for someone to act like this, in such a selfless manner…
“You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
Harvey Dent, Gotham’s White Knight, is the city’s new District Attorney and he always has his game face on when prosecuting crime.
For all that goes on in Dark Knight between The Batman and The Joker, it could easily be looked at as the origin of the Twoface story.
The second thing about Harvey Dent, and most of the characters of Gotham, is the symbolism — and Harvey Dent is some of the simplest yet compelling symbolism around. A District Attorney should be sure of himself, he should possess an unflinching desire to do good.
While The Batman and The Joker battle it out over every inch of Gotham’s soul, it is the soul of Harvey Dent that becomes the biggest battleground.
His first flip of the coin is The Joker; Live or Die. The coin spares his life. But Harvey isn’t finished. The crooked cops who fell under the Joker’s sway; Live or Die. Sal Maroni, head of the mob; Live or Die. Finally his logic takes him to Gordon and Batman. Why would the commissioner let such a corrupt force exist? Why would The Batman save him and not his girl? Live or Die.
The taking of Gordon’s family is the ultimate sign of Harvey’s corruption- he has always upheld justice and the protection of the innocent now he is willing to sacrifice one of them.