Shedding Light on ‘The Dark Knight’

By Sonya Rehman

“You have to see the new Batman movie when it comes in the theatre”, gushes a friend of mine over the phone. She’s been living in New York City for the past few years and recently got to watch the much-hyped, ‘The Dark Knight’.
“It was brilliant”, she gushes again followed by a generous sprinkle of expletives and additional approving remarks.
“The lines here were insane! There were people waiting to buy tickets dressed up as The Joker and Batman!”

Before you judge the film as ‘just another comic-book inspired flick’, think again. Ripe with political undertones and breaking multiple box office records just days after its release, ‘The Dark Knight’ (TDK) is a fantastically thrilling, dark, intense and psychological movie, with a reel spanning over two hours!

But what’s more, Heath Ledger’s tragic death on the 22nd of January (this year) due to a drug overdose may have – in some morbid way – raised the popularity scales for TDK.
Interestingly, to train for his role as The Joker, Ledger lived in solitude for a month (in an apartment) in New York.

With a diary at bay – to jot down reflections and feelings that The Joker may have thought and felt, Ledger dove straight into the “psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy” (as Ledger described the character)…not knowing what it would cost him. And cost him it did – Ledger’s life. At twenty-eight.

Ask yourself: could there have been any linkage to Ledger’s prescription drug overdose (which resulted in his death) and his heavy-duty involvement in the character Ledger was meant to portray?

It is speculated that the young actor had trouble sleeping, and the sleeping pills discovered at his bed could have pointed towards an overdose. But why would Ledger overdose on sleeping pills?

Was it a planned suicide? Or was it simply a horrible accident gone wrong? Amidst the questions; only one thing remains crystal-clear; and that is that Ledger may have gotten far too involved in his role as The Joker.

Living alone in an apartment in Manhattan for a month, without any contact with the outside world – and at the same time practicing how to look, sound, think, feel and live like the crazed character of The Joker, surely must have affected Ledger on a deeply emotional and even physical level.

Oddly, TDK’s famous ‘Why so serious?’ tagline couldn’t be more ironic.

This is because while Ledger dove straight into the seriously psychotic and deeply troubled role of The Joker, The Joker’s mocking tagline coupled with his contorted, gleeful expression, seems to sinisterly ridicule Ledger’s mysterious death.

And that’s not all. Regarding TDK’s political undertones, a journalist for ‘The Wall Street Journal’ wrote that Batman plays the role of Bush and that on a certain level the movie is “a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war”.

While the aforementioned journalist’s stance on the rather asinine notion that both Bush and Batman’s characters can be juxtaposed, the threat of terrorism regarding both Gotham City and America does seem more or less, the same. However, as another foreign writer intelligently puts it: “The difference between Batman and the Bush Administration is motive. Batman is just trying to do the right thing, period. But the Bush Administartion’s version of the ‘right thing’ is weighed down by ornaments of self interest, corporate interest, and shady dealings. The difference between Batman and George W. Bush is that one is The Dark Knight and the other is The Greedy King.”

Whether or not TDK’s director Chris Nolan was trying to spark debate by including heavy political undertones and/or subliminally eulogize Dubya and his Administration’s policies regarding the ‘war on terror’, is highly debatable.
Yet, if you look into the script and storyline of TDK a little deeper, you will realize that it “weighs in strongly on the side of the Bush administration” (as stated by Spencer Ackerman – a writer for ‘The Washington Independent’).

Nevertheless, this isn’t the first time Hollywood has roped together current political fiascos with men in shiny leather suits, all the while stirring up baseless propaganda and provoking mind-numbing, and thought-bending mass outlooks.

But the political undertones (or rather, overtones) and character linkages to politicians in the real world aside, TDK is a must-see for anyone looking for solid thrills…especially after Angelina Jolie’s over-the-top ‘Wanted’ (also released this year).

A writer for the Rolling Stones sums up TDK quite brilliantly, he states: “The haunting and visionary The Dark Knight soars on the wings of untamed imagination. It’s full of surprises you don’t see coming. And just try to get it out of your dreams.”

Instep, The News

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