Joker’s Glory

A legend is born again, finally. We finally have a bedtime story ready for our children and grandchildren to come. To them, we shall speak of the day when we, as, youngsters had walked into a theatre to watch one of the greatest masterpieces of our times. Yes, dear reader, Hollywood has done it, yet again, with The Dark Knight, the latest Batman sequel to hit the theaters.

Since decades, superheroes and comic books characters have been trashed by intellectual elitists as superficial and mindless fantasies. And to counter that claim, it has been an uphill battle for Batman as the most cerebral character, to prove them wrong again and again. With a stellar star cast which includes Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman and last but not the least, the hero of the film, Heath Ledger. They say that an artist can never reach a state of perfection and so he spends his life striving to reach it. Looking at Ledger’s performance in the film, it is perhaps possible to gauge the reason as to why he reached a stage of depression after shooting for the role.

Chris Nolan has given the entire film, an extreme feeling of neurosis. It is perhaps ironic that a comic book movie has such scenes that render it almost unwatchable for children. The film is extremely violent. Yet again does Nolan go off the beaten track. There are almost no scenes involving blood and gore in the entire film. Yet how, you might ask, is the film extremely violent, in that case? The violence in The Dark Knight hits the mind rather than the eye. It seeks to create more of a mental than a cerebral impact.

The Dark Knight is the first Batman film not to have used the word Batman in the movie title. However it is perhaps aptly named as Batman gets completely marginalized by the Joker’s antics. Or should we say, Heath Ledger. The film can boast of some of the most visually disturbing scenes in cinematic history. A maniacally hysterical Joker, dangling from a balcony…awash in white light. The dialogues sometimes are perhaps a tad too heavy and operatic. Sample this one from the Joker to the Batman. “You won’t kill me out of some misguided sense of self-righteousness…” Whew! However some of the others are simply brilliant. “Some men just love watching the world burn, Master Wayne,” as Alfred puts it.

The Dark Knight plays major mind games with the viewer. It leaves one feeling disoriented and in a dangerous state of a self questioning existence. On a different plane one gets to realize the twisted truth lurking beneath the Joker’s dirty logic. He says that beneath the veneer of civilization, we are all animals waiting to eat each up, the moment our existence is threatened. And so we are led to wonder how true his logic is. The movie questions the very idea of sanity and humanity. Are we all Jokers caught up in our own mad little worlds? Perhaps our vindictive streak just waiting to show itself and bring us down to our knees as it does to Gotham’s very own White Knight, Harvey Dent, the District Attorney who puts half the city’s criminals behind bars, “without wearing a mask”, as Batman puts it. Harvey Dent’s journey from a hero to a psychotic maniac “Two Face”, is heart rending. In its own way, the film questions the very ethics of vigilantism. “What kind of city idolizes a masked vigilante?” questions a ballet dancer.

For once, The Dark Knight seems to have brought out the movie going crowd of Kolkata in full force. The first show at Fame, South City was sold out within a few hours, in spite of the fact that it was a morning show on a full working day! Speaking to some of the youth, a lot of interesting points came up. The fact that unlike most villains the Joker is not given any concrete back story seems to have scored a brownie point with the audience. According to a college student, it heightens the sense of an ominous mystery which surrounds the Joker. Another thing which had left the people wanting for more was the character of Two Face. It was a general feeling among the public that a character like him deserved a little more attention. But the fact is that the entire film really centred around Joker. Some had even gone into the hall with pre-conceived notions that whatever miracle Heath Ledger pulled off, he would not be able to outdo Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of The Joker. Kaushik Ghosh, a second year English student from Scottish Church College was one such individual, who came out of the hall, shame-faced. “Heath Ledger gives you the creeps”, said another. And then there were some who came away teary eyed. “He (Ledger) is not coming back again”. The queues at the ticket counters don’t seem to be getting any shorter. To balance out this article I looked for out for some people who could offer me some criticism. But sadly there was none to be offered. Shaunak Roy Chowdhury, a computer science student, sums it up perfectly, “Chris Nolan has created an epic for ages to come. From now on, The Dark Knight will be used as a yardstick to judge all Batman films to come”.

Rudrani Das Gupta

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