Thursday, April 21, 2011
Holy week at the movies: Dark Knight on Thursday
The fact that popular media culture is an imaginative palette for faith … the church has to take that imaginative palette seriously… if part of the pastoral task of the church is to communicate God’s mercy and God’s freedom in a way that people understand then you have to use the language that they’re using, you have to use the metaphors and forms of experience that are already familiar to them. Tom Beaudoin
This has been a movie eagerly awaited.
First, because with Batman Begins, director Chris Nolan breathed fresh life into the comic genre and the darkly robed DC comic hero of Gotham City.
Second, because with the death earlier this year of Heath Ledger, this movie became a chance to honour the memory of a Hollywood star. Indeed (and sadly) it seems to somehow enhance the movie when you realise you are seeing in real time a man now dead.
The wonderful first. The pace is terrific and the plot is satisfying, the twists come faster than a batmobile. The special effects are eye-popping, with the Joker’s disappearing pencil trick and the truck crash a standout. The characters develop, with the Joker, malevolently superb. He outacts a star cast, including a convincing Michael Caine (Alfred), a mysterious Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne/Batman), an authentic Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox), but a strangely wooden Maggie Gyllenhaal (Rachel Dawes).
Heath Ledger is reported to have lived alone in a hotel room for a month, formulating the Joker’s psychology, posture and voice. His performance is a reminder that human acting can shine alongside the biggest explosions and shiniest Batman suits. Take a bow, and probably an Academy, Heath Ledger and Chris Nolan.
Which leaves the disturbing. Nolan has now directed a string of excellent movies, including The Prestige (2006), Batman Begins (2005), Insomnia (2002) and Memento (2000) which probe the darkness around being human.
With the character of the Joker, we meet evil. As the Joker calmly walks the street, Gotham Hospital exploding behind him, we peer into the human abyss. If this is evil, what is the nature of redemption? In this sense, Dark Knight continues the theological work done in Batman Begins. Both movies explores the way evil and suffering shatters the human person. The ending offers little hope, with the choosing of a lie in the hope of preserving public truth. The movie shreds any feel good, Pollyannaish, liberal dreams of a better world, for the Joker remains a character you would not want to meet in either heaven or hell.
Dark Knight asks us to ponder seriously how low should grace go and how wide should redemption stretch. Don’t offer any Christian piety until you have faced the Joker.
Mark 14:10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. 17When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me–one who is eating with me.”