Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Why So Serious?"

Went to the movie yesterday with my grandson--the latest Batman flick, The Dark Knight. It was fun, disturbing, thrilling, and Heath Ledger should get another Oscar for his portrayal of a really evil Joker. I wouldn't mind seeing this one again, it's that good. The top critics are almost unanimous in their praise. Dark. The darkest of the Batman movies. With a magnificent bad guy: The Joker. The Joker is a murderous psychotic, who enjoys killing and sows chaos wherever he goes, all the while behind a hideous clown face. And he's clever: he does have plans (despite his line to Batman at one point, "Do I look like a man with a plan?")--fiendish ones that always result in people dying. He brings out the worst in people. And he relishes it. Whereas Jack Nicholson's Joker of almost 20 years ago was actually amusing at times, it's only accidental when the present manifestation is. He's a killer.

But when the Joker is on the screen, he's mesmerizing. Here's what he says to one of his hapless victims, a Gotham City mobster who's had the temerity to oppose the Joker's takeover. He's got a knife inside the guy's mouth and he's saying . . .
Wanna know how I got these scars? My father was....a drinker. And a fiend. And one night he goes off crazier than usual. Mommy gets the kitchen knife to defend herself. He doesn't like that. Not. One. Bit. So, me watching, he takes the knife to her, laughing while he does it. Turns to me and he says "Why so serious?" Comes at me with the knife,"Why so serious?" He sticks the blade in my mouth. "Lets put a smile on that face!" And..... Why so serious?
You can guess what happens next.

Why so serious indeed. Because at bottom the movie is serious and far from a mindless escape flick. In a strange and unsettling way the mayhem and wholesale destruction and killing at the hands of a guy who has no rules reminded me of the reason I protest the same thing our country is doing. Not only overtly in our merciless disregard for the rights of others in foreign policy and our murderous invasion of Iraq, but covertly in our voracious, destructive consumption, which is as without compunction as any of the Joker's evil antics. No, ultimately The Dark Knight is about us.
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