**SPOILERS BELOW. Be warned.**
Oscar, Sunny (write-up here!), and I did a double feature last night, starting with Hellboy II at 8 pm, and then the much buzzed about midnight showing of The Dark Knight.
One quick thing, because I am still currently bleary eyed, even after a double caffeine fix (it’s a 2.5+ hour movie). Yes, Heath Ledger’s Joker is a very disturbing psychotic figure, an effective manifestation of anarchy and chaos; that there are no matching fingerprints, DNA, or dental records on him tell me that he is a force or an idea made flesh, rather than an actual “character.” Nothing pretty there, no traces of anything that ever made Ledger endearing to us at all. This is indeed a remarkable performance. I don’t think it’s Oscar-worthy, but it is very convincing. There are some inappropriately hilarious moments here, and so much, “OMG I can’t believe he just fucking did that.” And what’s great is that his character doesn’t dwell on it; he does the fucked up deed in a blink and moves on to the next fucked up deed.
But the thing I wanted to say is this: whereas we are popularly led to believe that the Joker is the Batman’s “foil,” here is something Oscar and I were talking about this morning: consider the foil for Bruce Wayne/the Batman as Harvey Dent/Two Face. In the film, Christopher Nolan really does tease out and even exploit the parallels and contrasts between these two characters and their alter egos, from their love for Rachel Dawes (and thank goodness for Maggie Gyllenhaal, for I wouldn’t have been able to bear Katie Holmes in this role for what this film called for in the character), to their similarly attractive physical appearances, “important” social/public statuses, and hero statuses.
That Wayne is ready to call his Batman vigilantism quits, to leave it to Dent’s within legal means heroism is as much of “noble” intentions as it is of selfish motives. Bruce Wayne wants to get the girl. Harvey Dent’s got the girl. Bruce Wayne can’t get the credit for all the “good” work the Batman does. Harvey Dent gets all the credit for everything the Batman and Gordon set into motion.
Gotham City’s “White Knight,” is what they call Harvey Dent. Obvious contrast against film’s the title. All these obvious dichotomies of day and night, light and dark, open and masked. While obvious, still I think it’s well wrought/well handled. Aaron Eckhart’s gleaming White Knight-ness is convincing. He’s earnest and idealistic, but he’s also slick and charismatic, which is another thing he has in common with Bruce Wayne. Dent believes we all create our own fate, and with his two-headed coin, we see he isn’t always law-abiding.
Realizing of course that in The Dark Knight we are seeing the origins of the Two Face character, I still can’t help but think of Arkham Asylum‘s Harvey Dent/Two Face, in which his “treatment” at Arkham consisted of transitioning him from the two-sided coin, to the six-sided die, to the deck of cards; expanding his decision making options. Oscar tells me that at that point, farther along in the life of Two Face (and please! Banish all thought of the Tommy Lee Jones Two Face character!), he really has come to believe in the power of the coin toss. In this film, I don’t see that yet. I do see him grappling with the randomness of fate, such that the coin toss can be understood as comforting. This character is so interesting.
So there’s that. I have some things to say about Hellboy II and Guillermo del Toro’s work and aesthetics, but that’ll have to wait for another time.