Dark knight and the dark night

Nathan Brockman of Trinity Church, Wall Street, reviews The Dark Knight and wonders what it takes to hold the center when the world is going dark.

I’ve never forgotten what a 110 story building falling to earth nearby sounds like, the way it shakes you. Nor have I forgotten what came next: how a priest said the Beatitudes before a congregation that had just, essentially, been attacked by terrorists. It may sound fanciful, but this sentiment is true in my heart: the first strike in our country’s war on terror was a spiritual one, an act of peace in Trinity Church, and the war will not truly be won without many more.

While most critics see the new Batman movie as political allegory, I see it through this lens: The Dark Knight is about the sustainability of the spirit in dark times. And make no mistake: this is a dark movie, and (say it with me now) these are dark times. The joke about the old Batman films was that they were depressing – cloaked in night and shadow. The darkness of those first films is pale in comparison. What deepens the opacity is realism, the nagging, bold, references to our current war on terrorism. The smoke and fire, the use of media as a terrorist’s messenger, the absurd creativity of some forms of destruction (and surveillance) – we are seeing ourselves through a movie glass, darkly, and repeatedly.

In the movie, the center is not holding. Batman has become a scapegoat – in the public’s eyes the very reason for the Joker’s wicked reign. He is no longer a hero, or, in the movie’s lexicon, no longer “the hero we need.” The Joker, on the other hand, is evil personified.

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