Seeking a little escapist entertainment last night, I took two of my kids to see the new Batman film “Dark Knight.” Instead of escapist entertainment, we found a Hollywood parable of the war on terrorism. Gotham City has become New York City. The Joker had become a master terrorist (although the Joker, unlike Osama bin Laden, is a frank nihilist). The use of torture for interrogation is debated and enacted, as is comprehensive communications surveillance.
Batman becomes a self-doubting defender of the city who is blamed for the 9/11-like attacks wrought on it by the Joker. The citizens of the city turn on Batman. A crusading Rudy Giuliani-like prosecutor is horribly disfigured in one of the Joker’s attacks; he becomes a vigilante with a mean streak. But what wrong did we commit to be punished with a view of his horribly disfigured face for the remainder of the film?
As David Cox points out, Batman protects the city from learning of the prosecutor’s misdeeds by claiming them as his own. Andrew Bolt finds the parable an expression of support for President Bush. Dana Stevens finds “more nuanced thinking about the war on terror than we’ve seen from the Bush administration in seven years.”
Dark knight of the soul? Not exactly what we came for.
UPDATE/CORRECTION: Several readers point out elements of Chicago in the film’s Gotham setting, as does this AP story. I perhaps mistakenly saw the Gotham City skyline and the ferries that appear at the end of the film as identifying Gotham City with New York. Readers in the linked comment thread also dispute my finding the film a commentary on the war on terrorism, although one cites Andrew Klavan’s Wall Street Journal column in support of my point. You have to be obtuse to miss this element of the film.
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