Previous Joints

Friday, 28 June 2013

The Dark W. Knight

I find it difficult to write about films I have a true burning love for, simply because I turn such pieces into an exercise of fitting clich├ęs into sentences. So I end up writing about newish films that I have yet to form a concrete opinion on, or flawed films which I can give backhanded complements to, or films I absolutely hate so I can vent my frustrations.

But I actually wanted to try and write about a film I genuinely and whole heartedly love – Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. 

I remember back when I was in secondary school, coming home for my lunch break – which was strange because I rarely did that. My Ma was kind enough to rustle something up and while I was talking to her through the kitchen window I noticed something on the telly. I ignored it at first because I figured it was a trailer for an action movie, but this image of a burning skyscraper was on there for sometime. Then I started to pay attention to the bright banner running along the bottom of the screen and just like that – a plane appeared on screen and crashed into the building.

“What the fuck?”

I was 12 years old.

For me, The Dark Knight was one of the first truly great post-9/11 movies. It captures how I felt after that day in 2001 – and that was mainly scared.

Previous films and depictions of Batman show that it’s very easy for him to degenerate into a silly character. Nolan made the character a product of 9/11 – his Batman was deadly serious.

Everything about this film reminds me of how I felt after September 11 and how I saw other people react around me.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

For me, at the centre of The Dark Knight is the idea of protecting innocent people by any means – even if the protector himself becomes corrupted by his task.

Yes, Heath Ledger’s Joker is an agent of chaos, but he had a simple role throughout the film and that was to corrupt the incorruptible – bring people down to his level.

This theme is at the centre of every thread of TDK. The corruption of the protector is at the heart of Harvey Dent’s plot and ultimately it drives Batman to develop the invasive sonar technology that helps to capture Joker.

Basically, this is a long winded way of me trying to say that to this day I believe TDK is a defence of President George W Bush.

Another haunting image that I can’t ever forget is when Bush was in that school room, reading to the kids and an aide tells him what has just happened in New York. And he just sits there.

I’ve always asked myself why he didn’t abandon that photo-call, go straight into a war room and get to work. But the older I get, the more I question that initial reaction.

I’ve read quite a lot about President Bush and it is clear that he really wasn’t an intelligent man – a fact which I always find hard to reason with. How can someone with his academic record and his failed business ventures end up being President of the United States? Only in America, right? (To be fair to Bush, he was a successful Governor)

And it’s this man that America entrusted great powers to. America is a fascinating country, because, despite their hatred of monarchies and dictatorships, one man holds a huge chunk of power. The pressure George W Bush felt at that moment in the class room must have been greater than anything anyone who has achieved his position ever experienced.

This is why I feel a great deal of sympathy for him – everything after that photo-opportunity in the class room changed. Everything.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I cringe when people blast Bush for being a war criminal (he may very well be) and the worst president – especially if they argue this in an American accent. Polls before the invasion of both the Afghan and Iraq wars show that a majority of American approved of it. And of course they did, because if they were like me, they were terrified.

You have to remember the way people spoke after 9/11. People were rightly angry, scared and vengeful. Damn it, it was ok to discriminate towards Muslims after 9/11 – Google “Muslim hate crime after 9/11”, it makes for terrifying reading.

Bush was the leader Americans and, to a certain respect, Britons wanted because in him we saw a protector.

Another image that resonates with me after 9/11 is Bush standing on Ground Zero giving his much celebrated at the time, “We hear you” speech. Bush was encouraged every step of the way in the actions he took, not just by his Darth-Vader-like Vice-President, Dick Chaney, but by the public. 

Never forget that George W Bush was re-elected.

I love The Dark Knight because it makes me re-evaluate the past. The great films reflect the time in which they were made. I think Christopher Nolan's Batman does greatly resemble the presidency of George W Bush.

I personally believe that the world is a much more dangerous place because of George W Bush’s presidency, but I don’t think that’s because he’s evil or even a bad man. I just think he wasn’t clever enough or strong enough to deal with the situation he was dealt with.

But it is also disingenuous for us, the public, American or British, to wipe our hands of the mess Bush made – we are complicit. We allowed it to happen. Yes, a lot of people protested, but simply not enough. Again, he was re-elected.

Every time I hear a Bush basher (giggles) deconstruct his admittedly poor terms in office, especially when it comes to foreign policy, I think of the boat scene in TDK. We all believe that we have convictions and if given the power we’d do something about them. But, in reality, the majority of us would have done nothing and hope that somebody else does the hard work for us - like the characters in TDK.