Darkest before dawn

Sometimes, you enter a cinema with high expectations and come out disappointed. Sometimes, you read the movie spoiler and ruin the cinematic experience. Sometimes, you enter a cinema with high expectations and after having read the spoiler but you still get blown away. The Dark Knight is such an exciting, brooding and sophisticated film that it surpassed my super high expectations and then some. In fact, Zibin and I both felt that it was one of our best movie-going experiences ever, and my notoriously stingy movie critic of a husband actually gave it a 9 or 9.5 out of 10. (For comparison, it’s a 6.5 for Red Cliff/赤壁.)

The Dark Knight has all the wham-bam one could desire of an action/super-hero movie, but to label it merely as such is a gross injustice. Under the glossy overcoat of an action film lie numerous subtexts that explore the political, psychological and philosophical. It challenges you to define heroism and justice, and shakes the notion that truth will always set you free. It is a film that “…has a tragic underpinning that would intrigue Shakespeare or the Greeks. It’s about power and impotence, sanity and madness, image and reality, selfishness and sacrifice, and – yes – consequences.” (James Berardinelli)

Is good the flip side of evil? Or is evil just being ‘ahead of the curve’ from the good? Is it true that heroes will either die or live long enough to see themselves become villains? Is there something more worthy of preserving than human life? Could there be something more important than truth? Could you reach out to help people who reject that help and persecute you instead? Would you willingly choose to be misjudged and persecuted because you believe in something greater than yourself? These are just a few of the questions that this film made me think about.

The Dark Knight is certainly dark, but it is also buoyed by hope. It tells it like it is: everyone has both darkness and light in them, but, “it is not who I am underneath but what I *do* that defines me.” (Batman Begins)

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