The presence of Two-Face in The Dark Knight is no coincidence. Christopher Nolan stuffed that film full of duality to show how Batman and the Joker are opposite sides of the same coin. Order and chaos, light and darkness – they are perfectly represented by Harvey Dent’s half-burned coin, which he uses to mete out “justice.”
Here are 10 intriguing examples of scenes and ideas that are repeated to demonstrate what polar opposites Batman and the Joker are. Harvey got caught in the middle of an epic power struggle between good and evil.
Jokers and Batmen
In the first scene, we see a bunch of men with clown masks robbing a Mob bank. The Joker is the leader, and he kills off everyone who gets in his way, including the other clowns working for him. In the very next scene, we see multiple men dressed like Batman trying unsuccessfully to break up a Mob deal. The real Batman shows up at the scene and promptly leaves all of the Batmen and Mob members captured and tied up ready for the police to take care of.
A Couple of Heists
The Joker’s bank heist also resembles Batman’s escapade in Hong Kong. At the end of the bank heist, a bus suddenly smashes through the front entrance, allowing the Joker to escape undetected. After Batman grabs a corrupt Hong Kong businessman in a skyscraper, the window behind him explodes and he escapes via a plane traveling below the radar.
At a fancy restaurant, Harvey tells Bruce Wayne and Rachel Dawes that when Ancient Rome was threatened by an invader the Romans would suspend democracy and elect one man to take control of their city and deliver them. But Rachel points out that the last man they appointed to that position was Julius Caesar, and he never gave up his power.
They are initially comparing Rome’s protector to Batman, but the analogy works even better with the Joker. The Mob was so desperate (because the police were literally at their doors) that they put their fate into the hands of the Joker, a man they didn’t fully understand, as Alfred notes later. Once the Mob’s money is located and the Joker’s job is done, he refuses to give up the power they gave him. He burns a lot of the money and has the other Mob bosses killed until he’s the unrivaled crime boss of Gotham City.
Batman designs a cell-phone surveillance system to spy on everyone in Gotham City, but he gives control of it to Lucius Fox. Lucius only uses it to find the Joker and once that mission is completed, he destroys the system so it can never be used to spy on anyone again. He was right – that was too much power for one man.
Where Is Harvey Dent?
Shortly after Bruce arrives at a fundraiser for Harvey, he playfully asks, “Where is Harvey Dent?” He wants to say nice things about Harvey, and he invites Rachel to come close during his speech. Shortly after that, the Joker crashes the fundraiser and eerily asks, “Where is Harvey Dent?” Once he realizes Harvey isn’t forthcoming, he gets up in Rachel’s face and threatens her.
Joker and Gordon in Disguise
During a funeral service for the dead police commissioner, the Joker and his men dress as police officers to get close enough to try to kill the mayor. Jim Gordon foils the attack by protecting the mayor from a deadly gunshot. Later, Jim Gordon (who had been faking his own death) pretends to be a S.W.A.T. truck driver to get close enough to the Joker to capture him when he’s about to attack Batman.
When Bruce decides to reveal his true identity as Batman, he first takes the precaution of burning every shred of evidence that could incriminate Lucius, Rachel, or Alfred. He does this because he cares about his friends’ wellbeing more than anything else. When the Joker reveals himself as the replacement for Gotham’s Mob bosses, he proves it by burning hundreds of millions of dollars that were rightfully his because he doesn’t care about money at all, and then he kills the bosses.
Gotham’s White Knight and Dark Knight
Gordon calls Harvey Gotham’s White Knight because he’s an honorable man who everyone respects. At one point, Harvey even announces that he is Batman to protect the real Batman and take the fall for his crimes. Later, Gordon calls Batman a Dark Knight because he is a hero who is completely hated by both criminals and good guys. At the end of the movie, Batman takes the blame for all of Two-Face’s murders in order to preserve Harvey’s reputation as the White Knight.
Clapping for the Adversary
As Harvey is being taken through police headquarters (after claiming to be Batman), several police officers actually clap for him. That’s despite his having a bad reputation for investigating cops’ corruption and for now claiming to be a vigilante. After the Joker is captured, Gordon is named the new police commissioner right in front of his prison cell. As cops clap at the announcement, everyone is stunned to see the Joker clapping vigorouslyfor Gordon, even though the Joker is dedicated to the exact opposite of law and order.
Taking Down Powerful Vehicles with Wires
The Joker’s men use two cables to entangle a police helicopter and bring it down in a fiery crash. A minute later, Batman gives the Joker a taste of his own medicine when he attaches two cables to the front of the Joker’s big rig and then bolts the other ends into the ground, causing the huge truck to completely flip over and plunge into the ground upside down.
Batman Follows (and Then Breaks) His Only Rule
At the climax, Batman throws the Joker off a tall building, but he saves him at the last second because he still refuses to kill anyone, even though the Joker deserves (and even welcomes) death. In the next scene, Batman knocks Harvey (who has now been transformed into the deranged and suicidal psychopath named Two-Face) off a ledge, killing him. Batman does manage to spare an innocent child’s life, but he’s unable to save Harvey. He broke his rule not to kill anyone on the one man he tried his hardest to save earlier in the film.
Two Sides of the Same Coin
The dual nature of Batman’s and the Joker’s relationship has been endlessly explored in comic books. Seeing it brilliantly play out in a film is part of what elevates The Dark Knight above the other two films in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy.
By adding Harvey Dent’s tragic story to the mix, Nolan personified the conflict between Batman and the Joker in a way that no one had ever attempted before. And it worked perfectly. The next time you watch The Dark Knight, look for all of the examples of duality. They will only add to your enjoyment of this film.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
All images are the copyright of their owners.
Have you thought about writing a post which compared the two Jokers (Ledger and Nicholson)? I recently rewatched the 1989 Batman movie and Nicholson was good, albeit in a different kind of crazy than Ledger.
Thank you for the suggestion. I have thought about that. It’s just a matter of finding the right angle to approach it from because it seems like everyone was comparing those two performances back in 2008, so I just want to make sure I add something no one has already done. If I do come up with something interesting, I’ll be sure to let you know. 🙂
You noticed a lot things I didn’t! Good article.
I admire the fact that Nolan took the initiative to include this duality, but he forgot to come up with logical ways of implementing his ideas and themes. This movie has one of the most scrambled throughlines of any film I have ever seen, and half of the actions contradict the rules of the story’s world. What is stopping Nolan from writing a stronger screenplay apart from his own inability? This is what makes him a weak film-maker.
Pingback: Marvel’s Unique Approach to Secret Identities | Deja Reviewer
Pingback: The Subtle Symmetry of the Entire Dark Knight Trilogy | Deja Reviewer
Pingback: Movies with ‘The Movie’ in the Title | Deja Reviewer
Pingback: Bruce Wayne vs. Francisco d’Anconia | Deja Reviewer
Pingback: Criticizing Films, Not Fans | Deja Reviewer
Pingback: What Is the Ideal Amount of Time Between Superhero Sequels? | Deja Reviewer
Pingback: Middle Movies Everyone Agrees Are the Best in Their Trilogies | Deja Reviewer
Pingback: 30 Movies Featuring 2+ Batman Movie Villain Actors | Deja Reviewer