The Worth of Heroes and Villains in Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”

Talking about the conflicts between heroes and villains in movies or literature, one should recognize the story of Batman as one of the strongest examples of how evil is born, developed, and controlled. This film franchise contains a number of characters as protagonists or antagonists and, what is more important, describes the line between good and bad qualities that is usually hard to identify. The first movie about Batman was created in 1989, and the Joker was its main villain. In 2008, Christopher Nolan made another powerful attempt to depict the battle between Batman (performed by Christian Bale) and the Joker (performed by Heath Ledger) and directed The Dark Knight.

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Today, this movie is defined as one of the most memorable performances by Ledger before his death, and the work of Bale underlines the qualities of Batman. Smart evil plans, loyal relationships, brave decisions, justified risks, and horrible outcomes are perfectly intertwined within the plot. In the Batman film franchise, The Dark Knight introduces the two most powerful characters, including the Joker as the antagonist with a desire to challenge Batman, whose protagonist qualities and justice endeavors gain new meaning.

Batman is always accepted as one of the brightest protagonists. His qualities are frequently used to demonstrate the highest levels of justice, brevity, and power. He believes that “sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded” but never turn away from them (The Dark Knight). On the one hand, the presence of such skills should make Batman a round character. He is an example or even a prototype of a multi-faceted personality whose motivation is to help and protect people. Bruce Wayne is a rich man and a successful business owner in Gotham City. However, he makes a decision to hide his face under the mask of Batman to fight against the criminal society of the city.

On the other hand, it is not enough to categorize Batman as a round character. The strength of The Dark Knight is the change people observe in Batman through the movie. In the beginning, he was “the hero Gotham deserves”, the one that protects when it is necessary and help when it is not even expected (The Dark Knight). With time, concerns and doubts arise to clarify if “you either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain” (The Dark Knight). In the end, he became “a silent guardian, a watchful protector, a Dark Knight” (The Dark Knight). It is the best transition of a dynamic character, and the Joker seems to be one of the authors of this change.

The list of villains in the Batman franchise is impressive, but the Joker can be named as the father of all bad guys who should resist Bruce Wayne. The Joker is a doer, a genius planner, and one of the most horrible characters in the movie industry. He knows no mercy, forgiveness, or compassion and supports everything connected with destruction and chaos. In his intention to understand the Joker, Batman does not succeed and listens to his confident Alfred. The Joker actually belongs to “some men aren’t looking for anything logical. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn” (The Dark Knight).

Using these definitions, it is possible to define this antagonist as a static character, who starts and ends as an evil source, the goal of which is to prove his power over everyone and everything. Still, it is not enough for the Joker to kill a person or set a building on fire. He thinks over each step and predicts the reactions of other people to be prepared and be smart. As a result, his plan was achieved when he took “Gotham’s white knight” [Dent] and “brought him down to our level” (The Dark Knight). The Joker does not follow any philosophy but strongly believes that madness is “like gravity, all it takes is a little push” (The Dark Knight). Besides, his facial expression proves that he is not going to change but achieve his evil plans with a smile on his face.

Taking into consideration the nature of both characters, an antagonist and a protagonist, it is hard to believe that some juxtaposition can be found in this movie. However, Batman and the Joker are the sides of the same coin and have to co-exist, supporting the balance of good and evil. One should mention that both of them wear some masks (the smile and chalk make-up on the Joker’s face and the Batman mask).

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It means that they have something to hide, and secrets may be the sources of misunderstandings, wrong judgments, and failed decisions. For example, the Joker uses it as an excuse to kill people because he wants Batman to “take off his mask and turn himself in… and every day he doesn’t, people will die starting tonight” (The Dark Knight). Batman wants to prove that his decision to hide his face is justified, and the city is “full of people ready to believe in good,” even if it is under the mask (The Dark Knight).

The Joker uses Harvey as “an ace in the hole” to reveal the worst things in people, and Batman explains Dent’s fall as he is one of the best representatives of society (The Dark Knight). These two characters meet and use the same people, but their intentions make them different. The antagonist has no good qualities, and Batman has to show his worst ones to realize how to win the enemy and achieve justice.

In The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan presents a variety of characters, either round, dynamic, flat, or static. Despite their goals and qualities, all of them are fully-developed and well-performed. This story is not only about good and evil but also about the situations when evil changes even the best individuals. There is no definite distinction between these concepts, and the chosen characters show the mess that exists around. The Joker challenges Batman and demonstrates how justice and loyalty could become the reasons for fury and hopelessness.

Although both of them try to kill each other a million times, none of them actually does it even if they have opportunities because these are not their final goals. These characters need each other to prove their worth and provide meaning for their actions. The Joker wins because his mastermind and strategic planning have to be recognized. However, if the Joker aims at ordering chaos only, Batman wants to keep social order. The relationships between these characters are complex, and the director proves that this connection influences the Joker and Batman, revealing their best and worst sides.

Work Cited

The Dark Knight. Directed by Christopher Nolan, performances by Christian Bale and Heath Ledger, Warner Brothers Pictures, 2008.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, June 21). The Worth of Heroes and Villains in Nolan's "The Dark Knight". Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/the-worth-of-heroes-and-villains-in-nolans-the-dark-knight/

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"The Worth of Heroes and Villains in Nolan's "The Dark Knight"." StudyCorgi, 21 June 2021, studycorgi.com/the-worth-of-heroes-and-villains-in-nolans-the-dark-knight/.

1. StudyCorgi. "The Worth of Heroes and Villains in Nolan's "The Dark Knight"." June 21, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/the-worth-of-heroes-and-villains-in-nolans-the-dark-knight/.


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StudyCorgi. "The Worth of Heroes and Villains in Nolan's "The Dark Knight"." June 21, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/the-worth-of-heroes-and-villains-in-nolans-the-dark-knight/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "The Worth of Heroes and Villains in Nolan's "The Dark Knight"." June 21, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/the-worth-of-heroes-and-villains-in-nolans-the-dark-knight/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'The Worth of Heroes and Villains in Nolan's "The Dark Knight"'. 21 June.

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