A MAGIC TRICK
This scene further develops The Joker as a character and establishes an alliance between The Joker and the Mob.
Lau: As you’re all aware, one of our deposits was stolen. A relatively small amount, 68 million.
The Chechen: Who’s stupid enough to steal from us?
Maroni: Two-bit wackjob, wears a cheap purple suit and makeup. He’s not the problem. He’s a nobody. The problem is our money being tracked by the cops.
Lau: Thanks to Mr. Maroni’s well-placed sources we know that police have indeed identified our banks using marked bills and are planning to seize your funds today. And since the enthusiastic new DA has put all my competitors out of business, I’m your only option.
Maroni: So, what are you proposing?
Lau: Moving all deposits to one secure location, not a bank.
Gambol: Where, then?
Lau: No one can know but me. If the police were to gain leverage over one of you everyone’s money would be at stake.
The Chechen: What stop them getting to you?
Lau: I go to Hong Kong, far from Dent’s jurisdiction and the Chinese will not extradite one of their own.
Maroni: How soon can you move the money?
Lau: I already have. For obvious reasons, I couldn’t wait for your permission. Rest assured, your money is safe.
The Joker: Oh, hee-hee, aha. Ha, ooh, hee, ha-ha, ha-ha. And I thought my jokes were bad.
Gambol: Give me one reason why I shouldn’t have my boy here pull your head off.
The Joker: How about a magic trick? I’m gonna make this pencil disappear. Ta-da! It’s–It’s gone. Oh, and by the way, the suit, it wasn’t cheap. You ought to know, you bought it.
The Chechen: Sit. I want to hear proposition.
The Joker: Let’s wind the clocks back a year. These cops and lawyers wouldn’t dare cross any of you. I mean, what happened? Did your balls drop off? Hm? You see, a guy like me-
Gambol: A freak.
The Joker: A guy like me– Look, listen. I know why you choose to have your little, ahem…group-therapy sessions in broad daylight. I know why you’re afraid to go out at night. The Batman. See, Batman has shown Gotham your true colors, unfortunately. Dent, he’s just the beginning. And as for the television’s so-called plan…Batman has no jurisdiction. He’ll find him and make him squeal. I know the squealers when I see them…and….
Mobster: What do you propose?
The Joker: It’s simple. We, uh, kill the Batman.
Maroni: If it’s so simple, why haven’t you done it already?
The Joker: If you’re good at something, never do it for free.
Mobster: How much you want?
The Joker: Uh, half.
Gambol: You’re crazy.
The Joker: No, I’m not. No, I’m not. If we don’t deal with this now…soon…Little Gambol here won’t be able to get a nickel for his grandma.
Gambol: Enough from the clown!
The Joker: Ah, ta-ta-ta. Let’s not blow this out of proportion.
Gambol: You think you can steal from us and just walk away?
The Joker: Yeah.
Gambol: I’m putting the word out. Five hundred grand for this clown dead. A million alive, so I can teach him some manners first.
The Joker: All right. So, listen, why don’t you give me a call when you wanna start taking things a little more seriously? Here’s my card. Mm-mm.
Mise-en-scene is used throughout this scene to establish the mobsters as characters. The meeting takes place in a dingy kitchen and the mobsters are seated around laminate tables beneath cheap fluorescent lighting. The incongruity between their expensive suits, elegant silverware and the shabby surroundings suggests that they have been forced underground by the crackdown on organised crime. As The Joker notes: “Look, listen. I know why you choose to have your little, ahem…group-therapy sessions in broad daylight. I know why you’re afraid to go out at night. The Batman.” As The Joker delivers this line, Nolan cuts to close ups of Gambol and Moroni whose agreement is expressed through subtle nods and by a very slight dolly in.
The establishment and development of these characters also relies on stereotypes. The three main mobsters – Maroni, The Chechen and Gambol – are stereotypical gangsters. Maroni is similar to the type of characters audiences are familiar with from films like The Godfather and Goodfellas. The Chechen is a stereotypical Eastern European gangster, a type of character that has become increasingly prevalent since the fall of the Soviet Union. Gambol is based on the stereotype of an African American gangster, a role epitomised by Denzel Washington in Ridley Scott’s American Gangster.
During this scene, parallel editing is used to show two events happening at the same time. When Lau is explaining he had to move the money to a more secure location, Nolan cuts to a montage of shots as police officers – including Gordon and Ramirez – storm the Bank of Gotham. As they enter the bank, Nolan cuts back to Lau who continues explaining why they would have to move the money. This is reinforced when Nolan cuts back to a midshot of Gordon running into a bank vault with his pistol drawn, then cuts to a shot of a truck being loaded with bags of cash. After inter-cutting between Gordon and the cash, the doors on the truck closes as Lau concedes that he has already moved the money.
Before The Joker appears onscreen, he is described by Maroni as a “two-bit wackjob”. As he enters the room, editing, lighting and sound are used to make his character appear more sinister. First, the audience hears the ominous and eccentric laughter. Nolan cuts to midshots of the hardened mobsters as they look towards the door with expressions of surprise and disgust. At first, the audience doesn’t see the Joker’s face. Instead, Nolan cuts to a tracking shot as he walks into the room. Backlit by the harsh fluorescent lights, his bedraggled silhouette is menacing. Upon entering the room, The Joker’s theme – a single, distorted note played on the violin – oscillates eerily in the background. Also, it’s interesting to note that The Joker appears in the foreground, completely dominating the shot, making the mobsters themselves seem much smaller and insignificant in comparison. More than anything, Heath Ledger’s acting contributes significantly to the development of this character. “How about a magic trick? I’m gonna make this pencil disappear,” he says, savagely thrusting it through one of the henchmen’s eyes. “Ta-da! It’s–It’s gone.” After killing the man, he looks back to the mobsters with complete composure and says, “Oh, and by the way, the suit, it wasn’t cheap. You ought to know, you bought it.” These lines of dialogue, in combination with Heath Ledger’s performance, contribute to the character’s psychosis.
During this scene, the dialogue and the subtle glances between The Joker and Gambol (Michael Jai White) establish an animosity between these characters. Further into the narrative, this animosity is resolved when The Joker kills Gambol. “I’m putting the word out,” says Gambol. “Five hundred grand for this clown dead. A million alive, so I can teach him some manners first.” This is a good example of how editing, acting and dialogue can be used to establish the relationship between characters. During this scene, The Joker offers to kill Batman. Consistent with the conventions of superhero narratives and the Batman mythos, the narrative moves relentlessly towards a confrontation between Batman and The Joker.
This scene begins with an aerial shot of Gotham City at night. The Bat Signal reaches towards the clouds.
Dent: You’re a hard man to reach. Lau’s halfway to Hong Kong. If you’d have asked, I could have taken his passport. I told you to keep me in the loop.
Gordon: All that was left in the vaults were marked bills. They knew we were coming. As soon as your office got involved–
Dent: My office? You’re sitting down there with scum like Wuertz and Ramirez and you’re talking–oh, yeah Gordon. I almost had your rookie cold on a racketeering beat.
Gordon: Don’t try and cloud the fact that clearly Maroni’s got people in your office, Dent.
Dent: We need Lau back…but the Chinese won’t extradite a national under any circumstances.
Batman: If I get him to you, can you get him to talk?
Dent: I’ll get him to sing.
Gordon: We’re going after the Mob’s life savings. Things will get ugly.
Dent: I knew the risk when I took this job, Lieutenant. How will you get him back, any–?
Gordon: He does that.
This scene is significant in the chain of cause and effect: Dent, Gordon and Batman resolve to pursue Lau and take the Mob’s savings. Beyond this, it also develops the storyline of Detective Anna Ramirez. Towards the beginning of the narrative, Ramirez admitted to Gordon that her mother was back in hospital. During this scene, Dent reveals that he almost had her “cold on a racketeering beat”. This storyline is resolved later in the narrative.
SHOULD DO FINE AGAINST CATS
Fox: Our Chinese friends left town before I could tell them the deal was off.
Wayne: Well, I’m sure that you’ve always wanted to go to Hong Kong.
Fox: What’s wrong with a phone call?
Wayne: I think Mr. Lau deserves a more personal touch.
Fox: Now, for high-altitude jumps you’re going to need oxygen and stabilizers. Well, I must say, compared to your usual requests jumping out of an airplane is pretty straightforward.
Wayne: What about getting back into the plane?
Fox: I’d recommend a good travel agent.
Wayne: Without it landing.
Fox: Now, that’s more like it, Mr. Wayne. The CIA had a program back in the ’60s for getting their people out of hot spots called Sky Hook. We could look into that.
Fox: Okay. Now. Hardened Kevlar plates over titanium-dipped tri-weave fibers for flexibility. You’ll be lighter, faster, more agile. Perhaps you should read the instructions first?
Fox: Now, there is a tradeoff. Separation of the plates makes you more vulnerable to knives and gunfire.
Wayne: We wouldn’t wanna make things too easy, now, would we? How will it hold up against dogs?
Fox: We talking rottweilers or Chihuahuas? Should do fine against cats.
The structuring of time throughout this sequence is important. The long and tedious preparation needed to prepare for the extraction of Lau is condensed into several short scenes. After the scene during which Lucius Fox and Bruce Wayne discuss the skyhook, Nolan cuts to a scene with Alfred and Wayne finalising the plans. “Did you think of an alibi?” Bruce asks his butler. “Oh yes,” Alfred replies. Nolan cuts to a shot of Rachel Dawes and Harvey Dent, dressed in formal attire prepared for the ballet. There is a large sign plastered across the front of the building: PERFORMANCE CANCELLED. Nolan cuts to a midshot of Rachel who shakes her head knowingly, then to a close-up of a newspaper article stuck to the inside of the window. The headline reads: ‘Love Boat: Billionaire Absconds With Entire Russian Ballet”. Nolan then cuts to an aerial shot of a yacht moored off the coast of Asia.
As Batman prepares to capture Lau, Nolan cuts to Gambol receiving news that The Joker is dead. This scene contributes significantly to The Joker’s character development, principally using shot size, acting, dialogue and music. It also resolves the animosity established between The Joker and Gambol in an earlier scene. Nolan cuts from a close-up of The Joker’s expressionless face as he’s dumped on Gambol’s billiards table to a midshot of Gambol as he strolls towards the men who’ve come to claim the bounty. As he turns his back, Nolan cuts to a shot of The Joker’s motionless head. Cutting back to Gambol, the audience sees a sudden movement in the background as The Joker springs to life. Nolan cuts rapidly several times as The Joker seizes Gambol and holds a hunting knife to his mouth. Editing is used to convey that the men who were claiming the bounty worked for The Joker. Using two quick cuts, Nolan shows that they now have guns held to the heads of Gambol’s henchmen.
Cutting back to a close-up of The Joker and Gambol, Nolan chooses to use a sustained close-up of the pair while The Joker explains how he got his scars: “You wanna know how I got these scars? My father was a drinker and a fiend. And one night, he goes off crazier than usual. Mommy gets the kitchen knife to defend herself. He doesn’t like that. Not one bit. So, me watching…he takes the knife to her, laughing while he does it. He turns to me and he says: “Why so serious?” He comes at me with the knife. “Why so serious?” He sticks the blade in my mouth. “Let’s put a smile on that face.” And….Why so serious?” The use of a close-up contributes significantly to the intensity of The Joker’s monologue. Throughout his speech, Nolan once again uses The Joker’s theme: an incessant and distorted violin which gradually increases in intensity until The Joker kills his rival. Mise-en-scene also plays an important role throughout this scene. The key light in this scene is positioned behind The Joker’s head. Half of his face is consumed by murky shadows. The fill light in the scene reflects off his slick, sweaty forehead accentuating the grotesque poorly applied makeup. The background of the shot is dominated by brown, decrepit walls. The Dark Knight features a number of different storylines which are arise and are resolved throughout the narrative. The animosity between The Joker and Gambol is one of these. Although it doesn’t appear on screen, Gambol’s death is conveyed through a combination of music, acting, editing and dialogue. The music reaches its climax as The Joker growls, “Why so serious?” Nolan cuts to a close-up of one of the henchmen as he grimaces, then to a midshot of The Joker from behind, still shrouded in black plastic as Gambol’s body falls to the floor. The scene ends on a particularly chilling note as The Joker says, “”Now. our operation is small but there is a lot of potential for aggressive expansion. So which of you fine gentlemen would like to join our team? Oh. There’s only one spot open right now, so we’re gonna have tryouts.” The scene ends with a shot of Gambol’s men on their hands and knees looking at the broken pool cue.
The opening of this scene is a good example of how filmmakers can manipulate time. The scene opens with an aerial shot of Hong Kong. A helicopter flies into frame. Nolan cuts to a tighter shot of a roof as Lucius Fox walks off the helipad and is greeted by one of Lau’s men: “Welcome to Hong Kong, Mr. Fox. Mr. Lau regrets he is unable to greet you in person today.” In the next shot, Lucius checks into security. Shortly after that, he is seated on a balcony meeting with Lau. This structuring of time is commonplace in narratives. Audiences accept that time has passed between each of these shots and the progression of the story appears seamless. It allows the narrative to progress and audiences to remain engaged without including tedious details.
This scene opens with an aerial shot of Batman standing high above the Hong Kong skyline. To accompany the action and engage the audience, James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer’s urgent and heroic Batman theme plays in the background. Several extreme close-ups show Batman assembling a gun for firing explosive devices over long distances. One of these extreme close-ups shows a liquid crystal readout: 2:30. Although the purpose of this device will be unfamiliar to audiences, its use is conveyed through a combination of acting, sound and editing. The device warms up, emitting a high pitched diegetic hum. Batman fires. Nolan cuts to an extreme close-up of a distant window as several explosive devices collide with the glass. An extreme close-up shows the charge counting down. In another example of parallel editing, Nolan cuts to a midshot of Lau sitting at his desk, then to an extreme close-up of the cell phone that Lucius Fox left behind in the preceding scene. The screen flickers and the phone emits a beeping sound. The lights begin to flicker. Nolan cuts to a midshot of the security guards sitting at their desks. They look confused as the computer monitors begin to flicker and the lights go out. Nolan returns to the midhot of Lau and two shots of his security detail. As the lights go out, they look confused and concerned. This combination of shot size, acting, editing and sound conveys that the device has disrupted the building’s power and security systems. Nolan cuts back to Batman as leaps from the top of the skyscraper. The powerful and percussive score kicks in as he leaps from the top of the building. Cutting back to Lau and the security guards, the camera tracks them as they move through between the darkened cubicles of the office building. The camera tracks Batman as he soars around the building. The music rises as he smashes through one of the windows. Cutting to an interior shot of the building, Nolan shows glass shattering as Batman breaks the glass. In the foreground a security guard spins around in surprise. The pace of the editing increases markedly as Batman tackles him, ploughing through a glass partition. Nolan alternates between shots of Lau and his security detail firing repeatedly at The Batman as he swiftly disarms the guards. The low key lighting, exaggerated diegetic punches, rapid editing and music contribute significantly to audience engagement throughout this scene. Nolan cuts back and forth between the guards firing and glass shattering as Batman evades the hail of bullets. Visual composition, editing and acting show that – for the moment, at least – the guards have lost Batman. The camera lingers on a shot of upturned furniture and broken glass. Nolan cuts back to Lau who looks around, clearly concerned. Cutting to an exterior shot of the building, we see the arrival of an armed response unit. Upstairs, Nolan shows a sustained shot of an unconscious security guard amid the wreckage. The camera dollies in on Lau, highlighting his increasing concern. The editing between the shots of Lau and the armed police officers become more rapid. In a flurry of movement, Batman emerges from the shadows swiftly disarming his opponents. The rapid camera movement, editing, music and the forceful sound as Batman fends off the security guards contribute to audience engagement in this scene. There is a rapid series of cuts between Batman as he drags Lau towards the window and the armed response unit storming the building. As they draw closer, the cuts become increasingly more rapid until they enter the office, guns drawn in a stand off with The Batman. Nolan cuts to an extreme close-up of the explosive charges that were fired at the windows in the beginning of the scene. The red numbers reach zero. Cutting to a full shot of Batman, the glass behind him explodes in a fireball. An exterior long shot shows that an entire corner of the building has been completely destroyed. In a previous scene, Lucius Fox alluded to a government project “for getting their people out of hot spots called Sky Hook.” An extreme close-up shows Batman activating a harness attached to himself and Lau. Cutting to a midshot of the pair, Nolan shows a long shoot unfurling behind them. A long shot of the building shows the chute unravelling and floating rapidly into the sky. Nolan cuts between a shot of Batman and a midshot of a confused police officer. An extreme long shot shows the chute floating high above the skyscraper. After cutting briefly to several more shots of the confused officers, the camera tracks a cargo plane as it flies overhead. The chute connects with the plane and Batman and Lau are whisked from the building. In another example of the structuring of time, Nolan cuts from a shot of the cargo plane against the Hong Kong skyline to a tracking shot of Lieutenant Gordon as he descends the stairs outside the Gotham Police Department. Cutting to a midshot of Lau, Nolan shows a large piece of paper taped to his chest which reads, “Please Deliver To – LIEUTENANT GORDON.”
STRIKING A DEAL
This scene largely consists of dialogue as Rachel Dawes attempts to strike a deal with Lau to bring charges against organised crime in Gotham City.
Dawes: Look, give us the money and we’ll talk about making a deal.
Lau: The money is the only reason I’m still alive.
Dawes: Oh, you mean, when they find out that you’ve helped us, they’re gonna kill you?
Attorney: Are you threatening my client?
Dawes: No. I’m just assuming your client’s cooperation with this investigation. As will everyone. No? Okay. Enjoy your time in County, Mr. Lau.
Lau: Wait! I won’t give you the money…but I will give you my clients, all of them.
Dawes: You were a glorified accountant. What could you possibly have on all of them that we could charge?
Lau: I’m good with calculation. I handled all their investments. One big pot.
Dent: Got it.
Dawes: One minute.
Dent: RICO. If they pooled their money…we can charge them as one criminal conspiracy.
Gordon: Charge them with what?
Dent: In a RICO case, if you can charge one of the conspirators with a felony–
Dawes: You can charge all of them with it. That’s great. Mr. Lau. What kind of details do you have about this communal fund? Ledgers–?
Lau: Immunity, protection, a chartered plane back to Hong Kong.
Dawes: After you testify in open court. And I’m just curious, with all your clients locked up what’s gonna happen with all that money?
Lau: Like I said, I’m good with calculation.
Gordon: He can’t go to County. I’ll keep him here in the holding cells.
Dent: What is this, Gordon, your fortress?
Gordon: Well, you trust them over at County?
Dent: I don’t trust them here.
Gordon: Lau stays.
After the scene ends, Nolan cuts to a midshot of one of The Chechin as he says, “Put word out. We hire the clown. He was right. We have to fix real problem. Batman.” At that moment, Nolan cuts to a midshot of Gordon as he enters the room. In another example of the structuring of time, Nolan condenses the arrest and trial of Gotham’s entire criminal underworld in a few shots. “Are you sure you want to embarass me in front of my friends, Lieutenant?” Moroni asks. “Oh don’t worry, they’re coming too,” Gordon replies. The camera tilts down to show a stream of uniformed police officers entering the building. The Chechan is cuffed. Nolan then cuts to three other shots of criminals being cuffed and taken into custody. The montage ends with a shot of Gordon shaking hands with someone. As this occurs, the audience hears Judge Surrillo’s voice during the subsequent trial: “Seven hundred twelve counts of extortion. Eight hundred and forty-nine counts of racketeering. Two hundred and forty-six counts of fraud. Eighty-seven counts of conspiracy murder. Five hundred and twenty-seven counts of obstruction of justice. How do the defendants plead?” When Nolan finally cuts to the trial as Surrillo is reading through the long lists of charges, he cuts to an extreme close-up of her notes. As she turns the pages, she notices a Joker card inbetween the sheets. Nolan cuts to a shot of Surrillo. She appears slightly puzzled before tossing the card away. This establishes the narrative possibility that Judge Surrillo is a potential target of The Joker. After this brief shot of the trial, Nolan cuts to a discussion between Dent and the Mayor Anthony Garcia.
Garcia: How did you convince Surrillo to hear this farce?
Dent: She shares my enthusiasm for justice. After all, she is a judge.
Garcia: Well, even if you blow enough smoke to get convictions out of Surrillo…you’re gonna set a new record at appeals for the quickest kick in the ass.
Dent: It won’t matter. The head guys make bail, sure. But the mid-level guys, they can’t. They can’t afford to be off the streets long enough for trial and appeal. They’ll cut deals that include some jail time. Think of all you could do with 18 months of clean streets.
Loeb: Mr. Mayor, you can’t–
Garcia: No, get out. Both of you. Sit down. The public likes you. That’s the only reason that this might fly. But that means it’s on you. They’re all gonna come after you now, and not just the Mob. Politicians, journalists, cops. Anyone whose wallet’s about to get lighter. Are you up to it? You’d better be. Because they get anything on you and those criminals are back on the streets, followed swiftly by you and me.
This is an important scene in the character development of Harvey Dent, establishing that he is willing to make great sacrifices in the pursuit of justice. As Garcia speaks the camera slowly dollies in on Dent and the Harvey Dent theme written by James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer plays softly in the background.
WE DON’T HAVE TO BE AFRAID OF SCUM LIKE YOU
Garcia’s monologue is interrupted as the body of a masked vigilante, who has been imitating Batman slams against the office window. The sudden appearance, use of diegetic sound and sudden hit of music is used to startle the audience. Nolan cuts to several midshots of uniformed police officers and Lieutenant Gordon as the body is lowered to the street. A close-up reveals that it is one of the men who attempted to aid Batman at the beginning of the film. An extreme close-up shows a Joker card pinned to the front of his suit which reads, “WILL THE REAL BATMAN PLEASE STAND UP?”
The subsequent news story, which shows footage of The Joker taunting his victim shortly before death, is significant in the character development of The Joker. Mise-en-scene contributes to his sadistic and psychotic personality. The footage is shot in a meat refrigerator. In the background there are several animal carcasses hanging from the ceiling, ribs torn asunder and drained of blood. The harsh fluorescent lighting and sparse concrete walls also contribute to a sense menace. When The Joker turns the camera on himself, the lighting highlights his garish, poorly applied make up and black, sunken eyes. The footage cuts out amid manic laughter, screams and shaky camera movement.
The Joker: Tell them your name.
Brian: Brian Douglas.
The Joker: And are you the real Batman?
The Joker: No?
The Joker: No? Then why do you dress up like him? Whoo-hoo-hoo-hoo!
Brian: Because he’s a symbol that we don’t have to be afraid of scum like you.
The Joker: Yeah. You do, Brian. You really do. Huh? Yeah. Oh, shh, shh, shh. So you think Batman’s made Gotham a better place? Hm? Look at me. Look at me! You see, this is how crazy Batman’s made Gotham. You want order in Gotham…Batman must take off his mask and turn himself in. Oh, and every day he doesn’t, people will die. Starting tonight. I’m a man of my word.
I BELIEVE IN HARVEY DENT
During the fund raising party for Harvey Dent, Bruce Wayne enters and makes a speech in honour of the district attorney and what he has achieved: “I’m sorry that I’m late. I’m glad to see that you all got started without me. Now, where is Harvey? Where–? Harvey Dent, the man of the hour. Where’s Rachel Dawes? She is my oldest friend. Come here. You know, when Rachel first told me that she was dating Harvey Dent, I had one thing to say: “The guy from those God-awful campaign commercials?” “I believe in Harvey Dent.” Yeah, nice slogan, Harvey. But it caught Rachel’s attention. And then I started to pay attention to Harvey and all that he’s been doing as our new DA. And you know what? I believe in Harvey Dent. I believe that on his watch, Gotham can feel a little safer, a little more optimistic. Look at this face. This is the face of Gotham’s bright future. To Harvey Dent. Let’s hear it for him.” Acting, dialogue and music make a significant contribution to Dent’s character development in this scene. As Wayne makes his speech, the heroic theme that the audience has come to associate with Dent plays in the background. Acting is also important in terms of developing this character and his relationship with Bruce Wayne. Throughout the first part of his speech, when Wayne is talking about Dent’s campaign slogan, the tone is sarcastic and belittling. Halfway through the speech, however, Christian Bale’s switch in tone highlights Wayne’s genuine admiration for Harvey Dent and what he has achieved. This is confirmed moments later in a conversation between Bruce Wayne and Rachel Dawes.
Dawes: Harvey may not know you well enough to understand when you’re making fun of him but I do.
Wayne: No, I meant every word. You know that day that you once told me about when Gotham would no longer need Batman? It’s coming.
Dawes: Bruce. You can’t ask me to wait for that.
Wayne: It’s happening now. Harvey is that hero. He locked up half of the city’s criminals, and he did it without wearing a mask. Gotham needs a hero with a face.
The exchange of dialogue also suggests that Bruce and Rachel will rekindle their relationship, a narrative possibility established earlier in the film. As the rest of this scene unfolds, Nolan uses parallel editing to show various events occurring at the same time. He cuts to a conversation between Gordon and Ramirez who says that the DNA found on the Joker card pinned to Brian Douglas belonged to Harvey Dent, Judge Surrillo and Commissioner Loeb. “The Joker’s telling us who he’s targeting,” Gordon observes.
Nolan cuts between three different scenes occurring simultaneously: Gordon attempts to protect commissioner Loeb, two detectives visit Judge Surrillo and The Joker attempts to capture Harvey Dent.
A long shot shows Gordon approaching Gotham Police headquarters. To increase suspense and audience engagement, non-diegetic music almost like a ticking clock starts playing in the background. Nolan cuts as two plain clothed detectives approach Judge Surrillo’s house. In the next shot, Gordon is in Loeb’s office. The camera movement is fast, circling Gordon to suggest a sense of urgency and engage the audience. As Judge Surrillo is escorted to her car, the score begins to increase in intensity. To build suspense, Nolan cuts between the three scenes: Gordon is talking to Loeb; Judge Surrillo gets into her car; and Dent admits that he wants to spend the rest of his life with Rachel. The pace and intensity of the music slowly begins to increase. Loeb goes to take a drink from his glass as Gordon screams, “Wait! WAIT!” To heighten audience engagement, Nolan cuts back to the conversation between Rachel and Harvey. Wayne appears behind him suddenly, seizing him by the neck. Surillo opens the envelope in her car, looks up. A shot of the plain clothed detectives driving away, shows the car exploding suddenly in the background. The acting of the two officers, who don’t flinch when the car explodes, suggests they were instrumental in Surrillo’s murder. The music becomes increasingly more dramatic. Nolan cuts back to Commissioner Loeb who doubles over in pain. An extreme close-up shows several Joker cards that exploded from Surrillo’s car. While Gordon attempts to assist Loeb, Nolan cuts to an extreme close-up of an overturned glass. Smoke rises from the spilled liquid. As the music becomes more tense and percussive, the Joker arrives at the party.
The confrontation between Rachel and The Joker further establishes his psychotic and deranged character. “You look nervous. Is it the scars? You wanna know how I got them?” he asks. “Come here. Hey. Look at me. So I had a wife. She was beautiful, like you…who tells me I worry too much, who tells me I ought to smile more, who gambles and gets in deep with the sharks. Hey. One day they carve her face. And we have no money for surgeries. She can’t take it. I just wanna see her smile again. Hm? I just want her to know that I don’t care about the scars. So, I stick a razor in my mouth and do this to myself. And you know what? She can’t stand the sight of me. She leaves. Now I see the funny side. Now I’m always smiling. Got a little fight in you. I like that.” This monologue contradicts an earlier explanation of how The Joker gained his horrific scars. The camera circles Heath Ledger restlessly as he delivers the monologue: first in one direction, then in the other. Towards the end, the camera remains static, cutting between a close-up of The Joker and Rachel. In the over-the-shoulder shot of Rachel, The Joker’s face is covered in shadow. Batman appears. Fast editing, rapid camera music and a percussive score is used to heighten the action.
After the murder of Commissioner Loeb and Judge Surrillo, Harvey Dent returns to ensure that Lau will testify in open court. Bruce Wayne and Alfred discuss The Joker. Alfred’s monologue is an important part of developing The Joker as a particularly sinister and anarchic character.
Wayne: I knew the Mob wouldn’t go down without a fight but this is different. They crossed a line.
Alfred: You crossed the line first, Sir. You squeezed them, you hammered them to the point of desperation. And in their desperation, they turned to a man they didn’t fully understand.
Wayne: Criminals aren’t complicated, Alfred. We just need to figure out what he’s after.
Alfred: With respect, Master Wayne…perhaps this is a man you don’t fully understand either. A long time ago, I was in Burma and my friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones but their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never met anyone who traded with him. One day, I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.
Wayne: So why steal them?
Alfred: Well, because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just wanna watch the world burn.
As Alfred finishes his monologue, the sinister musical theme for the Joker plays softly in the background and Nolan cuts to a grainy video image of the Joker playing back and forth on one of the computer monitors.
FINGERPRINTS FROM A SHATTERED BULLET
At the beginning of this scene, diegetic sound is used to convey that Batman is listening to a police scanner. An aerial shot of Gotham City dollies in towards Batman standing on top of a skyscraper. The soundtrack is filled with the garbled sound of police radios. As the camera draws closer to The Batman, the audience notices that he is standing with one hand on his ear, listening to the voices. One voice rises above the cacophony: “…you’ll find Harvey Dent there.” Nolan cuts to a street where Gordon and a group of uniformed police officers emerge from a police cruiser. Cutting to an interior shot of the building, Gordon kicks open a door. The discovery of two bodies, extreme close-ups showing their identification, identifies the next two victims of The Joker’s rampage: Harvey Dent and Commissioner Garcia.
Nolan uses a montage to show the process of Bruce Wayne and Alfred attempting to find fingerprints from a shattered bullet at the scene: first, the audience sees a series of shots as Alfred loads bullets into a cartridge, firing them into several pieces of concrete; Nolan then cuts to a close-up as a mechanical device scans one of the bricks; another shot shows a computer monitor analysing the shattered bullet. This sequence of shots takes a complex procedure and condenses it into a few seconds of screen time.
Midway through the montage, Nolan cuts to a scene which builds on the subplot of Coleman Reece. Conveyed primarily through dialogue, acting and the extreme close-ups of Fox’s schematics for the Bat Mobile, this scene establishes that Coleman Reece has discovered Batman’s identity. After an unsuccessful attempt to blackmail his employer, the audience is left uncertain of what Reece will do next.
Fox: What can I do for you, Mr. Reese?
Reece: You wanted me to do the diligence on the LSI Holdings deal again. Well, I found some irregularities.
Fox: Their CEO is in police custody.
Reece: No, not with their numbers, with yours. Applied Sciences. Whole division of Wayne Enterprises just disappeared overnight. I went down to the archives and I started pulling some old files. Don’t tell me you didn’t recognize your baby out there pancaking cop cars on the evening news. Now you got the entire R&D Department burning through cash claiming it’s related to cell phones for the Army? What are you building for him now, a rocket ship? I want 10 million dollars a year for the rest of my life.
Fox: Let me get this straight. You think that your client…one of the wealthiest, most powerful men in the world is secretly a vigilante who spends his nights beating criminals to a pulp with his bare hands and your plan is to blackmail this person? Good luck.
Cutting to a shot of Wayne and Fox standing in front of a computer screen, Nolan draws these two storylines together. A close-up of the computer screen is used to convey that they managed to take a fingerprint from the bullet. In a brief conversation, Nolan establishes something that becomes important later in the conversation.
Fox: Mr. Wayne, did you reassign R&D?
Wayne: Yeah. Government telecommunications project.
Fox: I wasn’t aware we had any government contracts.
Wayne: Lucius, I’m playing this one pretty close to the chest.
Fox: Fair enough.
This scene opens with an aerial shot of Gotham City during the day. A parade of police officers marches down the street. The diegetic sound of a news reporter helps to set the scene: “With no word from the Batman even as they mourn Commissioner Loeb these cops have to be wondering if the Joker will make good on his threat in the obituary column of The Gotham Times to kill the mayor.” Nolan cuts to the temporary Bat Cave where Alfred and Wayne trace the fingerprint which will lead Wayne to an apartment building above the memorial parade. This scene is another example of engagement as Chrisopher Nolan plays on audience expectation of an assassination attempt. Nolan cuts several times to shots of the parade showing uniformed police officers marching through the street. In one shot, Detective Ramirez looks up suspiciously towards the surrounding buildings. Although example of acting may seem quite insignificant in the context of the entire scene, it helps to build suspense and paranoia as the audience speculates where the assassination attempt will come from. To build tension, Nolan cuts back to Bruce Wayne as his motorcycle speeds dangerously through congested city streets. The camera tracks the motorcycle, swerving rapidly and creating a sense of urgency. Above the parade, there are two shots of armed police officers overlooking the proceedings. Nolan cuts to a midshot of Gordon who is also looking towards the skyline, a police radio clutched in one hand. As Bruce Wayne arrives at the apartment building, Nolan cuts to another shot of Gordon who has a brief exchange with one of the armed officers over the radio: ”
Gordon: What do you got on the roof?
Officer: We’re tight, but frankly,there’s a lot of windows up here.
This dialogue is used to heighten suspense and increase paranoia as the audience, along with one of the characters they have come to identify with, speculates where the assassination attempt will come from. The camera tracks Bruce Wayne as he approaches the door to the apartment. A point-of-view shot shows the apartment number: 1502. As Mayor Garcia begins his speech, Nolan cuts to several shots of the crowd. Of particular note is the close-up of Gordon as he continues to survey the buildings. As Wayne enters the apartment, a handheld point-of-view shot shows several men bound and gagged around a pylon. The non-diegetic, incessant whine of The Joker’s theme starts to play. This use of music confirms the audience’s suspicion that The Joker is responsible for tying the men up. Nolan continues building suspense by cutting between Bruce Wayne and the speech on the street below. A shot of several uniformed police officers implying that instead of coming from the rooftops, the assassination attempt might come from within the crowd. Wayne removes the duct tape from one of the bound men. “They took our guns,” he gasps. “And our uniforms.” The music continues to rise in intensity. The editing also increases in pace as Nolan cuts between Bruce Wayne who approaches the window and the honour guard as they prepare to fire in honour of the deceased commissioner. As Wayne approaches the apartment window, the blind whips open, Nolan cuts to the snipers who spin towards the window and fire, momentarily distracted. As the bullets ricochet through the apartment, the editing becomes more frenetic. Nolan cuts to a shot of the honour brigade, revealing The Joker in a police uniform. The entire honour guard spins simultaneously towards the Mayor. In a rapid sequence of shots, Gordon tackles the major to the ground, the men fire and Gordon is shot in the back. Nolan conveys that Gordon has been killed largely through the use of non-diegetic music. Cutting to a shot of Gordon’s body, particularly mournful strings start playing in the background. Throughout this scene, Nolan uses editing, music, acting and diegetic sound to convey the narrative and engage audiences. The frenetic camera movement increases as the crowd descends into chaos, the soundtrack filled with diegetic screams and gunshots.
The camera tracks Harvey Dent as he approaches one of the ambulances. Using a shot reverse shot, he shows Dent interrogating the captured henchman. “Tell me what you know about The Joker,” he asks. The man grins maniacally and glances towards his name tag. Nolan cuts back to a shot of Dent who follows the man’s line of sight. He seizes the man’s jacket and leans in closer. Using a point-of-view shot, Nolan shows what the name tag says: OFFICER RACHEL DAWES. At this point, Nolan’s uses editing and acting to convey Dent’s decision to abduct the man. Cutting from a midshot of the distraught District Attorney, he shows a close-up of they keys sitting in the ignition of the ambulance, then back to Dent who looks around desperately to see if anyone is watching him. Cutting to a wider shot, the audience sees Dent climbing into the driver’s seat and hears the engine start. A look of panic crosses the man’s face. Nolan cuts to an extreme close-up of the handcuffs shackling the man to the stretcher, then whip pans back to his hysterical expression.
Revealing to the audience that Lieutenant Gordon is dead, Nolan cuts to a brief exchange between Detective Stephens and Barbara Gordon. The lighting in this scene also contributes to the notion that Gordon has died: the scene occurs at night and dismal, dark blue tones dominate the frame.
Detective Stephens: I’m sorry, Barbara.
Barbara: Jimmy…go play with your sister…go ahead, honey.
Detective Stephens: If there’s anything we can do, anything you need…we’re here for you.
While the dialogue in this scene is quite limited, it is the acting which primarily contributes to the narrative development that Lieutenant Gordon has died. Interestingly, the main emphasis of this scene is not Barbara Gordon, rather the reaction of James Gordon Jr (Nathan Gamble). As his mother is sobbing, the camera lingers on James’ expression as he gazes towards Batman who is perched on a fire escape. His expression is one of sadness and awe. The acting in this shot reinforces the notion that Batman is the silent guardian of Gotham City.
In the following scene, detectives of the Gotham City Police Department are standing around the Bat Signal. “Switch it off, he ain’t coming. He doesn’t wanna talk to us. God help whoever he does wanna talk to.” Nolan cuts to the dark interior of a Gotham City night club. Strobe lights flicker and loud electronic music plays in the background. Salvatore Maroni has been a relatively minor character in the film. At this point in the narrative, the audience is given a little bit more character development. When his date, an attractive blonde woman, asks if they can go someplace quieter because they can’t hear each other talk, Maroni replies: “What make you think I wanna hear you talk?” His voice drips with contempt further establishing him as an objectionable character. Nolan cuts to a brief shot as Batman struggles with some bodyguards, knocking one of them over the banister rail. He cuts back and forth between Maroni and Batman as he draws closer, dispatching multiple bodyguards in a maelstrom of fists. The flickering strobe lights, electronic music and exaggerated punches contribute to the action and audience engagement in this scene.
When Batman finally finishes with the bodyguards, he lands on the table and seizes Maroni by the collar. Significantly, Batman is shot using a low camera angle and backlighting which contributes to his sense of strength. Throughout the narrative, Nolan often has several storylines happening simultaneously. As Batman searches for The Joker, Dent is concerned that Rachel is going to be The Joker’s next target. Cutting back to police headquarters, Nolan shows a telephone conversation between Rachel and Harvey.
Dent: Rachel, listen to me. You’re not safe there.
Rachel: This is Gordon’s unit.
Dent: Gordon’s gone, Rachel.
Rachel: He vouched for these men.
Dent: And he’s gone. The Joker’s named you next. God, is there someone, is there anyone in this town we can trust?
Rachel: Bruce. We can trust Bruce Wayne.
Dent: No. Rachel, I know you’re his friend, but–
Rachel: Harvey, trust me. Bruce’s penthouse is now the safest place in the city.
Dent: Then you go straight there. You don’t tell anybody where you are going and I’ll find you there. I love you.
The music becomes low and ominous as Dent approaches the captured henchmen and rips off his gag. The low key lighting, dingy setting and handheld camera movement contributes to the impression that Dent is going to take whatever means possible to protect Rachel. Significantly, it is the absence of the heroic theme the audience has come to associate with Harvey Dent throughout the narrative, that hints at his intentions.
Meanwhile, Batman is interrogating Maroni.
Maroni: From one professional to another, if you’re trying to scare somebody,pick a better spot. From this height, the fall wouldn’t kill me.
Batman: I’m counting on it.
Batman: Where is he?
Maroni: I don’t know where he is. He found us.
Batman: He must have friends.
Maroni: Friends? Have you met this guy?
Batman: Someone knows where he is.
Maroni: Nobody’s gonna tell you nothing. They’re wise to your act. You got rules. The Joker, he’s got no rules. Nobody’s gonna cross him for you. If you want this guy, you got one way. But you already know what that is. Just take off that mask, let him come find you. Or you can let a couple more people get killed while you make up your mind.
This is an important moment in the character development of The Batman. “You got rules,” Maroni says. Although The Batman is willing to make great sacrifices in the pursuit of a safer Gotham, he is unwilling to kill. Although his morality makes him superior to The Joker, it is also a weakness.
Batman: You’d leave a man’s life to chance?
Dent: Not exactly.
Batman: His name’s Schiff, Thomas. He’s a paranoid schizophrenic, former patient at Arkham. The kind of mind the Joker attracts. What do you expect to learn from him?
Dent: The Joker killed Gordon. He’s gonna kill Rachel.
Batman: You’re the symbol of hope I could never be. Your stand against organized crime is the first legitimate ray of light in Gotham in decades. If anyone saw this, everything would be undone. All the criminals you pulled off the streets would be released and Jim Gordon will have died for nothing. You’re gonna hold a press conference tomorrow morning.
Batman: No one else will die because of me. Gotham’s in your hands now.
Dent: You can’t. You can’t give in. You can’t give in!
Later that night, building on the relationship between Bruce Wayne and Rachel Dawes – developing the narrative possibility that they might be reunited – Bruce and Rachel talk in the penthouse.
Rachel: Harvey called. He said Batman’s gonna turn himself in.
Bruce: I have no choice.
Rachel: You honestly think that’s gonna keep the Joker from killing people?
Bruce: Maybe not. But I have enough blood on my hands. And I’ve seen now, what I would have to become to stop men like him. You once told me that if the day came when I was finished that we’d be together.
Rachel: Bruce, don’t make me your one hope for a normal life.
Bruce: Did you mean it?
Rachel: Yes. Bruce. If you turn yourself in, they’re not gonna let us be together.
The lighting throughout this scene contributes to the sense of intimacy between the two characters. Although they are standing against the dark night sky, the lighting is constructed to look warm, as if coming from the surrounding lamps. At the beginning of this scene, there is a great distance between the two characters. As they talk, Bruce Wayne moves closer and they kiss. In the background soft piano and strings are used to convey the intimacy of their relationship.
Alfred: Logs as well?
Bruce: Everything. Anything that could lead back to Lucius or Rachel. People are dying, Alfred. What would you have me do?
Alfred: Endure, Master Wayne. Take it. They’ll hate you for it, but that’s the point of Batman. He can be the outcast. He can make the choice that no one else can make. The right choice.
Bruce: No, today I found out what Batman can’t do. He can’t endure this. Today you get to say “I told you so.”
Alfred: Today, I don’t want to. But I did bloody tell you. I suppose they’re gonna lock me up as well as your accomplice.
Bruce: Accomplice? I’m gonna tell them the whole thing was your idea.
THE PRESS CONFERENCE
Dent: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming. I’ve called this press conference for two reasons. Firstly, to assure the citizens of Gotham that everything that can be done over the Joker killings is being done. Secondly, because the Batman has offered to turn himself in. But first, let’s consider the situation. Should we give in to this terrorist’s demands? Do we really think he’s gonna–?
Audience: You’d rather protect an outlaw vigilante than the lives of citizens?
Dent: The Batman is an outlaw. That’s not why we demand he turn himself in we’re doing it because we’re scared. We’ve been happy to let the Batman clean up our streets for us until now.
Audience: Things are worse than ever! Amen.
Dent: Yes, they are. But the night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming. One day, the Batman will have to answer for the laws he’s broken. But to us…not to this madman.
Audience: No more dead cops! Yeah!
Audience: He should turn himself in! Give us the Batman! Come on! Where is he?
Dent: So be it. Take the Batman into custody.
Audience: What? Is he here?
Dent: I am the Batman.
In the short exchange between Alfred and Rachel, Alfred explains why Bruce Wayne didn’t turn himself in: “Perhaps both Bruce and Mr. Dent believe that Batman stands for something more important than the whims of a terrorist, Miss Dawes, even if everyone hates him for it. That’s the sacrifice he’s making. He’s not being a hero. He’s being something more.” This line of dialogue contributes significantly to the character development of Batman and ideas of heroism in the narrative. During this scene, Rachel hands Alfred a note and tells him to give it to Bruce Wayne when the time is right. “How will I know?” he asks. “It’s not sealed,” she replies. Although this is a relatively small event, it is an important moment in the relationship between Bruce and Rachel Dawes.
When The Joker attempts to kill Harvey Dent as he’s being transferred from Gotham Police headquarters to the County Jail, Christopher Nolan uses a number of production elements to engage the audience. The scene begins with Dent being led from the holding cell to the armoured police vehicle. Before the chase sequence begins, there is a small yet important moment in the character development of Harvey Dent.
Harvey: Heads I go through with it.
Rachel: This is your life. You can’t leave something like that up to chance.
Harvey: I’m not.
Nolan cuts to an extreme close-up of the coin that Harvey flips to Rachel. She turns it over in her fingers, revealing it is the same on both sides. Echoing his words from earlier in the film she says, “You make your own luck.” Nolan cuts to a shot of the armoured convoy driving through the darkened streets of Gotham. He shows another aerial shot of the convey as it turns a corner, being closely followed by a helicopter. Sound editing is used to convey the presence of The Joker. The diegetic sound of the helicopters and vehicles fades away completely, replaced by the incessant whine of a violin that the audience has come to associate with this character. This is a very clear example of sound contributing to the narrative, foreshadowing the appearance of The Joker. Nolan cuts to a shot of a semi-trailer sitting at roadblock. The horn honks loudly. Cutting to a shot of the driver, a thickset man in a cowboy hat, we see an officer approach the vehicle from the driver’s point-of-view. “Hey, you wait like everyone else, pal.” Cutting to the reverse shot, The Joker suddenly emerges from behind the driver, cocking a shotgun and shooting the officer in the head. The subtle use of camera techniques throughout this scene contributes significantly to the characterisation of The Joker. During this brief interlude, the police officer is framed from a high angle, rendering him powerless whereas The Joker is shot from a low angle, making him appear formidable and sinister. In the next shot, Nolan returns to the convey.
Camera techniques are similarly employed to characterise the vulnerability of the convey as it approaches a burning truck blocking the road. An aerial shot makes the trucks carrying Dent seem small and vulnerable. They are positioned at the bottom of the frame, trapped within the claustrophobic streets of Gotham City. The camera continues tracking the vehicles until the audience can see the flaming wreckage of truck obstructing the road. Nolan cuts to a midshot of the two police officers in the lead car. “What the hell is that?” one of them says. “Obstruction ahead! Obstruction ahead. Damn it! All units divert down onto Lower Fifth. I repeat, exit down.” As the convoy passes the burning fire truck, there are several point-of-view shots from inside the police cars. Nolan is strongly positioning the audience to identify with the people in the convey, the victims of The Joker’s impending attack. Throughout this part of the scene, the music continues to build in intensity. When the officer orders them to exit onto Lower Fifth, one of the men in the van carrying Dent observes, “Lower Fifth? We’ll be like turkeys on Thanksgiving down there.” When the cars exit onto Lower Fifth, the pace of the editing increases dramatically as a garbage truck rams several of the police cars and knocks the SWAT van into the river. Although music is notably absent from this part of the scene, diegetic sound instead contributes to the intensity: the sound of the cars colliding, horns blaring and engines roaring as they vehicles speed through the claustrophobic tunnel. The pace of the editing increases again as The Joker arrives. With every volley of bullets, Nolan cuts back and forth between The Joker and the convoy.
Close ups are used to help the audience identify with the police officers in the convoy. When The Joker produces a bazooka, one of them says, “I didn’t sign up for this!” Throughout this scene, the audience is strongly encouraged to identify with this character, particularly since both Batman and Dent are removed from the action. When the car in front of them explodes, the audience sees it from this character’s point of view.
When the Tumbler intercepts the missile, diegetic sound is used to convey that the vehicle has been badly damaged. When Nolan cuts to an interior shot of the vehicle, the screech of electronic alarms can be heard throughout the cabin. The Tumbler crashes through several walls, eventually landing upright. Creating a lull in the action, Nolan shows a group of surprised men who cautiously approach the vehicle. Inside the tumbler, diegetic sound is once again used to convey that the vehicle has been badly damaged. “Scanning all systems. Scanning all systems,” an electronic voice says as displays flicker. In one shot, the words ‘DAMAGE CATASTROPHIC’ are shown across a display. “Damage catastrophic. Eject sequence initiated,” the electronic voice says. Nolan cuts back and forth between a surprised onlooker holding a hot dog and the Tumbler as its front wheel begins to spin and the entire vehicle rocks violently. He cuts to a shot of the side of the vehicle as the metal armour folds back. The increasing diegetic sound of an engine is used to convey that something is starting up. Nolan cuts to a shot of the wheel as two prongs erupt from the vehicle, then to a long shot of the vehicle as the bat Pod erupts from the wreckage and speeds off. Nolan cuts to an extreme close up of the display which reads, “SELF DESTRUCT”. The Tumbler explodes and Batman speeds into the distance. It is interesting to consider audience engagement at this point during the sequence. Editing is used to engage the audience as Nolan cuts back and forth between the Tumbler and the shocked onlookers. When the Bat Pod bursts from the wreckage, the percussive and heroic theme that the audience has come to associate with Batman kicks in. Nolan cuts away to show that the convey has emerged onto the surface streets and aerial support is incoming. As the Bat Pod speeds through Lower Fifth, there are a number of short, humorous cutaways to engage the audience. First, he shows a midshot of a man sitting in his car. He adjusts the mirror and begins picking at his teeth. From his point of view, the audience sees the mirror as its shattered by the passing Bat Pod. The camera tracks the Bat Pod as it speeds between the banked up traffic, mirrors exploding on both sides as it does.
Narratively, it is interesting to consider how production elements are used to establish the trap that The Joker’s henchmen lay for the helicopter. Nolan shows two shots of the henchmen firing harpoon guns across the street. Interestingly, the audience doesn’t actually see the harpoons hit their mark. Instead, they hear the diegetic sound of cables uncoiling and tightening. Nolan then shows a long shot of the approaching helicopter. He pulls focus to reveal two strands of wire crossing the helicopter’s path.
In another humorous interlude, again used to engage the audience, Nolan cuts to a shot of the Bat Pod speeding through Lower Fifth. He cuts to a midshot of two children sitting in a car pretending to shoot cars with their fingers. Cutting back, one of the cars suddenly explodes and the Bat Pod speeds through the wreckage. After Batman immobilises the semi-trailer that The Joker is travelling in, there is a tense showdown which contributes significantly to the development of and dichotomy between these characters. The Joker emerges from the wreckage, stumbles, firing his gun. Nolan cuts to a shot of the Bat Pod as Batman speeds towards his enemy. Cutting back to The Joker, acting is used to convey his manic fearlessness as he strides towards the oncoming vehicle. “Come on. I want you to do it, I want you to do it. Come on, hit me. Come on, hit me. Come on, hit me! Hit me!” At the last second, Batman cries out in frustration and swerves to avoid The Joker, reinforcing the earlier assertion that he “has rules”.
As the Bat Pod crashes, Nolan cuts to a low-angle shot of The Joker which makes him look particularly menacing and powerful. He approaches slowly. The audience hears the sharp sound of a flick knife. Camera techniques, editing and sound are used to show that one of his henchmen receives a strong electric shock from The Batman’s armour. And extreme close-up shows a burst of electricity and the audience hears a sudden spark as the man collapses. Acting once again contributes to the insanity of The Joker’s character. He giggles maniacally, standing over his fallen henchman and screaming in mock electrocution. He spits on the man before pouncing on Batman. Visual composition is used to convey that he has been captured as an armed figure steps into frame behind him.
Camera techniques are once again used to convey the power shift between characters. Where as The Joker had previously been filmed from a low angle, he is now shown from a high angle in contrast with the victorious Lieutenant Gordon. When Dent is answering questions from reporters, camera techniques are used to show that Detective Ramirez is hiding something. As Dent steps into the car to be reunited with Rachel, the camera dollies on in Ramirez who watched, concerned, as the car leaves.
YOU’LL HAVE TO CHOOSE
With The Joker in police custody, one of the officers goes through his possessions, laying out a sinister collection of knives on a table.
The brief scene in the holding cell contributes significantly to the character development of The Joker, particularly the conversation between Lieutenant Gordon and Mayor Garcia.
Gordon: Nothing. No matches on prints, DNA, dental. Clothing is custom, no labels. Nothing in his pockets but knives and lint. No name. No other alias.
Garcia: Go home, Gordon. The clown’ll keep till morning. Go get some rest. You’re gonna need it. Tomorrow you take the big job. You don’t have any say in the matter. Commissioner Gordon.
As the officer applaud Gordon, The Joker joins in sardonically, leering at the newly appointed commissioner. In an important link in the chain of cause and effect in the film, another henchman is thrown into the holding cell. He is doubled over, clutching his stomach.
Thug: I don’t feel good.
Murphy: You’re a cop killer. You’re lucky to be feeling anything below the neck.
Officer: Step away from the bars!
Thug: My insides hurt.
During this exchange of dialogue, Nolan cuts back to The Joker who smirks briefly before turning away. When Gordon interviews The Joker, low key lighting is used to develop the character further. As Gordon enters the interrogation room, The Joker is illuminated by a single lamp sitting on the desk and almost entirely shrouded in darkness.
The conversation between The Joker and Commissioner Gordon is used to establish an important event in the narrative: the abduction of Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes.
Gordon: Harvey Dent never made it home.
The Joker: Of course not.
Gordon: What have you done with him?
The Joker: Me? I was right here. Who did you leave him with? Hm? Your people? Assuming, of course, that they are still your people and not Maroni’s. Does it depress you, commissioner…to know just how alone you really are? Does it make you feel responsible for Harvey Dent’s current predicament?
Gordon: Where is he?
The Joker: What’s the time?
Gordon: What difference does that make?
The Joker: Well, depending on the time, he may be in one spot or several.
Gordon: lf we’re gonna play games…
The Joker: Mm-hm?
Gordon: …I’m gonna need a cup of coffee.
The Joker: Ah, the “good cop, bad cop” routine?
Gordon: Not exactly.
As Gordon leaves the interrogation room, lighting is used to reveal the presence of Batman. The lights flicker on and the familiar armoured figure is standing behind The Joker. The conversation between Batman and The Joker contributes significantly to the development of their relationship and the development of each character.
The Joker: Never start with the head. The victim gets all fuzzy. He can’t feel the next…see?
Batman: You wanted me. Here I am.
The Joker: I wanted to see what you’d do. And you didn’t disappoint. You let five people die. Then you let Dent take your place. Even to a guy like me, that’s cold.
Batman: Where’s Dent?
The Joker: Those Mob fools want you gone so they can get back to the way things were. But I know the truth. There’s no going back. You’ve changed things. Forever.
Batman: Then why do you wanna kill me?
The Joker: I don’t wanna kill you. What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off Mob dealers? No, no. No. No, you…you complete me.
Batman: You’re garbage who kills for money.
The Joker: Don’t talk like one of them. You’re not. Even if you’d like to be. To them, you’re just a freak like me. They need you right now…but when they don’t…they’ll cast you out like a leper. You see, their morals, their code…it’s a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you. When the chips are down, these…these civilized people they’ll eat each other. See, I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve.
Batman: Where’s Dent?
The Joker: You have all these rules, and you think they’ll save you.
Gordon: He’s in control.
Batman: I have one rule.
The Joker: Oh. Then that’s the rule you’ll have to break to know the truth.
Batman: Which is?
The Joker: The only sensible way to live is without rules. And tonight you’re gonna break your one rule.
Batman: I’m considering it.
The Joker: There’s only minutes left, so you’ll have to play my game if you wanna save one of them.
The Joker: You know, for a while there, I thought you really were Dent. The way you threw yourself after her. Does Harvey know about you and his little bunny?
Batman: Where are they?!
The Joker: Killing is making a choice.
Batman: Where are they?!
The Joker: Choose between one life or the other. Your friend the district attorney or his blushing bride-to-be. You have nothing, nothing to threaten me with. Nothing to do with all your strength. Don’t worry, I’m gonna tell you where they are, both of them. And that’s the point. You’ll have to choose. He’s at 25052nd Street and she’s on Avenue X at Cicero.
During the interrogation, in addition to the acting and dialogue – which both suggest that Batman has lost control – camera movement also contributes significantly to this impression. Batman hurls The Joker onto the table and the camera movement becomes fast and frenetic, tracking Gordon as he rushes to stop Batman barring the door. Editing also contributes to the impression that he lost control of the situation. Nolan cuts back and forth between the interrogation room and Gordon trying desperately to open the door. When Batman learns the location of his friends, non-diegetic music contributes significantly to audience engagement.
Christopher Nolan spoke extensively about this scene in an interview with freshdv.com: “The scene starts between Gary Oldman and Heath with the lights out, and Wally Pfister literally just lit the scene with the desk lamp, the table lamp, and nothing else. And then when the lights come on, Batman is revealed, and the rest of the scene plays out with a massive overexposure. He overexposed like five stops, I want to say, and then printed it down to bring some of the color back in. But it’s this incredibly intense overhead light which let us move in any direction. We had a handheld camera and shot however we wanted, be very spontaneous. For me creatively, that had been about inverting the expectation. We’ve all seen so many of these dark movie interrogation scenes where somebody is being given the third degree. We just wanted to completely flip that on its head. And have the bright, harsh, bleak light sort show you the Joker’s make-up and its decay. The Batsuit was redesigned for this film. And unlike the suit that we had in “Batman Begins,” it’s capable of really being shown in incredible detail and still hold up to that kind of scrutiny under that bright light. The suit looked much more real and more like a functional thing this time. The whole scene was about showing something real and brutal and getting this real harshness.”
As the scene progresses, uses parallel editing to show four things occurring at once: The Joker baiting Detective Stephens, Batman speeding towards the warehouse, Harvey Dent and Rachel trying to escape their restraints. Continuing the chain of cause and effect that was established a few scenes earlier, one of The Joker’s thugs begs one of the police officers for help: “Please. My insides hurt…the boss said he’d make the voices go away. He said he’d go inside and replace them with bright lights like Christmas.” He collapses and the officer calls for a medic. Dialogue and parallel editing are used to bring the two storylines together. When the Joker demands “his phone call” – after a brief cutaway to Harvey Dent struggling for his life on the floor of the warehouse – Nolan cuts back to the paramedics working on the prisoner. A phone lodged inside his abdomen suddenly starts ringing. Cutting to a wideshot, Nolan shows an explosion ripping through the police department. With one part of the story resolved when The Joker escapes, Nolan continues with Batman and Gordon’s fervent attempts to save Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes. When Batman kicks open the door to the warehouse, revealing Dent laying on the floor, covered in flammable liquid, The Joker’s theme hums incessantly in the background. Lighting, editing and sound are used to convey the death of Rachel Dawes. There is a sudden bright light and Nolan cuts to an exterior of the warehouse as the explosion rips through the building. Rachel’s death resolves the narrative possibility that Bruce Wayne and Rachel Dawes would rekindle their relationship.
After her death, Alfred reads the letter he was given: “Dear Bruce: I need to be honest and clear. I’m going to marry Harvey Dent. I love him, and I wanna spend the rest of my life with him. When I told you that if Gotham no longer needed Batman, we could be together, I meant it. But now I’m sure the day won ‘t come when you no longer need Batman. I hope it does. And if it does, I will be there but as your friend.” To match the sober tone of this scene, the lighting and use of colour is particularly subdued. As Batman stands among the wreckage of the warehouse and Alfred reads the letter, Nolan chose to significantly desaturate the image and the footage is dominated by blue tones. Significantly, during the conversation between Alfred and Bruce Wayne, Alfred removes Rachel’s letter. When questioned, he replies that the letter “can wait”.
The conclusion of this scene also marks an important moment in the character development of Harvey Dent. When Batman arrives in the warehouse, acting contributes significantly to the audience’s understanding of his fury. “Not me! Why are you coming for me?” he screams. As Batman drags Dent from the warehouse, Nolan briefly shows a midhot of Dent as half his body is engulfed in flames. There is a brief shot of The Joker as he approaches Lau in the prison cell. Cutting back to Commissioner Gordon, dialogue is used to explains what has happened, “The Joker planned to be caught. He wanted me to lock him up in the MCU.” This sequence closes with The Joker sticking his head from the window of a police cruiser, grinning maniacally. The sound of police sirens fades away almost entirely, replaced by an ominous non-diegetic rumble.
Alfred: Yes, Master Wayne?
Bruce: Did I bring this on her? I was meant to inspire good…not madness, not death.
Alfred: You have inspired good. But you spat in the faces of Gotham’s criminals. Didn’t you think there might be casualties? Things always get worse before they get better.
Bruce: But Rachel, Alfred.
Alfred: Rachel believed in what you stood form what we stand for. Gotham needs you.
Bruce: No, Gotham needs its true hero and I let that murdering psychopath blow him half to hell.
Alfred: Which is why, for now they’re gonna have to make do with you.
Bruce: She was gonna wait for me, Alfred. Dent doesn’t know. He can never know. What’s that?
Alfred: It can wait.
Bruce: That bandit in the forest in Burma. Did you catch him?
Alfred: We burned the forest down.
The character development of Harvey “Two Face” Dent continues when Nolan cuts to a tight close-up of the character laying in a hospital bed. This edit contributes significantly to the character’s emotional disequilibrium because it is positioned precisely as Harvey Dent wakes up. Nolan cuts to the scene in the middle of Dent’s gasp, making it appear more sudden and shocking, catching the audience off guard. A wider shot shows Dent, who is out of focus, clawing for the coin on a nearby tray. An extreme close up shows a shot of his father’s lucky coin. One side is silver. Nolan uses editing to show Harvey Dent’s thoughts. Cutting to a close up of his face, which is half covered in gauze, Nolan cuts to a shot of Rachel catching the coin. Cutting back to the extreme close-up of the coin, Harvey turns it over to reveal that one side has been burnt beyond recognition. The coin now has two sides. To underscore Dent’s pain and anguish, Nolan cuts to a close up as he screams. This is made all the more disturbing by the lack of diegetic sound. Instead, a mournful non-diegetic whine rises in the background. Again, Nolan uses editing to create a sense of disequilibrium, cutting abruptly to the next scene.
In a brief cutaway to a news broadcast, Nolan picks up the continuing storyline of Coleman Reece. The news presenter says: “He’s credible, an M & A lawyer from a leading consultancy. He says he’s waited as long as he can for Batman to do the right thing. Now he’s taking matters into his own hands. We’ll be live at 5 with the true identity of the Batman.”
The scene in which Gordon speaks to Harvey Two Face in the hospital bed is important, showing how dialogue and acting can contribute to character development. Overcome by grief and anger, Harvey is refusing to take medication and accept skin grafts. Aaron Eckhart acts particularly furious and psychotic when demanding that Gordon say the name they had for him when he was working in Internal Affairs. As Gordon leaves, his voice is low and sinister as he ominously opens the narrative possibility that Gordon will feel sorry for allowing corruption to overtake his department.
Gordon: I’m sorry about Rachel. The doctor says you’re in agonizing pain, but that you won’t accept medication. That you’re refusing to accept skin grafts.
Two Face: Remember that name you all had for me when I was at Internal Affairs? What was it, Gordon?
Gordon: Harvey, I…
Two Face: Say it. Say it!
Gordon: Harvey Two-Face.
Two Face: Why should I hide who I am?
Gordon: I know you tried to warn me. I’m sorry. Wuertz picked you up. Was he working for them? Do you know who picked up Rachel? Harvey, I need to know which of my men I can trust.
Two Face: Why would you listen to me now?
Gordon: I’m sorry, Harvey.
Two Face: No. No, you’re not. Not yet.
A BETTER CLASS OF CRIMINAL
This scene begins with Maroni giving Gordon a tip about where he can catch The Joker. The scene follows three main characters following The Joker’s threat to blow up a hospital: The Joker, Commissioner Gordon and Bruce Wayne. The sequence begins with a conversation between The Joker and The Chechen.
The Chechen: Not so crazy as you look.
The Joker: I told you, I’m a man of my word.
The Joker: Where is the Italian?
The Chechen: Joker-man, what you do with all your money?
The Joker: You see, I’m a guy of simple taste. I enjoy…dynamite…and gunpowder…and gasoline.
The Chechen: What the…?
The Joker: Ah, ah, ah. And you know the thing that they have in common? They’re cheap.
The Chechen: You said you were a man of your word.
The Joker: Oh, I am. I’m only burning my half. All you care about is money. This town deserves a better class of criminal and I’m gonna give it to them. Tell your men they work for me now. This is my city.
The Chechen: They won’t work for a freak.
The Joker: ”Freak.” Why don’t we cut you up into little pieces and feed you to your pooches? Hm? And then we’ll see how loyal a hungry dog really is. It’s not about money…it’s about sending a message. Everything burns.
During this scene, Nolan cuts back and forth between The Joker and the television interview with Coleman Reece. This is another example of acting, dialogue, music and mise-en-scene contributing to the character development of The Joker.
Although cutting up The Chechen and feeding him to the dogs is a disturbing threat, it is Heath Ledger’s sinister performance, the use of lighting and visual composition that work together to characterise him as particularly malevolent. When he makes the threat, he is backlit by the burning pile of money, face shrouded in shadows. Towards the end of this scene, The Joker initiates another important event in the chain of cause and effect in the narrative. Calling the television station, he threatens to blow up a hospital if Coleman Reece isn’t dead within the hour: “I had a vision of a world without Batman. The Mob ground out a little profit and the police tried to shut them down one block at a time. And it was so boring. I’ve had a change of heart. I don ‘t want Mr. Reese spoiling everything but why should I have all the fun? Let’s give someone else a chance. If Coleman Reese isn ‘t dead in sixty minutes, then I blow up a hospital.” For the remainder of this sequence, Nolan uses editing, camera movement and music to build intensity and engage the audience as Gordon and Bruce Wayne attempt to save Coleman Reece.
This storyline is resolved using acting and editing. After Bruce Wayne rescues Coleman Reece, shows a midshot of the shaken Reece emerging from the van. He then cuts to a midshot of Bruce Wayne who meets his gaze and nods slightly. This exchange resolves the storyline involving Coleman Reece and his attempt to unmask Batman.
During this scene, the conversation between The Joker and Two Face establishes the former District Attorney’s modus operandi. It also reasserts The Joker’s characterisation as an anarchist and psychopath.
The Joker: Hi. You know, I don’t want there to be any hard feelings between us, Harvey. When you and…
Two Face: Rachel!
The Joker: Rachel were being abducted…I was sitting in Gordon’s cage. I didn’t rig those charges.
Two Face: Your men, your plan.
The Joker: Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it. You know? I just do things. The Mob has plans. The cops have plans. Gordon’s got plans. You know, they’re schemers. Schemers trying to control their little worlds. I’m not a schemer. I try to show the schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things really are. So when I say… Ah. Come here. When I say that you and your girlfriend was nothing personal, you’ll know that I’m telling the truth. It’s the schemers that put you where you are. You were a schemer, you had plans…and look where that got you. I just did what I do best. I took your little plan and I turned it on itself. Look what I did to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets. Hm? You know what I noticed? Nobody panics when things go “according to plan.” Even if the plan is horrifying. If tomorrow I tell the press that, like, a gangbanger will get shot…or a truckload of soldiers will be blowing up…nobody panics. Because it’s all part of the plan. But when I say that one little old mayor will die…well, then, everyone loses their minds. Introduce a little anarchy…upset the established order…and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It’s fair.
Two Face: You live.
The Joker: Mm-hm.
Two Face: You die.
The Joker: Mmm. Now we’re talking.
Wuertz: Dent. Jesus. I thought you was dead.
Dent: Half. Who picked up Rachel, Wuertz?
Wuertz: It must’ve been Maroni’s men.
Dent: Shut up! Are you telling me that you’re gonna protect the other traitor in Gordon’s unit?
Wuertz: I don’t know, he never told me. Listen, Dent, I swear to God, I didn’t know what they were gonna do to you.
Dent: That’s funny because I don’t know what’s gonna happen to you either.
When Two Face confronts Wuertz, there is a good example of sound contributing to the narrative. Nolan shows an extreme close up of Two Face’s lucky coin spinning on the bar. He cuts to a mid shot of Two Face. The coin spins to a stop and Two Face raises his gun. Although the audience doesn’t see the gun fire, the gunshot can still be heard when Nolan cuts to the next scene.
CONSIDER THIS MY RESIGNATION
The narrative continues to push relentlessly towards a final confrontation between Batman and The Joker. Having abducted Mike Engles when leaving the hospital, The Joker give Gotham City another ultimatum: “I’m Mike Engel for Gotham Tonight. What does it take to make you people wanna join in? You failed to kill the lawyer. I’ve gotta get you off the bench and into the game. Come nightfall, this city is mine. And anyone left here plays by my rules. If you don ‘t wanna be in the game, get out now. Get out now. But the bridge-and-tunnel crowd are sure in for a surprise. Ha-ha, ha-ha.” At the same time, Bruce Wayne reveals that he has had the entire R&D team working on a new sonar system based on the device that Fox created, allowing them to surveil the entire city.
Wayne: Beautiful, isn’t it?
Fox: Beautiful. Unethical. Dangerous. You’ve turned every cell phone in Gotham into a microphone.
Wayne: And a high-frequency generator-receiver.
Fox: You took my sonar concept and applied it to every phone in the city. With half the city feeding you sonar, you can image all of Gotham. This is wrong.
Wayne: I’ve gotta find this man, Lucius.
Fox: At what cost?
Wayne: The database is null-key encrypted. It can only be accessed by one person.
Fox: This is too much power for one person.
Wayne: That’s why I gave it to you. Only you can use it.
Fox: Spying on 30 million people isn’t part of my job description.
Wayne: This is an audio sample. If he talks within range of any phone in the city you can triangulate his position.
Fox: I’ll help you this one time. But consider this my resignation. As long as this machine is at Wayne Enterprises, I won’t be.
Wayne: When you’re finished, type in your name.
CAN’T HURT YOUR CHANCES…
Continuing to avenge Rachel’s death, Two Face confronts Moroni and shoots. him.
Two Face: Going to join your wife? You love her?
Two Face: You ever imagine what it would be like to listen to her die?
Maroni: Look, take it up with the Joker. He killed your woman. He made you…like this.
Two Face: The Joker’s just a mad dog. I want whoever let him off the leash. I took care of Wuertz, but who was your other man inside Gordon’s unit? Who picked up Rachel? Must have been someone she trusted.
Maroni: Look, if I tell you…will you let me go?
Two Face: Can’t hurt your chances.
Maroni: It was Ramirez. But you said…
Two Face: I said it couldn’t hurt your chances. You’re a lucky man. But he’s not.
Two Face: Your driver.
Nolan uses editing to structure time. At the beginning of this sequence, Nolan shows a long shot of people boarding the ferries. He then cuts to a tighter shot of a line of criminals being herded towards the vessels. There is a midshot of an angry man in the crowd. “Hey, man! That ain’t right! We should be on that boat!” Nolan then cuts to a shot of the boats at night after all of the passengers have boarded. Cutting to an aerial shot of the docks, the ferries are now leaving for the other side of the river. Inside the ships, lighting, acting and sound are used to convey that there is something wrong with the boat. The lights begin to flicker erratically. Passengers look around, hearing the diegetic sound of an engine powering down. In the cabin, the crew of the ship discuss why the other ship has stopped its engines. Nolan then cuts to several shots both inside and outside the ship: the lights flicker and a siren sounds.
A shot of Batman sitting on the Bat Pod and the chatter of voices quickly conveys to the audience that he is using the sonar device to monitor the entire city. “There’s something going on on the ferries,” he growls. The camera tracks one of the crew has he heads below deck. A point of view shot from the perspective of this character shows hundreds of drums wired together. A tighter shot of the drums reveals a mysterious package tied with a purple ribbon. “Captain, we got a hundred barrels down there rigged to blow,” the crew member says. “And this.”
Dialogue is used to explain the situation: “Tonight, you’re all gonna be a part of a social experiment. Through the magic of diesel fuel and ammonium nitrate. I’m ready right now to blow you all sky-high. If anyone attempts to get off their boat, you all die. Each of you has a remote to blow up the other boat. Assemble on the building opposite. At midnight, I blow you all up. lf, however, one of you presses the button, I’ll let that boat live. So who ‘s it gonna be? Harvey Dent’s most-wanted scumbag collection or the sweet and innocent civilians? You choose. Oh, and you might wanna decide quickly because the people on the other boat may not be quite so noble.” During The Joker’s monologue, camera movement and sound are used to convey that the sonar device is honing in on his location. There are several shots of the people on both boats arguing over whether they should use the detonator.
LIVE TO FIGHT ANOTHER DAY
An important part of the narrative’s chain of cause and effect is when Ramirez calls Barbara Gordon and implores her to head to a secret location. This event sets up the final confrontation between Two Face and Batman.
Two Face: She believe you? It’s because she trusts you just like Rachel did.
Ramirez: I didn’t know…
Two Face: Didn’t know what they’d do? You’re the second cop to say that to me. What exactly did you think they were gonna do?
Ramirez: They got me early on. My mother’s hospital bills…
Two Face: Don’t!
Ramirez: I’m sorry.
Two Face: You live to fight another day, officer.
After an altercation with Gordon who insists they have to take out the masked gunmen standing in the windows of Prewitt Building, Batman leaps off the building and wrestles one of the men to the ground. Lighting, editing and dialogue are used to convey that he can see with the aid of the sonar device. The eyes of Batman’s suit suddenly become illuminated as he says, “Fox I need picture.” After a brief cutaway to Gordon who receives a desperate call from his wife, Nolan cuts to a midshot of Lucius studying the screens. To convey this further, Nolan uses shots of Batman looking around intercut with compuer generated ‘sonar’ footage. To engage the audience, Nolan uses a number of techniques. In addition to the rapid pace of the editing and suspenseful action music, he also has several storylines unfolding at once. Batman attempts to rescue the hostages and capture The Joker, Gordon receives a desperate call from his wife who has been captured by Two Face and the prisoners on the boat vote on whether they will use the detonators. Nolan cuts between each of these different storyline to engage the audience.
AN UNSTOPPABLE FORCE MEETS AN IMMOVEABLE OBJECT
One of the narrative possibilities in The Dark Knight is a final show down between Batman and The Joker. Indeed, in addition to the conventions of superhero narratives, previous Batman films have established that his is almost certain. In this scene, this storyline is resolved when Batman and The Joker confront each other in the abandoned building.
The Joker: We really should stop this fighting, otherwise we’ll miss the fireworks.
Batman: There won’t be any fireworks.
The Joker: And here we go.
Batman: What were you trying to prove? That deep down, everyone’s as ugly as you? You’re alone.
The Joker: Can’t rely on anyone these days. You gotta do everything yourself. Don’t we? That’s okay. I came prepared. It’s a funny world we live in. Speaking of which, you know how I got these scars?
Batman: No, but I know how you got these.
The Joker: Oh, you. You just couldn’t let me go, could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You truly are incorruptible, aren’t you? Huh? You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness. And I won’t kill you because you’re just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.
Batman: You’ll be in a padded cell forever.
The Joker: Maybe we could share one. You know, they’ll be doubling up the rate this city’s inhabitants are losing their minds.
Batman: This city just showed you that it’s full of people ready to believe in good.
The Joker: Until their spirit breaks completely. Until they get a good look at the real Harvey Dent and all the heroic things he’s done. You didn’t think I’d risk losing the battle for Gotham’s soul in a fistfight with you? No. You need an ace in the hole. Mine’s Harvey.
Batman: What did you do?
The Joker: I took Gotham’s white knight and I brought him down to our level. It wasn’t hard. See, madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little push.
This storyline in the narrative is resolved with a sustained shot of The Joker hanging helplessly. Nolan cuts between The Joker and close-ups of the SWAT team with their guns trained on him.
THE WORLD IS CRUEL
The resolution of the storyline involving Harvey “Two Face” Dent and his quest for revenge is largely resolved through dialogue as the deranged former District Attorney taunts Commissioner Gordon, threatening to kill his family.
Two Face: This is where they brought her, Gordon, after your men handed her over. This is where she died.
Gordon: I know, I was here…trying to save her.
Two Face: But you didn’t.
Gordon: I couldn’t.
Two Face: Yes, you could’ve. If you’d listened to me. If you stood up against corruption…instead of doing your deal with the devil.
Gordon: I was trying to fight the Mob!
Two Face: You wouldn’t dare try to justify yourself if you knew what I’d lost. Have you ever had to talk to the person you loved most…tell them it’s gonna be all right, when you know it’s not? Well, you’re about to know what that feels like, Gordon. Then you can look me in the eye and tell me you’re sorry.
Gordon: You’re not going to hurt my family.
Two Face: No. Just the person you love most. So is it your wife?
Gordon: Put the gun down, Harvey. Harvey, put down the gun. Please. Please, Harvey. Please. Oh, goddamn it. Will you stop pointing that gun at my family?
Two Face: We have a winner.
Barbara: No, Jim, stop him!
Barbara: Don’t let him…
Gordon: Harvey! I’m sorry! For everything. Please don’t hurt my son.
Two Face: You brought your cops?
Gordon: All they know is there’s a situation. They don’t know who or what. They’re just creating a perimeter.
Two Face: You think I wanna escape from this? There is no escape from this.
Batman: You don’t wanna hurt the boy, Harvey.
Two Face: It’s not about what I want, it’s about what’s fair! You thought we could be decent men in an indecent time. But you were wrong. The world is cruel. And the only morality in a cruel world is chance. Unbiased. Unprejudiced. Fair. His son’s got the same chance she had. Fifty-fifty.
Batman: What happened to Rachel wasn’t chance. We decided to act. We three.
Two Face: Then why was it me who was the only one who lost everything?
Batman: It wasn’t.
Two Face: The Joker chose me.
Batman: Because you were the best of us. He wanted to prove that even someone as good as you could fall.
Two Face: And he was right.
Batman: You’re the one pointing the gun, Harvey. So point it at the people responsible.
Two Face: Fair enough. You first. My turn.
Gordon: Harvey, you’re right. Rachel’s death was my fault. Please don’t punish the boy. Please, punish me.
Two Face: I’m about to. Tell your boy he’s gonna be all right, Gordon. Lie…like I lied.
Gordon: It’s going to be all right, son.
THE DARK KNIGHT
Ultimately, all of the remaining storylines in the narrative are resolved when Batman decides to take the fall for Harvey Dent’s crimes. The structuring of time is important during this scene. Nolan cuts back to a shot of Alfred burning Rachel’s letter, to Lucius Fox as he types in his name and destroys the sonar device, and forward in time to Commissioner Gordon delivering Harvey Dent’s eulogy. This use of editing allows each of the storylines in the narrative to be resolved. The final conversation between Batman and Gordon is also important.
Gordon: Thank you.
Batman: You don’t have to thank me.
Gordon: Yes, I do. The Joker won. Harvey’s prosecution, everything he fought for…undone. Whatever chance you gave us at fixing our city dies with Harvey’s reputation. We bet it all on him. The Joker took the best of us and tore him down. People will lose hope.
Batman: They won’t. They must never know what he did.
Gordon: Five dead. Two of them cops. You can’t sweep that…
Batman: No. But the Joker cannot win. Gotham needs its true hero.
Batman: You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain. I can do those things because I’m not a hero, not like Dent. I killed those people. That’s what I can be.
Gordon: No, no, you can’t. You’re not.
Batman: I’m whatever Gotham needs me to be. Call it in.
Gordon (delivering eulogy): A hero. Not the hero we deserved, but the hero we needed. Nothing less than a knight shining.
Gordon: They’ll hunt you.
Batman: You’ll hunt me. You’ll condemn me. Set the dogs on me. Because that’s what needs to happen. Because sometimes the truth isn ‘t good enough. Sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded.
James: Batman. Batman! Why’s he running, Dad?
Gordon: Because we have to chase him.
Police Officer: Okay, we’re going in! Go, go! Move!
James: He didn’t do anything wrong.
Gordon: Because he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him…because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian…a watchful protector. A dark knight.
The reception context of a narrative can influence the way that an audience responds to it. The Dark Knight had six scenes filmed on an IMAX camera. According to numerous reviews, the print screened at IMAX cinemas was more dramatic and engaging than the original. Duncan Bowles noted in his review of The Dark Knight at IMAX: “What really compelled me to write this article though was the sheer spectacle of seeing it at the IMAX. I’ve had the good fortune to see a few films at the IMAX and every time I walk in, my jaw drops and I’m always compelled to make a statement along the lines of “Oh good God I’d forgotten how big the screen is!” and then laugh at sheer delight I know I’m about to witness. The Dark Knight, as it states on the BFI press release has ‘six sequences filmed with IMAX® cameras (including the opening six minutes). This marks the first time ever that a major feature film has been even partially shot using IMAX cameras, marking a revolutionary integration of the two film formats.’ Revolutionary is right. When the film starts you become aware that you are watching it on one hell of a screen, even with the letterboxing, then the first IMAX sequence kicks in (and when I say ‘kick’ I mean ‘BOOMS!’) which had such an impact on the full auditorium that the audience all gasped, then broke into cheers and applause. That’s right a British press screening where people clapped and cheered. It will forever mark a turning point in cinema for anyone who is fortunate enough to see it at the IMAX, as to see it anywhere else, in any other format, simply won’t compare. The immersive experience is more akin to being in a simulator, with the opening aerial shot of Gotham City actually inducing a dizzying sense of flying as your brain tries to comprehend the scale of the spectacle.”