10th Anniversary of The Dark Knight Represents A Dramatic Influence Of Christianity On Comic Book Movies
Nearly everyone is familiar with superhero movies. The hero fights seemingly insurmountable odds to defeat the villain and save the world. While there might be the death of a supporting character or two, the hero remains untarnished. The Christopher Nolan film The Dark Knight changed that and Christianity was probably the reason. Since it is the 10th anniversary of the movie, it becomes an excellent time to return to the morality of the film.
Nolan has stated that he found most of the superhero movies to be morality plays mimicking Christian doctrine. The villains always represented a satanic figure of pure evil. They may have a tragic backstory but were irredeemable. The hero served Jesus, someone who would be willing to sacrifice everything while remaining true to their code.
Nolan has always operated in cinematic worlds of moral vagueness. No clear Manichean binary exists. That could be why the director was drawn to Batman as a character. While Batman fights on the side of justice, he has inner darkness as well as willing to bend certain parts of the law to war criminals.
Batman’s archnemesis is the Joker. While other supervillains have a purpose for their evil, Heath Ledger’s Joker describes himself as “an agent of chaos.” The Joker commits violence and acts of terrorism for mayhem. As Batman’s butler and confidant, Alfred, tells the hero “some men just want to watch the world burn.” This serves partly as a criticism of superhero movies and Christian morality. Satan and demons always have a reason. They are trying to overthrow God, or convert Christians. A purpose gives a rational basis to the villain. With no goal beyond the act itself, it creates a terrifying image, an evil that cannot be understood.
To combat this new evil Batman eventually has to violate his moral code. Without rehashing the movie, Batman has to break the trust of his entire city of Gotham and create a Big Brother state to find the Joker. Joker has taunted the character in the whole movie that he will get him to break his moral code by killing. Not only does Batman violate the trust of the city, but has to admit to killing someone at the end of the movie. While superheroes, like Jesus, have to suffer, they never violate their morality. A comparison in the Bible would be Job. The Devil challenges God to have all sorts of horrible events occur to Job to see if he loves God. Job never turned his back on God. Or when God asked Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham obeyed without question. While the Joker is ultimately arrested, he meets his objective.
This matches the heroes of Nolan’s other movies. All of his characters become so committed to their tasks that they become blind to how they need to take increasingly disreputable methods to reach it. This may be why many consider The Dark Knight to be the greatest superhero movie of all time.