"The Dark Knight" has it both ways

WHEN JOE Allen writes in his review of The Dark Knight that it "embraces the worst sort of right-wing vigilantism" and claims that the plot "is straight out of the reasons used to justify all of the unsavory aspects of Bush's 'war on terror,'" he creates an inaccurate caricature of a much more interesting film ("Batman's war of terror").

Yes, it is about a billionaire who moonlights as a masked vigilante, but the theme of the movie (a theme often taken up in the comic books) is that there is a "gray area" between good and evil. While the Joker may be a sociopath and a "terrorist," the fight to stop him threatens to create more evil.

Joe mentions Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred's story of fighting a jewel thief in Burma who was more interested in creating chaos than acquiring wealth. "Some men just want to see the world burn," Alfred says.

But Joe does not mention how Alfred describes capturing the thief: "We burned down the forest," he says. This reference to the Vietnam war may be lost on some viewers, but it is quite clear that the danger Batman faces is not just in the Joker but in his own overzealousness. Sometimes the "good guys" are willing to see the world burn, too.

When Batman beats the pulp out of the Joker during an interrogation, we can't help but wonder if he is taking things too far. In fact, this is exactly what the Joker wants--forcing Batman to sink to his level and ultimately playing right into the Joker's hands.

It is also worth mentioning that almost every cop in Gotham City is on the take--which is an occasional thorn in the side for Batman.

If The Dark Knight is a parable of the "war on terrorism," it is also a parable about its dangers. Having said that, it should not be pigeonholed as simply a "progressive" or "reactionary" film--but neither does it transcend these labels. It wants to have things both ways, as when Batman builds an incredibly invasive eavesdropping device, uses it, then has it destroyed because it is too powerful.

But unlike "the worst sort of right-wing vigilantism" represented in Hollywood, senseless violence is not an easy answer for The Dark Knight. There are moral ambiguities faced by the characters in the film, and while these ambiguities are not nearly as challenging as they could have been--nor do they challenge the status quo--I was not exactly looking for lessons for the antiwar movement.

I was looking for one hell of a Batman movie and I found it in The Dark Knight, by far the best and most intelligent Batman movie yet.
Scott Johnson, Oakland, Calif.