The Dark Knight: “Identity Secrets” – Analysis and Explanation

The Dark Knight: “Identity Secrets” – Analysis and Explanation


Alfred: “Some men just wanna watch the world burn…” Hailed as one of the best comic book movies ever made and earning a legitimacy the genre
hadn’t previously experienced, ‘The Dark Knight’ changed the way
characters were portrayed what fans expected, and what the general public would enjoy. But what was the key to its success? I’m Neary And this series takes an in-depth look at films and the process behind them. An Oscar winning success from 2008 ‘The Dark Knight’ gave comic fans the most
famous hero and villain combination in the medium. But also delivered an exciting original and lucrative blockbuster that captivated the general public. So now of course people try to pick it apart. Was it the style? That realism of the character. Was it the superb performances? Or the practical effects? Film stock over digital? Or any number of other elements. And the answer each and every time, is ‘no’. Nothing in a film works by itself. It all combines into the whole. And the best way of creating that cohesion is through an often vague term: theme. What ‘The Dark Knight’ represents is a an excellent combination of director’s sensibilities matching the material. Not known as a comic book “geek”, it surprised many and still does that Christopher Nolan would have excelled with something as “juvenile” as a comic book character. Especially one like Batman who was last seen being… …less than complex. Batman [George Clooney]: “Good night.” But theme binds a story together. And from his own preoccupations Nolan has examined the same elements throughout his career. The idea of reality memory perception and, most prominently in this movie, the theme of identity. Through the character of Batman Nolan found a device within the superhero world he could utilize exclusively and would take it, and use the hyper-realisitc melodramatic, and generally enhanced world of superheroes to break apart the idea of theme like never before. Why Batman? Superheroes, to fans and general public are built upon the foundation of identity. Batman [Michael Keaton]: “I’m Batman” Wearing a mask putting on a costume and changing your name, are all foundational elements of the genre. Mask or no mask the conceit is always there. The idea of secrets the splitting apart of our personality the very literal change in who we are and identity is fluid and changing. We don’t act the same in front of our mother
as we do in front of our boss. We don’t make the same jokes with children
that we do with our friends. But at no point do we ever
stop being ourselves. So to understand what identity is we need to except it as 3 different facets who exchange combine and fight for dominance. There is the version of
ourselves that we see. There is the person the world sees. And there is the version we
wish ourselves to be. *THUNDER* Batman’s secret identity has been explored
to the point of intense scrutiny, and in a rather unique way the comic often discusses who is the real face of the character? Is Batman something that Bruce Wayne uses… Bruce: “People need dramatic examples,” “to shake them out of apathy” “and I can’t do that as Bruce Wayne.” …or did Bruce Wayne die the same night
as his parents? Forever replaced with the persona of a vengeful champion who would eventually create the Batman and wear the mask of Bruce
to fulfil his goal. Alfred: “You’re getting lost inside this monster of yours.” From such a rich history we find ‘The Dark Knight’ to be a film based around
this exploration of identity. From who we are, to who we want to be, to who the world thinks we are. Joker: “I’m a man of my word…hehaHEHEHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHH” Nearly every scene in this film addresses the idea of identity. of hidden depths, deception, and questions about what we see and what lies beneath. From hidden doors and walls to mistaken perception, the film uses identity throughout to bind and define its characters journeys. The hero wears a mask, the villain puts on war paint, and the final danger is literally split in two. Nolan has touched on identity before… Teddy: “So you lie to yourself to be happy,” “there’s nothing wrong with that,” “we all do it.” on what we need to feel like a person, to the concept of dual identities, the changing state of who we think we are, and who we actually are. But in ‘The Dark Knight’ (TDK) he reached the best and most comprehensive study he could ever find thanks, in part, to the range that comic book characters offer. He took a fundamental element of the genre… Harvey Dent: “I am the Batman.” and explored it with an intelligent, adult eye, and it paid off critically and commercially. Having that unifying element – theme – helps a film stand out. Because now the director isn’t assembling actors, sets, jokes, and shots, he’s moving pieces across a larger board to guide the audience down a path. He is trying to talk to us. To say something about the world and people as he sees it. Alfred: “Endure.” This is not just great storytelling, this is the very reason we tell stories. Not to distract ourselves, but to communicate with one another, to share ideas and speak about
the universal parts of existence, or voice what we believe and see. Theme is the literal difference between a film that has something to say and one that doesn’t. From scene to scene, moment to moment, we find that identity – in its 3 different forms – is touched on by each aspect in the film. Rossi: “I’m the brains of the organization!” These three different concepts of identity play out on the larger plane of the three main characters, and within each of the characters themselves. A bank? But it’s a mob bank. A coin? Harvey: “Heads I go through with it.” But it’s two sided. A company? But it’s crooked. Cops? Det. Ramirez: “The got me early on,
my mother’s hospital bills.” But they’re corrupt. Looking for the Batman? Wertz: “The investigation is ‘ongoing’.” ( Elvis would be a great Batman.) And now we start to see that theme is not random, not something that comes in and out of a movie, Officer: “Hey, you wait like everybody else pal.” *SHOTGUN BLAST* but the constant thread of what the film is based on, including the plot. Let’s look first at Harvey Dent, the most minor character of the three, but the one around whom the other two orbit. Dent’s identity is the same for both men… Bruce: “I believe in Harvey Dent.” … they both seem him as the best hope for Gotham. Joker: “I took Gotham’s White Knight…” “…and I brought him down to our level.” The Joker knows that breaking Harvey would crush the city, Bruce: “You know that day you
once told me about” “when Gotham would no longer need Batman?” and Bruce knows Harvey is the best of them but, personally, if Harvey is successful he can quit being Batman. Bruce: “Harvey is that hero,” “he locked up half of the city’s criminals” “and he did it without wearing a mask.” Again, it’s important to note, that each of these three represent one of the different aspects of identity, Joker: “I wouldn’t know what do do with one
if I caught it!” so it may seem like they cross-over at times,
macro and micro, such is the fluid nature of identity and the complexity that a good theme can generate. Harvey is often referred to as the White Knight, the best of the trio, and is seen by the outside world as the heroic one, and Gotham’s best hope. For the Joker, and Batman, the city lives or dies by the
people’s perception of Harvey. Gordon: “If anybody asks, we got him out.” The film’s climax comes down to the fact
that if Dent is seen as a killer, the criminals he put away go free and the city will lose all hope. If his status is maintained Gotham has a chance. Getting to this point we see several factors emerge, notably how the world sees Harvey is, in part, how he also wants to be seen. Harvey: “I’ll get you your warrants,
but I want your trust.” Gordon: “Oh you don’t have to sell me Dent.” “We all know your Gotham’s White Knight.” Because the real Harvey isn’t so secure,
his version of himself isn’t as strong, Rachel: “Harvey Dent, scourge of the underworld,
scared stiff by the trust fund brigade!” and he needs others to see him that way his campaign logo is… Bruce: “I believe in Harvey Dent? Yeah, nice slogan Harvey.” but also that the man has a need to be liked
and seen as trustworthy. *Clapping* Harvey: “How do you know what he’s thinking?” When he loses Rachel we see who he really is, a man who was charming, but deceptive. Brave but all too aware of his own failings. Harvey makes many decent choices, he is trying to fight the good fight, but when the world isn’t looking
his true self is dangerous. And one of the key lines in the film, which cleverly combines the plot
with the theme once more is Harvey’s line… Harvey: “You either die a hero,” “Or you live longer enough to
see yourself become the villain.” That he eventually ends up as Two-Face cements the power of comic books to visually and evocatively portray ideas and concepts in a very clear and distinct way. Thomas Wayne: “Don’t be afraid…” He is literally torn in two, between the man he was, the man he has become, and the fact that they can both exist at once… Two-Face: “Decent men in an indecent time!” …just like we can have different identities within us depending on the situation. Harvey is angry, and guilty, turning the gun on himself as well, believing the world to be fair. Facial recognition, fingerprints, spying technology, the film hits the idea of identity over and over. Clown: “Hands up pretty boy.” *WHAM* And with Harvey comes one of the recurring moments of someone pretending to be
something that they are not. We see Jim Gordon pretending to be dead. Jim Gordon is, despite appearance, the most superhero-esque of all the characters. He pretends to be dead… Mayor Garcia: “Back from the dead?” putting on a mask, just so he can protect his family. Gordon: “I couldn’t risk my family’s safety.” Which is the standard logic for the heroes
in the comic books, to protect themselves from the outside world so that they can protect the people who they most associate with their ‘real’ identity. Alfred: “To protect those you care about from reprisals?” Bruce: “You’re thinking about Rachel.” Alfred: “Actually sir, I was finkin’ of myself.” Robin: “Yeah but you were a loner right?
You didn’t have any family?” Bruce: “There are always people you care about.” Which leads us to the Batman, the character who’s journey is defined not by a mask for his own protection but because he wanted to create a symbol. Ducard: “Then you become something else entirely…” Bruce: “Which is?” Ducard: “Legend, Mister Wayne.” Batman is not a real identity, Bruce is using it to make criminals afraid, and it is how the world sees the Batman
that matters to him above all else. Bruce: “Batman has no limits.” He needs to maintain and aura, because at the beginning of this film it is successfully working. Crook: “Nah man, I don’t like tonight.” Dealer: “What’ryu superstitious?” “You got more chance of winning the Power Ball
than running into him!” Harvey: “Then what about that floodlight on the top of MCU?” Gordon: “If you’ve got problems with malfunctioning equipment,” “I suggest you take them up with maintenance.” The police aren’t interested in who he ‘really’ is, because what he represents, what the world believes him to be is
the true power of that role. Joker: “Wha’ happened? Did your balls drop off?” What that leaves us with is Bruce, who perceives himself as someone playing a part, in his mind he sees himself as distinct, Bruce: “Batman’s just a symbol Rachel.” Knowing that Batman’s power is in being incorruptible and unstoppable. And it’s working… …up until the world stops seeing him like that. Maroni: “They’re wise to your act,” “You got rule. The Joker? He’s got no rules.” “Nobody’s gonna cross him for you.” And this fall begins right at the beginning of the movie, Batman: “Him again.” when Bruce doesn’t grasp in one man the exact image he has created with the Batman. Gordon: “What about this Joker guy?” Batman: “One man or the entire mob?” Instead of going after the Joker, he decides to attack the mob perhaps to move him closer to retirement because he fails to recognize the persona of the Joker like the rest of the world does. He only sees the man, and not the symbol he represents. Brian: “We don’t have to be afraid of scum like you.” Joker: “Yeah…you do Brian…” “You REALLY do.” This is the dynamic that sets off the whole film, the tug of war at play between who we are, who we are seen as, and who we want to be seen to be. Joker’s influence on Batman swings throughout these 3 points of view.. Joker: “Very poor choice of words.” …crushing Batman’s spirit in all it’s forms. The actions the Joker takes are lavish, impressive, original, and performed perfectly by Heath Ledger, Joker: ‘TA-DA!!!” But the underlying reasons are why it works so well. Bruce needs Batman to be a symbol
in order to be effective, to rationalize what he’s doing. But in his efforts to clean up Gotham he fails to see the Joker as that same symbol. He latches onto what he sees Harvey as… Bruce: “Gotham needs a hero with a face.” …and believes he can clean up Gotham like Batman never could. But the Joker first attacks the secret identity of Batman, wanting him to reveal himself. Joker: “Batman must take off his mask,” “and turn himself in.” Joker: “You just take of your little mask and show us all who you really are.” He wants it more than anything, even though he proclaims he’s doing it for… Joker: “Half” We’ll get to this later, but anyone watching knows that the Joker is never what anyone thinks he is. Joker: “No, I’m not.” And despite others trying to prove they’re just
like Batman, in fact, attacking his identity in a different way… Brian: “What give you the right?
What’s the difference between you and me?” Batman is ultimately left reeling by the attack
not on his persona but on the man. Joker (V.O): “I thought you really were Dent,
the way you threw yourself after her.” Joker eradicates the concept of Batman
by attacking in broad daylight, putting himself on camera, creating a clear symbol of danger for Gotham, a focal point just like The Batman persona and far more effective than the vague threat of a criminal mob. Joker: “HAEHAHEEHAHAHA” What Bruce is faced with is destroying the Batman symbol in the eyes of the public, so that he can maintain the image of someone who does the right thing. Batman: “No one else will die because of me.” “Gotham’s in your hands now.” Even though he knows the right thing is to not give up, Dent: “You can’t give in!” he cannot accept the Batman persona being associated with people’s deaths… Bruce: “People are dying Alfred,
what would you have me do?” And he is moments away from surrendering. Harvey: “Take the Batman into custody.” In fact the scene in which he chooses to do so, Harvey: “I am the Batman” shows how quickly the idea of what we see ourselves and what the world sees us as, can change very quickly – even for the audience. Alfred: “Perhaps both Bruce and Mister Dent,” “believe that the Batman stands for something more important.” Harvey Dent is suddenly revealed to be quite violent
and almost twisted. Schiff: “I don’t know anything!” “DON’T!” Dent: “You’re not playing the odds friend” Batman: “You’re the symbol of hope I can never be,” Because as Batman says, even if the coin is later shown to be a double (another false identity) if anyone sees Harvey doing this his reputation is ruined. Batman: “Everything would be undone.” Harvey’s personality does not align with how the public view him and Batman knows it’s more important than reality. An important lesson in his steps toward the finish. In the scenes following (when the coin is revealed) and more true identities come to light Joker: “Assuming of course they are still ‘your’ people” appearances are shown to be false (except for the nice Joker touch of making a literal ‘fire-truck’) and the Joker is set on getting the Batman’s identity… but it is this moment that shows the pivot point in his attention. From here on out, Joker doesn’t care about Batman’s secret identity. And this is, Joker: “HAHAH!” for all intents and purposes, the end of the movie… Joker: “You have nothing” “Nothing to threaten me with.” “Nothing to do with all your strength.” This is where the Joker wins. Batman was a symbol of fear, a character Bruce created to clean up the streets, but in his failure to respect the Joker as a similar symbol Joker: “You’re just a freak…like me!” Bruce: “Criminals aren’t complicated Alfred,” The Joker is able to wipe out how the outside world sees Batman. Criminals no longer fear him, Maroni: “Nobody’s gonna tell you nuthin'” and the cops no longer want him on their side, Officer: “No more dead cops!” *CHEERING* And when we reach this critical scene, the climax of the journey Bruce Wayne’s entire plan, his goal is destroyed by this one man, this symbol confronting him on a whole new level. At 90 minutes in, the usual runtime of a normal movie the Batman is dead. He has nothing left. Criminals don’t fear him. Cops don’t trust him. The Joker cannot be overcome by anything he had traditionally used And here… we see another shift. This is Bruce putting the chair under the door, because the aspect of his identity that was concerned with how the world saw him, in this case the police and Gordon, is something he can no longer maintain. Gordon: “He’s in control.” He has to sacrifice that part of himself because how he sees himself takes over. Joker: “Does Harvey know about you and his little Bubeh?” *SLAM* One quick point: about the Joker giving the wrong address, Joker: “He’s at 250 52nd Street…” is the idea he might have gotten inside Batman’s head, and know that that inner persona is more concerned with Rachel. Gordon: “Which one are you going after?”
Batman: “Rachel!” But it’s just as important to remember that the Joker doesn’t have a specific plan, he improvises constantly Joker: “Excuse me, I wanna drive.” with great intelligence yes but if Harvey had of been killed he would have been just as happy, or both of them. He isn’t after anything in particular besides crushing Batman at this point. That’s why he’s his direct opposite he’s malleable where Batman is rigid. Joker: “HAHHAHAAHAH!” “You have NOTHING!” “Nothing to threaten me with.” “Nothing to do with all your strength.” So with this concept of Batman dead, and the movie finished, let’s switch to the Joker. The most notoriously difficult of characters to understand. It’s said that he has no past, that he doesn’t know where he came from, that in his mind he creates new origins all the time, and new personalities, so the idea of, inner, outer and external might not even apply to him. But in Nolan’s universe he has made sure there are sides to each part of the Joker just like the others. Identity for the Joker is absolutely crucial to the story. He wears war-paint but then a mask. He is a blank slate. (I think I said ‘sate’ :/) Gordon: “No matches on prints,” “…DNA…dental…clothing is custom, no labels” “Nothing in his pockets but knives and lint.” No one knows who he is. “No name,” Not the cops or the criminals, “No other alias.” not even Batman. He is an agent of chaos, sprung from nowhere to wreck havoc
on the hero and his city. But Nolan knew a blind and vague threat is useless and there are snippets of a real man behind the mask, clues to his mind. Joker: “I like that.” This man is well aware of imagery, of identity and its power, and the reason is that he is totally focused on what the world sees him as. He takes great pleasure in being without rules, without control, doing as he wants. But what he wants changes because of the Batman Joker: “Come on, come on” “I want you to do it. I want you to do it. Come on.” “Hit me. Hit me.” “Come on, hit me!” Batman: “ARHHH!” Joker: “HIT ME!!” *SKIDDING* It’s no surprise that in many interpretations there is a bond between Joker and his Batman a type of perverse love the character holds, Joker [Michael Emerson]: “Batman…” “….darling….” In that he helped create him, setting him free, Joker: “You complete me.” and in the endless joy he gets challenging him and pushing him to the edge. Joker: “I think you and I are destined to do
this forever.” Whoever he originally was, perhaps a soldier given his exceptional ability to create plans on the fly and have contingencies ready to go, Joker: “Ok, rack ’em up. Rack ’em up, rack ’em up.” as well as organize large groups quickly plus this often mentioned line… Joker: “Or a truck load of soldiers will be blown up…” “…nobody panics.” “Because it’s all part of the ‘plan’.” The person he is now is the Joker. *CLAPPING* A man who wears a mask just like Batman, in this case make-up. This itself shows some idea to the inner and outer versions of the character. To the world at large it’s a gimmick, an intimidation tactic, something that paints him as a freak, Clown: “Make-up?” Clown 2: “Yeah, to scare people. Y’know? War-paint.” and all of those perceptions he uses to his advantage, just like Batman’s aura of fear and power allows him to affect those who see him that way. Cop: “What’ya want?!” Joker: “I just want my phone call.” But unlike Nicholson’s Joker, or Hamill’s, or the comic, this Joker isn’t actually smiling. His laughs sometimes feel forced, Joker: “Woo-hah-ha- HAHA!” and his very first one is funny precisely because he’s faking it. Joker: “Oh, hee, hee, a-ha, ooh, he he haaa.” The actual man, the real face, is scarred, but he’s twisted that into a smile. Joker: “Now I’m always smiling!” His stories of the past are all about the scars, Joker: “Speaking of which, do you know I got these scars?” because he knows, that even with the smiling red make-up, that’s what the world sees. Joker: “She can’t stand the sight of me.” His inner self is aware of these scars, they matter to him too, he owns them but they are still a part of himself. Joker: “Why so serious?” The make-up is for others, but also, like any mask on some level, to hide himself, or at least a part of himself. And while the world, in this case the mob, see him as a symbol of a new type of criminal, a weapon to use against the police’s weapon Chechen: “Have to fix real problem.” “Batman.” His outer motivation is that of a man out for money and power. He wants to bring down the Batman, but in this scene… his mind shifts…
Joker: “HIT ME!” his idea of who he, and who Batman is, has changed. He no longer wants to see under the mask, he doesn’t care, Joker: “I’ve had a change of heart,” “I don’t want Mister Reese spoiling everything.” He realizes this man is just like him, more than just one personality, someone who exists beyond the normal idea of identity Joker: “Don’t talk like one of them, you’re not.” and someone who is incorruptible Joker: “You truly are incorruptible.” regardless of how the outside world sees him. And that’s the Joker, they call him a terrorist, *BOOM* but he’s not. They call him crazy, but he’s not, Joker: “So, in a way,” “I knew your friends better than you ever did.” “Would you like to know which of them were cowards?” and they thinks he’s got a plan, Joker: “Do I really look like a guy with a plan?” The Joker is not pure evil, what he appears to be for most of the film is someone totally okay with himself, Joker: “I like this job, I like it.” and happy to manipulate what others see to get what he wants. He doesn’t need validation. He doesn’t care what anyone thinks. So when we return to the idea
that the Batman persona is dead, these three figures come together. Now, the new villain is Harvey in this ‘second’ film. We see his origin, and his motivation, and we go from there. *BOOOOOM* The Joker becomes a larger threat, in essence becoming what the Batman was at the start of the film, a large presence that terrorizes people through his very mention and existence. He’s never seen, he becomes only a voice. Meanwhile Batman has, in a way, switched over in his identities, all of them. Rachel is gone, Harvey is gone, and the city is falling away. He sits, mask off, in the daylight for the very first time, everything blurring, all the identities smashed together and not sure which is which. And his idea of who he is, Bruce: “She was going to wait for me Alfred.” And who Rachel is, is a false aspect. Alfred: “It can wait.” Now Alfred, in this moment, is doing what Bruce did to Harvey. *Coin Flip* because the film is starting to reflect its stories. Batman: “If anyone saw this, everything would be undone.” Alfred: “Which is why, for now, they’re going to have
to make do with you.” Batman: “You’re the symbol of hope I can never be.” Alfred knows that people need to believe
certain things to go on, that the outside perspective is vital to our inner view of ourselves at times. And this guilt, this idea of what is expected of us from the outside, and what we really think, is highlighted through Jim Gordon. Gordon: “We have to save Dent!” “I have to save Dent!” Even as Dent becomes a killer. Gordon: “I’m sorry.” To follow all the strands of the theme properly you have to see the overall story, so let us examine the finish, which takes all of these concepts and creates a layered and satisfying ending. The Joker wanted, in the beginning, to reveal who Batman really is. Joker: “…take off his mask” And Harvey stated that: Harvey: “…or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” By the end of the movie, the Batman apparently takes this prophecy to its conclusion, and he becomes the villain, taking responsibility for the murders, Batman: “I killed those people.” insuring Harvey’s reputation at the expense of his own. Does this mean the Joker won? Joker wanted to show that anyone could be driven mad, and that the city would fall. And in showing that Harvey could be, Dent: “You die…” he shows that he was right, Joker: “Now we’re talking.” but Batman’s actions mean the city doesn’t fall. There is one identity, what we want the world to see and what the world actually sees. The external view that Harvey is a hero. In which sense, the Joker failed. But why did he fail? Because the Joker and the Batman traded perspectives and roles. After the Batman persona is killed it is at this moment… that the Joker reveals his true self, his inner self, someone who needs the world to not make sense. Like Harvey, they both feel the world is unfair, that it is chaotic and there are no plans, and only chance rules the day. Two-Face: “It’s not about what I want,” “It’s about what’s FAIR!” This is their inner justification for the outside world that they cannot control. But in the finale, Bruce realizes that his view of what Batman was, Batman: “I have one rule.” Bruce: “That’s why it’s so important,” “It separates us from them.” so dependent on the outside world’s view, and what he saw it as, a force for good, do no match because of his inner self’s perception of the world. Gordon: “No, no, you can’t, you’re not!” Batman: “I’m whatever Gotham needs me to be.” To put it simply, the entire film’s theme is played out in a story between three characters dealing with the exact same situation. When the world isn’t fair, how do you see yourself, and how do you make your choices? The Joker and Harvey have a view, they see the world as a place that should be fair, that owed them something that should be better than what they got. The identity of the world in their eyes was wrong, and when they were forced to confront what is underneath that identity, the true face of life, they cracked, and couldn’t handle it. And so their personalities, their inner selves shifted, and they choose to lash out at this perceived deception. It is an incredibly understandable position, and one that almost works for the Joker. And for us who think he’s right on a lot of points. Joker: “Well then everyone loses their minds!” So how does the film manage to end with him seemingly victorious, but also Batman succesful? Because identity is more than one thing, and at the most important level, the personal level, it is all about choice. *CLICK* Bruce Wayne is just as damaged. He also saw heartache and a cruel world. Earlier in his life he believed that it is isn’t who you are but what you do that defines you. But in TDK, Nolan has the time to really expand this theory, and why it applies to the idea of good and evil, morality and choice, and who we are and who we choose to be. Because The Batman, unlike the others, doesn’t succumb to the world around him, Bruce: “No.” because he realizes that who you are is always going to be your choice. That doing the right thing isn’t about
what other people think, or if they even see it, it will always be the right thing, and the choice is always in your own hands. *CAR SMASH* *BREAKING GLASS*
*SCREECHING*
(that poor Lamborghini) At one time he thought it is what you do that defines you, and that is still true, but midway through the film he is challenged by the reality that his definition was based on what other people think. If they don’t see me that way then maybe I’m not a hero, maybe I’m not effective, creating his identity crisis. But in the finale, he knows that he is the good one, his view of himself and how the world views him doesn’t matter. In a reversal of roles, Batman has done what the Joker had been doing previously he is being true to himself. In this film, the underlying flaw in the villain, both of them, is that they fail to accept that you cannot blame the world for how you act, you make the choice for your own personality, you make the choice for your own actions. And after his persona is killed, Batman is reinvented. The Joker has become the external vague threat. And it is Batman who begins embracing his true self, who no longer cares what the outside external view of him is, he knows it’s far more important to be a hero to himself, to make the choice he knows to be right and not based on what the world perceives him to be. This isn’t fair, but he doesn’t have a false sense of himself, he doesn’t think he’s owed anything, and he takes responsibility for who he is. Batman: “So point it, at the people responsible.” At the finale, Gordon: “We bet it all on him.” Harvey hasn’t lived long enough to see himself become the villain, he’s still viewed as having died a hero, and Batman has lived long enough to become a villain, but he has broken the trend to actually live on as a hero. The Dark Knight is a film I’m not sure Nolan planned a sequel for, *CRACKING SPINE* and one that seems to have resolved his fascination with identity it was so well executed on this most unique of superhero canvas. Because The Dark Knight is so complete, that the next one, though ambitious, doesn’t add anything to this underlying story. This film, thematically, and in the challenges it presented the hero, is creating his darkest night, his lowest point where he loses the chance to step away from the Batman persona, when he loses his last pure connection with his innocent childhood, and his identity of Bruce Wayne, and takes on the mantle of the Bat in the first genuine and true way he has ever done. Batman: “Call it in.” The Batman has saved Gotham, retaining its symbolic power in the eyes of the people, but now tainted and twisted by choice to be what it
really was underneath it all – a force to help the people of Gotham. *Loud rushing noises* *Screeching bats*
*Crying* *music rises* Batman did the right thing even if no one would ever know because… Batman: “It’s not who I am underneath,” “but what I do, that defines me.” And for identities we see them merging so closely, that it is only on this distinct point, this flaw in the Joker’s character, and Harvey’s, that separate a hero and villain. Joker: “You won’t kill me,” The idea of choosing who you are. By the end the Joker isn’t a symbol Joker: “You gotta do everything yourself.” He’s betrayed by the mob, he’s alone, and his view of the world isn’t true. Batman (V.O): “This city…” “…just showed you, that it’s full of people…” “…ready to believe in good.” By the end, Batman’s death at the hands of the Joker revealed who he really was and needed to be. And but for the smallest of differences, Joker: *laughing* The identities of these two most iconic of arch enemies are indistinguishable: Years ago one was hurt, left with something he was afraid of, and instead of running from that fear, he embraced it, One made himself more than a man in the eyes of his opponents, hated by cops and criminals alike; a strange, twisted, man who held to his internal view of the world with an unshakeable belief in what was fair. This is the story of the Batman. This is the story of the Joker. The film, through its merging of theme with content, completes the journey of Bruce as a man not sure of who he is, thinking he must be seen to be decent, to someone who knows that doing the right thing is a choice we make regardless of how much we stand to lose. We cannot change the true face of the world, but the fact is it has no true face. The world has no identity except what we give it. We have the choice to live as we want, and act as we want, and be how we want to be. Secrets. Identities. It’s not who you are underneath… …it’s what you do that defines you. This… …is The Dark Knight. It’s time to say thanks and I really mean it! Thanks for watching guys, (girls, and any one on any spectrum or choice) I hope you enjoyed this video, if you’ve got any ideas on what you think the theme was, or if I might have missed out on something leave it in the comments below. Thanks for your likes your dislikes your shares your comments and everything else you do. But mostly as always, thanks for watching. Have a great day! Bruce: “Accomplice?!” “I’m going to tell them the whole thing was your idea.”

100 thoughts on “The Dark Knight: “Identity Secrets” – Analysis and Explanation

  1. Stumbled on to these by complete accident, and I was completely blown away. The level of detail and attention shown; and its clear you have a passion and an almost encyclopedic knowledge of filmmaking. As a film student myself, I thoroughly enjoy your videos. Definitely subscribing

  2. This film changed my life. The day I saw this film, I knew what I wanted to do with my life (become a screenwriter). I've seen this film 23 times from start to finish and I /thought/ I understood everything there was to it. Bro, you just revealed a whole new world to me. Thank you so much for this video. There was a moment where I literally had to pause to stop and comprehend this. I'm speechless…

  3. Wow. Just wow. This is the single greatest analysis of a film (or any form of text) I have ever seen. You perfectly perform an in depth exploration of the film's central themes while making them easy to understand to the casual viewer and still providing useful insight for the greatest film critics. Absolutely superb. I applaud you and hope that you continue to create more content in the future.

  4. Really good analysis! Nevertheless I still think even though the themes of the movie are good and acting, the movie itself has too many flaws. Even with rhythm. Plot holes. Cliché with dialogue structures. The character development is kinda there but staring from a pretty different point of how it could be, like not much sense to his personality on why Harvey was suddenly being mean to that guy at the alley. Joker just goes ahead of everyone out of nowhere just for the sake of keeping the story moving instead of being inevitable even if unexpected. Music is forgettable, etc. Honestly, I even hated the movie when it came out. But after all these years I don't, just don't like it. Still feel is one of the weakest Batman portraits in movies. Although I see why people love it.

  5. Honestly an incredible video. I think Rises does add a lot to the story though – it's about truth.

  6. Seriously, the best video I have ever watched on YouTube. Thanks for just making my favorite movie of all time even better for me.

  7. You good sir should get a major role in how these movies are designed. Great job in breaking this down

  8. this movie tries to be intellectual but fails as more plot hole are created,this movie didaric dialogue,cheesy acting from other supporting characters and much more cause this film to be only good not great

  9. This was one of the best analysis of anything ever. So insightful and so beautifully well executed. Can't believe I never discovered your channel before, so glad it popped up in my home feed. Keep up the great work! Now I will subscribe to your channel. Good day to you 👏🏻🏆

  10. And yet the Joker wins in the final film. Lol. The lie is exposed and the city falls regardless. In that regard. Then loses again as it's remade through the wreckage of the prior establishment. Yet you can help but feel it will fall again. Like a snake eating its ass. The real idea is the Joker's nihilism. Doesn't matter in the end and everything that seemingly has meaning is meaningless. Kill your neighbor or don't kill your neighbor. You both die in the end and the mark you leave on the world will ultimately have no lasting effect as every day it could end for everyone and the existence of mankind and memory would be erased for good.

    But overall choice is the theme that encompasses everything. It goes beyond your choices to be true to yourself. 😂 Literally morality doesn't exist. Choices my friends choices.

  11. Wow, this is a really impressive analysis and channel u've put together. Though I got a bit lost with all the complicated talk of the self. Maybe some PowerPoint slides or more visual aids to keep us focused on which self ur referring to at a particular moment would've helped clear some confusion.

  12. Your video cemented this movie as truly one of the best superhero films ever. I want to say your video was truly insightful, entertaining and well thought out! Thank you for making me appreciate this film even more than I do!

  13. At 10:45 I replayed this several times and cannot hear what you said, "in his mind he sees himself as ….." Can you clarify what you said there? I love all of your videos. Thanks.

  14. Batman & Robin is much better than The Dark Knight; the latter is just about the supernatural being reduced to being a tool for ideology, whereas the former is about why it's right that the supernatural be a victim of hostility

  15. This explains so much about not just why The Dark Knight is an incredible movie but also why The Dark Knight Rises doesn't work — everything Rises was attempting to do thematically had already been accomplished in the second half of Knight, despite it superficially appearing otherwise. We ended up with a sequel built around the Nolans misunderstanding their own movie.

  16. Keep coming back to this, it’s so so good. Any plans to do something on True Detective? S1’s story has ‘Digging Deeper’ all over it. XD

  17. It is truly a great movie, so much so that in some polls it is rated in the top four best films in America, alongside The Godfather Part I and II, and The Shawshank Redemption.

  18. Actually, it is really interesting that Christopher Nolan and Tim Burton crafted 4 of the best Batman movies in existence. Both men never were really big comic book fans, yet they truly respected the source material and crafted some excellent films.

  19. I love how you pointed out Jim Gordon is the most superhero-esque of all the characters! Incredible video, how did you manage to figure all this out?!

  20. I watch this analysis periodically because it’s so good. I just forwarded it to my nephew to make a point.

  21. This is probably the best analysis of anything I’ve ever witnessed. I wish we studied this in school, we really should. It has so much theme and drama in it while being extremely gripping and entertaining. Amazing video man! 👍👌

  22. Stop making me feel so dumb. I've watched this movie more than I should, but I still didn't grasp that whole thing about identity. I always thought it was only present in selective scenes, not throughout the entire movie. Great job, pal. You should keep on doing these.

  23. Joker – ex veteran of the US army betrayed by the system he believed in, batman – a rich scumbag who is playing god, both are the like two drops of water.

  24. Thank you for this fantastic in-depth analysis of the Dark Knight. I would like to add how Harvey Dent is seen as the "Knight of Light" by the end of the film this is completely flip by his identity being changed he in a sense becomes the "Dark Knight." Harvey Dent no longer stands for "the good" but and his entire identity is changed what is fair and turns into what Bruce Wayne might have become if he had shot Schlitz. Pretty neat stuff!

  25. 11:20

    Was listening to one of Kevin Smith's podcasts, and he said something that struck me: "Batman really has no interest in you, unless you're involved with the mob."

    After hearing that, I felt Kevin really hit the nail on the head! Bruce has been keyed into the fact that the mob (who he also blames for causing his parent's death) controls the city, and that's all he really sets out to do. He doesn't act like some other versions that takes down people assaulting tourists or helping people find their stolen children…he's just trying to take down the mob. Once he can do that, then he feels his parents' deaths will be avenged.

    But by the end of TDK, the mob is definitely broken, but so is any semblance of a chance to live happily ever after since Rachel is dead. Almost everyone loses something in this film, like Gordon putting aside his credibility to lie to the public.

  26. In all my years of watching dark knight analysis videos, never has one been so close as to approximate the intentions of the film with the intentions of the people who made it. Excellent work!

  27. wow I watched this whole thing twice, and I never noticed the view count. I thought it'd be at least over 200 or 300k. amazing stuff though.

  28. This is brilliant. I have the same assumption about the movie. My take is more about the relation between identity and morality where joker is the true skeptic and harvey is the false hero. Bruce is the true hero is understands the idea of sacrifice.

  29. Oh My GOD…… WOW. This video brought tears in my eyes. This world does not deserve the genius of Christopher Nolan, or yours for that matter. I didn't think it was possible to love the dark knight more than i already did but here we are.

  30. The best analysis I have ever seen on YouTube, you made the film better for me. Thank you. You’ve changed things, forever.

  31. Man when I was a kid I thought this movie was awful, and I just let that opinion sit for 15 years or whatever. I pretty much forgot this movie even existed. After I saw infinity war I realized how important storytelling is and i've been watching lots of video essays on story telling and good writing. Found this video and truly appalled, can't wait to give Dark Knight the second try it deserves. It's obvious as a child (I remember distinctly being in 5th grade)that I didn't understand the movies heavy themes and just wanted another action movie.

  32. Also significant is that the Joker cries at the end when the SWAT team is arriving to arrest him. It can be interpreted to mean that the Joker is finally revealed to be not simply an "evil clown" but a broken yet very dangerous man with a twisted worldview that only pretends to be crazy to hide his inner self. Which fits very well with what you explained.

  33. Thoroughly enjoyed this video. I’m big on themes in film but this extended itself to philosophy and the nature of man. It’s a powerful video and enjoy watching it over and over.

  34. Looking for some analysis on "The Dark knight" since long time. Finally found what I was looking, a great analysis on the story and different point of views.

  35. 28:26 And you know something, in this context I would actually say that Bruce DIDN'T break his one rule.
    He didn't kill Harvey in the way the Joker said he would, because he stayed true to who he is.
    It's just that who he is changed after the interrogation scene.

  36. This movie has got to be one of the most analyzed, talked about, and most dissected pieces of film I've ever seen. Even more analysed and filled with symbolism than infinity war if you ask me. The dark knight is truly one of the best superhero movies ever and one of the best movies ever made.

  37. I've heard the theory of the Joker being a former soldier, but as it was said in the movie, there's no record of him. The military keeps detailed files on their service people including finger prints and a DNA profile, so something would have popped up after he was arrested.

  38. THANK YOU, THANK YOU!! I enjoyed this immensely. Your story dissection "IS" truly ( I dare say) The best – I have seen on youtube, Please do more.

  39. Batman story has a serious plot and raises a lot of important questions but it's hard to real understand the hero's motivation because whole setting is utopia. In real life killing the leader of the bandits is not solving anything because nowadays bandits are people themselves

  40. And people think black panther change the hero perspective….when clearly dark night is where is at!!

  41. Also you missed the point, Lau said in the movie during his interrogation that the money was the only reason he was alive. Later in the movie the JOKER burns it with Lau being at the top of stash of money. So in a way, the money was dead first and then Lau , which proves what Lau said earlier.

    The ATTENTION TO DETAIL in this movie sets it on an entirely different level. I noticed this after watching this movie for crazy amount of times. I m pretty sure there are much many things to realize about this movie.

    Truly A MASTERPIECE unparalled by any movie that has been released after it . And ur explanation makes it even much better.

    Sorry for such a long comment but I hope it was worth it

  42. I wish I had seen this video earlier, but I'll comment anyway: THANK YOU. This is exactly why I think The Dark Knight Rises makes no sense at all. The Dark Knight is Bruce Wayne accepting that he'll be Batman forever, no matter the circumstances, no matter the cost. Not because of his guilt or his pain, but because it is the right thing to do. Which is all very similar to what Spider-Man 2 did for Peter Parker. And like SM2 but in a different way, The Dark Knight, I think, ends on a very hopeful note: despite everything the Joker did, there is one man who didn't fall, there is one man who will always be there against chaos, there is one "unmovable object" still standing against the "unstoppable force": Batman. TDK could be seen as an origin story of sorts for the Batman/Joker mythology from the comics. It is the story of how they understand the relationship that bonds them, and now their eternal struggle for Gotham's soul can truly begin. This was only the first battle, not the war.
    So how the hell is Batman surrendering and retreating THAT SAME NIGHT supposed to make any sense?

  43. Everything you so eloquently pointed out about where the Batman character is mentally at the end of this film is why I find The Dark Knight Rises so incredibly problematic. As you state, Batman, in choosing to take the fall for the crimes of Two Face has become the central and dominant focus in Bruce's life. So why did the Nolans and Goyer completely abort that most important character moment for this interpretation of Batman by pushing the story 8 years forward and then just skipping what I expected to be Batman at his most unhinged dealing with the consequences of his actions in TDK, for a Bruce Wayne at his most self-loathing, selfish, and brittle? He took the hero he had spent 4 hours developing in the previous films to the mask that hero wears (bruce) becoming the focus? I just never bought it and frankly this video essay you made calls attention to the fact that Nolan had only to pick up the story in the 3rd film from where Batman psychologically left off of in the second film the moment the credits hit the screen.

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