What’s the key to the perfect movie, to the perfect story? It’s easy to think that it all comes down to the hero— the central character who follows a compelling journey. But this episode of Lessons from the Screenplay argues that sometimes it’s the antagonist that makes the story, just like in The Dark Knight. The Joker is different than other psychopathic antagonists— and not just because of Heath Ledger’s incredible performance. What really makes him so important in the The Dark Knight, is that the Joker is especially deft at playing on Batman’s weaknesses.
Because the Joker doesn’t fear death, Batman’s strength doesn’t matter. But beyond that, he draws attention to and exacerbates the moral ambiguity of Batman’s decisions, forcing him into impossible scenarios. The longer Batman refuses to turn himself in, the more people die. The Joker’s plan continues to play out— and people keep dying. So what can Batman do? As he says, he can’t endure this.
But that’s not his only battle. He makes Batman choose between Rachel and Harvey Dent. He makes Batman be honest with himself about tough choices. He makes him confront and question his own morality. He makes him go beyond the costume, beyond the facade. Beyond the costume.
And yet there’s one point that really makes the Joker the perfect antagonist for The Dark Knight— and it’s a simple one. Batman and the Joker are both competing for the same goal. They want “the soul of Gotham”. To understand how it plays out and why it’s so effective, check out the whole video:
Lessons from the Screenplay does an amazing job of showing why The Dark Knight is more than so many other superhero movies. The Joker helps Batman see that he’s not a hero, but he has to be whoever Gotham needs him to be. That he has to be The Dark Knight. That’s why the Joker is the perfect antagonist.