"You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain"
Everyone loves a great villain. That's why a blogathon where we get to talk about our favorite bad guys is such a great idea. Too bad I didn't think of it. This is the brainchild of Kristina at Speakeasy, along with the good folks at Shadows & Satin and Silver Screenings. They've got a whole slew of folks who have participated so click on the link, when you're finished here, of course, and check out all the wonderful posts that have been turned in. Here, I'll talk about my favorite superhero movie of all time.
Since I like to do things a little differently. Picking any regular old evil-doer was just not enough for me. I'd much rather challenge our notions of what a villain is. I've watched literally thousands of movies over the course of my forty-plus years inhabiting Earth. I'd estimate that ninety-nine percent of them have at least one villain. Even things like romantic comedies and biopics have people we're supposed to root against. That's just how movies work. It's the same with any form of fiction. What is most remarkable is that regardless of the countless names they go by, there really are only two types of villains. We'll call them Type A and Type B. All others are just subsets of these two. Type A are the ones that fully embrace their villainy. They take pleasure in being evil. Type B doesn't believe he or she is a villain at all. With fervent conviction they believe they are on the side of right. This conviction allows them to use go-for-broke methods to achieve what they think is the greater good. Their end goal may be an admirable one, but getting there means people, perhaps lots of them, will be hurt or worse.
|Villains at war|
2008's The Dark Knight is renowned for giving us a classic Type A villain. Not only is The Joker thoroughly accepting of his own evil, he's also intent on proving to the good people of Gotham that they are, in fact, no different from himself. To do this, he incessantly seeks to create mayhem and derives undeniable pleasure from seeing the ethics of others crumble beneath the chaos. The corruption of others is what he lives for. The more on the side of what is generally accepted as good, the bigger the challenge he takes it as and the bigger his satisfaction in turning them. This is why taking down the city's organized crime ring is so easy. Despite being known bad guys, they are still governed by certain rules and pretend to honor many more. Such a group is ripe for The Joker's manipulation. Fish in a barrel have no chance against a skilled marksman. Right from the start, The Joker sets his sights on the most heroic symbol in town, Batman. What more satisfaction could such a man get than tearing down the one entity everyone on both sides of the law believe in? Perhaps he could double his fun. He attempts to do so by also targeting the next biggest sign of hope, District Attorney Harvey Dent. However, the lawyer will always remain ancillary to The Joker's aim. After all, Dent is just a man. Batman is something more.
Dent indeed proves to be the easier target despite being well-protected. The Joker always knows where Dent is. Dent is the face of Gotham law and eager to be seen publicly stomping on the neck of crime. He lives to be shown getting his hands dirty while cleaning up the city. He loves putting criminals in their place. He loves it more when it makes the front page. The Joker understands this and knows a good deal about Dent, like most of Gotham's citizens. The more elusive target and, therefore, the bigger prize is Batman. No one knows anything about the Bat. He must first be drawn out. When he is, he doesn't stay out long, by design. He appears suddenly and disappears just the same. This is why The Joker's setups become more and more elaborate as the film progresses. He has to find ways to require more of Batman's time. Batman knows his time is precious. He understands what he truly is. The Caped Crusader hits the streets of Gotham night after night, literally fighting for what he knows to be right. In the process, people get hurt, sometimes badly. Though not directly by his hand, some die. A number of those that perish are working on his side, usually without his permission, but on the same side nonetheless. His efforts to rid the city of vermin is a painful and bloody process. Violence continues to beget violence with the stakes escalating daily. He realizes that he is no hero even if his end goal is an admirable one.
|Type A vs. Type B|
Batman knows the day when the whole of Gotham turns on him is near. His days of operating with impunity are numbered. Before they run out, he efforts at gaining a new ally. He does what The Joker does. He turns his attention to Harvey Dent. Batman makes it clear that he can't be what Gotham needs. The path he started on years ago under the tutelage of Ra's al Ghul is not the correct one. He asserts that Dent can be that solution and works to make that happen. Unfortunately, Batman is in the same position he's been in all along - a step behind The Joker. The corruption of Harvey Dent is well under way. Due to The Joker's actions, the woman Dent loves and the face he loves to show have been taken from him. His thirst for justice has been replaced by one for revenge. Batman's dream of his birthplace becoming clean and wholesome are evaporating.
In a short time, Batman has gone from symbol of hope to all-out pariah. Instead of enveloping all crime within the folds of his wings, he is seen as the progenitor of the wickedness that threatens to overrun the city. His options for helping him achieve the end to justify his illegal means are dwindling. Like it eventually does on the drug kingpin or the serial killer, the law is closing in on him. Luckily, Batman does manage to catch, an be declared incorruptible by, The Joker who desperately tries to get Batman to give in to his basest desires. Yet, The Joker can still claim some measure, a large measure, of victory because the word incorruptible only refers to Batman's intentions, not the image of him. That image is tarnished. The result of his good intentions is a people bound by geography on the verge of cannibalizing themselves. However, the complete erasure of Harvey Dent's code of ethics, subsequently followed by Dent's physical demise, gives Batman a last ditch chance to save Gotham. It's a long shot, but it's one he must take. He can't take it alone, however. He needs the assistance of lifelong friend and newly minted police commissioner Jim Gordon.
The first step toward what Batman hopes will be Gotham's redemption is to turn a murderer into a martyr. Batman pleads with Gordon to exalt the name Harvey Dent, though it's fully deserving of desecration. He does this so the city can have a symbol of hope unequivocally associated with righteousness. The dirty deeds Dent committed are only known to Batman and Gordon. These two also know that someone must take the blame for these atrocities. It cannot be Gordon. Someone on the right side of the law and seemingly above reproach must remain to carry on the good fight. Gordon is the closest thing to a hero with breath still in his lungs. It must be Batman. Our Caped Crusader is already a soiled entity. He's tried to be the ultimate good Samaritan, to restore order to the place he calls home. Despite his best efforts, he's caused the scales to tip in favor of anarchy. His last lunge at victory is an act of desperation. He must add homicide to the laundry list of felonies he's currently wanted for. When he takes his last ride, it's not a triumphant gallop into the sunset. It is the hasty sprint of a fugitive fleeing the scene of a crime. However necessary he may be, Batman is an evil. He has lived long enough to see himself become the villain.
|On the Run|