‘Unhappy the land that needs heroes,’ Galileo says in Brecht’s play of that name. Galileo wasn’t thinking of superheroes, of course, but Jonathan and Christopher Nolan, the writers of The Dark Knight, the new Batman movie, are certainly thinking along Galileo’s lines. What is Gotham City to do without a hero, since organised crime is always, it seems, far too much for the official institutions of law and order to handle? Yet what is it to do with a hero, when his sheer success with the old criminals attracts new ones, drawn to the challenge like gunslingers in the old West who have heard tell of the fastest gun alive?
Actually, the hero’s success in this movie attracts only one new criminal, but that’s enough, since he is a brilliant and genuinely frightening incarnation of the Joker, the best psychopath in movies since Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, a man for whom crime is a gratuitous act, neither reward nor compensation but merely the playing out of a huge, perverse pleasure. At one point he climbs, slides down and then burns a mountain of banknotes, to the consternation of his supposed partners, the consolidated mobs of Gotham. It’s alright, he informs them with a cackle, he is burning only his half of the proceeds.
more from the LRVB here.