The Dark Knight

About the author
Stuart Weir is founder of Democratic Audit at the Human Rights Centre, University of Essex, and co-founder of Charter 88.

Stuart Weir (Cambridge, Democratic Audit): Just so that I don't spoil the movie, please skip this post if you mean to go and see Dark Knight, the latest Batman film.

I went of course to enjoy the movie and to watch Heath Ledger as the Joker (and yes, it is an awesome portrayal). But Dark Knight can also be viewed as an allegory for America's war on terror and the response to 9/11, and must have been consciously made with the parallels between this tale of a struggle to save Gotham from a crazed terrorist and Bush's conduct in mind. There are also parallels with the response of Blair and Brown to terrorism in Britain.

The Joker's main objective is to destroy the observance of the values of the rule of law and criminal justice, and ultimately those of civilised society, through targeting key figures for murder, creating mayhem and blowing up much of the city. He is very imaginative and elusive and Batman, the police authorities and both a dedicated cop and a decent DA can't keep up with him. Batman is a ruthless presence who of course takes the law into his own hands and tears it apart. While he sticks to a code of not deliberately taking life, the collateral damage effected by his frantic pursuit of the Joker and assorted criminals is pretty devastating.

The Joker soon proves that the commitment of the authorities to justice is mere hypocrisy that they will abandon under the pressure of his exploits. Batman himself bludgeons the Joker in an orgy of violence in a prison cell in an attempt to get him to divulge crucial evidence. And finally to track him down creates a surveillance net with his aide that can track every mobile phone message in Gotham and create images of their users. The film acknowledges that this is monstrous design, but hey, it is vital to the chase for the Joker and is just a one-off.

Finally, the decent DA cracks and behaves unforgivably, but people in Gotham, put to the ultimate test, assert the values of human solidarity. So I suppose that it is one-all between the Joker and Batman, with another sequel inevitable.