I would argue, and would hope you agree, that my selection (begins 1:33) for this piece may be the finest single scene in all of superhero cinema. I don't feel that this statement is particularly hyperbolic when looking at several other interpretations detailing the legendary rivalry between Batman and the incomparable Joker.
Because superhero cinema is typical action fare for summer movie audiences, it was important to me to choose a clip that, while partially rooted in action, had its legs firmly planted in the realm of characterization and interpersonal conflict. Christopher Nolan's film The Dark Knight managed to capture just about everything I love about Batman, and this is only accentuated with this scene.
While interpretations of these characters go back to at least 1940, the film’s creative team largely decided to adapt modernity, with hints of characters as they first appeared. While the Joker would go through periods of comical campiness in the 1960's, he was very much a vicious and cruel killer with comedic aims in early appearances. In the 1970's, under the legendary team of Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams, Joker was returned from campiness back to the cruel Harlequin of Hate, with camp providing the basis for the character's now longstanding insanity trait. Nolan also takes from at least one well-known work of writer Grant Morrison’s on the character in 1989's Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on a Serious Earth. Here, doctors at the Joker’s institution have agreed that, as evidenced in his brilliance, he’s achieved what they call "super-sanity"; meaning he may have reached a higher form of ultra-sensory perception and that his personality is recreated every day.
The rivalry between Batman and the Joker is one of the greatest popular antagonisms ever created. It’s clear that in the eyes of Batman, Joker represents the randomness of crime. In comics and through this film, the villain is like a rattlesnake striking out at whatever dares get close enough. Because Batman himself was a victim of random crime, Joker represents everything about the world that he hates with all of his being. The embers for this conflict continue to burn brightly, and this scene tells you all you need to know about the relationship between these characters, and how they will forever remain locked in the timeless struggle of good versus evil.
Is Nolan's vision of this rivalry representative of modern comics storytelling?