It is no secret to those of you who personally know me, that I love the new Batman movie. In fact, with the exception of the Hellboy films, it is the only superhero movie I have ever loved. Superman Returns came close, but came up short. Batman Begins had potential, but it too failed to impress me.

The Dark Knight is not just a good superhero movie. It’s a good movie. It also has as much to say about humanity, life, justice, morality, and peace as Citizen Kane, There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men, The Godfather, Ghandi and Glengarry Glenross.

This, the bloodiest and most psychologically disturbing of all superhero film makes for an ironic  polemic for pacifism. It raises tough questions about the value of human life. More pointedly, what human life we value. The Joker, the greatest personification of evil (or, as many have suggested, Satan?) in the history of film, forces his victims to consider how valuable human life is to them. His great goal is to bring everyone down to his level. When push comes to shove, he seems to say, human beings will inevitably lose all civility and become just like him: homicidal madmen.


When the Joker engages in his “social experiment”, he is testing his theory. A boat full of ordinary citizens and a boat full of prisoners are given a choice. Blow up the other boat within a given time frame, or both boats will be blown up. The debate on the boat of “ordinary citizens” isn’t much of a debate. The only ones brave enough to speak give voice to the evil heart within all of us: “those men had their chance.”

Ineveitibly, the viewer places him or herself on that boat. Would we vote to detonate that load of criminals? Sadly, we need only look at history to find the answer. The fact that humankind has consistently devalued certain human lives throughout history makes the conclusion of the matter in The Dark Knigh seem a bit glib. Or does it? Maybe it’s hopeful.

In the end, neither of the parties choose to destroy their fellow men. The day is saved when Batman kicks the master-detonator out of the Joker’s grip. Glib or hopeful? I prefer the latter.

Many Christians are all about the sanctity of human life from conception to birth. After that, it all depends on good behavior. And we Americans (and I’m certain the rest of the world as well) have a nasty habit. When calculating casualties in a conflict, we tally up the death of our own. What life do you value? Is it only the unborn children, or the murderer as well? Is it only the American soldier, or the terrorist too? More importantly, what human life does God value?