Expectations of the Protagonist Part 1
Hello 4381 Productions,
Do you ever finish watching a movie and think to yourself, “I knew that was gonna happen.” or “Totally called that!” ? That’s because as audience members, we’ve been conditioned to believe that when watching a movie, everything will work out for the main character in the end. They’ll get the girl, stop the bad guy, or be a better person, etc.. Very rarely do we ever see the protagonist(s) lose or fail by the time the credits roll and I find that to be tedious and dull. Movies should make you feel something. They should exemplify escapism while still being relatable to the human experience at the same time, because we all know that life doesn’t always work out the way we expect. There are three films in particular that walk this very narrow line with near flawless execution, for example The Dark Knight (2008).
I’m a massive Batman fan, so I am a bit biased when it comes to his movies (except anything involving Zack Synder..). This movie is about pushing Batman to his limits, making him question his morals, and experiencing consequences of his actions. In the beginning of the film, Batman is in good standing with the people of Gotham despite his brand of illegal vigilante justice. He is tasked with investigating various crimes involving a new criminal known as the Joker, who is chaos personified and only aims to destroy what Batman represents. Simultaneously, a new public hero known as Harvey Dent begins to solve Gotham’s massive crime problem using unorthodox means and the legal system, unlike Batman. Harvey rises in public status as Gotham’s face for the war on crime, leaving Batman unsure about his crusade for justice. The Joker plans to make Gotham into a chaotic crime filled cesspool by corrupting Harvey Dent and forcing Batman to make hard choices for what he thinks is right. In the end, Batman stops the Joker, but by doing so he loses his honor and the good faith of his city.
In the film’s climax, the Joker asks Batman, “You didn’t think I’d risk losing the battle for Gotham’s soul in a fist-fight with you? No, you need an ace in the hole, mine’s Harvey.” In this quote, Joker is essentially saying that he will win regardless of what Batman does. That no matter if Batman kills him or Harvey Dent, he will be forced to make a hard decision that will make him a pariah. He pushes Batman’s limits and forces him to make the hard choice of sacrificing his own image or the perfect public image of Harvey Dent. And in the end, Harvey is killed, but the memory of him is preserved as a martyr and Batman falls from grace to keep his city from plunging into madness. This event forces him into retirement with a broken leg, a dead girlfriend, and a shattered ego, not to be seen in public for eight years. I wouldn’t call that a happy ending..
The point is, Batman loses. He won the battle against the Joker, but lost the war for Gotham’s soul. He lost Gotham’s trust and faith in him. He gives up being Batman so that Gotham can live on in peace. He became.. The Dark Knight (**queue Christopher Nolan sounds**). I find tragic stories like this to be much more compelling than your typical run of the mill “happily ever after” endings. Life isn’t perfect and even Batman can fail. It’s important to learn that failure is okay and to move past it to succeed, because we all can. I plan on making 2 more separate blog posts on this subject, so stay tuned!