I have repeated this complaint so many times it will surely start sounding like a rant by now. About half-way through the excellent movie The Dark Knight, Commissioner Jim Gordon abandons the Joker to Batman for questioning.

Batman’s first act is to slam JOKER123 the villain’s head on the table, really hard. Then he hits him on the hand; the Joker’s hand was lying flat on the table. Question: how is that necessary or even remotely useful to the story?

The Moral Angle

The Joker went through a lot of trouble to try and kill Dent. He is an awful man. He is a psychopath, a very real menace to the entire city of Gotham. He hurts people willy-nilly.

The police and Batman have an urgent need of the information the Joker is withholding. Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes are missing. Harvey is an important figure in Gotham City, not only because he is the D.A., but especially because he represents hope and a peaceful future for people in the city. As Jim Gordon puts it later, he and Batman “bet it all on him.”

But still, at the time of the interrogation, the Joker is a prisoner in police custody. That makes hitting him unnecessary abuse of power. That makes it torture. That makes it ugly and useless. Batman is so much stronger physically not to mentioned armored, trained, supposedly a role model.

In 2008, when this movie comes out, we should be aware of that. I sometimes zap away to check what else is on when watching this scene on TV, to come back a few seconds later for the good parts. I have probably seen it 40-50 times so far.

Story-wise

On the narrative side of the issue, the screenwriters could have used a different path for the story. They even have enough material to borrow from; over 50 years’ worth of comics and graphic novels, some extremely good.

Quite frankly, the Joker wants to tell Batman. He NEEDS to tell. That is the whole thing. He had plans for the cops and the caped crusader. His objective is to kill Harvey Dent and/or his girlfriend Rachel Dawes. His objective is to escape from Gordon’s policemen, with another prisoner, Lau, the mob’s money laundering accomplice.

The very short an excellent graphic novel The Killing Joke by writer Alan Moore and artist Brian Bolland contains a couple of really nice scenes that come to mind between the Joker and Batman.

In one of them the two adversaries are sitting around a similar table, in Arkham Asylum, and they talk. In the other scene, the finale, the Joker even tells Batman a funny joke and they both laugh for a long moment together. Isn’t that more interesting storytelling?

The Alternative

What could it have been? The conversation should start with Batman silently sitting down. He does not need to say anything more than the following, but, frankly, silence would speak louder.