I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while, but I’ve never gotten the chance to actually write about it. When I watched The Dark Knight for the I don’t know how many-th time, I noticed something. In the scene where The Joker is telling the people in the boats to blow up the opposite boat, he’s reading his plan from a piece of paper.
At that point I thought “wait a minute… if this is his plan, why does he need to read it from a piece of paper?” That made me see everything that The Joker did with different eyes.
For example, in one scene he says “do I really look like a guy with a plan?” followed by “I’m just a dog chasing cars.” But is he? He is one step ahead of everyone at all times (in his own words, “he’s just ahead of the curve”). For example, when he was captured, he had already planted a bomb inside someone’s stomach, and he blew up the entire police station, while sending other people to capture Harvey and Rachel, and counting that Batman would interrogate him so that he would have to make a choice.
That’s the most obvious example, but the thing is that you don’t need to go any further than the opening sequence. There, The Joker prepares this very complex bank robbery, with clear instructions to kill every other clown, with a very tight timing (this is shown when he knows the exact time and spot where the bus will crash into the building).
Another example is when Bruce finds the police officers tied up inside the apartment. He sets the alarm so that the blinds open, calling the attention of the police officers at exactly the same time where they were hoping to kill the major.
So, some people keep telling that The Joker was just a dog chasing cars, or an agent of chaos who just wanted to see the world burn, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the case at all. I’d even dare to say that the movie was written in such a way that Nolan selling the idea that The Joker is a simple character with no clear goals that just does things “for the lulz.”
Personally, I don’t believe in “evil for the sake of evil” characters because they are a cheap cop out or an over-simplification. I mean, can’t get any cheaper than “he does what he does because he just wants to see the world burn.” That’s not an antagonist. That’s a cartoon villain: You don’t need to know anything about him except that he’s evil, and that he’s evil so that our hero can be the good guy.
Granted that I am not entirely familiar with The Joker from the comics, but considering how grounded in reality Nolan’s movies are, I don’t think The Joker from the comics should be any point of reference: In the comics, Ra’s Al-Ghul gains immortality from his Lazarus pit, but in the movies, Ra’s Al-Ghul somewhat “mocks” the idea, unless he wasn’t actually mocking it, but telling him that Ra’s Al-Ghul is supposedly immortal. After all, he tells Bruce that “If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal and if they can’t stop you, then you become something else entirely. A legend, Mr. Wayne, a legend.” Maybe with these words he’s telling Bruce “the legend of Ra’s Al-Ghul.”
So, after this very long introduction, I am thininkg… What if The Joker in Nolan’s trilogy was in fact a member of The League of Shadows (or someone working for someone else, for that matter)?
The bad guys in the first movie are The League of Shadows. The bad guy in the second movie is The Joker. The bad guys in the third movie are The League of Shadows. In Begins, Ra’s Al-Ghul’s makes it very clear that they are not done with Gotham, and that they are back to finish the job. He also mentions that “their weapons have evolved” and that this time they were using economics (in Rises you could say they used terrorism).
Another interesting thing is that, in the same scene, Ra’s Al-Ghul says “create enough hunger and everyone becomes a criminal.” Two things, this sounds extremely familiar to The Joker’s quote about “civilized people eating each other”. In both movies, The League of Shadows plans that people will turn against each other and destroy Gotham from the inside. In the first movie, it’s people becoming criminals, and then people from the slums going all crazy to destroy the rest of the city. In the third movie, it’s criminals against police and civilians. In the second movie, it’s in fact “the people against the politicians.” There’s a scene where the people very pissed off that authorities aren’t doing their job, and it is valid to wonder what would have happened if that malcontent had risen.
In the interrogation scene, The Joker also says that Batman “has changed things forever” so that means weapons to destroy Gotham should also change.
At the end of Begins Ra’s Al-Ghul dies, but Gotham is still corrupt, and The League of Shadows still has people infiltrated in different places. In Knight, are the “corrupt” people part of the League of Shadows, or part of The Joker’s band? Did the people from The League of Shadows take a break and returned just in time for Rises? I mean, if there’s one thing that doesn’t “fit” in my mind is how the entire League of Shadows would go into this “complete hiatus” for TDK and let the mob do their stuff (which they were already doing in Begins), specially since the trilogy is a full sequence, not just “a random episode.”
And another thing that I find interesting is that, when the guy asks him what he plans to do with his part of the money, The Joker replies that he’s a man of simple taste because he likes explosives and gasoline…
And then he burns his money…
If he burns the money, he doesn’t really worry about how to buy all the stuff that he needs, which means someone else provides all that stuff. And how the blazes did he get all the resources to pull off that big robbery at the beginning of the movie??? Talia Al-Ghul, maybe?
The only problem is… The Joker wanted Batman to reveal his identity, but then he backtracked and said “you know… forget about what I said.” However, it is possible that The Joker simply used this as a strategy to ignite the “internal conflict” that I mentioned above (the people against politicians), because was counting that Batman would not reveal his identity.
I’m thinking The Joker could have played an important part in Rises if Ledger hadn’t died. Unfortunately we will never know. I do think there’s more to The Joker than meets the eye, and definitely, The Joker isn’t just someone who wants to see the world burn.
Or maybe I’m thinking about this too much because I’m just tired of so much work and cruch nights…