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The Dark Knight

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Good question.

The Joker (and every terrorist) attempts to gain power or influence by forcing people into emergency situations, however he can only do this temporarily. In order to have lasting effects, i.e. to create the permanent chaos his nihilistic nature desires, the Joker needs people to view the emergency situation and its corresponding ethics as permanent.

When in an emergency situation, the goal is to get out of that situation and back to a normal state of things. That requires a long-term view. You want to preserve your life, but only because you expect to gain value by living. Moving constantly from one emergency to another is not compatible with life. Your goal has to be to get out of the emergency permanently.

The correct way to consider the situation on the boats is this: what action can I take to regain what I value? The question asked of the Gotham people in this scene is: do you value your life as an absolute good without context, or are you strong enough to fight (as Batman does) against the forces of chaos by rejecting the view of life as a series of emergencies? The Joker will not stop his attacks until he is either captured or his attacks become unecessary because Gotham's people have given up on peace and sustain the chaos by their own actions. It is unreasonable to think he will soon be captured, especially since the police are busy getting people out of the city and Batman himself is under attack by the Joker. If the people on one boat push the button, they will be temporarily out of the emergency situation, but when they land again they will be immersed in chaos. What the button-pushers will have actually done is publically and dramatically accepted the Joker's nihilistic view of the world. The rest of Gotham will follow.

Refusing to destroy the other boat is not a sacrifice, it is a statement of value. The Gotham people have declared: "We have walked in this darkness for too long. We will not live in this world without reason, without purpose, without the ability to pursue our values. You who created this world, live in it. We will not."

We've all seen a similar "fantastic premise" before: the mind on strike. The Fountainhead is a man's story, Atlas Shrugged is the world's. Batman Begins is completely Bruce Wayne's story. The Dark Knight tells the story of Gotham. The story is not all bad and, importantly, it is not over.

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I have a question. In the part of the movie where the joker rigged both ships with explosives. Why didn't anyone on either ship pressed the trigger?

Let's ignore for a moment the fact the joker was probably being dishonest, and it wouldn't surprise me if either switch activated both ships' explosives thus resulting in the person activating the switch actually killing everyone and suiciding alongside, let's put this aside as the passangers had no way of knowing that.

If I were on one of the ships, and the options presented to me would be: 1) Both ships exploding, resulting in my death. 2) Just the other ship exploding, I would've chosen option 2 and blown up the other ship.

The joker tells us he's done it to see how much the city of Gotham is moraly corrupt. But I see no moral corruption in this choice. The option was everyone die, vs only half die. Of course only half is the winner.

Even if the situation was different, and no matter what just 1 of the ships would explode, and for the sake of arguement let's assume one ship has to be destroyed and that there is no escape (Batman can't save you), I would argue that every person of board of the two ships would be moral by blowing up the other ship thus perserving his life.

Do you disagree?

p.s. I'll just mention I found the citizens of Gotham city absolutely appauling in their moral values in another scene. The one where they call out for Batman to turn himself in as soon as the first unknown terrorist asks them to. I cringed at the moral decay of the city at that point, and wondered why should Batman act in their favour at all.

The scene on board the ship is known as the prisoner's dilemma in which you have two parties to stand to gain from betrayal, but will lose if they try to act "moral" or cooperate. Normally there is a small benefit to the cooperation option, only if both parties refuse betrayal, but in the Joker's version the only way to profit is to willingly participate in mass murder.

I agree with you that, knowing the Joker, the whole thing was rigged and either the boat that made the choice or both would explode upon detonation. If, in an identical situation, I would not hold that killing the other boat is an immoral choice. It is not moral either. Since true choice has been tossed out the window, ethics no longer apply. So, if you pushed the button, I would not blame you. I would not commend you either. If I were on that boat though, instead of trying to rationalize a moral reason for murdering eight hundred men to keep my own existence going, I would downstairs trying to defuse the damn bomb.

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I have a question. In the part of the movie where the joker rigged both ships with explosives. Why didn't anyone on either ship pressed the trigger?

I give two answers, first within the context of the movie and then with benefit of Objectivist ethical theory.

First, the movie seems to give these answers:

Because it would be wrong to give so little weight to the value of the lives on the other boat. (supported by what the Joker wants to prove, people are not moral)

Because it would be wrong to mistrust the people on the other boat as to expect them to explode this boat. (supported by dialogue)

Because it would be wrong to become the Joker's accomplice and a mass murderer. (supported by action of throwing out one of the triggers)

As an Objectivist considering the situation, the two priniciples that are relevant are the Emergency Ethics and the distinction between the metaphysical versus the manmade. I reason that the principles of emergency ethics do not apply because this particular situation is artificially rigged by the Joker. It is not to be accepted but to be rebelled against. Since the Joker can, and probably would kill everyone anyway afterward there is no point to giving him amusement and proving his point. If one boat did blow up the other, I would expect the Joker to complete the moral inversion by posturing as the defender of morality and blowing up the remaining boat himself as an act of justice.

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If I were on one of the ships, and the options presented to me would be: 1) Both ships exploding, resulting in my death. 2) Just the other ship exploding, I would've chosen option 2 and blown up the other ship.

Essentially you're being asked to choose to sacrifice your life for that of the people in the other boat, or to sacrifice their lives for yours.

Both choices are bad, and the responsibility for any result is the Joker's. But if forced to choose, I'd rather give my life up than sacrifice someone else for my benefit.

Of course there's a flaw in this scheme:

The joker tells us

It doesn't matter what the Joker says. He usually lies (if not always). Therefore anything he says is irrelevant. So, in the boats scenario the Joker lies. More likely the if you push the detonator you'll blow yourself up, not the other boat. His claculation was then both boats would blow up because everyone on board each boat wants to keep on living.

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I think that's why the prisoner just threw the remote out the window saying it was something someone should've done a long time ago. As a criminal himself, he realized it was a no-win situation and Joker was probably lying anyway.

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The scene on board the ship is known as the prisoner's dilemma

The situation on the boats is not a prisoner's dilemma. The point of the prisoner's dilemma is that the Nash equilibrium is Pareto-suboptimal. In layman's terms, the key point is that harming the other prisoner is not to your benefit (the consequence is worse for you if you do), but you do it anyway.

In the boat situation, the Nash equilibrium is Pareto-optimal, that is, the best choice (survival is assumed preferable to death in economics) is to blow the other boat, and you cannot make the other boat better-off (allow them to survive) without making yourself worse-off (being blown up either by them or the Joker).

Any easy mistake, but please remember that terms, especially technical terms for use in a specialized field, have exact meanings. Many others have said this earlier in the thread, so sorry to single you out, Nyronus.

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If you take my comments in total, I loved the movie.

Then my comment obviously could not refer to you as it was directed towards those who let such things interfere with their ability to enjoy movies and to judge The Dark Knight and other films as art. As I said, they actually fell at the same time, but it was a long movie, you only saw it once, you can hardly be expected to have it memorized from one viewing, and when you recalled it this way your brain probably said: "The Dark Knight is an action movie. In one scene, Batman catches Rachel in mid-air. In many action movies, some objects fall faster than others in unrealistic ways. This probably happens in The Dark Knight. Batman is generally supposed to adhere to the laws of physics. Whaddup wit dat?" So, like you said, watch it again, make sure you're in focus, and let me know if -I- need to see it again (I also intend to, for the third time).

"That said, some aspects of adhering to reality (within the context of a given works 'universe') are necessary, even in works of art." ~RationalBiker #123

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that a work of art needs to be internally consistent, and its purpose needs to relate back to reality in a coherant way. In the case of Batman, you are absolutely correct, gravity is essential due to his real-man-ness. That is why I took the time to explain what happened during each of the falls and why neither violated any physical law. However, to be perfectly clear, NO facet of reality, including physics, is essential to ALL art without exception. The Dark Knight certainly moves away from reality- consider Two-Face, for example. How and when Nolan chooses to diverge from reality is what's important, though. Note, for example, that Two-Face doesn't last very long, is totally crazy, and is indifferent to life/death, as a person who'd lost the pleasure/pain mechanism would be. The unrealisticness of his mobility serves a specific artistic purpose: it makes his "actuarially fair" chance-based view of existence concrete by tying it to his physical form.

In certain respects, movies are the most difficult art form because they (can) integrate and subsume all others. You have to address all of the elements of story-telling and two-dimensional visual art (color, space, light, etc.) as well as movement (as in dance or theater) and music, PLUS evaluate the integration of these elements. It is impossible to adequately do all of this from movie theater experiences, no matter how many times you go. That's as absurd as claiming to have mastered Atlas Shrugged in one reading. Well, maybe not THAT absurd, but close. Only a handful of people in the world are in a position to fully evaluate The Dark Knight right now. To do so would require at minimum a recording of the film that one could slow down and pause, the director's commentary, and a copy of the script and musical score. Once you have the resources, the trick is to do it well.

One thing that everyone can decide from first viewing is whether or not the film speaks to your sense of life, if you are in focus, that is. The "I like" or "I didn't like" is entirely yours, as is the meaning of your reaction. However, the "I like/didn't like" of another (which is mostly what this thread consists of, and rightly so) is not (or rather, should not be) relevant to yours. What this thread is really asking is "show me the color of your soul." The most depraved answer one can give comes from those who see only a failure to recreate reality exactly. That answer is: a soul entirely without color, the lens of a camera that only copies what it sees, that cannot select the good or the beautiful or even the villainous, that can only reproduce what the world is, that is indifferent to what the world can and ought to be.

P.S. To make such a claim about anyone based on the few posts here would be a wonderful example of psychologizing. I'm really just trying to illustrate the ultimate end of fixating on the realistic before asking whether that aspect of reality should apply in that particular work of art. If you leave that fixation unchecked, this is the end you will reach.

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I'll just mention I found the citizens of Gotham city absolutely appauling in their moral values in another scene. The one where they call out for Batman to turn himself in as soon as the first unknown terrorist asks them to. I cringed at the moral decay of the city at that point, and wondered why should Batman act in their favour at all.

I too did not care for the blame being placed on Batman for the Joker's crimes. Sadly, Batman also placed it on himself, as is evident from when he said (paraphrasing) that he had too much blood on his hands already. The resolution of this issue is one of the major things I look forward to in the next installment.

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There was time to partially deploy the cape during the long fall, slowing them down. The shorter fall was head first.

Did he do that? If he did I must've missed it. Seemed like they just fell straight down.

Cars are softer to land on then pavement.

Yes... but the point is he fell from a high rise with the weight of two people.

It's not like the car was made of jello or something.

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Yeah, that falling stuff bugged me when I was watching it. I don't get pent up over violations of Physics, especially not in Sci-Fi films where the general audience doesn't really know Science anyway, so it's more just fantasy than a science documentary. And the whole falling rate thing didn't bother me either.

What bothered me was that last bit... the landing on the car thing. Seriously, we get it, Batman is so bad ass he can land on things and crush them. Is this going to become his trademark move in the next film? Is Batman just going to gain 100lb and just start landing on his enemies to defeat him? It would have worked better to have him deploy one of his Bat-gadgets, maybe even to do his swooping cape thing, rather than just plunge onto a car. Still, I seriously don't get how he survived that. Is that normal?

Edit: I did some research. By research, I men, I googled 'falling onto a car'. It seems if you're a 600 pound cow, you can't survive a 200 foot fall onto a car:

Edited by Tenure
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I finally saw this and I thought it was great. I don't have much to say that wasn't already posted. It was interesting that they decided to make the Joker the victim of disfiguring instead of a freak chemical accident like the first movie. As I understand it, the original character was influenced by Gwynplaine in Hugo's "the Man who Laughs" who was also the victim of disfigurement. Either way it meshed well with the Joker's persona.

Spoilers**

The part where the Joker calls upon people to kill what's his face in exchange for not blowing up a hospital was a little disturbing. People blame Batman for bringing the evil upon them, when really the Joker is wholly to blame. This concept reminded me of the conflicts between freedom of speech, and totalitarian Islam in recent years. Particularly the Danish cartoons, but any such "offenses" to terrorists can apply. They didn't want to publish them out of fear that they would cause death or suffering, when really the terrorists would be to blame. I guess my point is that it was disturbing to see this kind of rationality taken a few steps ahead.

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Nitpicking plot points is -not- thinking about art. Better to ask: what standards does the artist have for his universe? what do those standards tell you about his view of reality (metaphysical value-judgments)? Example: The artist identifies one man as strong and another as weak. Both fall 20ft. The weak man survives. What is the artist saying? Only the context can tell you.

Great example. I got another one for you ...

The artist identifies one man as the "white knight" of Gotham and another as pure evil. When the movie is over, pure evil survives, and the "white knight" has been corrupted by pure evil and has to be killed. What is the artist saying?

Edited by IntolerantMan
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The artist identifies one man as the "white knight" of Gotham and another as pure evil. When the movie is over, pure evil survives, and the "white knight" has been corrupted by pure evil and has to be killed. What is the artist saying?

Off-hand I'd say that the White Knight is "the hero [the people of Gotham] need, but not the hero [they] deserve." I think the Two-Face plotline illustrates the problem with tolerating a mix of good and evil. Dent falls because his own people (corrupt cops and those who shield them behind the "blue wall," including Gordon) betray him. The Joker's ingenuity alone did not and could not make this happen.

Dent is more susceptible here than Wayne because, by definition, the White Knight lives in full view of the public. Wayne hides behind a triple-life: the caped crusader, the billionaire playboy, and his actual self, which only Alfred, Lucius and Rachel can see. Wayne can retreat, for a time, in the face of tragedy, both psychologically and physically, whereas Dent cannot. Although both lose their "one hope for a normal life," Dent's experience was arguably more tragic (listening to her die, accepting his proposal, living with the burns afterwards, seeing the coin on waking and thinking she was saved only to turn it over and realize the horrible truth), and of course Dent is not as strong as Wayne or it wouldn't be a Batman movie.

The Joker survives because Batman doesn't deliberately kill people (even though he doesn't have to save them), even when they want to be killed, as the Joker does ("Come on, come on, I want you to do it!"). Batman is about ending emergency situations so that the law can do its job. Wayne's ultimate goal is to turn Gotham into the city his parents showed him it -could- be, where the police and courts can adequately deal with the little criminal behavior that pops up and people live without fear and without Batman. That end cannot be reached if he circumvents the justice system, because then Batman would be the source and dispenser of justice and Wayne could never live the life he wants.

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The Joker survives because Batman doesn't deliberately kill people (even though he doesn't have to save them), even when they want to be killed, as the Joker does ("Come on, come on, I want you to do it!"). Batman is about ending emergency situations so that the law can do its job. Wayne's ultimate goal is to turn Gotham into the city his parents showed him it -could- be, where the police and courts can adequately deal with the little criminal behavior that pops up and people live without fear and without Batman. That end cannot be reached if he circumvents the justice system, because then Batman would be the source and dispenser of justice and Wayne could never live the life he wants.

I like that. Very insightful.

The artist identifies one man as the "white knight" of Gotham and another as pure evil. When the movie is over, pure evil survives, and the "white knight" has been corrupted by pure evil and has to be killed. What is the artist saying?

Bruce Wayne identified that man as the "white knight". Not the artist. Dent was the artist's foil to Batman that illustrates how Bruce views himself (as the Dark Knight that exists outside the system, motivated by Starling's above quote). Bruce did not see himself as the permanent solution. To him the ideal dispenser of justice is personified by Harvey Dent, who works WITHIN the law to bring about true justice to Gotham. The fact that in the end Bruce tried to preserve Harvey's legacy despite his fall means that the idealism of a Gotham ruled by the law lives on as Bruce Wayne's ultimate goal.

On the other hand pure evil as personified by the Joker survived only in the sense that he physically lived. However he was clearly defeated both physically by the Batman and philosophically by the boat passengers refraining from blowing each other up. The fact that Batman did not kill the Joker despite the Joker's plead for him to do so furthers that defeat.

Edited by Moebius
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Dent falls because his own people (corrupt cops and those who shield them behind the "blue wall," including Gordon) betray him. The Joker's ingenuity alone did not and could not make this happen.

No. Dent falls because the Joker deliberately sets out to corrupt him throughout the movie, especially during the hospital scene. The corrupt cops are simply following orders from the Joker. They are pawns.

The Joker survives because Batman doesn't deliberately kill people ...

No. The Joker survives because the screenwriter clearly wanted him to live rather than fall to his death. Batman probably should have kicked him off the ledge for what he did to Dawes and Dent. But then that would not have been very compassionate and respectful of evil human scum-life.

Edited by IntolerantMan
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IntolerantMan: do you understand that Batman has this one rule about not killing people? And about the torturous on-going tragedy where Batman can't kill this one, no matter how utilitarian it would be, no matter how many lives it would save, because it would be a breach of his authority?

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I thought the movie was okay. The few major issues I had were:

1. There is no coherent philosophy surrounding vigilantism in the movie. Either vigilantism is wrong and Batman is a criminal or it is alright in some circumstances and Batman is in the clear. The feeling at the press conference of, "We're happy for Batman now (we sanction his actions) but we've already decided that we'll punish him later” was absurd. Any idiot (as in the people at the press conference) must realize how this is blatantly contradictory.

2. I was really disappointed by the ending. The theme which was heavily pushed was "it's better just to lie for the sake of the greater good." Alfred destroyed the letter which is a lie by omission to Bruce. Rachel intended Bruce to have that letter PERIOD. Alfred had no right to destroy it. The people of Gotham are lied to about Harvey and the blame is put on batman. Aside from being a really dumb lie, they could have blamed any thug that was already dead, it was really unnecessary.

3. Harvey's fall was totally unbelievable. I can see killing those two cops and the mafia guy but what did Gordon do? What did his family do? I understand revenge on those who have harmed you but going after Gordon's family? As was pointed out by a previous poster, the actor who played two-face seemed "too rational" and a rational person doesn't go after random people (like little kids). Maybe if he seemed crazyer I wouldn't have minded so much.

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Two-Face " seems" rational because of his character, which is a man in conflict. He is not a total loon, especially in the same day that he becomes Two-Face, but he is still an evil sonofabitch.

He took it out on Gordon's kids because Gordon failed to rescue Rachel and went to rescue him instead.

I would suggest to those who didn't get that, that you take classes on how to pay attention for more than 10 minutes.

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Two-Face " seems" rational because of his character, which is a man in conflict. He is not a total loon, especially in the same day that he becomes Two-Face, but he is still an evil sonofabitch.

He took it out on Gordon's kids because Gordon failed to rescue Rachel and went to rescue him instead.

I would suggest to those who didn't get that, that you take classes on how to pay attention for more than 10 minutes.

No thats not right.

Two-Face blames Gordon for Rachel's death because Gordon has corrupt subordinates who kidnapped her. Gordon is working within the system and accepts compromises on minor or less important principles and goals in order to go after the mob. Gordon actually has dialog early in his first meeting with Dent to the effect that "he does the best he can with what he has." Dent doesn't ever accept compromise. You get a glimpse of Dent's rigidity when he shouts after Batman "You can't give in!" when Batman decided to turn himself in. The double-headed coin (before it is damaged) is emblematic of Dent's world: there is only one way. Dent vs. Gordon is an interesting conflict.

Dent attacks Gordon's family because he sees that Gordon had done exactly the same to Dent's family (Rachel, whom he would have married.) Symmetry still appeals to Dent/Two-Face at the end.

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1. There is no coherent philosophy surrounding vigilantism in the movie. Either vigilantism is wrong and Batman is a criminal or it is alright in some circumstances and Batman is in the clear. The feeling at the press conference of, "We're happy for Batman now (we sanction his actions) but we've already decided that we'll punish him later” was absurd. Any idiot (as in the people at the press conference) must realize how this is blatantly contradictory.

I thought what the movie was saying was that Batman/vigilantism is only a temporary solution in an emergency situation, at a time when the normal structures of law enforcement have failed. Batman echoed this sentiment with his preference for a city where justice is dispensed by Harvey "the White Knight" Dent, rather than a city that relied on Batman.

Of course the movie is also set early during Batman's career, so the public opinion is understandably divided.

2. I was really disappointed by the ending. The theme which was heavily pushed was "it's better just to lie for the sake of the greater good." Alfred destroyed the letter which is a lie by omission to Bruce. Rachel intended Bruce to have that letter PERIOD. Alfred had no right to destroy it. The people of Gotham are lied to about Harvey and the blame is put on batman. Aside from being a really dumb lie, they could have blamed any thug that was already dead, it was really unnecessary.

I don't think Alfred destroyed the letter "for the greater good". He did it for Bruce's good. All it really shows is that Bruce's mental well-being is higher on Alfred's value hierarchy compared to transmitting Rachel's letter posthumously -- especially since it is no longer relevant to her because she's dead.

The people were lied to about Harvey to preserve hope and trust in the justice system, which is obviously one of Bruce's highest values. Effectiveness or alternative solutions aside, upholding your highest ideals trumps the act of lying.

3. Harvey's fall was totally unbelievable. I can see killing those two cops and the mafia guy but what did Gordon do? What did his family do? I understand revenge on those who have harmed you but going after Gordon's family? As was pointed out by a previous poster, the actor who played two-face seemed "too rational" and a rational person doesn't go after random people (like little kids). Maybe if he seemed crazyer I wouldn't have minded so much.

Harvey wanted Gordon to have a taste of what it is like to lose a loved one. That is why he went after the kid. I thought the movie made this pretty clear. Anyway the character of Two-Face is about polar extremes, so obviously he needs to pendulate between completely rational and completely insane.

Edited by Moebius
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  • 4 weeks later...

I laughed with the Joker, for the same reason I laughed with Ellsworth Toohey. That a person or people can wish for their own destruction and not know it is a supreme irony, especially when they are given the power to unleash a person who fully knows what he wants and how to get it. Such evil integrity blinds them, they cannot understand it, they do know how to control a man like that. He doesn't want money or power, or life, or sex, or drugs. He has only one desire, one that they can't give him. As Alfred says so perfectly in the movie, he just wants to see the world burn. That's why I laugh when the Joker kills thugs and blows up hospitals, and why I greatly enjoyed watching the safely locked away Joker slowly erode everything around him. It is absurd to the highest agree to watch people who don't dare face their own philosophy scuttle around trying to stop two people that have. (Batman and Joker). The Greeks used to say that Tragedy and Comedy are not far removed.

On another note. Who really thinks that the two-boat scenario would have really resolved itself like that in a real life scenario? I know this is an unanswerable question for the most part, but I personally think the Joker's plot was really curtailed by Warner Brother's desire for a PG-13 movie. People get killed because they are rooting for the wrong football team on the wrong side of the stadium for crying out loud! The majority of perfect strangers are not capable of reacting to harsh moral choices with that much networking. They would never chose one citizen/thug to make the choice for them. Their would be screaming and carrying on and fighting and gunshots. The portrayal of how people handled the hospital scenario was much more accurate I think.

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On another note. Who really thinks that the two-boat scenario would have really resolved itself like that in a real life scenario? I know this is an unanswerable question for the most part, but I personally think the Joker's plot was really curtailed by Warner Brother's desire for a PG-13 movie.

In real life I'd imagine that people would fight much harder to either detonate the bomb or to prevent it from being detonated -- what with their lives being on the line and all. Personally I probably would have just jumped the ship.

I doubt WB had much to do with the scene though. I mean the scene pretty much had to end that way or else the Joker wins.

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