Writing in the London Review of Books, Princeton's Michael Wood has a long and interesting take on the Christian Bale/Heath Ledger blockbuster The Dark Knight, placing the film not just alongside its predecessor, Batman Begins, but also next to Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, the extraordinary graphic novel that literally reinvented Batman as the vigilante anti-hero we're watching today. There's a bunch to chew on here, though Wood's take on Bruce Wayne's moral code is particularly intriguing. As viewers are already aware, Batman refuses a perfect opportunity to kill the Joker, crashing his Batbike (Batcycle?) rather than running the psycho clown down. As Wood notes:
The distinction between law and lynching, to say nothing of life and death, always matters. But you can't make lynching OK by stopping it short of murder, and the scene in which Batman, enraged by his own helplessness and incomprehension, batters away at the Joker in a police cell, tells us the whole story. The amoral villain has won this moral round, and perhaps the whole fight.
I won't spoil what happens next, though those of you who've seen it know just how effective Batman's interrogation methods ultimately turn out to be.