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A Theological Jurisprudence of Speculative CinemaSuperheroes, Science Fictions and Fantasies of Modern Law$
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Timothy Peters

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781474424004

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2022

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474424004.001.0001

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The Superhero ‘Made Strange’: A Christological Reading of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight

The Superhero ‘Made Strange’: A Christological Reading of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight

Chapter:
(p.122) 3 The Superhero ‘Made Strange’: A Christological Reading of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight
Source:
A Theological Jurisprudence of Speculative Cinema
Author(s):

Timothy D. Peters

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474424004.003.0004

This Chapter argues that Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight ‘makes strange’ the traditional readings of the superhero genre discussed in Chapter 1, providing a critique of their underlying visions of legality. In particular, the film encompasses a reflection on the nature of law in what Giorgio Agamben refers to as the ‘state of exception’. It works through the different visions of legality and justice presented by each of the villains—the Joker’s conservative vision of law as founded on violence; Harvey ‘Two-Face’ Dent’s taking of a procedural form of justice in the toss of the coin—before making a particular claim: that Batman is a typology of Christ. This is not in the mode of sacrifice that the traditional saviour mode of the superhero encounters but is because of a specific refusal of the heroic framework and the hero-myth. That is, Batman’s concluding actions in The Dark Knight, ‘saving’ Dent, encompass a form of atonement and a Christological foregrounding of community based on trust and forgiveness. In this way, Batman’s actions are grounded in a form of compassion that does not seek a retributive justice but enact a form of preventative violence founded in love.

Keywords:   The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan, Batman, Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception, Legality, Atonement, Hero myth, Trust, Love / Compassion

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