We’re all on the same page that The Dark Knight is the greatest Batman film ever made, right? No? Never mind, that doesn’t matter anyway. I still love you. What matters is that we agree that Christopher Nolan is a goddamn genius, even if his projects can be muddled and overambitious at times. In what’s either a stroke of brilliance by the filmmaker or an insane amount of speculation by me, the ferry scene in The Dark Knight exhibits one of the greatest examples of silent character development I’ve ever witnessed from an irrelevant character.
In the incredible scene, the Joker pits two ferries against each other – one carrying civilians, and one carrying convicts. Arming each ferry with a detonator and a dwindling time limit, the Joker threatens to blow up both ferries if one doesn’t destroy the other. Not the funnest social experiment, eh? Having watched The Dark Knight more times than I can count (which isn’t that high, tbh), there’s a small detail of this scene that fascinates and truly resonates within me.
There’s a certain asshole on the civilian ferry who is adamant about detonating the convicts before they’re murdered themselves. After a vote rules in favor of his notion, even the most scared of the common folk are hesitant to actually go through with the plan since the convicts hadn’t yet made the decision to destroy them either. Unwavering in his ideals, the man takes the detonator for himself and makes a speech about how the convicts had their fair chance in life. Why, though, is one man so passionate about the disposal of the convicts?
The first time that we notice this particularly grumpy individual, we see that he’s sitting in a group of people, none of which appear to be members of his family. Later, when the man makes his speech, he states that the convicts chose to “murder and steal,” which may be the two most popular crimes, but they still seem quite specific in the context of the final detail. When the man takes the detonator for himself, we see for the first time that he’s wearing a wedding band on his ring finger. This detail leads me to my theory, and again, it is a theory, so take it with a grain of unproven salt.
I believe that this man, this I’m-miserable-so-you-need-to-be-miserable-also type of man, is adamant about blowing up the convict’s ferry because he was the victim of a crime himself. The ring on his finger suggests that he is married, but his significant other is nowhere to be found on the ferry. Considering that the crimes he mentions are murder and thievery, my theory is that his wife was murdered in some sort of home invasion. He wears his torture behind weary eyes, and in his actions, his lack of happiness is impossible not to notice. This potential character development is subtle in its reveal, making for an all-powerful moment when he ultimately decides not to use the detonator, thus letting go of his tragic past and finding a long-vacant humanity within himself. In a film that explores the notion of being decent people in an indecent time, it’s not entirely far-fetched.
Christopher Nolan has proven himself to be a masterful filmmaker who pays close attention to detail. In a film as brilliant as The Dark Knight, it’s not a head-scratching move to assume that those details are spread throughout the superhero crime drama. While this “detail” isn’t essential to the success of the film, it’s a great moment of proven humanity to counterbalance the cynical chaos of the Joker.
What do you think? Does this theory hold any weight or has your time been wasted on reading this loony, unimportant speculation? Take a look at the clip below and sound off in the comments!