The Dark Knight – Two Face & the Power of Conscience

Two Face ETB ScreenwritingThe Dark Knight is a huge blockbuster and a fascinating complex film.  One of the reasons it is so popular with audiences is the clarity of the Character Types in the story.  I’ll look at each of The Dark Knight characters over the next several days and discuss each Character Type in the film.

Let’s start with Harvey Dent/Two Face (Aaron Eckhart).  This character is an iconic Power of Conscience character.

Power of Conscience characters know instinctively if something is wrong, unjust, unfair, improper, corrupt, evil or out of line.  Their judgment and response is swift and immutable  These characters are propelled forward by personal outrage and moral indignation, usually on another’s behalf.

Harvey Dent’s moral condemnation of crime fuels him to clean up Gotham and make it safe for ordinary citizens.  He is a vigilant prosecutor of evil.  He catches and punishes criminals within the strict confines of the legal system.  He is a “white knight” and a moral hero.

After he is burned and Rachel dies, Dent moves toward his Dark Side and becomes Two Face, a twisted vigilante and self-appointed judge, jury and executioner.  As Two Face, he is a fascinating counterpart to Batman.  (More on the Dark Knight in a later post.)

Harvey, or any other Power of Conscience character, moves to the Dark Side by believing the ends justify the means (evil behavior for a moral purpose).  The burning question for these characters is how bad a thing are they willing to do for (what they consider) a good cause? What ends justify what extreme means? Incrementally, they stumble down a slippery slope taking actions which they feel are justified, until they become exactly like the oppressors, persecutors or criminals they once loathed.

Harvey moves toward his Dark Side because of his outraged sense of fairness and justice.  He explains:  “You thought we could be decent men in an indecent world. But you were wrong; the world is cruel, and the only morality in a cruel world is chance. (holds up his coin) Unbiased. Unprejudiced. Fair.”

The “fair” and impartial flip of a coin will be his “moral compass” from now on.  He is a man without mercy or compassion.  There is, however, no true justice without  the humanity of those qualities.  There is only revenge, which is a bitter poisonous force of destruction.

He will be a fascinating villain to watch.

The Power of Conscience character will be covered in great detail in my forthcoming eBooks on The Nine Character Types

1 Comment

  1. Reply wannabe1 4th September 2011

    This is a great website, and I have found some tips that are relevant, but I feel obliged to disagree with this article.

    I found Harvey Dent’s character, pardon the pun, incredibly two-dimensional.

    At first the (rather naive) white knight, then the “dark character”; in my opinion his even more childish side. Most of his dialogue consists of repeating “You killed Rachael!” several times. He then goes and complains that the world is not fair. Furthermore, his “pure evil/revenge” character is, to put it bluntly, pathetic compared to the intriguing character of the Joker, who is the epitome of a well shaped villain. No morals, has one ideal which he sticks to(Chaos),intelligent, dangerous, and made even scarier by his theatrics and humorous approach to everything. Harvey Dent’s character is further lowered in the eyes of the audience as he is seen as the conflicting character in Batman and Rachael’s love affair.

    I think the film would be fantastic without the last 30 minutes. Maybe in the sequel, they would have improved Dent’s character, and then make him into Two-Face.

    I cannot stress how important this principle is in narrative art.
    Everywhere apart from Hollywood they manage to do this…

    Ultimately, I could care less about Two-Face and found him a very annoying addition to the film. That’s my side to it!