3 Reasons Why Aaron Eckhart Is The Soul Of The Dark Knight

Eckhart-Soul-Dark-Knight.jpgThe other night I was being interviewed on WGN in Chicago and the one and only topic of conversation was The Dark Knight. We were basically talking about how great the movie is, how Heath Ledger deserves an Oscar nomination and all that jazz… when the host suddenly said: “You know, our station Film Critic said the only thing that was really horribly about The Dark Knight was Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent”. To which I replied: “Then your station critic is an idiot”.

Now, I said that sort of as a joke because obviously all film is subjective and I later felt bad because as the conversation went on I forgot to say I was kidding about him being an idiot. But that’s not what this post is about. What that interview highlighted for me was that in the midst of all the praise we seem to be giving The Dark Knight, in the craze of talking about how much Ledger deserves that Oscar nomination, how good the story was yadda yadda yadda… we all (myself being quite guilty of this too) have seemed to over look the person I would say was actually the soul of The Dark Knight… Aaron Eckhart.

So right now I’d like to propose to you 3 reasons why I believe Aaron Eckhart was indeed the soul of The Dark Knight:

#1 – He Was The Embodiment Of The Hope Of Gotham
Now don’t misunderstand that statement. The highlight of the movie was Ledger, the driving force was Bale… but in the midst of this battle of two conflicting world views of the Joker and Batman, Harvey Dent’s character was the one who embodied and represented US. He was the manifested spirit of Gotham’s hope and of what the city COULD be. In essence he was the tangible realization of Batman’s dream. Do you realize how easily other actors could have made the character slip into some cheesy boy scout wannabe?

#2 – He Grounded The Film
No one will agree with this at first, but think about it for a moment. If you remove Harvey Dent and the way Eckhart played him to perfection, The Dark Knight would basically devolve back to simple (although still really intense) comic book movie. It would have just been good vs bad. Batman vs Joker. But Eckhart brought an extra dimension. He really was Nolan’s secret ingredient that changed the flavor of the whole soup. He takes the film to another level by making The Dark Knight about he people of Gotham as well as the titans (Joker and Batman) of Gotham.

#3 – The Relatable And Fallible Hero
One of the things that takes the edge off of many movie heroes is the perceived infallibility of the heroes. Heck, despite some self doubts, even Batman comes off that way most of the time. Unbeatable, incorruptible, unwavering. Perhaps those qualities are important for the character and they have to be that way, but it still leaves him being unidentifiable for most of us. Harvey Dent is a different character. Completely steadfast in his ideals and beliefs, but when faced with the madness the Joker brings, or with the life of his true love being threatened, he shows that he’s only too human, that he has weaknesses, that he’s fallible. I don’t think most of us realize how nearly impossible pulling that sort of diversity off can be for an actor in the midst of a movie like The Dark Knight. Eckhart pulled off both aspects so well, that Dent become our identifiable point in the movie. He become our anchor.

I can’t say enough good things about the job Aaron Eckhart does in The Dark Knight. I’d go so far as to say that he nearly does just as well as Ledger does as the Joker (it’s just that the Joker is a far more charismatic and extreme character and thus much more noticeable). The fact that Eckhart just blends into the story instead of standing on top of it is a testament to the job he did as an actor. So for the next couple of years we’ll all talk about how great Ledger was (and rightfully so), and we’ll talk about how Bale is the best Batman ever (and rightfully so), but let’s not forget the job done by Aaron Eckhart, who by his performance gave this great movie it’s very soul.

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67 thoughts on “3 Reasons Why Aaron Eckhart Is The Soul Of The Dark Knight

  1. 1. I’m not sure I’m going to agree that Two-Face was a villian. Harvey didn’t become Two-Face to cause chaos in Gotham, he became Two-Face to avenge Dawes and to rid Gotham of crime like Batman. But Harvey/Two-Face is willing to do whatever it takes, which seperates him from Batman.
    2. Two-Face is probably not dead. If he were actually dead then the next Batman film would be a simple Good vs. Evil battle again. If Two-Face returns it could add some twists to the plotline, like say perhaps him finding out Batmans identity???

    Thanks for reading!! If you did!! :)

  2. Film is not subjective. Film experiences are subjective, but not film itself. If a movie is good, it’s good. If a movie is bad, it’s bad. Period. Knowing the difference is a process, but the over all quality of a film cannot be “good” to one person and “bad” to another, because they’re both watching the same thing. Besides, if film is subjective, how is it that people learn and get better at it?

    The creators of The Dark Knight knew what they were doing when they wrote Harvey Dent into the script. They casted Aaron Eckhart, and the director instructed him on what to do, because he had a vision, and knew how to make a good movie.

    That station critic was wrong. That’s an objective truth.

  3. I think he’s overlooked because, and this is my one problem with the movie, he’s killed off too quickly as two-face. If the movie would have stopped with Gordan calling him two-face or with the scene of him and the joker where he flips the coin, he would’ve had a whole nother film to really make dent/two-face shine seperate from the joker. Kinda a shame because he really made two-face believable and sympathetic… oh well

  4. The film is about dent. Its his story. If anything The Joker is the side character.

    And dent died at the end. To bring him back would be lame. I would love it if he had been kept alive but he’s dead and anything else would cheapen the tragedy of the film.

  5. I think you hit the nail right on the head with this one. I agree completely with regard to Mr. Eckhart’s performance.

  6. No, you can’t really call Two-Face a villain.

    He’s just doing the same thing he did as D.A.- prosecuting corrupt cops and mobsters- just to a new degree. [prosecuting them to death!] These people are not innocent.

    As for his threat to Gordon’s family, Two-Face is merely acting how many of us ‘good citizens’ would act after such an ordeal. He’s half crazed from trauma and outrage, and desperate to punish someone- but at least he has the decency to put a restraint on his rage- his coin. As we saw with Officer Ramirez, if the coin comes up clean, he’ll let you live- even if you don’t deserve it. [He wouldn’t have killed Gordon’s boy if the coin came up clean. The question is, would he have immediately come up with a new coin-conundrum to punish Gordon anyway?]

  7. Just to point out one thing, he was never going to kill the Joker’s guy. Remember, Harvey Dent makes his own luck.

    I loved the Joker, I’ve seen the film 5 times, just for him, but in the end, Eckhart just makes me care more. He wasn’t suppose to be a villain. Nolan even says in interviews, he and Batman are the same, they just attain their goals in different ways. Killing Gordan’s son, well that just his twisted justice, an eye for an eye. Eckhart is the soul of THe Dark Knight.

  8. He’s batman he can do the fuck he wants HIS PARENTS WERE SHOT GOD DAMN IT!

    now he sees what he has to become to stop moms and sisters like them

    and of course you have to appreciate the irony from good old Harvey Dents line

    “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villian.”

  9. Much debate has been already done on this and there is no clear answer.

    Tho, I recall Nolan saying in interviews:

    “The Dark Knight is about Two-Face. About his character arch.”

    “I like to finish movies. I don’t think about sequels.”

    So, IMO, he finished the Two-Face storyline. He was dead on the ground, not a single motion of breathe coming from his body.

    Which is rather disappointing if so because I think his death was pretty weak. He got pushed off the side of a building, fell 3 stories, and died. Kinda sucky death for such a kewl villain. But I can understand the argument made by people that he lived. Several other times in the film people fell from buildings and lived. Maroni. Dawes (with the help of Batman). BATMAN himself at the end fell from the same place. (tho he hit wooden planks on the way down)

    Very debatable. I think Nolan purposely left it open so the next director and team can take it whatever way they want since he has said he doesn’t want to make another one (he even said he didn’t want to make a 2nd one). But I think we will see him back for a 3rd….

  10. *****SPOILERS*****

    I have an quick question, did Dent die in the end of this film, because it appeared at least to me to be so with his substantial fall and motionless body on the ground along with what appeared to be a funeral at the end, however I can’t help but recall Nolan I believe stating that this film would set up Two-Face as the chief villain in Batman 3.

    Any insights much appreciated.

  11. I never bought Harvey as this “White Knight”. I can’t understand why they saw Harvey as this great person. They gave him no time, Wayne and Gordon seem so desperate for hope that they’ll throw the mantle and trust onto anyone not entirely morally corrupt. Sure Rachel slides into bed with him, and I guess Bruce thinks she’s a good judge of character, it’s a workable excuse to for the hero’s GF always sleeping around in every super-hero movie. But, no time is spent of Dent actually earning their trust. Dang it takes hardly any time at all before Batman catches the real character of the guy. And if his case against these crooks is so flimsy that they’d get off because of a scandal, then they’re going to go free anyway. I never believed in Harvey Dent.

  12. I agree 100%!!! Eckhart brought something to the movie that, like you said, gave it something extra. Ledger and Bale are phenomenal, but Eckhart’s performance really does stand out too! Great post!

  13. Hazmat, yes, but then the movie wouldnt be Batman. Itd be called Son of Gordon. I would have cut Dent out after the hospital blows. Then Batman fights the joker. Next movie, two face emerges. I just want to see more batman, less everyone else. For example the sub plot with the joker wanting batman to turn himself in could have been much more developed, ending with a “i am spartacus” type moment where the city stands up for batman.

  14. JON

    youre half right…2 face should have been left for the sequel but it would have sucked if he wasnt in this one. so i think it would have been better if 2 face does everything he does in this film but at the end does not die….it still would be a 4 star movie and john would still have posted this article

    what would have been good is if 2 face kiled the detective and his family and then his teenage son tim looks for revenge and hopes to kill 2 face in the next movie (see where im going with this??)

  15. I agree Dents character didnt gets its justice in this movie, but that is because the points mentioned in the blog did happen. Do you really feel that Gotham was so bad off, that a DA, or even Batman was so yearned for by the citizens. The films barely touched on how bad Gotham had become, especially with the openeing seen in a huge prosperous bank with clean floors.

    Point 2, we never really saw where Harvey came from. Begins to DK skipped that. He just appears and we really dont have enough detail on his motivation, partly because the movie is called Batman, not two face.

    Point 3, since we didnt get much back story on Dent, his transformation to twoface didnt really make it, and so we dont see the dichotmy of being a good guy gone bad. Then his ending isnt that big of a deal. BAsically, too many bad guys in this film. The focus should have just stuck with BAtman vs the Joker. Save two face for another film.

  16. Heath Ledger’s preformance was vastly superior to Arron Eckart’s preformance IMO. He did a great job but I actually think Gar Oldman did a better job then Arron

  17. I’m with the Regal Crown Club thing (if you never heard of it it’s a points system that gives you prizes for spending lots of money at Regal Cinemas) and after getting a bunch of points I received a free ticket to any non R movie. When I approached the ticket booth asked for a ticket to see Dark Knight on Friday, I was told that I can’t use the free ticket on a “new” movie. New meaning something that has been out for at least 3 days or something. I argued that if I really wanted to see a movie, i would have seen it by that time. So I had to borrow 7 bucks from my friend so I could go in.

    I’m thinking about using the ticket to see Dark Knight a second time because it does eventually expire and the next movie I want to see (Step Brothers) is rated R.

  18. i actually think you could say the same for Commissioner Gordon. He embodies US more than Dent in my opinion.

    You need to get over your man-crush of Aaron and get back to reality.

  19. two-face looked wicked awesome!! but what ruined the first sighting of two face for me was leaked pics of it online, anyway awesome awesome movie, LEDGER DESERVES THAT OSCAR, if you’ve seen it, you get it

  20. I liked very much how TDK was structured. If you think of it as a scale (like a justice scale) you had, on one end of the scale Batman and the police force (kind of uneasy allies with each other) and on the end of the scale was The Joker and ‘The Mob’ on the other end (also very uneasy allies with each other). Dent was like the fulcrum between these two extremes which were battling it out.

    I wish though that they had done something with his voice after he became ‘Two-Face’. There half his face, and mouth, were horribly disfigured and you’d figure his voice would be significantly different. For one thing, half of his lips were gone. Yet, his voice was just like it was before. This was a point of realism that bugged me. But otherwise the character was very n nicely done all the way around.

  21. “However, after reflecting, I can not and will not buy the plot line that drove Dent to turn on everything he believed in. I think it was very canned that he swapped without a SHRED of evidence that Rachel had actually been killed. Honestly, there is no evidence in the movie that she perished.”

    The coin is the EVIDENCE, Dent find the coin by his hospital bed and a flashback is shown of him giving the coin to Rachel before entering the police swat truck. He sees the clear face of the coin and think shes a live them he turn over the coin a sees the scorched side and realize she didn’t get out from the explosion and is therefore DEATH

    “Yet, because the Joker tells him it was corrupt police that did the deed, Dent goes all bad guy on us?”

    He passes judgment on everybody, He flip the coin for the Joker, Maroni, Batman, Himself, and Gordon.

  22. i agree john, the film was basically focused all around him, great acting by aaron eckhart. to me though the joker was the main viliain, and two-face was good, but it didn’t feel like he was the main villian.
    but i loved, saw it twice

  23. The tragedy of him is that he is NOT a villain. He’s not out scheming for world domination or some shit like that. If the person I loved was blown the fuck up, I’d be out there putting caps in asses, too. He’s not wholly good or evil, he’s solidly gray, just like every other character in the film, which makes it all the more compelling.

  24. I think The Dark Knight was really more about Two Face than it was the Joker. Sure they had to play up the Joker part because of Heath Ledger, but what happened to the Joker in the end? They left him hanging, literally. The same with Rachel. She was killed but there was no funeral.They didn’t even stop to mourn her.
    Of all the numerous plot threads in the Dark Knight, Harvey Dent’s story is the only one that had a beginning, middle, and definite end.

  25. I dont think his turn is meant to be “evil”. He may be a villain but hes a tragic villain.

    The point was not that Dent turned into an evil murderer, but that his sense of justice and fairness was turned on its ear by the Joker.

    He ended up buying into Jokers idea that “the only sensible way to live in this world is without rules…” and “the thing about chaos is, its fair”.

    The Joker killed people out of boredom and as sociological experiments, Dent killed people because he thought he was doling out justice, and it parallels Bruces path to becoming Batman in the first film, only in this case Harvey makes the wrong choice.

  26. If you read the interviews with Nolan thats EXACTLY what he wanted to do.

    The Joker was a “constant” he was ” a shark that rips through the movie” . He said ultimately it was about the rise & fall of Harvey Dent.

    Great post John :)

  27. I think Bale was pushed to the back of the film as well. You know that the funnest role to play in the film would have been the Joker. But instead Eckhart took on Harvey Dent and made something of it. He could have been all like “shucks, I’m not the centre piece, this is no fun”. But instead he took it on honorably and made something off it. I do think however that the script could have included more things to make his turn to the evil side more believable. I think Eckhart did a fantastic job with what he was given though. I don’t think it was wize to kill off Dent and keep the Joker alive. It should have been the other way around.

  28. John,
    I completely agree! There is so much noise about Ledger’s performance, while deserved, was not the only good performance in TDK.

  29. Oh and Bale is my fav actor ever but I felt he was pushed to the background in this movie. Dunno what about it but he just didn’t have the emotion his character had in Begins I thought.

  30. My favorite part of the film to be honest. I loved his outbursts once he turned into Two-Face. Wish there were more of him. The tone he used with his dialogue after turning was really nice. I was expecting a croaky sorta voice like the one from the cartoon, but, instead, he just sort of lowered his voice and talked calmly even when saying cruel things then had short outbursts of rage that really made me love it.

  31. I couldn’t agree more. The Harvey Dent character arc was as good as anything in the The Dark Knight. I wish they wrapped up the Two Face story a little better, but Aaron Eckhart was great in the film, and that’s something I didn’t bank on seeing before hand!

  32. I think that argument works better for the character of Harvey Dent rather than for Eckhart as the actor.

    Dent is the glue that holds this story together. Thats not to say Eckhart didnt do a great job, he did.

    Buit we could have had an average preformance from the Dent character and it wouldnt have hurt the film as much as an average performance from the Jokers character would have. But its all moot anyway because we did get great performances from both.

  33. Eckhart’s performance was fantastic and the two-face make up was really well done. He really did ground the film and provide that third element that a lot of superhero films are missing.

    However, and I know I am a little off topic, but as much better as Maggie Gyllenhaal’s performance was, it was still pretty bad. Not that I want to spoil anything, but while she was in peril and talking to Eckhart via the phone, I had nothing but Natalie Portman a la Star Wars rushing through my head. Maybe I was the only one that thought this, but her performance, while better than Holmes, really took me out of the movie. She was really phoning it in for the whole movie.

  34. Hey John,

    I live in the Chicago area. Was this interview for radio or television and did I miss it?



  35. Thank You John,

    I completely agree, although Ledger was phenomenal and Bale turned in a another solid performance. The film wouldn’t of felt as relevant as it was had it not been for Eckhart’s performance. I thought he was the true tragic character, of the piece and the one I found myself identifying with the most throughout the film. The moralistic struggle his character goes through and the loss Dent suffers with the nuance Eckhart, played it with is one of things that propelled. This film out of the realm of just being a comic book film, to a film that can be seen as a serious morality play. it’s good to see someone else highlight this almost overlooked performance.

  36. First of all, Gio doesn’t need to convince me. As much as there is talk about Ledger, Eckhart equally deserves a writing campaign for various awards. He was that good.

    The Joker is a character whose very essence commands the screen. All this buzz on the late actor who played him is the same thing (although on a slightly bigger scale) when ol’ Jack was The Joker back in ’89. The Joker is a strong adversary, and the best known in Bat-verse. The character is so out there you always want to see the next crazy thing he does.

    But the Dent character was well written and acted. Again, it would not surprise me in the least if the film got more accolades than just Ledger.


    The question of if Dent would have killed Joker’s underling is a good one. I say, at the very least, a hell of a pistol whipping. At this point, there were attempts on his life (and Rachel Dawes-he would have found out what happened at the party), the Commish and the Judge were killed, an attempt on the major resulting in the injury (and “later” the reported death) of Lt. Gordon- it was Dent’s near breaking point.

    Heads or tails made no difference. He was at the very least going to give the punk a serious beat down.

  37. Right, but until the coin was scorched, both sides were the same…heads. Then after the Rachel Dawes incident the coin and harvy were scorched, so it then was a two sided coin.

    When batman stopped him the coin was not scorched yet, cause Harvey wasn’t.

    Or at least that is how I saw it.

  38. “John, Batman did not have to stop Dent from killing one of joker’s men. ”

    Hmmm. That’s interesting. The way I saw it, after he becomes Two-face, one side of the coin is scorched, the other isn’t. If the scorched side comes up, you’re toast.

    Did anyone else get that impression?

  39. John, Batman did not have to stop Dent from killing one of joker’s men. I mean he did stop him, but harvey never would have killed him. Harvey was flipping his coin and said heads you live tails you die, but it was a double sided coin, both sides were heads and thus he would never have to kill the guy.
    –that is, if that is the scene you were referring

  40. Oh also did any one feel that they should of gone ahead and made this rated R. I was distracted/ confused at the editing choices they used for some of the more violent scenes that involved the Joker, well being the Joker. I don’t like to use my imagination. Thats why I go to movies instead of reading books.

  41. I think the whoever wrote the script deserves all the praise for Harvey Dent and the Joker. The dialogue was phenominal. Call me crazy….but I believe the characters made the Actors look good, instead of the other way around.

  42. I think the main difference between Dent and The Joker is Dent is a man who falls from grace. The Joker just shows up. He’s elemental. He represents to the people of Gotham (and us as the audience) what Batman represents to the criminals of gotham.

    “I can not and will not buy the plot line that drove Dent to turn on everything he believed in. I think it was very canned that he swapped without a SHRED of evidence that Rachel had actually been killed. Honestly, there is no evidence in the movie that she perished.”

    Sorry, Heartless, but I disagree. There are things implied. Saying you don’t buy that she’s dead is saying you don’t buy that Batman/Wayne doesn’t believe she’s dead. And he’d know. In fact, we see him on the wreckage of the building. And in an earlier scene, there’s a beat of how Dent can lose his shit, especially when people he cares about are threatened. That’s the scene where Batman shows up and stops him from killing the guy that has a “Rachel Dawes” nametag.
    Just my opinion.

  43. Hey Heartless

    I totally see what you’re saying… but… they already showed him starting to turn earlier in the film when Batman had to stop him from killing one of the Joker’s men.

    Also, according to the comic books, the injuries he suffers goes towards causing a mental schism in Dent.

    Still, you raise a good point.

  44. I actually found Two-face to be the real villain of the movie. The Joker was simply a device to transform Dent into Two-face. Obviously, the outstanding performance by Ledger stole the show from Eckhart.

    However, after reflecting, I can not and will not buy the plot line that drove Dent to turn on everything he believed in. I think it was very canned that he swapped without a SHRED of evidence that Rachel had actually been killed. Honestly, there is no evidence in the movie that she perished.

    Yet, because the Joker tells him it was corrupt police that did the deed, Dent goes all bad guy on us? Nah, doesn’t float. There was just something missing for me to believe his turn of heart.

    Also it was very irritating watching these characters make the same mistake at the end of the movie that got them in the hole in the first place, and that was just maintaining the status quo (Dents a hero, Batman is evil) instead of giving Gotham the friggin truth for once.

  45. Good point, the character was very crucial to the film overall. As for the article itself, I found myself looking for 5 reasons for Harvey…

    “So right now I’d like to propose to you 5 reasons why I believe Aaron Eckhart was indeed the soul of The Dark Knight:”

    Then realized that the title of the article was 3 reasons =P

  46. Glad someone came forward and said it. I think Ledger deserves a lot of the praise he’s gotten. Some people think the praise and recognition is a result of his unfortunate death. I disagree. If anything, the one thing I THINK his passing has done (in terms of how the movie is percieved) is, quite possibly, overshadow the other great performances of the cast. Ekhart’s Dent is a huge part of the dramatic thruline of the film. He was great. Dent’s story was the heart of the movie. And Gary Oldamn was awesome as Gordon. He played a great Gordon in the last film too, but the character had a lot more going on in the Dark Knight. And I think people are overlooking Christian Bale as well. A lot of people are talking about how the film isn’t like most “comicbook films” and I tend to agree. It seemed more “realistic.” It wouldn’t have felt that way, wouldn’t have been taken seriously, if we didn’t buy into these characters and invest in them. And we had to buy into ALL of them. Especially the major players. Eckhart, Oldamn, Bale, Ledger fullfilled thier “obligations” to the script/story.
    Now I gotta count down the days to the DVD release.

  47. Hey Andys

    Sorry man, in my opinion Dark Knight is a superior movie, so I won’t be doing that post. You and your friends are in the vast minority here.

    But that’s the beautiful thing about film. The pure subjectivity of it.

  48. John when will you be doing a post giving various reasons as to why Begins is a better film than Dark Knight? I’ve talked to many of my friends and we all agree that Dark Knight was an amazing movie with lots of action and the Joker was a perfect villian but we still prefer Begins. Which movie do you prefer?

  49. Absolutely agree. You could draw a parallel between Eckhart and Davitian in Borat. They’re so good that you forget they’re even acting and thus you don’t even notice their performances.

  50. The movie wouldn’t be the same without the dichotomy between Dent’s “White Knight” who gets the girl and the adulation of Gotham, and Wayne’s “Dark Knight” who gets his ass handed to him pstchologically through the whole thing. Eckhart and Oldman aren’t getting any credit because Ledger is dominating headlines right now.

  51. yeah they did a great job of making the audience understand why he was a “villain” and i felt sorry for him but i dont think you can put him in front of heath…i mean everytime he came on screen i had to clap and cheer he was so charasmatic and twisted and i LOVED him.
    needless to say i didnt feel the same about aaron who did a perfect job but didnt come close to the jokers genious stunts…
    “im NOT..crazy”
    that was one of the many lines that made me laugh out loud but if anyone else sayd them it would have just been nothing.

    and the “lets make the pencil disapear” trick was waaay too awsome

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