Writers whether the heroes or villains win,

Writers tend to explore the struggles between good and evil through battles between heroes and villains. Heroes and villains engage in physical and ideological battles to attain their goals. A hero usually is the embodiment of goodness, someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself. Villains are characters who are the opposite of heroes, usually evil and debasing or destroy innocent life. Through examining the heroes – Detective Mills, Detective Somerset in Se7en , Batman in The Dark Knight – and the villains – John Doe in Se7en, Harvey Dent and the Joker in The Dark Knight, this essay aims to explore how and whether the heroes or villains win, if they are  able to defeat their opponents and achieve their goals in the battle of humanity.     One way to decide whether the hero or the villain wins is to see if they succeed in affecting the nature of humanity. In Se7en, John Doe, the “mastermind” behind the series of killing based on the seven deadly sins. He thinks he is chosen by God to ‘turn each sin against the sinner’. John Doe thinks he is doing the right thing to kill these people and when Detective Mills accuses him of killing innocent people, he replies “Innocent? Is that supposed to be funny?” This shows that he is not the conventional serial killer and that his motive is to eradicate ‘sinners’ who have committed the seven sins by forcing them to make attritions. Doe feels he is killing in order to better mankind. In the alignment system, he belongs to the “Lawful Evil”, he is the hero in his own mind. John Doe believes he is on a mission from God and truly wants to cleanse the world of evil. Similarly, the Joker in The Dark Knight, who is a “Chaotic Evil” character, wants to prove that the people in Gotham are all hypocrites and that ‘their morals, their code is a bad joke”. Both John Doe in Se7en and the Joker in The Dark Knight want to prove the dark side of humanity by offering people choices. For example, for the sin “Pride”, John Doe mutilates a model’s face and gives her the option to call for help and be disfigured, or to commit suicide by taking pills. She chooses to kill herself. This proves John Doe’s point that the woman is so ugly inside that she cannot bear to live when her beautiful appearance is damaged. This self-inflicted “murder” also foreshadows Mills’s destruction when John Doe reveals that he has killed his wife. In The Dark Knight, the Joker creates moral dilemmas for people too. He tells two thugs to fight each other and the one wins will get to live and work with him. He sets up bombs in two ships, one with criminals and one with normal citizens, he gives the detonator for the bomb on each ship to the other ship and tells them they will survive if they press the button and blows the other ship. The Joker hopes to show that these civilised people are willing to drop their moral code at the first sign of trouble and “they’ll eat each other”. However, this does not go as the Joker’s plan as the people on both ships decide not to press the button till the very end. Batman has his faith rewarded when the citizens and the convicts do not blow each other up. The Joker believes that these people would turn into killing machines in adverse situations, but that didn’t happen. This is a victory for Batman because this is what he stands for, that darkness in humanity can be overcome. This reinforces the idea that there is goodness in people and not everyone in Gotham is like the Joker, who is someone that “just wants to watch the world burns”. In Se7en, John Doe succeeds on sending his message by finishing his “masterpiece” while Joker loses as the citizens of Gotham proves they are not as selfish as the Joker wants them to be.     Whether there is victory also depends on whether the villains are able to corrupt the heroes. Detective Mills in Se7en is a hot-headed rookie detective, he is an idealist who wants to be a hero. Mills is portrayed as a brash and righteous person, he wants to capture John Doe and bring him to justice. His character makes his later fall more significant. Somerset describes Mills as “a man who feeding off emotions”. Mills describes the clue related to Dante as “goddamn poetry”, he becomes reckless by entering the killer’s room without a warrant. It shows that he is impulsive and hard-edged.  This connection between the character and the sin ‘wrath’ is established early in the film but its full significance is only revealed in the final act, when John Doe delivers the punchline to the moralising but ultimately hypocritical Mills. This contrasts greatly with the villain John Doe, who is calm and intelligent.”Observe his face. Smug. Self-satisfied. Listen to his voice. Intelligent. Analytical. Mark his composure and apparent fearlessness” . Once John Doe gives himself to the detectives, he dominates the rest of the film. He rides in the barred backseat of the car of the detectives, but the bars is a symbol of John Doe’s seemingly position of shackled weakness. The use of close up and stable camera movement by shooting on tripod for John Doe gives a cool and calm feeling, suggesting that he is the character who has the upper hand in the film. A close shot of barred John Doe from Se7enWhen Doe reveals he has killed Mills’ wife, his head is haloed by the sun. This religious imagery reminds audience that Doe is doing this to achieve his religious zealous purpose as well as showing how overpowering he is.        A low angle shot of haloed John Doe     Handheld camera motion is used to shoot the detectives in a few scenes, creating a chaotic, out-of-control feeling. In the scene which a delivery van brings a package, Mills demands to know “What’s in the box?”, Doe replies with fractured sentences “Tracy… visited your home…her pretty head” to imply that it is Mills’s wife’s severed head inside the box. The camera movement becomes shakier, highlighting the emotional breakdown Mills is experiencing. The editing alternates between tight shots of the three men while Mills fights the urge to give in to wrath, accompanied with the crescendoing horns of Howard Shore’s music score. The balance breaks when a quick flash of the Mills’ wife appears, pushing Mills over the edge and shoots Doe in the head. The finale of the seven deadly sins in John Doe’s plan is committed by the self-proclaimed crime-fighter ‘hero’ Mills, who in his anger kills John Doe and ‘becomes wrath’. By killing John Doe, Mills commits the last sin “wrath” and helps complete John Doe’s “masterpiece”.This ending subverts our expectation of the crime or thriller genre, which the hero always wins. However, in Se7en, the heroic saviour Mills not only fails to protect his loved ones, but also fails to deliver justice, when he joins in the killer’s plan to ‘cleanse’ the city and lowers himself to the same moral depravity. John Doe wins in this film. This shows that Mills, the hero in Se7en, is unable to resist the temptation, he kills Doe out of anger, his own emotion of wanting to avenge his wife rather than the greater good. Therefore, he loses.     Although Detective Mills compromises morally and completes the plan of John Doe by killing him in rage, he still wins in some way. He redeems himself by inspiring  others, symbolised by Detective Somerset. Somerset is a veteran police, he is a cynical person and always expresses his distaste towards the nameless city he is living in. He said, “I just don’t think I can continue to live in a place that embraces and nurtures apathy as if it was virtue.” and emphasizes numerous times that he is going to quit his detective job and leaves the city once the case is done. At the beginning of the film, there is a scene showing that before he goes to sleep he starts a metronome, which we see and hear for a full thirty seconds – a symbolic of Somerset’s methodical, patient nature. Yet the orderly, unchanging and even indifferent rhythm of the metronome also symbolises the apathetic attitude of Somerset towards the evil in human nature. He agrees that “Apathy is the solution” because it is easier that way and that “love costs: it takes effort and work”. Apathy is a coping mechanism Somerset and the people in the city adopt to face the suffering, the injustice and evilness in the society, because it shields them from emotional turmoil and ethical responsibility. However, after an argument between him and Detective Mills, who claims that he must capture John Doe, and accuses Somerset’s apathetic attitude as “Rubbish. … Don’t try to tell me you didn’t get that rush tonight. I saw you. We’re getting somewhere.”, another scene is shown which the always patient Somerset throws the metronome on the floor and breaks it. Somerset agrees to stay with the police force until the case is solved instead of just retiring in the middle of it afterwards.This suggests that Somerset is moved and influenced by Mills, his apathy is breaking and he starts to care and learns to love the city. At the end of the film, Somerset is asked by his Captain where he will be, he replies, ‘Around. I’ll be around.’ This implies that he is reconsidering his retirement, something that he had looks desperately forward to. We also hear him reciting an Ernest Hemingway quote: ‘The world is a fine place, and worth fighting for’ and he agrees with the second part. This shows that although he knows how terrible the city and its people are, he is willing to stay around and will do his best to make it a better place. Somerset understands that it is better to fight against evil than to form excuses why he cannot and should not bother, and he learns it from Detective Mills. Although Mills compromises his moral, he inspires others to have an epiphany and becomes a better man. Killing John Doe may not only be his sin, but a sacrifice needed to make in order to inspire and enlighten others. Therefore, the victim-hero Mills in Se7en may not lose completely.     In The Dark Knight, Joker seems to lose and Batman had won the battle of humanity when the citizens of Gotham passengers on the ships show their goodness by choosing not to blow each other up. However, the Joker still has, as he puts it, ‘an ace in the hole’ – the hero-turn-villain Harvey Dent. Joker in The Dark Knight shares John Doe’s aspiration in Se7en to corrupt the heroes. Harvey Dent, the district attorney is deemed as Gotham’s “White Knight”. This “White Knight” in fact is the opposite of the Batman, the “Dark Knight”. Batman is called as the “Dark Knight” because he does not play by the rule, he fights crimes by striking fear into the heart of criminals. While “Dark” represents the fear Batman spreads, the “White” of Harvey Dent symbolise the hope he inspires in Gotham citizens. He is said to be ‘the face of Gotham’s bright future’, representing the hope of Gotham’s citizens, proving that there are good people even in Gotham. He puts numerous criminals behind the bars using legal means and does it in the daylight, something which Batman will not be able to do, as he can only do his vigilante work discreetly at night. So Batman trusts him and said, ‘I believe in Harvey Dent’. However, Dent becomes a self-fulfilled prophecy when he said, ‘You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.’ The Joker captures both Dent and his fiancee, Rachel, Dent is saved by Batman but his face is badly burnt in the process and Rachel dies. After the tragedy, the once heroic Harvey Dent transform into the villain Two-Face.This mirrors the plot of Se7en, both heroes are corrupted by the villains as their loved ones are murdered by the villains.      Before the tragedy, Dent used to own a coin with same faces on both sides. This coin represents his rigid adherence to the ideas of justice, morality and order, and he is a man who “makes his own luck”. This coin, in fact, is the symbolism of Dent’s transformation. The explosion that turns him into Two-face scars one side of the coin and Dent uses it to decide who lives and who dies, leaving his actions up to fate rather than making any conscious choice by himself.  He blames the death of his fiancee to the cops in Gotham and tries to take revenge by killing the Police Officer, Jim Gordon’s family in order to let Gordon  feel his anguish. Dent becomes everything that the “White Knight”isn’t: violent, erratic, relying literally on chance to make all his choices, and ultimately a danger to children and other living things.  Dent’s transformation into Two-Face is an allusion to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the name Two-Face itself suggests the dual nature of humanity. It symbolises his struggle between his good and dark side but unlike Batman, who ultimately stays on the hero side, he becomes the villain. He changes from a man who believes in moral and order to one who thinks that “the only morality in this cruel world is chance”.He proves that the system, the rules and morals Gotham has, are fragile hypocrisy that people will abandon once it threatens their interest, this is what the Joker believes that makes each of us a potential monster, revealing the darkness in humanity. The Joker chooses Dent to be his target because ‘he is the best among them’.  He takes Gotham’s White Knight and brings him down to his level’, proving that ‘people could not be a decent man in an indecent time’, that people, even the best of them are corruptible and are all hypocrites. Joker wins by corrupting Harvey Dent.     The fall of Harvey Dent is Joker’s bet in the battle for Gotham’s soul. Joker knows that breaking Dent will crush Gotham and”Gotham will die with Harvey’s reputation” because the “White Knight” gives hope to Gotham citizens. If the crimes committed by Two-Face are revealed, all the criminals Dent has locked up would be released and the Gotham citizens will lose faith in the legal system and justice that Dent represented. In order to maintain Dent’s reputation and let the Gotham citizens believe in good, Batman offers to take the blame for the murders. He “swaps identities” with Dent so that Dent can be seen as a hero and be made into a martyr for the sake of Gotham while Batman becomes a villain in the minds of the citizens. He ensures Dent’s reputation at the expense of his own. He explains that sometimes people need to be lied to when “the truth isn’t good enough” and “people deserve to have their faith rewarded”. Batman runs off as the police chase after him as if he were a common criminal. To be persecuted and becomes an outcast is the price Batman must pay for justice to be served. Harvey Dent could be a hero and a “White Knight” and what Batman does is beyond heroism, he is a “Dark Knight”. Although the Joker succeeds in corrupting Dent, Batman covers up the truth so that people will continue to have faith in Dent, faith in themselves and hope for their future.    The Joker also wins by attacking Batman’s weakness. ‘A good villain is exceptionally good at attacking the hero’s greatest weakness’, and the Joker in The Dark Knight is exceptionally good at attacking Batman’s weakness. Batman’s power mostly comes from his ability to intimidate and the Joker always nullifies his strength. This is because the Joker is not afraid of Batman. He knows the strength, the moral of Batman takes form in one rule – he does not kill. The Joker is able to turn Batman’s strength into weakness. the Joker is able to target Batman’s biggest vulnerability — his morality —in a way no other villain can. Batman refuses to kill. The more people Joker kills, the more destruction he causes, the more he shows Gotham citizens how little Batman can do without killing him. The Joker is able to do it because he does not fear death and he wants Batman to kill him. The Joker’s ultimate victory is for Batman, the strongest enemy of his worldview, a person who refuses no matter what to break down to his level, to kill him. The Joker actually begs Batman to kill him in the film, he says, ‘Come on… I want you to do it, I want you to do it. Come on, hit me. HIT ME!!!’ when Batman is riding a motorcycle towards him. The Joker is shot from a low angle, which is similar to the camera angle used to shoot John Doe in Se7en when he is confronting Mills. Both villains are shown in a superior position. The Joker, who does not fear death, and in fact, wants Batman to kill him, creates situation after situation that throws Gotham into chaos.A back-to-camera shot showing Batman approaching Joker with his motocysle     However, the confrontation turns out to be different from Se7en. The use of non-diegetic music heightens the tension and suspense to the scene as well as highlights Batman’s indecision and struggles to kill the Joker or not. The music by Hans Zimmer becomes increasingly loud and finally climaxes to a high, piercing note when Batman dodges Joker. Batman turns the direction at the last moment and refuses to hit the Joker. Batman follows his rule and refuse to kill anyone, including the Joker. All of these setups in The Dark Knight, from the reverse shots between heroes and villains to the music used mirrors the confronting scene in Se7en. But Batman succeeds in doing what Mills fails to do – resisting the temptation to kill the villain, which forms a great contrast between the heroes. By refusing to succumb to Joker’s expectation, Batman is able to maintain morally intact, like Somerset in Se7en and is not corrupted by the Joker. This is his victory because he shows that he is able to stick to his rule, that he would not yield and fall to the same level as the Joker. Batman is ‘truly incorruptible’ and he wins in this context. ‘Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you’, as Nietzsche has warned us, when we fight our enemy, we must be careful not to become them. In Se7en and The Dark Knight, both villains are able to corrupt the heroes. On the other hand, the heroes in both films have inspired and proved goodness in humanity. To conclude, both heroes and villains have won and lost in some way – it is a draw.