There are two lines of energy fueling the plot of Nolan’s second Batman film to its inevitable entropic unraveling. Interestingly, both these power sources (or power vents) are characters: Bruce Wayne and the Joker. This stands in contrasts to many movies, including Nolan’s Inception, in which the plot is driven primarily by plot.
Let’s start from
In The Dark Knight,
Truth be told, Batman may have only resulted in the arrest of a handful of criminals in that first year. But because of the demonstration that crime can be opposed, the rest of
This all happens—Batman wins, plans his retirement—before the Joker asserts himself to the people of
In the first act of the movie, Joker is a small-time bank robber with a little flair. The bosses and the cops don’t take him seriously, and the public doesn’t even know he exists. The character’s motivation has always been uncomplicated: sow chaos. In the film, this is his only desire. He does not want money, a fancy lair with an expensive car. We never see him eat, drink, sleep or satisfy sexual urges. He is chaos personified, which makes him a durable canvas to project generations of audience anxieties—in this case, terrorism.
Joker understands the major impediment to sowing chaos in
At the end of act I, Joker is loosing. Dent has arrested all the bosses. The streets will be clean for a year and a half. Like he told the bosses, “Dent is only the beginning.” So in Act II, Joker dramatically increases his terrorism, adding a mega jolt of energy into the city that speeds up the flow of entropy toward chaos.