The Joker is portrayed in many interpretations of the Batman story arc as a lunatic, psycho or just a purely evil individual. There are certain traits that make Joker the twisted foe that he is. He is more than just a street thug. The Joker has nothing he values in the world, not even his own life, so there is no limit to how far he will push Batman. He will kill thousands of innocent people, but he will make Batman somewhat responsible. The reason he never kills people for the sake of killing them is that Joker is purely a mental villain. He discovers Batman's only rule, not to kill, and he exploits that. This ignites a fire inside of the bat, and you see him battle himself and his morals throughout the film. That is the edge that the Joker has over him. The Joker has now morals. He will do what he finds is fair, which is never fair in reality. One of the scariest things about The Joker is his unpredictability. Some of his schemes in the film are so well thought out that neither Batman or Commissioner Gordon and his police force can predict what he has planned. In the film, the Joker blows up a hospital, has multiple well known people killed on television, rigs two huge boats to explode and even more. The reason he is so unpredictable is that everything he does is a social experiment. He creates situations that nobody else would ever think to make, just so that he can see how people react when they find themselves in the situation he created. When Joker rigs two boats to explode, one is filled with prisoners, and one is filled with average civilians. He wanted to see who would throw the other boat under the bus first, as well as their reasoning behind it, so he gave each ship the detonator to the opposite ship. He does things like that the entire film, and Nolan's viewers find it simply fascinating.
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