Reviews: The Dark Knight

Sacrifices Character for Ideas...Too Bad They're Ideas I Find Abhorrent

Nolan's Batman films are not about the characters. They're there of course, but they're more symbols than anything - the personification of viewpoints more than three-dimensional, multi-faceted characters.

Unlike Marvel, which emphasizes the appeal of its characters and tends to recycle plot and story ideas, Nolan's Batman trilogy takes the opposite approach and prioritizes the development of its superhero setting as a realistic world and the conflicting ideologies therein, over its characters.

It's not necessarily a bad approach to take (although I found it difficult to invest in or care about the fate of any of the characters as a result). Where it really falls apart for me, though, is that I find what the film actually SAYS to be pretty repellant.

As an example: the reason Iron Man somewhat works for me, despite having an asshole billionaire as its protagonist is that this is the central conceit of the film: the character realizing that he's contributed to suffering and is self-obsessed. With Nolan's film, though, the entire notion of Batman falls apart because the movie isn't about Bruce Wayne's struggles as human being but about Gotham itself. And no matter how much good Batman might do for Gotham (and that's a pretty bit MIGHT), you're always aware that Bruce could be doing so much more by investing in causes to fight poverty and provide education. Rather than beating up criminals with his fists.

The Joker himself is meant to represent chaos, anarchy, Hobbes' state of nature. He's not a person so much as a force. Problem is, despite Ledger's standout performance, it's been done before and better. His nihilism will surely appeal to some, but it's so superficial that it fails to be compelling.

The "tragedy" of Harvey is another pathetic mark against the film. This isn't a man corrupted. This is a man who is traumatized to the point of insanity. Harvey doesn't fall — he's pushed off a cliff by the Joker. There was no sane choice made. No compromise. He's just another victim of the Joker.

Compound this with how many sequences are a Republican wet dream, and you're left with a film full of dull, unrealized characters, superficial ideologies, and conservative talking points. It's also bloated and takes itself FAR too seriously while at the same time seeming to be embarrassed by its source material.

The Dark Knight

The acting is good and the effects are good. The plot on the other hand requires for the universe to be bending over backwards for the Joker's plans to work. It requires for the Joker to be a)omniscient b)posses unlimited resources and c)be able to get anywhere undetected. The movie was definitely exceeding my ability to suspend my disbelief.

Also Heath Ledger's character is the Joker in name only. The characteristics that make the Joker the Joker are missing. The typical warped sense of humour appears in a few short scenes but is not as dominating as it should be. It is a great character, it just isn't the Joker.

Further more Harvey Dent's descent into Two-Face is not given enough screen time to be effective. As it is there are too many illogical aspects of his change of character that are never even briefly explained. It would have been better off left for an other movie.

Overall, the first hour and a bit of the film were good but I found that the film was unable to maintain that level of quality towards the end.

The Joker Begins (and Ends): Featuring Batman

Oh yeah, this was a Batman movie, wasn't it? Ain't nobody's stolen the show in a movie like the late Heath Ledger since that cockatoo from Citizen Kane. Few will dispute that. But the essence of what I like about Batman gets lost in a veritable shitstorm of pseudo-intellectual nihilism of the "My knowledge of Nietzsche extends to the conflated broad strokes version of his philosophy perpetuated by mass media for decades, and maybe how to spell his name right on a good day" variety, that could have been in any 2000s action movie. In the end, this film could have worked probably just as well as its own standalone IP.

The visuals are awesome, the casting is beyond reproach, and it sure knows how to keep the tension going... but it tends to suffer from a level of impersonal sleekness to the way it flows that detaches me from the experience. My father tends to liken it to an "extended music video" and I have a hard time debating that. It doesn't help that Mr. Nolan seems to have taken a few cues from the Ken Russell school of symbolism. The "intellectuality" it seems to be aiming for just feels a bit forced and flat. I don't know, it's hard to put into words.

It's not that I dislike TDK... though I must admit, I have no choice but to shake my head when seeing it placed on lofty pedestals next to the aforementioned Kane, 12 Angry Men, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, etc. This is not because of some sort of condescending bias towards comic book films or anything as I'm quite averse to that level of high-brow snootery. It's just, it's pretty hard to imagine it being the result of anything but a confluence of young people who've yet to gain the level of perspective needed for a more balanced look at something like this. When these people get there, a reassessment may very well change things around. Oooooooooooor maybe not. Who knows.

In the end, TDK is a well-constructed, enjoyable action film with an almost completely redundant Batman theme. A modern classic it may well be, but I doubt it's going to be viewed as "timeless" a few decades on... especially since I'm holding out hope that the Batman film is yet to come.

(Dark Knight - second film - review) Intelligent and realistic while simultaneously exaggerated and unrealistic

James Rolfe once said of Batman that "it's about a man who dresses up as a bat and fights crime. There's a limit to how seriously that can be taken."

This movie seems to have realized exactly where that limit is, and is smart not to exceed it.

On the one hand, the characters are very human and have believable traits, yet at the same time have an almost comic book-like mentality to them when it comes to some of their dialog and behavior. Harvey Dent's random dinner table quote that "you either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain" in a discussion of ancient Rome is the sort of melodrama you'd expect from this kind of movie, and while it's foreshadowing, it's also corny.

It's also a good example of what the story itself is: intelligent, yet corny while taking itself seriously.

There's Xanatos Gambits galore. The Joker proves himself to be able to outsmart everyone, from police to the mob to Batman himself. While he's clearly an exaggerated character, with his clown-like makeup, constant wisecracking, and sense of humor combining the silly with the cruel, he's also intimidating because he's genuinely intelligent and scary on a human level. Remove the eccentricity from the Joker, and he could be a very scary person. Keep it, and he's clearly a character from a work of fiction, but a damn fascinating one.

Similar to The Bourne Series, there's a lot of outsmarting going on between Batman, the Joker, and their respective enemies - as well as each other. It's very fast-moving and thriller-esque, but more fantasy-based owing to the setting. Batman and the Joker do things that Jason Bourne can't do, because they are highly improbable and/or impossible. But that's of course part of the fun.

A big part of what makes the movie succeed, in my opinion, is that even with the exaggerated and unrealistic things the heroes and villains do, their motivations are still human, and there's still a real life underpinning behind all their actions. It's unrealistic if described, yet plausible in context. It makes it therefore easy to care about the characters and find them interesting while also enjoying the high stunts and antics that go on.

The story is a mix of the unrealistic and the very real that blends together in a way that just works, and is a lot of fun.

Lives up to the hype

Ah. The golden child of the Batman movie franchise. Possibly the greatest villain performance ever. Destruction made into an artform. The Dark Knight is the greatest superhero movie ever and is one of the very few that trandscends the genre.

Enough cannot be said about Heath Ledger's performance. It is frightening. It is riveting. It is genious.

The complaints I had against Batman Begins were largely fixed. Maggie Gyllenhaal is a huge improvement over Katie Holmes, and the character actually does more than just preach in this movie, thank god. The fight scenes were also better. Though they still were shot up close, I found them less choppy and could almost always understand what was going on, even in the climax which people complain about. It wouldn't be until TDKR that Nolan would find the perfect way to shoot a fight, from farther back, but it did not detract from the film like it did to a small extent in Begins.

I called the Burton movies beautiful, and they are, with Burton's unique style. But somehow Nolan has made a film that tries to be 'realistic' and 'gritty' into a thing of beauty equal to Burton's vision. When Batman glides over Hong Kong, it is beautiful. TDKR is no slouch in that department, but The Dark Knight remains the king.

While Batman has a great arc and a lot to do, this is the story of Harvey Dent. This, I believe, is the main source of controversy about the movie. If the focus shifts off of Batman, it is understandable that people would consider that a fault. Often I would too. But as I said, Batman has his own arc in TDK and enough focus to share some with Dent. I felt that Dent/Two-Face went through a complete story and did not need any more either. The movie truly was the perfect length for the story it wanted to tell, unlike TDKR, which should have been longer than it was.

The Dark Knight is a true masterpiece and one of the best movies of the first decade of the 21st century.

I Finally Got What Bugged Me

I loved The Dark Knight. I loved it. Loved Heath Ledger, especially. But something about it bugged me, and after a few years, now I know what.

It doesn't feel like a superhero film.

Let me explain—Batman has no superpowers. He's usually just made of Bad Ass to fix that. The gadgets are nice, but most of what makes Batman awesome is him. But the film puts so much effort into making this all plausible, especially the gadgets. In trying to not break the Willing Suspension Of Disbelief, they lose that this is a superhero film altogether. Bruce stops being Batman and starts being a rich guy with access to weapons tech and the ability to be a vigilante.

Batman just seems more like a vigilante than a superhero here.

The Joker, now, he felt like he could be some universe's version of The Joker—dark, funny, crazy, a good planner. But Batman...feels stale. I mean, I own the DVD, and all I watch are the truck flipping scene, some Joker speeches, and Alfred. Batman just doesn't feel like a superhero. He's too real.

I go this after watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I mean, look at those trailers, and then at the trailer for The Dark Knight Rises. Hell, just compare it to the Avengers' trailer. Avengers has epic fighting, wild visuals, and characters we feel we know. Rises? It has Bruce (whom we don't really know so much as watch), 2 new villains whom we know who they're based off of but they're new to us without seeming all that epic, a cool bit of a stadium falling apart...and a bunch of real-ish stuff like a plane hijacking, Catwoman as a burglar, a ball, and street riots. Yes, Gotham does normally have more real-ish stuff than other superhero stuff but..come on, this is the end of the trilogy. Some epicness is called for. And no, not the flying batplane-an animated series and the comics have done that.

I just feel that it's gone too far to make us believe, to where there's nothing we have to try and believe. Bam. It's real, it's dark...and it's not that super.

The knight is darkest just before dawn...

From every point of view, The Dark Knight offers so much more than the aimless pieces of fluff that pass as summer blockbusters these days. A thinking manís comic book movie, the film offers detailed character studies and an exploration into the darkest of themes while serving up such action sequences as a semi truck flipping end-over-end, a police helicopter flying into a trip-wire trap set by the Joker and a Chinese mobster accountant (Singaporeís very own Ng Chin Han) being yanked out from his office and into a plane via one of Batmanís more interesting tools of the trade.

In terms of acting, everybody is in top form. In the filmís predecessor, its weak link was Katie Holmesí vapid portrayal of Rachel Dawes. Now that Maggie Gyllenhaal has stepped in to fill the part, the ensemble seems to be one of the strongest this summer. Here, Bale continues his winning streak from Batman Begins. Bruceís parlays with Alfred and Wayne Industries CEO Lucius Fox are also filled with character and provide some respite from the overall intensity of the picture.

However, Bale is outshone by a mile and a half by Heath Ledgerís Joker. Ledgerís swagger, eerie vocal tone and nuanced smiles make his Joker almost officially one of the most disturbing film villains of all time.

Director Christopher Nolanís vision of bringing the Batman film franchise back from the over-the-top camp and psychedelia of Joel Schumacherís ghastly Batman And Robin (1997) with The Dark Knightís predecessor Batman Begins in 2005 prompted cheers from fans and critics alike. This is continued in this film, resulting in the movie being not so much a comic book action flick as a highly intelligent action thriller and crime drama, albeit one with a relatively high budget. The powerful themes of absolutes, moral ambiguity and corruption are explored with much panache. This layer that belies the fisticuffs and explosions we all expect from a summer blockbuster is refreshingly thought-provoking.


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