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10/07/2019 11:04:10 •••

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.

05/10/2015 00:00:00

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.

This is something Bruce himself points out in this film, hence his endorsement of Harvey Dent. He's hoping Batman will open enough doors for legal heroes to appear, leading to Gotham not needing Batman anymore. The following film also establishes that he has been donating to charitable causes and opening schools and orphanages with his money.

05/10/2015 00:00:00

No, see, I get that Bruce doesn't want to be Batman any more, the problem is that he never had to be in the first place. The amount of money he spent on his cave, outfitting himself, kidnapping Chinese nationals — he could do so much more good just donating that to charitable causes right off the bat.

That's a big part of my issue with the presentation of Batman in Nolan's films. Batman can work when you focus on Bruce because the superhero persona is a manifestation of Bruce's psychology (his fear of bats, his helplessness at his parents' murders, his desire for revenge). But when you shift the focus onto GOTHAM and the good of the people, then Batman is ridiculous. He's the self-indulgent fantasy of a rich man. It's idiotic to think that Bruce is at all benefiting the city by dressing up as a bat and beating up members of the mob.

Batman can work when you focus on Bruce, but not the way Nolan did it. Because it's an inescapable fact that if you want to help Gotham, then playing dress up isn't the way to do it.

05/10/2015 00:00:00

To clarify: the central conflict I have with the Nolan Batman films is that it seems to be suggesting that there are bad people in the world because no one will stand up to them and that allows evil to thrive.

But that is 99% of the time WRONG. Most people don't do terrible things because they're evil. They do it because they're poor or desperate or uneducated or angry or because they see it as the only way out of a shit situation.

05/10/2015 00:00:00

Aside from your criticism of this film boiling down to "It's not socially liberal enough" (which is fair, but so subjective that it can't really be appreciated by those who don't share your personal political beliefs), you don't seem to think much of comic book movies in general, which tend to be about finding excuses for people to dress up and beat up criminals.

You could argue that Batman's motivation is flimsy even by those standards, in comparison to someone like Iron Man, but since you say that even that film only "somewhat" works for you, it sounds like you simply don't enjoy the genre. And that's fine, but then there's not much point in watching and reviewing something you apparently wouldn't have enjoyed anyway.

05/10/2015 00:00:00

Iron Man only somewhat works for me because I find the films are just really too obsessed with portraying Tony Stark as cool. I feel like it's beating it into my head and they need to tone it down. A LOT. But the central premise is sound — focusing the story on how Tony has been a selfish jerk for much of his life and has PTSD and control issues works well in terms of bringing Iron Man to life. The films aren't really successful because of the plot (most people I know don't really care about the villains or the major problem too much) but rather because of Tony himself and how he deals with that conflict.

I do enjoy the genre. I very much enjoy the Captain America films, for instance. And the Christopher Reeve Superman films. And, like I said, Iron Man works well enough for me (for the most part). But The Dark Knight fails for me because it's focused on ideas rather than characters. And not only do they not work for me because of my politics, they also don't work for me because I find them superficial and inconsistent with the "realistic" setting the film is aiming for in terms of how it brings Gotham to life.

05/10/2015 00:00:00

Yeah I'm not a big fan villains that are evil for the sake of being evil. I think the difference between DC and Marvel is that DC portrays its characters as ideas and that Marvel portrays its characters as actual people. I totally agree with your statement on people doing terrible things. Any heroes and villains you like?

05/10/2015 00:00:00

For straight up heroes, I've always loved Luke Skywalker and Kenzo Tenma from Naoki Urasawa's Monster. Oh - and Steve Rogers/Captain America. For more "gray" protagonists, I like Zuko, Xena, Anakin. Villains that I enjoy would be Darth Vader or Palpatine, Azula, Johan Liebert, Light Yagami. There's more, of course, but that's just a partial list.

It's funny because I kind of see the TDK's Joker as a poor man's Johan Liebert.

05/10/2015 00:00:00

I think a lot of these problems stem from the efforts of trying to shove 'realism' into a company that's been idealistic in concept, and then confusing 'realism' with simply making it darker.

05/10/2015 00:00:00

One of the problems with what DC has been doing with its comics and movies.

05/12/2015 00:00:00

"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."

So what you're saying is that preventing everyone in Gotham from going insane, capturing the criminal who was sending the city into anarchy, and preventing a nuclear bomb from destroying it are less important than buying a round of textbooks for the city's grade schoolers. And apparently, all those people who spend their lives studying economics are fools, because poverty can be solved simply having rich people throw money at the problem.

Mr Terror Face: is Marvel that much better? Hydra in the Captain America movies and Thanos in Guardians / Avengers are textbook 'evil for the sake of evil' villains, and Loki (in Avengers) and Obadiah Stane (both power hungry assholes) aren't winning any prizes for complexity either.

05/13/2015 00:00:00

But that is 99% of the time WRONG. Most people don't do terrible things because they're evil. They do it because they're poor or desperate or uneducated or angry or because they see it as the only way out of a shit situation.

I would argue that we have histortical evidence to suggest that Gotham is the 1%. When the mafia hit its peak it was being driven by an underswell of neglected and unemployed people but what was keeping it going was a power that had completely cowed the establishment and made the few non-corrupt police officers afraid to speak up.

The Dark Knight is very, very heavily drawing parallels to that period and that situation and Batman's aim is to allow the non-corrupt people in the law enforcement to stand-up and clean up the force. Then once the organised crime in Gotham is cleaned up, he can stand down and focus all his money on regenerating the city, which wouldn't have worked whilst the mafia retained control.

And this is essentially what he does. I'm not a big fan of The Dark Knight Rises, but he preserves the idea of Harvey Dent which allows the police force to clean itself up and break the power of the mafia (and then go too far in the other direction). Batman steps down because he isn't needed anymore and spends his money on philanthropic aims and scientific research which should increase the prosperity of the whole of Gotham.

And I absolutely agree with you that Harvey Dent didn't fall, he was driven insane. That's the point. Harvey Dent genuinely was the good person, he was too good to fall to corruption like the others. TDK believes in the nobility of people which is why it's climax is about how people are ultimately good deep down and even criminals are often good but driven to crime through over factors (remember it was the criminals who refused to play the Joker's game first).

The Joker then drove Harvey Dent insane and broke him and Batman put his solution into action. In a city which didn't drive Harvey Dent insane Gotham could have had a white knight who did things like they were meant to be done, who worked above board and out in the open. Unfortunately the crime death spiral was too much and they had to have the hero who was a lone man working against the law. But he still dreamed of a time when he wouldn't have to.

05/13/2015 00:00:00

I'm left wing and sure I don't know how I feel about the mass surveillance and everything but even with that, the whole point is it was destroyed once the crisis was over even though it would have been useful to fight crime still. If we could genuinely believe that our government would dismantle it's surveillance networks immediately after a threat subsided they wouldn't be nearly as dangerous or wrong

05/13/2015 00:00:00

To Bionic Man: Villains have never really been the MCU's strong point. The heroes are what makes the MCU shine.

05/13/2015 00:00:00

Also I think what Red Hudsonicus means is that Batman is just fighting the EFFECTS of crime, not the actual CAUSES.

05/13/2015 00:00:00


Er, I never said that Bruce giving to charitable causes would solve ALL the problems. Just that it would do MORE good than dressing up as Bats. Everything you describe is a result of the poverty plaguing Gotham — in the long term, Bruce would do more good in combating that. Also, part of my problem with the Joker is that his plans are often ridiculously convoluted and I just don't buy into them. I might be more forgiving if the film was more comic-book like, but it's trying to have a realistic setting.

In regards to Marvel, I've never really found their villains compelling. But that's okay. What I watch those films for is to see the heroes — they're the draw. I care about watching them overcome a conflict even if I don't find the instigator of that conflict particularly compelling.


The problem I have with your idea is that gangs and the mob don't exist in isolation. They often exist because there's a vacuum or a lack of opportunity for people in the city. Sending mob members to jail isn't going to destroy the mob because it doesn't eliminate WHY the mob exists in the first place.

It's why the war on drugs has been so unsuccessful — no matter how many people you put in jail, it's not going to end drug trafficking because there's a demand for drugs and drug runners often come from economically depressed nations where it truly is their best option.

As for Harvey Dent, the reason it doesn't work is because they act as though Harvey's been sullied. But he hasn't — the man was driven insane through trauma. There's no need to hide this and cast Batman as the villain. It's inane. If Harvey had done terrible things while in a rational state, then I could understand a bit more, but he didn't.

Lucifer was a fallen angel because he chose to rise up against God, not because he was tortured until he lost his mind. Nothing about Harvey's situation requires that they lie about it.

05/14/2015 00:00:00

I disagree, mobs exist because people lacked opportunity yes, but they aren't sustained solely through lack of opportunity like you're suggesting.

Look at the actual War on Drugs in Mexico, revitalising the community will not end the war because there are a lot of powerful people with guns who want to 1)Make sure the community can't be revitalised 2)Will kill you and your family unless you fight for them.

Their power literally outstrips the police force and the even maybe the army. Bad economic situations created that divide, but fixing the cause won't fix the problem.

Just think about it practically, how can you run a business in Gotham when your warehouse will be burnt down and your employees killed? There is no way to invest money into the community because the mobs have too much power. Can you think of a way that you can give people opportunity whilst the mobs still exist? You can't invest in schools because the teachers will refuse to work in the area. You can't invest in business because of above. You can't invest in the police force because the police force are corrupt.

I also do not believe that people would be so understanding of Harvey as you suggested.

Even if they were understanding of Harvey, then it's turned a symbol of hope into "even the best of us was turned into a raving lunatic" which isn't exactly uplifting. Batman turns that message into "the best of us kept fighting the good fight right until the end."

It's a sad fact of life that we don't view a broken man as a martyr.

05/14/2015 00:00:00

I think this is starting to become a political soapbox. Want to move this to the forums?

05/14/2015 00:00:00

:p I'm afraid I don't venture onto the forums. I guess agree to disagree?

07/14/2015 00:00:00

"For straight up heroes, I've always loved Luke Skywalker and Kenzo Tenma from Naoki Urasawa's Monster. Oh - and Steve Rogers/Captain America. For more "gray" protagonists, I like Zuko, Xena, Anakin. Villains that I enjoy would be Darth Vader or Palpatine, Azula, Johan Liebert, Light Yagami. There's more, of course, but that's just a partial list."

This list explains so much of your review. You should watch and read more actual art (which this movie approaches far more than almost anything in your list) and not cartoons and comics pretending to be art.

Just the shark from Jaws is a better villain than your entire list combined (and I say this as someone who likes A:TLA a great deal and whose favorite character is Azula), let alone this Joker.

07/14/2015 00:00:00

That comment might legitimately be one of the most pretentious things I've read on this site.

What is actual art? How can something pretend to be art?

07/14/2015 00:00:00

Because some people judge based on medium rather than content.

07/18/2015 00:00:00

"You should watch and read more actual art"

I'm quite amused by this comment because I'd venture to say that Naoki Urasawa's Monster has FAR greater artistic merit than The Dark Knight. To the point where it's laughable. You know how I first heard of it? When Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz praised it.

As for my other comparisons, given that the Dark Knight is a comic book movie, I made comparisons with similar media. But if you'd prefer a list of films I consider far superior to The Dark Knight, then here it is:

Moon (directed by Duncan Jones) Pan's Labyrinth (also features one of my favorite villains of all time) Lawrence of Arabia David Cronenberg's Spider In Bruges

Do you want me to continue? Ledger does the best he can (and indeed, is the best thing about The Dark Knight, hands down) but he in no way even APPROACHES the quality of villain that someone like, say, Captain Vidal is. In fact, I think it's insulting to compare them given the discrepancy.

That's just my opinion, though. But then, this is my review of the film so I might as well be honest.

10/07/2019 00:00:00

It\'s reviews like these and other comments left here that remind me overall of how tvtropes is full of a bunch of dumbass neckbeards.

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