July 24, 2008

Dark Knight Musings

I finally got around to seeing The Dark Knight last night and a couple people have emailed wondering about my thoughts so here they are:

1.  I've never been a "Batman guy."  He's a great character, an all time hall of famer in the comic book world and therefore I have great respect for him and his legacy but I've never had a real attachment to him.

2.  The movie is incredibly immersive.  It's length, pacing, tone and arc really pull you in and surround you - it was a very quiet, edgy theatre for the entire film.  That being said I'm not sure it's a world I want to be immersed in.  It was powerful and effective but I don't know if I enjoyed it.

3.  It wasn't very entertaining.  I wasn't bored and it was most certainly not a "bad movie" - it was actually a very good movie, but maybe not a very good "comic book movie?"  This is certainly personal bias but I go into a comic book movie looking for a certain level of escapist, fantastic realism and in most cases Nolan went a different direction and opted for gritty realism.  Not a bad choice, just not as entertaining to me.

4.  Where was this movie set?  Am I right in thinking this is the most solid, real-world Gotham we've ever seen on the screen?  Again, obviously an intentional choice by Nolan to root the plot and it's implications in a plausible, real world context for the obvious impact that it provides but I missed the classic, gothic Gotham.

5.  Where was Batman?  I mean this in two senses.  One, this movie could have just as easily, and maybe more aptly, been named The Joker, Harvey Dent, or Commissioner Gordon.  Their story lines, their character development, their on screen charisma were all much more developed and appealing than Nolan's Bruce Wayne/Batman.  Like I said, I'm not a Batman fanatic but I like Batman more than those guys.  I think they subjugated the psychology, the angst and the struggles of Batman underneath these other characters struggles.  Second, it seemed to me that this was a much weaker Batman than we've seen elsewhere.  Since when were rottweilers Batman's kryptonite?  Again, maybe it is a choice to opt for "realism" but did you see it when he fell off his bike and got knocked out - come on, he's the freaking Batman.  This Batman really could have been Albert II.

6.  The Joker.  As everyone has said - incredible performance - you can't take your eyes off him any time he is on the screen.  But I've never "gotten" the Joker as a super-villain.  Why doesn't someone just hit him over the head or shoot him - the mob, if not a citizen?  I get that his chaotic nihilism, his "you have nothing to frighten me with" persona is so unnerving that it almost creates a shield around him when he is interacting with the public but on some level he's just a crazy guy and we're now living in a world where if you cough funny on an airplane your fellow passengers will pile on you without a seconds thought.  I think the vigilante anarchy that the Joker was trying to catalyze would have turned on him before it turned on itself.  I know, I know, willing suspension of disbelief but it's as if Nolan wanted me to believe everything except the plausibility of the Joker and his schemes - how do you sneak enough explosives into a hospital to blow the entire thing up, how do you roll 200 barrels of gasoline onto a ferry boat without being seen?  It felt less like terrorism and more like incompetence.

7.  I'm going to side step any discussion of underlying themes or critiques of current global political implications because there is enough of that going on elsewhere, but I will say that I think any "message" the film has is in the overall arc of the movie and not in any individual instance or plot point.

8.  Should have been rated R.

9.  3.25 stars.


a conversationalist said...

I think I agree with you on most points or at least parts of most points. I am entertained by most movies, I just like the idea of movies, so it sounds like it was a more enjoyable experience for me (although I know where you are coming from as far as it being difficult to "enjoy"). The setting of the movie is an interesting point. This was definitely not the larger than life Gotham of past films, nor the larger than life Batman. Visually speaking, it was almost like Batman and Gotham switched roles, the city became more believable, but he became less. He really did seem at times like a goof in a suit. Ledger was really hitting on all cylinders. This is probably the most effective "super" villain that I have ever watched. His soliloquies that super folk are famous for were all intentional and for a purpose, mainly to either piss off the person he was talking to or make himself out to be, well, evil. Ledger will be impossible to replace in sequels and I feel bad for the actor whose job it will be to do so. Definitely should have been rated R, and probably should have been two separate movies (more than 2.5 hours, give me a break). I am going to go for 3.5 stars because of the great sound editing. Lastly, I am not sure that this movie did the franchise any good. Where do they go from here without backtracking into the super powered world that seems to work counter to where this film has taken them. I would love to hear some thoughts from true Batman fans, and since I don't really read many other blogs, consider this a call for submissions.

Anonymous said...

As far as opting for gritty realism is concerned, isn't that part of Batman? He is more of a believable character because he could actually exist. (based on your previous research) And true, the movie does seem to highlight more characters other than the Batman (such as the Joker, many kudos to Ledgers performance) but isn't Batman supposed to be more aloof and mysterious? Commissioner Gordon, Harvey Dent and the Joker all tried to make themselves as known as possible in the world of Gotham, whereas Batman is more of "a silent guardian".
As for possible future Jokers, even though I do pity the poor soul who has to fill Ledger's enormous clown shoes, what about Johnny Depp? He might just get into the character enough to do it some justice. Food for thought.
Also, should have been rated R, although I was surprised at the lack of profanities and innuendoes, which I suppose really aren't necessary but probably had a lot to do with its PG-13 rating.
Four stars. I really like Batman.

Ilan Bouchard said...

The movie was shot in Chicago.

Personally, I loved it. But I am a huge Batman fan.

J said...

ac - I had the same thought about where they will go with future films, not sure which direction they take it . . .

anon - my first thought for bringing back joker was depp as well - if i remember correctly he was called in to help finish out the terry gilliam film that ledger was working on. good point on the realism - it's certainly part of the canonical batman world but so are certain other more fantastical elements that seemed missing from this film - if the guy in the cape and mask hadn't shown up every once in a while I would have trouble knowing that it was a comic book movie, which has obviously helped bring in a lot of movie goers and critics that otherwise might not have been so enthusiastic. did i just say "canonical batman"?

ilan - i like batman and i love comic books so most of my quibbles are genre related. it was a good movie but maybe not a good "comic book movie"?

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