Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Dark Knight Commentary

This movie was well received for two reasons.  First, it was a highly anticipated sequel to a very successful movie.  Second, it centred on a pop culture villain that is only slightly less popular than Darth Vader.  Add in a very good interpretation of that villain by Heath Ledger and it was destined to be remembered as better than it was.  I don’t want to speak ill of the dead but, if Ledger hadn’t passed away shortly after this movie, it would still be remembered as a good performance.  But it wouldn’t have the legendary status that it has received as his swansong legacy.

Again, I don’t want to take anything away from it because the performance is top notch.  We’re used to the Joker being a real clown with no basis in reality.  Instead, Ledger seemed to take Jack Nicholson’s Joker from the 1990 Batman, threw in some Johnny Depp inspiration and made him devoid of any morality.  The end result is a sociopath that just wants to make the world a worse place.  The only problem I had with the performance was that, about halfway through, Ledger started constantly licking his lips for some unexplained reason.   That was very distracting.  I also didn’t care for the teasing of the audience with him “explaining” how he got the scars.  In a genre of film where character background is so important, they took a big one and completely changed it from the canon.  But that isn’t Ledger’s fault.  He took what was written and made it chilling.

It’s the fault of the writing and film making in general.  I really think Christopher Nolan dropped the ball on this one.  The writing and story is a not even thinly veiled commentary on giving up civil liberties in the face of terrorism.  The absolute preachiness of this film made it difficult to watch.  Then, there’s the model of Gotham itself.  Nolan took a city that he portrayed as dark, cramped and depraved in Batman Begins and made it a much lighter and less congested Chicago (oops … I mean … Gotham).  I believe he was trying to show how the city was digging itself out of hell but the change is just so drastic for a period of one year.  It also really takes away from the continuity of the series.  That’s something almost unforgivable when both movies are made and written by the same director.

Finally, with the exception of Ledger, the acting is quite poor.  Christian Bale took his annoying gravelly voice of Batman from the first one and managed to make it even more difficult to listen to and believe.  It was almost as if the new suit Fox made for him was cutting off circulation to his brain.  Then, they decide to bring in one of the worst big name actors Hollywood has in Aaron Eckhart to play Harvey Dent.  The combination results in very forced and cheesy dialogue, especially when any kind of emotion from either Batman or Dent is involved.

It needs to be seen if you want to watch the trilogy.  But, if you want to watch a stand-alone movie, don’t see it.  There’s nothing better in the action or story to make it stand out from Batman Begins.  The great performance from Ledger is outweighed by the poor film making and political agenda.


  1. ok, many many points to make here... i know you didn't like it, and that's fine, but mayhap I can clear up some of the things you didn't get or things? anyway... off we go...

    So... Part One of my rebuttal!

    "This movie was... ...Darth Vader."

    Now, I would also add, it was well-received also because it was an amazing piece of work. Check out 'The Dark Knight's score on Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregation site: Among all critics it rates a 94% fresh, (good in RT speak), among top critics only, it rates a 91%, and even the general public gives it a whopping 96%. Add all the evidence together, and you have a very well-received film, and probably not just for the reasons you list. It really was an amazing film. I am sorry it didn't connect with you though.

    "Add in... ...swansong legacy."

    This performance is... Heath was freaking INcandescent in this role, it's the little things that make it, too. The look on his face when he's hanging out the police car, with his face in the wind. But we'll get back to Heath. His *actual* swansong would be 'The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus', which he died partway through the filming of. His death may have helped with PR for Dark Knight, but you can not take anything away from his Oscar-winning role here as The Joker, he was a complete wonder.

    "Again, I... ...in reality."

    Maybe you are, but anyone who has read the comics is not used to that. Even on Batman: The Animated Series, The Joker was scary. And in Burton's (lovely film but BAD Batman, btw) Batman, the Joker is very scary still, he kills many many people, (but so, presumably, does Batman, which makes that film really bad Batman, but I digress).

    "...The only problem... ...the canon."

    Actually... the lip licking thing is tied to the fact that he has, because of his scars, a drier mouth than normal people, I assumed anyway, it made sense to me. Also, the telling many different ways he could have gotten his scars is totally canon, since we've never had one definitive answer for how the Joker became the Joker, so it is a nod to that. From his first appearance until now, he's had almost as many origin stories as he's had looks.

    (part 2 coming soon here)

  2. And now, for Part Two of Liz's Rebuttal!

    "It’s the... ...of terrorism."

    This was hardly the only lesson on display here, it was a very brief part of the overall story, and, unlike the powers we actually have in charge now, Bruce Wayne at least destroyed the technology once the threat had passed. It's not really about that at all. Certainly, like District 9, X-Men, even the new Amazing Spider-man, or any number of other action or superhero films, there are social thoughts and messages in them. This has always been the way of, certainly, Science Fiction in general, which in general includes the Super Hero genre. If there were no effective social observations in it, we'd complain it was 'fluffy' or 'silly', it would turn into the horrid 'Batman and Robin', and no-one wants that, I hope

    "Then, there’s... ...one year."

    Well, actually, since the giant train crash and explosion at the end of 'Batman Begins' took out most of downtown Gotham, including Wayne Tower, it makes perfect sense that they had to rebuild everything, right? I've seen huge buildings go up in less time than that, and I'm sure a city the size of Gotham, (which is like New York size,) has more than one enough construction firms to handle this huge job of re-raising Gotham's centre.

    "Finally, with... ...his brain."

    Ok, this is the one spot I have to raise my opinion. I've tried to just stick to facts and explanations until now, but... Seriously? You're going to kick on Bale, one of the finest actors of his generation, because you don't like his Batman voice? He *has* to make his voice sound different, or everyone would know who he was, as the famous Prince of Gotham, and certainly by the time 'Dark Knight' comes out, that will be more important than ever, as he's more famous than ever, and constantly on, one can imagine, the likes of TMZ and things. People know how he sounds, as a billionaire philanthropist playboy, and presumably as Batman too. There have to be cell phone pics or movies of him with talking on the internet. We never see these things, but you know they would exist in our world, and Nolan's Batman universe is very very close to our world.

    "Then, they... ...Dent is involved."

    Again, not sure how, I mean, ok, going into 'Dark Knight', I had no use for Eckhart, but he amazed me in this film. He made me laugh, and cry, and was the perfect tragic hero driven to madness, I thought he was completely wonderful. As to Bale expressing emotion, how could you not be completely slain by Bruce, like, all the time? Bruce has a quiet, real emotional being. He wasn't yelling and screaming, but it was very effective, because of that.

    At any rate, I hope some of the info here will help you maybe rethink your opinion of this film. It it one of my favourites of all time, sitting firmly in my top 5 with Jaws, The Man Who Would Be King, Psycho (Hitchcock, original) and The Thing (1982, Carpenter).

  3. Liz, you make some very good points. I was mistaken about the canon stuff. I can definitely accept those parts of Ledger's performance then. I know Imaginarium was his last role but a very large portion of the populace will remember this as being his big finale. Not everyone is as into movies as you and I.

    As for being well-reviewed, if others like it, that's great. This blog is just for my personal opinions and observations on movies.

    As for Bale, I 100% disagree with you on him being one of the finest of his generation. Again, a personal opinion. I just don't like him.

    Finally, as for the message in the movie, I again disagree. if there were other lessons, they were completely drowned out by the whole overlying "big brother is OK temporarily in a crisis" one. Yes, he destroyed the technology and that's the point Nolan was trying to get across in the political agenda.

    I'm glad it's one of your favourites. I know you love it and all of the Batman franchise so I'm glad you are enjoying these. I'll probably still go see the third one because I want to see how it ends.

  4. I agree Wayne had to change his voice to be Batman for the reasons you give. But did he have to make it sound so much like he was struggling to breathe while trying to cough? He's Bruce freaking Wayne! He's got billions and I'm sure access to technology that can make a voice sound any way he wants. And he picks that?

  5. As to the voice thing, I don't know how, with current tech, you would accomplish it without using a mask like Bane's in Rises. As for the message, for me it was all about sacrifice. Everyone is making sacrifices through the whole film, although not always in ways as altruistic as Mssrs. Wayne and Dent, for example. As for Mr. Bale, I'd like to point out the fabulous 'Empire of the Sun', when he was just a lad; 'Rescue Dawn'; 'The Machinist'; and 'American Psycho'. Oh, and 'The Prestige', his other film with Chris Nolan. He's remarkable in all of these, and I maintain my opinion of him. :)

    Also, I just love talking about movies with people who love movies, hehe. :)