29th Jul2008

The Dark Knight – A Review

by Will

“I believe in Harvey Dent.”

joker-poster-for-the-dark-knight

The Dark Knight. OK, so I promised this last week, but I felt I needed to distance myself from the movie enough to really do this justice. Then, I realized there are enough reviews out there, and they’re all glowing. What did I honestly have to bring to the table? Did I love the movie? Yes! Did it make me want to renew my popeship in the Church of Batman? Hells Yeah! However, like every fanboy, a couple of things popped into my head during the movie:

-Nice touch, having Joker kill Spawn. You mean you don’t know what I’m talking about? Black mobster, nice suit? That’s Michael Jai White, who played Spawn in the movie where he was trying to kill President Bartlett…

-How did Joker survive the same fall that killed Gwen Stacey?

– I finally understand what it’s like to live in Gotham City: to witness a clown, dressed as a nurse, blow up a hospital, in broad daylight

– OK, so who didn’t see the Rachel Dawes demise coming? Her role was important enough to recast, yet she’s a Batman character who no one’s heard of? Yeah…

– So, Batman now pretty much has a God’s Eye view on Gotham City. That’s the kind of guy who might one day build a satellite to spy on all of his Super Friends. Hmm..

-I wish I had an Alfred. No, I wish I had Michael Caine as my Alfred.

-I love that every new Batman movie includes a “Bruce Wayne is a Dick” scene. It’s like watching deleted scenes from American Psycho, and I still think the Bruce Wayne persona is more fascinating than people give it credit. I think the “I believe in Harvey Dent” slogan is pretty cheesy, but if you really take it to heart, it kinda grows on you.

-Anybody watch Gotham Knight? OK, then why the Hell did they go to the lengths of making us like Anna Ramirez, just to have her turn out to be the 24-esque mole (and why were the creators afraid to call her who she really was: Renee Montoya?)? OK, I can kind of understand why, but I still don’t really get the purpose of that DVD. It didn’t accomplish anything, and it would’ve had more of an impact if it had been released a year ago, as something to hold us over, and included the voices of the actual cast, a la the Hellboy animated DVD series.

– What was with that Batman voice? I think I’m just programmed to only like Kevin Conroy at this point.

-Heath was terrifying. I mean, that performance was incredible, and it certainly paints Joker in a new light. It’s easy to lose sight of what his primary motive is: nothing. There’s no logic, rhyme, nor reason to what he does. I just read Batman: Strange Apparitions, where Joker decided to kill everyone whose name was a palindrome. He opened up the phone book, and went in alphabetical order. That’s how twisted he is! Batman *is* the reason the criminals have upped the ante. When you’ve got a guy dressed as a bat, beating up criminals, it’s going to inspire more colorful foes. At times, he seems to realize this, but he refuses to accept it. If he’d just quit, I kinda feel like the mob would take over Gotham, and all the gimmick villains would simply move to Metropolis….

– So, who’s gonna make all of Batman’s gear now?

-Once again, nice touch moving Bruce to Wayne Tower. That happened back in the 70s, when he felt that the mansion was too far away from the city for him to be effective. I actually feel it’d be a harder secret to keep, what with city planning and all, but it was a nice touch, nonetheless.

-So, they hired Cillian Murphy for 5 minutes? OK…

-And what a letdown on the Anthony Michael Hall tip. His role had been top secret for months, and we all thought he’d be someone we know, like Firefly or maybe a revamped Bob the Goon. Instead, he’s just Random News Guy.

-If there’s one thing I’ve learned that Batman and The Hulk have in common, it’s that they both hate those fucking dogs…

-It’s OK, Bruce – you dodged a bullet. Rachel wasn’t gonna age well anyway…

Now, I’ve been in a state of Batman overload since watching The Dark Knight. In the past 10 days, I have read the following:

Batman: Knightfall Vol. 1 TP
Batman: Knightfall Vol. 2 TP
Batman: Knightfall Vol. 3 TP
Batman: The Long Halloween TP
Batman: Dark Victory TP
Batmn: Ego GN
Batman Adventures: The Lost Years TP
Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia GN

That’s over 1500 pages of Batman! Then, to cap it off, I watched all of Disc 1 of season 4 of Batman: The Animated Series (AKA “The Good Cartoon”). Let’s just say that even I think I’ve gone too far. That said, I realized a new side of Batman, a sadder side. You see, most of those books encompass the period early in his career, as seen in The Dark Knight. The interesting part of that era is that Bruce Wayne seemed to think that “Batman” was temporary. As you even see in the movie, he dreams of the day that crime will be vanquished, and a good, noble, public hero can take his place. He saw Harvey Dent as that person. Bruce felt that one day, he could just walk away and lead a normal life. That doesn’t happen.

I just find that so interesting & depressing – he basically got stuck in a dead-end job, and struggles to accept it(See? It happens to rich people, too!). Declaring a war on crime is akin to declaring a war on terror – it’s a bit naive to believe that there can ever been an end to that war, plus that battle comes at a price. He had to sacrifice his own happiness, his own life, so that he could keep his promise to his dead parents, and rid the streets of crime. Now, Batman’s a pretty intelligent guy. By some accounts, he’s the most intelligent character in the DCU. Now, that said, I find it odd that someone so smart could convince himself that the impossible was actually possible. He’s certainly got a masochistic side, but he couldn’t hope to win. Maybe it was his pampered upbringing, or just the desire to please his parents, but I just don’t see how he ever thought there’d be an end to this life once he put on the cape. Or maybe he’s just punishing himself. Survivor’s Guilt? And I think there’s a story there: at what point did he realize he was in it for the Long Haul? Does he even realize that currently? In early stories, he thinks he’ll one day win, but lately, it seems like he’s Batman because he doesn’t know how to be anything else. The current approach occasionally drives him to do rash things, like keep files on how to kill his friends or build a sentient satellite to spy on those same friends. I just wonder, 9 years into his career, does he even want to stop? Could he stop? What would he do if he did stop being Batman? Like I said, I really think there’s a story there.

Anyway, The Dark Knight was incredible. If you haven’t seen it, you’re no longer my friend.

4 Responses to “The Dark Knight – A Review”

  • James

    I bought the shirt of “I Believe in Harvey Dent”. Seriously, The Dark Knight is fucking phenomenal – without hyperbole, it’s the best comic book movie ever made. Bar none. As for your commentary….

    – Michael Jai White’s character was almost played by David Banner, the rapper from Mississippi. Think about it …. the Joker almost killed The Incredible Hulk in the same summer as they tried to revamp that franchise. Given that, I’m glad he took out an extra from an old Tyler Perry movie instead. It’s just easier.

    – Being a deranged psychopath is just cooler than being a blonde bimbo. Cool people live in comics. The only folk who stay dead for any number of years are people like Jason Todd and Jean-Paul Valley.

    – Taking out the hospital was surreal. You just knew that the Nolans wrote that hospital scene as happening with doctors and nurses and patients dying in the explosion, and that DC totally freaked at watching a terrorist act on screen. Still, that was brilliant joker: unmitigated evil acting in broad daylight just because. Perfect stuff.

    – Rachel Dawes is dead! DEAD! Yes!

    – And yes, Bruce cares nothing for anyone else’s personal privacy. I mean, this is a Batman who decides that he doesn’t have to save everyone, like, say, Ra’s al Ghul. Wonderful commentary on the US Patriot Act, though.

    – The untimely death of Heath Ledger seriously undercuts the amazing performance of Christian Bale. He WAS Batman. Further, no one else comes close to his skill as Bruce Wayne. It’s a wonderful dualism, because neither persona offers a likable character for viewers. You know Bruce is a dick and Bats is a psychopath. And what’s worse, both are necessary for the salvation of Gotham City. Seriously, Ledger’s Joker produced game-changing skill with that character, but Christian Bale offers a Batman so consciously in touch with the psychological trauma of his origin that his brand of justice is inexorably tainted and impure, and therefore unpalatable for the long-term uplift of Gotham City. And this Batman KNOWS that. On screen. In real time!

    Basically, Bruce Wayne has to believe that Batman is a temporary measure, or he couldn’t function in that role. No city should require a Batman, because Batman embodies society’s failure to preserve, protect and defend innately good people from physical and emotional harm. And Bats is truly intelligent, so he personally desires a sun-god, a golden boy who can act as the hero Gotham deserves. The dark always hates itself for existing, and envies the light’s unsullied goodness. The Dark Knight’s examination of these tropes, especially the inevitable setting of the golden boy by the agent of Chaos create the definitive comic book film examination, bar none. Nothing I’ve ever seen from a mainstream Marvel comic, much less movie, could possibly approach this brilliance.

    – Anna Marinez was just cute. Further, I’m very glad that characters like Killer Croc and Deadshot could be used in the Nolan continuity without appearing in the movie itself. Further, this was the only time I haven’t lamented Kevin Conroy’s Batman vocals. This was unbridled aggression, tactical rage. He is a man who appeared superhuman on camera, and those demonic vocals worked.

    – The Scarecrow cameo was a great touch, one that linked Batman Begins to The Dark Knight well. The idea that past villains are just running around Gotham all the time causing mischief just appeals to me. And you’re right about a great Batman story just lurking within the idea of Batman’s compulsion to be Batman, but I think the problem with the more recent ‘mid-to-late career’ Batman stories is that they all assume that Batman can logically convince himself at all times that he is still necessary, or that he stops asking himself the question. Both options don’t make sense. Batman is all about performance evaluation — he’s a corporate exec. That’s why stories like Batman: Officer Down piss me off, because Bats hides all his introspection in brooding when shit goes wrong and Jim Gordon gets shot. He’s not Joss Whedon’s Angel, he’s Batman! And Batman always asks the hard question.

    For example: “Hey, criminals aren’t afraid of me anymore because they know I don’t kill. What to do?” Solution: “Have Jim Gordon convince everyone I do kill. Problem solved.”

    Further, Batman is probably the least idealistic mainstream superhero ever. The reader would have to believe that Bats somehow enjoys being Batman each and every day in order to buy the assumption that Batman would assume that even when he’s effective and crime is down in Gotham City, that he would always be needed. Any story willing to take on the necessity of Batman needs to ask whether Batman recognizes his impact on Gotham City, and whether he understands that his presence meant that Gotham City’s evil had to up the ante to maintain balance. Alfred’s speech in the middle of The Dark Knight has to be the most concise explanation of that entire ‘gangsters vs. freaks’ trope from the Long Halloween in Batman history, and because they centered this movie on a particular Gotham City examination of heroism, we have to applaud the film.

    Best. Comic. Book. Movie. EVER.

  • jenn

    I believe in Harvey Dent, too.

    Hater.

  • James

    Here’s a question for you, Will: do you believe we’ve seen a ‘definitive’ Batman and Joker on screen at this point?

    I haven’t yet purchased the recent essay collection about the Dark Knight, but I’ve thumbed through a few pages in a bookstore, and one of the essays interrogates if and why Batman Begins offered a ‘definitive’ Batman portrayal, one that will cement the Dark Knight’s perspective and persona in the public’s mind for years to come.

    So I ask you: from what you’ve seen, has that lightning struck twice outside of Barry Allen’s lab? Have we found the ‘definitive’ Joker in Heath Ledger’s performance?

  • Anonymous

    Shouldn’t there be spoiler alerts everywhere here? Good thing I’ve already seen it. 😛

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