“The Dark Knight”

I haven’t written a movie review/ramble in forever and as I had the misfortune to see The Dark Knight again over the holidays, I thought it’d be a nice way to restart this little blogging tradition even though most everyone’s thoughts have been typed for months now. I should warn you, however, that surprisingly I’m not much of a fan. But let’s talk about the stuff I did enjoy.

Movie poster

I loved the Joker. Period. I’m not really a big Heath Ledger fan. In fact, I think the only other thing I’ve seen him in was Brokeback Mountain, which just goes to show how eclectic my movie watching is. But anyway, I thought he was brilliant. Every single scene he was in completely entranced me. The way he was written, the way he talked, his laugh, his behavior. Spot on. Not a single complaint. I’m only saddened he’ll never be in a sequel.

The returning case for the most part was also great. I’m warming up to Caine as Alfred, though in my head I’ll always think of the character as more prim. Oldman and Freeman were also a treat. I could totally just watch a Batman movie centered on those three. Batman could even be there if he was sans the reverb.

I managed to see this completely spoiler-free the first time and so I’m sure this helped move Two-Face a bit higher for me on the enjoyment scale. His scary face totally freaked me out. I have a few problems with him, which I’ll detail in a bit, but I did enjoy the foreshadowing we got with the coin and was very much pleased with the hospital scene.

And lastly before I start the quibbling, I did enjoy Bale . . . kind of. His Bruce is just the right mix of smart businessman slash philanthropic good Samaritan slash oblivious playboy. I was also pleased with the direction the film took in terms of Batman’s view on Gotham — this undying faith that it’s worth saving (e.g., the “social experiment” on the ferries and Batman’s firm belief that they would inevitably do the right thing). And yet . . . I think as Batman Bale is just not good. In Begins I thought this was mostly due to the voice and that’s probably very fair for this one too because at least half of the time I couldn’t even understand him through the reverb. But a lot of it really is because I just don’t get the script. Batman has supposedly done so much for Gotham and yet never do we see him directly affecting anyone in the movie. Furthermore, it’s like Batman has no motivation anymore — certainly this is not an adolescent boy who’s avenging his parents’ death. And if that isn’t true, I’d like someone to show me the scene that directly relates to that central motivation because I must have dozed off and missed it. He does say (two times, if I remember properly) that he wants to “inspire” the people but he never mentions keeping them protected which was one of the key things that drove this same character in the previous movie.

Speaking of the writing, though, I’m mostly angered by the fact the movie just doesn’t make sense. It’s like they left a whole bunch of scenes in that really should have been cut. There’s the pretty pointless scene with Scarecrow and the mob and the fake Batman people . . . and then we go to Hong Kong . . . and then somehow Joker wants to kill Dent, a judge, and the Commissioner . . . and then we have like 400 different climactic things go on. Not to mention all the talking. Seriously. I’ve never heard so much pointless blathering on since I stopped watching Star Trek shows. And I understood MORE of the latter. I’m still trying to figure out what half of the things that went on in the movie had to do with pretty much anything that happened after the semi was flipped. And I’ve only managed to make my head not explode by convincing myself that the Joker being involved equals their not being a need for that kind of intelligence. I sincerely doubt that’s the actual reason the writers intended. (If it was I am truly disgruntled.)

One of the biggest issues I have with the movie is that there is absolutely no comic reference whatsoever. Yeah, I get the whole Nolan hates CGI and sidekicks and apparently making me happy. But really there were so many little, tiny things that could have been squeezed in that wouldn’t detract at all from the film but make the comic lover (i.e., me) so happy. A name referenced here, a sign there, a label on this, a casual, quick comment about that. Nothing. And if there was something, I clearly missed it. But for instance, why couldn’t the schlubby, fat cop and the Latina be Bullock and Montoya? (Other than the fact that she ends up being corrupt. And also why does the only female AND minority cop in the film end up being corrupt? Why?!) Especially when you have Two-Face in the movie? Um, hello? No Montoya? Even worse, you have Gordon’s two children introduced and you not only never mention her name, but can’t even show Barbara, Jr.’s face?! I know, Nolan hates sidekicks. But I never said she had to be Batgirl, but why have her physically in the film and never acknowledge the fact? Yes, Jim, Jr. is mentioned, but even among comics fans no one knows who that is!

One of my coworkers and I were discussing this and his reasoning is that Batman is, and I quote, “a macho guy shit kind of movie.” I had to restrain myself from not slapping him nor actually imploding. But in a way that’s exactly how Nolan’s treated my Caped Crusader. As if he’s just for the guys. Because certainly his treatment of woman in the film has left nothing to be desired. I touched on Barbara and Montoya, but Rachel is the prime example. First, it’s worth noting that she’s the only returning part that was recast. This, I find quite profound in several ways, not the least of which being that Katie Holmes is just that replaceable. (I don’t deny that she was my least favorite part of Begins and I was really trying to not judge her harshly simply for the fact I don’t like Holmes.) So why bring the character back at all? As motivation for either Harvey or Bruce she was at best confusing since it’s never clear from one moment to the next who exactly she is in love with. At best Rachel is bland. It’s like she didn’t have a single thought in her head to drive her whatsoever. She was one of the targets of the Joker not because she’s an ADA; no, because SHE’S DATING HARVEY! Oh, and Batman also loves her. If I actually bought her relationship with either of them that might have been something, but her one moment of being proactive — slapping the Joker — is overshadowed by how completely useless she is the rest of the film. Frankly, the entire thing makes so angry I could hardly form words when I first saw this film.

I’m also a bit confused by Two-Face. I thought Eckhart was fantastic. But he wasn’t exactly Two-Face . . . maybe I feel this way mostly because (and I continue to repeat myself with complaints) he didn’t have any strong motivation to run off killing people. Rachel’s death and his own scars were barely a driving force. And by this I mean, Rachel’s part itself seems like a flimsy motivation given the lackluster character she was written as and the scars seemed (as I observed) to barely phase Harvey beyond the scene with Gordon!

The thing that really rives me crazy about the movie — and somehow brings me back to the script yet again — is that it was never ending. Now I’m not against long movies and I certainly enjoy Batman. However, I absolutely loathe films that feel like they’ve ended (or are about to) and don’t. And this one has at least five of those instances. When the semi was flipped, I remember distinctly having to use the restroom and then immediately decided not to because this had to be the climax . . . and the movie goes on for like another hour. I know the movie’s only two-and-a-half hours long but it seriously felt like it never stopped. Especially with all the damned talking. What the heck is up with the constant monologuing? With the exception of everything Joker said, I can’t even pretend that any of it was interesting considering ALL of it managed to negate something said before it.

But the absolute worst thing about this film and what simultaneously sends me into a frothy rage and unfathomable sadness is the ending. Vilifying Batman not only makes utterly no sense, but is absurd to the point of being out of character!

[:: takes a breath ::]

To be honest, there’s probably more I could whinge on about but the more I go on the weaker my complaints seem. I think this is at least partially due to the fact that 99.9% of the people who’ve seen the film love it beyond measure and find my own negativity about it a pointless waste of words given their feelings. And somehow as a fan of Batman I’m supposed to automatically think this movie is amazing and since I don’t no one cares a fig what I think. I’d apologize for all that, but it doesn’t change the simple fact that I find this movie incredibly disappointing.

Speak your piece!

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