Review: The Dark Knight

In many ways there is little to say about this film that hasn’t already been said. It is as good as you’re all hoping. Ledger’s performance is jaw-dropping. It is visually arresting, with epic action sequences and an adroit deployment of CGI that doesn’t override the film’s darker bursts of greatness. Complex, rich, extremely well-acted characters. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Rachel Dawes is far more nuanced and complex than the saccharine Katie Holmes. Nolan is a filmmaker whose talents are as unique as they are obvious.

Oh, and the Bat Bike kicks ass.

Still, this is more than a superbly executed action film or even the best to date of the superhero genre. This is, at its core, a message film that refuses to browbeat its audience with message. This is a story about what happens to a society saturated with and driven by fear, and about blurring the lines that separate good from evil deeds and people. Ledger’s Joker (Jack who?) mesmerizes from the moment he takes the screen, taking viewers in quite literally with a magic trick. He is terrifying—a terrorist in the profoundest sense—yet driven by a nihilistic and anarchic arithmetic that seems to flow naturally and inexorably from the rubbish-heap of self-righteous order civilization attempts to impose on itself. His violent impulse is not creative or even destructive but rather deconstructive. It moves the world not by imposing an alternative kind of order but by inverting the logic of existing, artificial order on itself. How do you catch a forest bandit motivated not by greed but by the sheer exhilaration of the crime, Bruce asks Alfred.

By burning down the forest.

Running perpendicular to Joker’s axis of sublime chaos and misanthropic disgust are the triangulating coordinates of indignant justice and focused outrage of Batman (a character almost wholly distinct here from Bruce Wayne). Not unaware of the structural weaknesses inherent in the proper legal and political order of things, Batman operates within the undefined, unordered, dark space at its edges. If the question of his status—hero or vigilante?—vexes the residents of Gotham, none is more positively tortured by it than the Batman himself. He and Joker cascade toward each other with an elemental ferocity matched in intensity only by their tormented humanity. Both the products of cruel childhood violence, the nearer each gets to the other, the more staggering the breakdown of the hero/villain binary. Just minutes after hearing him castigate the well-meaning Harvey Dent for allowing his visceral rage to threaten his moral authority and his ability to combat terror in a botched torture session with a low-level conspirator, we recoil in horror as Batman allows his own rage to assume control while bludgeoning the none-too-pleased Joker. Part of the point of the XY-axis analogy is that the two must intersect, and as the two outlaws share the space of the interrogation room we see this convergence.

The other point of intersection is in the character of Harvey Dent who, through a cruel twist of fate, has his uncompromised and fearless commitment to justice torqued into an insatiable thirst for vengeance. As Gotham’s white knight he is a symbol for civil and civilized justice that Batman can never be. His ascendancy even furnishes hope for Wayne’s desire to relinquish his dark, heavy armor. As the blighted, unflinchingly cruel Two-Face, his violence is spurred by a personal sense of violated propriety for which Joker has only sneering contempt. Dent’s moral reversal is Joker’s victory—by driving the public hero and bastion of moral justice and civil(ized) order into a murderous rampage of vengeance-taking, he has created a personification of the hypocrisy he sees at the heart of modern society. I’ll refrain from spoiling, but on a certain level, Joker fails by underestimating the goodness of the people his violence is aimed at ruining. But if his terroristic goal was to turn heroes into villains, he has manifestly succeeded.

In the end, that is all we’re left with. This is The Unforgiven of superhero movies. The mythologies are deconstructed piece by piece, and we experience the chaotic result, the post-film, post-superhero trauma, if you will, on an almost visceral level. The Dark Knight is an anti-hero in the profoundest sense.

Yours truly,
Cinnamon J. Scudworth

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105 thoughts on “Review: The Dark Knight

  1. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. I haven’t gone to a midnight show since I was a teenager, but this movie tempted me (even though it was playing in twelve theaters, they were all sold out). I’m going tomorrow with my wife then afterwards we’ll discuss my good qualities that help her overlook my total geekiness when it comes to comic-book-related movies.

  2. Interesting. I’ve got tickets for Tuesday on the IMAX. I can’t wait.

    The three repeated criticisms I’ve read about are these.

    1. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s acting is subpar – especially when you consider the caliber of actor she is. It’s interesting you praised her. I also heard some of the gangsters are lame.

    2. The action isn’t as well directed as it could be. Although this might be due to folks wanting long shot kung fu battles ala The Matrix or the last Star Wars trilogy or even the Bourne movies.

    3. The cinematography while good isn’t as great as in Batman Begins.

    It’s interesting since I really dug the action style in Batman Begins precisely because it had that confused kinetic vibe to it. I liked that Batman seemed a force of nature out of the shadows. I don’t want to just see Batman doing Aikido like a Steven Segal movie. The whole sequence in Begins where Batman takes on 8 mobsters was fantastic in my book.

    I’m curious as to what you think though. BTW – anyone seen it in IMAX yet?

  3. I’m seeing it in IMAX tomorrow morning. Clark, I’ve heard those same complaints (except re: Maggie Gyllenhaal), but always tempered by something to the effect of, “but these are minor quibbles.”

  4. Maggie Gyllenhaal is a thing of beauty and positively lights up the screen whenever she’s on. Just sayin’.

    I’m completely excited to go see this.

  5. I also heard some of the gangsters are lame.

    I remember thinking the always-fantastic Tom Wilkinson was kind of subpar in his gangster role in Batman Begins. He couldn’t quite seem to get a handle on that NY accent.

  6. I thought Maggie could have been better, but I still like her much better than Holmes.

    The action was excellent from my perspective. It isn’t finely choreographed like a Matrix sequence or a Kurosawa pic, but Nolan captures a kind of elemental destructive force emanating out from the two pro-/an-tagonists. The chase scenes are cool (did I mention that the Bat Bike kicks ass?), but the fight scenes are terrific.

    The cinematography is different from Begins. It seems to be deliberately disjointed. The Gotham of Begins was dark and brooding, rough-edged and, uh, Gothic. The Gotham of DK is bright and beautiful, a rising city on a hill by day, ruled by the figure of the courageous and principled Harvey Dent. In stark juxtaposition, it is chaotic and dismal (though less so than in Begins) by night — the realm of the Batman. Joker shatters the symmetry by bringing the terror of the dark chaos into the open daylight in his effort to unmask Batman and exfoliate the latent violence lurking under the polished surfaces of the city. In short, I found the cinematography completely apropos and even central to the larger story Nolan is trying to tell.

  7. I just got back (no IMAX, though; maybe I’ll manage that later). It was great, but towards the end I had a hard time following every twist and turn. I need to see it again.

    I came home early from work, bought my tickets online and went to a 3:35 p.m. show. That worked just fine. But coming out the lines for the evening shows were quite long. I feel great that I managed to even see it today.

  8. I don’t think we can say that the Joker was a victim of violence as a child. He told the story of his scars in a couple of different ways. I think he’s just messing with people. In an interview Nolan said he didn’t want the audience knowing anything about the Joker, why he is the way he is. We can’t explain him or understand him.

  9. Perhaps the most intriguing thing about the Joker’s identity/biography is that he has none.

    That reminds me of a line from Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke.”

    In that tale, the Joker has flashbacks to his life before becoming the Joker. Except that is undercut later when he tells Batman “sometimes I remember my past one way, sometimes another. If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!”

    Haven’t seen the movie yet, but I will soon.

  10. I just got back from seeing it. My only fear is that it might have gone too big, and too dark. I’m not sure where it can go after this.

    That being said, I loved it. Ledger’s performance lived up to everything you’ve heard. The most common comparison is to Hannibal Lecter and I think that’s spot on.

    The chase scene was incredible. And the Joker’s “magic trick” was brilliant in how it set the stage for him.

  11. The plot in “Dark Knight” is weak and unclever, so I had a hard time sitting through this movie. There was nothing creative about the plot points. It was all just muddled nonsense masquerading as something deep and philosophical. In reality, it was just boring.

    The movie’s imagery was good; Batman’s costume is cool and Chicago makes an impressive Gotham City. But in 2008 good imagery is par for the course– pretty much every movie these days has great imagery, costumes, and special effects.

    Heath Ledger was surprisingly not annoying. His performance was pretty good. But it is not enough to salvage a nearly plotless movie.

    On a scale of 1 to 10, 4.

  12. I found the plot to be really engaging and interesting and the philosophical underpinnings very thought provoking. Different strokes, I suppose.

  13. WHat did you guys think of the previews? The Watchmen, The Day the Earth Stood Still, etc.

  14. I have an odd question. How did the movie make you feel at the end? It sounds like a very well done movie, but I don’t really want to wade through so much darkness unless there will be at least some light at the end of the tunnel.

  15. California Condor, I doubt you’ve seen the movie.

    Tammy, at the end I felt sad, and with some doubts about human nature, but resolve to face the future.

    Tim, our previews were of Watchmen (see sidebar) and of The Half-Blood Prince. Both were outstanding.

  16. Tom (14),

    The plot fails because it has no clear MacGuffin (objective) to drive the story, and the twists are underwhelming. I have no problem with anti-heroes or shades or moral gray, but the movie overplays this angle way too much. This overemphasis comes across as sophmoric rather than thought-provoking. And then it’s hard to care about a story that takes place in such a far-fetched world; not only can Batman and his ex-girlfriend fall off a skyscraper, land on a taxi, and joke about it, but he also just happened to have built a cell phone system that can listen to every conversation made in the city. When anything goes, there can’t be much in the way of interesting conflict. Entertaining dialogue could salvage a movie lacking interesting conflict, but unfortunately, most of the spoken lines in Dark Knight are weak. “Alfred, she was going to marry me.” “Daddy, Batman didn’t do anything wrong.”

    Tammy (16),

    At the end of the movie, I was glad it was over. Not because it was dark, but because the plot was getting tedious. The movie has great special effects but it is very badly written. Most of the dialogue is cringe-worthy.

    Supergenius (17),

    In a way, I wish you were right. But I suppose I am glad I saw it, so I can tell everyone that the Emperor has no clothes on.

  17. A powerful film – because of Heath Ledger. I agree with Kevin Barney that the end of the movie (with all its twists and turns) is a little hard to follow. But wow, Heath Ledger is amazing. His Joker is honestly a very scary guy. There one moment (involving him and another character) when I wanted to shut my eyes because I was afraid of what I was going to see.

    I think future superhero/villain roles will be weighed against the way Heath Ledger played the Joker and it’s going to be very, very difficult for actors to achieve that kind of effect and impact in a role. What a total freak this Joker is – and that’s a good thing for the film.

  18. California Condor –

    You’re full of twaddle on this. You didn’t see the movie, even if you were present while it was playing. Possibly you had some kind of indegestion that was distracting you at the time?

    ~

  19. but he also just happened to have built a cell phone system that can listen to every conversation made in the city.

    Umm. You know that is standard tech, right? The police use it all the time. You just need a search warrant. A long time concern of many privacy advocates is if someone could hack into it.

    Even more concerning are hacked routers by the Chinese. These monitor all packets going through them. They were forged Cisco routers and ended up in many areas including defense ones.

    The technology to do all this really isn’t even very complicated.

  20. To add while I haven’t seen the movie I believe a lot of those aspects are a commentary on things actually happening right now in our country. You can agree with them or disagree with them. But I think the film is attempting to ask what happens when you break rules and the ends justifies the means? Chaos erupts.

    Whether you agree with this politically or not it seems odd to dispute it is a real controversy right now.

    As to falling off buildings I can’t say. I’m a pedantic physicist when it comes to these movies. And there were some elements of the last film that bugged the heck out of me – mainly remnants of the original script which was very “comic book like.”

  21. I have an odd question. How did the movie make you feel at the end? It sounds like a very well done movie, but I don’t really want to wade through so much darkness unless there will be at least some light at the end of the tunnel.

    There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Gotham is still moving forward, and is hopeful for the future. Batman is sacrificing himself so that hope can continue and so the people can still believe in a hero like Harvey Dent.

    WHat did you guys think of the previews? The Watchmen, The Day the Earth Stood Still, etc.

    Watchmen’s visuals look amazing and match the book very well. I’m hopefull, but still wondering how they can fit so much story into a two hour movie.

    The plot in “Dark Knight” is weak and unclever, so I had a hard time sitting through this movie. There was nothing creative about the plot points. It was all just muddled nonsense masquerading as something deep and philosophical. In reality, it was just boring.

    I’m glad we didn’t see the same film. You must have watched the animated Batman that was just released to middling reviews.

    His Joker is honestly a very scary guy. There one moment (involving him and another character) when I wanted to shut my eyes because I was afraid of what I was going to see.

    You only had one moment like this? One of the reasons he made such a great character was the unpredictability. I loved every time he was on screen doing something no regular mob boss would be doing. And I thought the lies about his origin were fantastic. In one of the Batman books he tells Batman he likes his history to be full of multiple choice, and this captured that well.

  22. WHat did you guys think of the previews? The Watchmen, The Day the Earth Stood Still, etc.

    The only preview that showed in mine was Burn After Reading, the new Coen Brothers movie (which looks great). I didn’t see the movie in a mega-plex though, which may be why.

  23. I’ll say what I’ve said before (though none of you have read it, I’d wager,) mostly because it was really short and I usually don’t achieve that sort of thing twice in a row.

    – The editing was weird.
    – The Joker was awesome and I really believed Heath Ledger was crazy.
    – I knew most of the deaths (and other fate-related events) well in advance because, quite frankly, they were telegraphed in the extreme; and,
    – I will never think of Two Face in the same way again.

    I’ll add that I missed Katie Holmes. But ever since I realized that they’d replaced Darren in Bewitched, I’ve hated actor substitutions pretty much regardless of the context, so my reaction shouldn’t be considered normative for all the non-crazy people out there. ^_^

    As far as the previews are concerned:
    – I liked the preview but I’ve heard too much about the revisions to the plot in TDTESS and I probably won’t see in the theatres because I’ll be too annoyed the whole time. It looks very mystical and creepy.
    – Watchmen looked terrifying and spectacular – a bit like Chronicles of Riddick in tone, I guess? I will probably be too scared to watch it.
    – I thought it was really strange, but they played a trailer for The Dark Knight right before they played all the other trailers. I’m a “spoiler free” freak, so this was upsetting.

    Oh, and I’ve found that an easy way to distinguish between reviews of this film is to ask people whether it felt “long” or not. I was honestly shocked when it was only 2:40am when we got out; it felt more like 4am to me. I think it’s the excessive quantity of good ending points.

  24. I forgot the other trailer they had. It was for the new Terminator movie. It didn’t really show much though.

  25. A friend and sometimes KB reader emailed me the following insights on the film:

    i saw the movie yesterday, and liked it a lot. i like your triangulation idea, though you left out the idea that i thought was most poignant in the whole film – the paradox/choice between dying a hero and living to become the villain. i thought that much of the film was driven by this idea (which you sort of allude to), which (and this was certainly biased by a classics degree) is in a modernist rejoinder to the achilles/trojan mythic cycle, especially the paradox of living a long life and returning home vs. dying a hero at troy. (this is the distinction that sets up the two great heroes of homeric epic, achilles and odysseus.) batman adds the moral component (whereas the greeks just had to choose which kind of glory they sought, without clear preference being given to one over the other) so that “evil” and “darkness” become possibilities, but it seems the central idea remains – that of a heroic choice for one fate or another.

  26. One thing I will say – I was fascinated by the movie but the ending seemed a little bit laggy – maybe because the Joker kind of fell off the screen at that point. After so much interesting stuff to see – whatever they were doing after the Joker went offscreen wasn’t as interesting. It felt to me like they didn’t know quite how to end the movie.

    Also, with these comic book movies, we’re getting used to seeing some kind of teaser after the credits. The Joker was so AWESOME that I was expecting him to show up and say something or do something for the audience. The black screen after the credits felt like an opportunity passed up.

    I do wonder if they had something like that planned – but perhaps Heath Ledger’s passing made them take that sort of thing out(?). Hard to tell.

    So oddly, I was feeling a little empty on leaving the theater. I felt ready to be exilarated but that wasn’t the feeling I walked away with.

    That isn’t going to stop me from going to see this movie in the theater again. Seeing this only once on the big screen just isn’t enough.

  27. I really dislike the after credits stuff. I mean I’ve liked them, but I don’t like that I have to hear about it in advance so I know to stay.

  28. What Clark said (#23). I suspect as a (civil) Libertarian who hates the war on terror, I connected with it better than most of the people I know. I found if I just change the central figures of the film to those on today’s political stage, I found the film VERY revealing.

    I give it a 9 out of 10 (it would have been 8 without the bike!).

  29. I just came back. Wow. 10/10. Up there with Raiders of the Lost Ark as best action film in history. I’m not sure what people were saying about the third act having problems or being confusing. Vastly superior to the third act of the first Batman.

    Fantastic. I’m in awe. Make sure you see it in IMAX.

  30. Now I wish I saw it in IMAX.

    I agree it’s better than any previous Batman movie. I thought the Third act lost focus a little through trying to show what was going on in so many places at once (Two Face, Joker, Batman etc.)

  31. Has anyone read the interview with Jack Nicholson where he says he’s mad because he wasn’t offered or even considered for the role of The Joker in this movie?

  32. I’m not going to talk about all the great positives because everyone already has, and they are quite obvious.

    #18 California Condor

    A MacGuffin is not necessary, and might not be what you think it is. A MacGuffin is something that helps to drive the plot at the start of the movie, but is basically a glorified red herring. If you had problems with motivation, etc. that is fine, but a Macguffin wouldn’t have helped much.

    Maggie Gyllenhaal was boring, like she is in everything else I’ve seen her in. Of course this puts her on par with Katie Holmes from BB, so no negative points there I suppose.

    My main complaint with Batman Begins was that there was no 3rd act. The whole movie builds up to this bog confrontation and then boom, Batman derails a train or something and it is over in 45 seconds.

    Dark Knight seems to go the other extreme and the 3rd act seems to drag on forever, the movie could have easily been 15-20 minutes shorter.

    The change to two face seemed a tad abrupt, but no big deal.

    That’s cool if you take political lessons from the film, but that was not the intention of the writers. Any connection to modern day and Bush & Co. are coincidental.

    All movies have their warts, so these are not major gripes. I give it 9 out of 10.

  33. I thought the Third act lost focus a little through trying to show what was going on in so many places at once (Two Face, Joker, Batman etc.)

    There were a lot of cinematic borrowings in the film. Michael Mann’s Heat is an obvious example which is apparent in several places in the film – especially the opening. But I think the ending owed a lot to the Godfather films.

    Has anyone read the interview with Jack Nicholson where he says he’s mad because he wasn’t offered or even considered for the role of The Joker in this movie?

    I took that as tongue in cheek. He did praise Burton a lot though.

  34. I’d disagree strongly there was no 3rd act but it was much more akin to a drama 3rd act than an action 3rd act. There were pretty strong art house influences in the film.

  35. Ok, I finally saw it today. Here is my take: Overrated.

    I did enjoy Ledger hamming it up and the scenes with him in nurse outfit were especially amusing. But overall I found the movie to be a disappointment.

    For whatever reason the writers decided to make the Joker more reminiscent of Freddie Kruger or some other supernatural bogeyman than a human villain. I mean how else do you explain his ability to plant many thousands of pounds of dynamite all over a general hospital on short notice without anyone noticing? Maybe he had a magical cloaking device to mask that along with the hundreds of barrels of fuel that he wired with bombs in plain sight on those ferries? How else do we explain that little oversight of setting sail with that downstairs while the entire city is on lock down? Like I said, only in a Freddie-Kruger-like nightmare could such silliness be explained. This storyline of this movie seemed a bit like a cheesy 80′s horror flick to me.

    And Batman’s refusal to return fire at the Joker with the whole motorcycle showdown thing was retarded I thought. Batman didn’t mind causing ol’ Ra’s al Ghul to fall to his death last movie — what changed for this one? If a serial killer is shooting a machine gun in your general direction is it somehow morally wrong to return fire? I guess in this movie it was. I found that kind of stuff annoying.

    Perhaps I am just reacting to all the hype the flick had going in. I give it a 6 out of 10 on acting for the amusing Joker scenes and a 4 out of 10 for being a cheap horror flick in story.

    PS — I had trouble suspending reality enough to believe that both of those men were ga-ga over homely Maggie Gyllenhaal…

  36. Finally saw it. I was impressed. I think that the movie was very political. It raises questions about our response to terror that I think are very timely.

    While I thought Eckhart was an excellent Harvey Dent but I didn’t buy the relationship with Rachel Dawes. Nor did I buy the relationship between her and Bruce Wayne. In fact if I remember correctly I thought there was some chemistry with Katie Holmes in BB.

    This wouldn’t be such a big deal, but I think it weakens Dent’s transformation into Two Face. If you really felt his pain when she died then it would be more powerful, but I simply didn’t.

    I need to go to bed, so I won’t cover any more other than to mention that I really liked how they resolved the side plot with the accountant who was going to reveal Batman’s identity.

  37. Maggie Gyllenhaal was the one weak link in the film for me. But the rest was so strong that I could believe it. But yeah, while Katie Holmes isn’t a great actress she does down home cute well. You believed she was the girl next door. Gyllenhaal just didn’t know how to play it.

    I’m not sure it affects how believable Dent’s transformation is though.

    BTW – Geoff, why do you think the bombs were placed on short notice? While the Joker says he doesn’t have a plan it’s pretty clear he’s lying through his teeth (as with most things he says). He obviously put in a lot of planning.

    Sorry you didn’t like it. Perhaps all the hype from those of us who loved it so much led to unrealistic expectations? On the other hand I went in after all the hype and still felt floored by how good it was. The only thing I hated in it was the silly cell phone sonar.

  38. Yeah, I think it is likely a case of over-hype with me. Plus I think I focus a lot on plot explainability. What I mean is I don’t mind a character having super powers or something, what annoys me is when the writers cheat us and give a character they claim is a human the ability to do supernatural things. That is what they did with the Joker in this one. On the one hand he says he likes cheap technology like dynamite and fuel drums (and they show he is not lying about that) but then he (or the writers) somehow made all of the good guys dribbling idiots who don’t notice entire hospitals being dynamited or don’t bother to check for the hundreds of barrels of dynamited fuel in the hull of these ferries at a time of high alert. That is like airport security not noticing the machine gun some guy is carrying on to a plane. If the joker had some superpower to help him I could buy it as a plot line — but they claimed he didn’t so I assume the writers just think I’m stupid and that annoys me.

  39. Sadly that’s rather common at airport security. (I don’t know if it’s still the case, but back before 9/11 all Seal Teams brought all their armament carry on just to practice getting through security)

    I could believe having the hospitals wired especially if it was done well before announcing that he was going to blow hospitals. There was, after all, only an hour warning so clearly he had planned to do this for quite some time.

    So what you are calling “super powers” to me appears to just have thought things through in advance. Ditto the fat guy with the bomb in his belly to escape police headquarters.

    To add, the one plot piece that bugged me was the phone sonar. I could accept Batman hacking all the cell phone towers in the city to relay data to a central computer. The federal government already does that. So it’s not hard to believe that Wayne Enterprises with all their tech couldn’t do this. But phone sonar? That was nearly as silly as the microwave evaporating the water pipes from the first Batman.

  40. One last thing – I’m normally all about the explanation. Even if, as with most Heist movies, the explanation is unbelievable. But I’m really glad they didn’t explain the Joker in any way. He’s just there as a force that Batman doesn’t know how to deal with. I personally found everything he did believable. But I really loved, in the context of it as more of an art film rather than action film, how everything the Joker says is not trustworthy including his explanations.

  41. Well Clark, I think you are valiantly attempting to make your case for some plausibility (even though it would have taken a semi-truck full mysteriously placed and wired TNT throughout the hospital with nobody noticing a thing…). Yes, I do recognize that this is a superhero movie. I think the main difference between this one and most superhero movies is that they made Batman seem quite human and vulnerable while the made the Joker nearly omnipotent and omniscient. So I felt like is was basically Batman vs. Freddie Krueger. Or human hero vs. supernatural villain. That definitely makes the odds worse and creates some good horror flick tension but I felt it was a bit of a bait and switch that the writers tried to pull on us.

  42. Honestly Geoff, with the kind of security most hospitals have, I just don’t see it as being that difficult. Maybe it’s just a warped mind on my part. Most terrorism would be quite easy if people would set their minds to it. What impressed me (and scared me) about the show is how Nolan did that with the Joker. I think America actually escaped very easily from Al Queda simply because they were stupid. Nolan, to me, portrayed all too realistically what could have happened (and actually just the sorts of things my friends and I talked about after 9/11 and worried about)

    Even today security at far too many munition dumps is horrible – worse in places like Mexico. And if you can find triggers setting off very large explosives isn’t hard. Despite the increased security of the FBI and Homeland Security (with the latter frankly being an embarrassment)

    The one real criticism I can make of the film is that if it breeds copycats then I’ll be quite upset.

  43. I’d like to mention up front that I respect all of you, and your tastes and opinions, and I know that I’m alone on this one, so don’t be offended by my “absolutes,” since that’s just the way I write.

    The Dark Knight offered me one of the worst movie-going experiences I’ve ever known. Senseless, incoherent, headache-inducing, and ultimately earnumbing (I never need to hear the key of F minor, ever again) and buttnumbing.

    Stories and scripts have fallen by the wayside. Interesting ideas come to nothing (Commissioner Gordon dying, then not dying, and nothing ever comes of it; other people try being Batman, and one is actually arrested for it, but nothing ever comes of this). Criminals aren’t just in it for the money, but are superhuman arch terrorists, able to surgically install cellphones into other criminals in prison to serve as bomb-triggering devices.

    Heath Ledger was fine, though I suspect many of his lines were post-looped by someone else. I also thought Maggie Gyllenhaal was a big improvement over Katie Holmes from the last one.

    Two boats, one with regular citizens, one with criminals, set to explode each other, but then no one does, and no one dies. Yeah, real exciting.

    Overall, this was a terrible, terrible movie, and it’s making so much money that I’m sure there are many more like it to come.

    Batman Returns with Michelle Pfeiffer is, by far, the best of the Batman comix turned into a movie. Tim Burton. I repeat, Tim Burton, was the director.

  44. D,

    Plenty people died. Just not the ones in the ferries.

    Also, Gordon faked his death out of fear of being a target, not a huge plot point, but I think it drove home the point that no one was safe.

  45. I really did give the movie the benefit of the doubt, going in. I knew it wouldn’t be my kind of movie, and I just tried to relax and enjoy the visuals and the expectations of Heath Ledger’s great performance.

    After an hour, I gave up trying to like the movie. It’s just too convoluted, and constant cynicism and explosions and platitudes about the human race and no characters to focus on that seemed at all genuine or real even though the city itself was obviously Chicago. At one point, one of the 3 bored teenagers in front of us got up and went to the bathroom. They applauded the film at the end.

    I think it’s like a video game with real people, and that’s why it seems profound – apocalyptic vision of a deadly future for us. But every single movie trailer we saw showed an apocalyptic vision of a deadly future for us. The apocalypse has become cliché.

    WALL-E shows an apocalyptic vision for the future of humans. There is more profundity in one scene of WALL-E than the whole of The Dark Knight.

  46. I just saw it again last night, and liked it even more. Because I was looking for it, I noticed how little actual violence happens onscreen. It’s mostly implied. You don’t see the Joker actually put a pencil through someone’s head, you don’t really see him kill anyone. It’s all implied, and yet it maintains a reputation for being dark and violent. I think that’s part of it’s genius, but it’s mostly undeserved.

    I do think there were some flaws (For example, I still think that some of the Joker’s crimes are completely impossible to believe–how in the world are we supposed to believe that the authorities would load up two ferries with people without checking the ferries for explosives?), but I found that I appreciated even more the ideas that were being expressed about the nature of heroism and its relationship with fame and the needs of the public.

    I liked how Batman had unwavering faith in the public (that they wouldn’t blow each other up, despite the Joker’s prediction) and how his faith was rewarded. That faith ultimately led him to sacrifice his reputation for the public benefit, because Batman can play whatever role he is needed for: he can take it, when no one else can. I think now, even more than before, that this movie was very very well done. It’s more than a comic book movie, and because of its hopeful view of human nature, I think it’s very wrong to describe this movie as cynical.

  47. I saw it again last night and liked it better this time around. Some of the stuff at the end that concerned me before, didn’t seem as problematic this time around.

    I am wondering, since Heath Ledger is dead, who could replace him as Joker in a future Batman movie (assuming they want the Joker to play a prominent future role). Johnny Depp comes to mind as a possibility. In fact, when I think about him as a possibility – it almost surprises me he wasn’t the choice the first time around. He seems like a more obvious pick for an oddball role …

    However, I have no regrets about Heath Ledger being the choice they made. He took it to a whole new level.

  48. I just hope they don’t do an other Joker movie. I think they originally intended to. But I think going an other way is better.

  49. BTW – totally agree about all the violence being offscreen. I was going to bring that up on the podcast. It’s always more effective because then your subconscious is engaged.

  50. At one point, one of the 3 bored teenagers in front of us got up and went to the bathroom. They applauded the film at the end.

    How do you know he was bored and didn’t just have to pee?

  51. You could tell they were bored. They were hardly watching the screen. One of them dozed off.

    The movie has no actual structure. There’s no payoff. There are a lot of climaxes and a lot of talk, talk, talk. And… it goes on FOREVER. Talk about Batman Forever.

    Batman: the Movie may not have been much fun, but it had a real structure and a climax.

    Batman Returns has that gay/straight camp sensibility that defines Tim Burton so well, i.e., the nebbishly girl who transforms herself into fabulous/evil.

    I don’t care that the violence wasn’t shown on the screen (in this movie). That movie is a bore, poorly constructed and really poorly written and edited.

  52. lol D. Fletcher. It sounds like maybe there’s some external bias against the film?

    As MCQ points towards, the failed imitation Batmans underscore the idea that Batman is alone, that only he can do what needs to be done. Also (given the machine-gun toting Batmans) that his nature and purpose are misunderstood by the general public. In a single movie, Batman has developed a more complex relationship with the public than three volumes of Spider-Man and J.K. Simmons.

  53. D, give them a break. It was probably the third time that day they’d seen it. (grin)

    I can understand not liking it or it not doing anything for you. But can’t we separate out good writing from not liking it? There are movies that I really don’t like that I’ll concede are well written or directed. To me Nolan’s brother did an amazing job with the dialog.

    My personal feeling (and slam me if you disagree) is that people wanted a traditional heroic plot with the stereotypical placement of action and climax. As I’ve said before while there are action elements in this obviously its cadence isn’t the cadence of an action film. If you’re expecting the traditional structure then you’ll be wondering why it doesn’t end when the Joker is caught. However if you ignore all the action sequences for a moment and look at the structure the real climax is Harvy Dent and whether Gotham will lose its hero. There’s a strong art house film underneath all the pyrotechniques.

    I loved it.

    As I said, there are weaknesses. And I can completely understand not liking what the director and writers were trying to do. But at least judge it for what it was rather than what the hype lead you to expect.

  54. I didn’t read any hype. I didn’t like the movie because I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the first one, either, but at least that provided some backstory. This one had nothing in the way of backstory, except for a comment that Harvey Dent had been called “twoface” back in college.

    I didn’t like the dialogue, particularly. Was it witty? Was it meaningful? Was it real, or fantasy/real?

    The voters at IMDB have rated it the #1 movie of all time, surpassing The Godfather (to one voter’s relief).

    Maybe I’m crazy, but The Godfather is a great, intelligent and creative movie.

    This one is more like Titanic, a similar juggernaut without much of anything going for it. This one at least provided the tragic overtones provided by one (poorly written) character played by an actor who subsequently died tragically young.

  55. The Joker’s dialogue was awesome. Best written monologues for a movie villain in years. My favorite speech was the one that began “Do I look like a guy with a plan?” It was dark, funny and creepy all at once. Masterpiece of writing.

    You can criticize this movie for a lot of things, but not for bad writing. You’re barking up the wrong tree, and you weren’t even paying attention. Harvey wasn’t called twoface in college, he was called that by the cops he was investigating at the Major Crime Unit (“MCU”) when he was working at internal affairs.

    Moreover, this movie was not about backstory. The last movie was all about backstory because it was Batman Begins. The origin of Batman. This one is past all that. Backstory over. New story now.

  56. Interesting the Godfather film as I’d actually put this one close to it. There’s a lot of classic film influences in this one and the Godfather is one of the dominant ones.

  57. Anyone suggesting that “the Dark Knight” is the best movie ever (at imdb or anywhere else) is suffering a bit from temporary insanity. That’s not to knock the movie. It’s very well done. But still, critics and fans should at least demonstrate a little bit of perspective.

  58. I’d agree. I love it but it’s still not Raides of the Lost Ark perfect. And that’s just for the action film genre. There are probably about a half dozen other films I’d put above it. I do think it’s on par with The Godfather though. (Which I love but which is also somewhat overrated – just because so many call it the greatest film of all time which is ridiculous.)

  59. We’ve now watched Batman: The Movie, and Spider-man 2, and Spider-man 3.

    The first isn’t my favorite movie, but it isn’t incoherent, and the tone is right. And Jack Nicholson is… really funny and good.

    The Spider-man movies are wonderful to watch, full of fun “action” and very satisfying stories (particularly #2). I like them as a franchise much better than either of the new Superman or Batman franchises.

  60. Interesting little piece on the movie, not exactly a review…

    August 4, 2008
    Dark (K)night

    Note: Posting early this week on account of weekend road trip.

    The most striking thing about the new Batman movie, now smashing the all-time box office records, is its emphasis on sado-masochism as the animating element in American culture these days. It must appeal to the many angry people in our land who want to hurt others, even while they themselves feel deserving of the grossest punishments. In other words, the picture reflects the extreme depravity of the current American sensibility. Seeing it all laid out there must be very validating to the emotionally confused audience, and hence pleasurable, in all its painfulness.

    The rich symbolism in this spectacle represents the tenor of contemporary America as something a few notches worse than whatever the Nazis were heading toward around 1933. We like nothing better than to see people suffer and watch things get broken. The more slowly people are tortured (including the movie audience) the more exquisite the pleasure derived from the act. Civilization offers no consolation. In fact, its a mug’s game. Thus, civilization is composed only of torturers and their mug victims.

    Gotham City, the setting for all these sadomasochistic vignettes, is a place devoid of comfort. (The suburbs are missing completely.) Even the personal haunts of “the Batman,” a.k.a. zillionaire Bruce Wayne, are hard-edged non-spaces. His workplace (cleverly accessed via a dumpster) is an underground bunker the size of about three football fields with a claustrophobic drop ceiling and a single furnishing: the megalomaniacal computer console that is supposed to afford him “control” of the city, but which appears to be, in fact, a completely impotent sham piece of techno-junk, since it can’t even outperform a $300 GPS unit in locating things. By the way, Hitler had a brighter sense of decor in the final days of the bunker. Bruce Wayne’s personal apartment is one of those horrid glass-walled tower condos beloved of the starchitects, which, in its florid exposure to everything external practically screams “no shelter here!”

    At the center of all this is the character called “The Joker.” Judging by the reams of reviews and reportage about this movie elsewhere in the media, the death of actor Heath Ledger, who played the role, adds another layer of juicy sadomasochistic deliciousness to the proceedings — we get to reflect that the monster on screen may have gotten away, but the anxiety-ridden young actor who played him was carted off to the bone orchard before the film even officially wrapped, (and therefore deserves extra special consideration for America’s greatest honor, the Oscar award, while the audience deserves its own award for recognizing the lovely ironies embroidered in this cultural phenomenon.)

    The Joker is not so much as person as a force of nature, a “black swan” in clown white. He has no fingerprints, no ID, no labels in his clothing. All he has is the memory of an evil father who performed a symbolic sadomasochistic oral rape on him, and so he is now programmed to go about similarly mutilating folks, blowing things up, and wrecking everyone’s hopes and dreams because he has nothing better to do. He represents himself simply as an agent of “chaos.” Taken at face value, he would seem to symbolize the deadly forces of entropy that now threatens to unravel real American life in the real world — a combination of our foolish over- investments in complexity and the frightening capriciousness of both nature and history, which do not reveal their motivations to us.

    By the way, forget about God here or anything that even remotely smacks of an oppositional notion to evil. All that’s back on the cutting room floor somewhere (if it even got that far). And I say this as a non-religious person. But the absence of any possible idea of redemption for the human spirit is impressive. In the world of “the Batman,” humanity at its very best is capable only of being confused about itself. This is perhaps an interesting new form of dramaturgy — instead of good-versus-evil you only get befuddlement-versus-evil. Goodness has lost its way in the dark night of the American psyche, as might be understandable considering the nation of louts, liars, grifters, bullies, meth freaks, harpies, and tattooed creeps we have become. The best we can bring to this predicament is the low-grade pop therapy that passes for thinking nowadays in educated circles. Any consideration of the heroic is off the menu here. We can’t ask that much of ourselves. It’s too difficult to imagine. Meanwhile, The People — that is, the citizens of Gotham City — literally banish even the possibility of heroism from town at the end of the movie — they take an axe to it! — perhaps indicating that they deserve whatever befalls them or, shall I say, “us.”

    A few other striking elements of this spectacle deserve attention. One is the grandiosity that saturates the story elements, and the remarkable impotence of it all. The Batman possesses every high-tech weapon and survival implement ever dreamed up, yet they avail him nothing — except a lot off sickening leaps off skyscrapers and futile hard landings on car roofs, shipping containers, sidewalks, and other human carcasses. I doubt the writers/director Chris and Jonathan Nolan consciously aimed to depict good old American ingenuity as utterly valueless in the face of chaos, but that’s the effect. Otherwise, everything in the Batman’s world is overscaled and out-of-whack from the size of Bruce Wayne’s fortune (what an executive package his Daddy must have made off with, and from which investment bank?!), to the energy expended in so many car chases and explosions, to the super-sized doom-worthy towers of the gigantic, soulless city.

    Finally there is the derivation of all this sadomasochistic nihilism out of a comic book. How appropriate, since we have become a cartoon of a society living on a cartoon of a North American landscape, that the deepest source of our mythos comes from cartoons. We’re so far gone that real human emotion is beyond us. We’re to far gone — and even without shame — to care how this odious movie portrays us to the rest of the world. It is already making a fortune out there.

  61. Don’t know who wrote this, but he’s pretty far off regarding this movie. In fact, he just flat misrepresents the facts:

    All he has is the memory of an evil father who performed a symbolic sadomasochistic oral rape on him, and so he is now programmed to go about similarly mutilating folks, blowing things up, and wrecking everyone’s hopes and dreams because he has nothing better to do.

    Not true. The Joker makes up several different stories about his scars; the point being that he will reveal none of his backstory to explain himself. The writer clearly wasn’t listening to the other stories, so missed the idea completely.

    Any consideration of the heroic is off the menu here. We can’t ask that much of ourselves. It’s too difficult to imagine. Meanwhile, The People — that is, the citizens of Gotham City — literally banish even the possibility of heroism from town at the end of the movie

    Wrong again. The citizens make a hero of Harvey Dent. That was the central point of the final scenes: Batman gives them a hero they can believe in and unselfishly takes the rap for Harvey’s misdeeds so that the people will not lose hope. The writer totally missed the point.

    The Batman possesses every high-tech weapon and survival implement ever dreamed up, yet they avail him nothing — except a lot off sickening leaps off skyscrapers and futile hard landings on car roofs, shipping containers, sidewalks, and other human carcasses.

    I guess he saw a different movie, or else just conveniently forgot that Batman beats the Joker in the end. I guess it’s best to just ignore the parts of the movie that don’t fit your thesis.

    We’re to far gone — and even without shame — to care how this odious movie portrays us to the rest of the world. It is already making a fortune out there.

    Misspelling of “too” aside, it’s obvious he isn’t paying attention enough to realize that the movie is not necessarily portraying America. But even if it were, it portrays an America with a goodness at its core: The people on the boats do not choose to kill in order to save themselves. Batman does not violate his rules in order to get rid of his adversary. The Joker is proved wrong and is captured by Batman. The city is safe and has a hero it can believe in. Is that the America the writer is talking about?

    The movie the writer is describing may exist out there somewhere, or it may exist only in the writer’s mind, but it sure isn’t The Dark Knight.

  62. It’s funny as I’ve read several reviews that get pretty key plot points completely wrong. I could understand if these were subtle plot points but they usually are pretty obvious. I don’t quite understand these reviews.

    Don’t get me wrong. I understand those who don’t like the movie. Different strokes for different folks. Just like I understand people who think I’m insane for liking either Quenton Tarantino or David Lynch as directors.

    What I don’t understand is the need to create strawmen. I mean if you don’t like the movie can’t you point to stuff in the movie you don’t like rather than making some odd generalization to decide you don’t like it and then not carrying whether the generalization actually fits the movie? I can perhaps, to a degree, understand this behavior in regular folks. (i.e. there’s some principle you dislike and the movie reminded you of it even if the movie doesn’t really fit the criteria) However in a film or literary critic it’s simply inexcusable.

  63. One main point of contention a lot of reviewers have is Bale’s voice when portraying Batman vs. Bruce Wayne.

    It’s always been apparent to me that it’s part of the disguise. Bruce Wayne, being such a public and famous figure, would need to not only mask his face, but also his voice.

    Am I wrong here? Because it seems the reviewers think the only reason for it is to make him appear dark and frightening.

  64. I’m with you Tim J – I noticed Batman’s voice more this time around than I did in “Begins.” At first it bugged me, but then I realized the same thing – this movie is smarter than just “we want his voice to be dark too,” but plays to Batman’s alias quite nicely. Wayne is a public figure, so it makes sense.

    That’s one thing that always bugged me about Superman – the voice cross-over was barely there, if at all. A pair of non-refracting eyeglasses just doesn’t cut it.

    One thing – does that guy who tried to blackmail Wayne Enterprises know that Bruce is Batman, or just that Wayne Enterprises manufactures Batman’s toys? I couldn’t quite get the picture there.

  65. Batman does not violate his rules in order to get rid of his adversary.

    MCQ, pretty good analysis, but I’m not so sure on the sentence above. He violates privacy up the yin-yang with his “cell phone submarine radar glowing eyeballs” technology at the end, to the point that the Morgan Freeman character quits after seeing/using it because it’s so unethical. I took it as the studio’s jab at the Patriot Act and FISA violations. So I part from Batman on that one, and side with the Morgan Freeman character. Allowing the people their liberty is the higher moral ground, IMO. But I’m neurotic about that kind of thing.

  66. What I liked about the privacy issue is how ambiguous it was. After all it was by violating privacy that Batman was able to stop the terrorist. So to say that liberty was higher was actually debatable. But that’s what I liked about the film. It raised challenging issues but didn’t tell you what to think. Was Batman falling down a slippery slope? After all he was torturing prisoners, monitoring conversations, etc. all to stop a terrorist. Was this him losing his humanity? This was partially, I think, why he wanted the White Knight of Harvey Dent to take over. The city needed that more than Batman. He was even willing to become the villain (and nice bit of foreshadowing also with a double meaning)

    There were really some very interesting things to consider. For instance look at how being a victim of terrorism destroyed Harvey Dent and turned him into the very thing he fought against.

    Like I think Fight Club, the show really raises issues but makes you question the “obvious” answer to them.

  67. Regarding the voice – I think it was more distracting here. But yes, it makes sense he’d have to disguise his voice. He never knows when he’s being recorded and whether someone could match the voice to Bruce Wayne. But dramatically I think it was somewhat problematic.

    The blackmailer did know it was Bruce Wayne who was Batman. That’s why that knowing glance was significant when Bruce Wayne destroys his Italian sports car saving him.

  68. After all it was by violating privacy that Batman was able to stop the terrorist… After all he was torturing prisoners, monitoring conversations, etc. all to stop a terrorist.

    ARGH! That sounds like fingernails running down a chalkboard to me (a civil libertarian). Alas, in the end, the Joker was caught, but I would have liked it better if he had been caught legally. To each his own, I guess… If this were a different forum, I’d take a run at this. ;)

    Clark, I’m not so sure the glance was enough for me to buy into the idea that the guy knew it was Bruce. The facts suggest, at the very minimum, that he knew Wayne Enterprises was making the stuff for Batman, but I’m not entirely convinced he knows Bruce is Batman – after all, Wayne Enterprises might just be the R&D/manufacturer here. Perhaps the filmmakers wanted a person like me to walk away vexed. In Spiderman 2, Peter Parker had the luxury of being a nobody when his mask was removed on the L-train, so perhaps you’re right. Hmmm…

  69. Saw it finally, bad plot points:

    Cops are idiots and let the Joker put bombs everywhere. Maybe they thought it was gatorade?

    Batman has knives he can shoot from his arms all movie, but doesn’t use those knives against the dogs, which ig he had, he would have knocked Joker out easy without the drama… And he phases the dogs twice in the film without having stopped to think “I need a better way to deal with dogs…”

    Batman is the guy from newsies, unable to get over it. He rides around on his motorcycle and I’m like “Wow if that where a horse he could be singing ‘Santa Fe’”

    Dogs obey Joker for no reason. If they are just hungry dogs, why aren’t they attacking Joker as well as Batman?

    Albert is a nut job who believes there should be casualties and keeping secrets is ok.

    All in all, it seems that Bruce could be investing his millions in much better ways than kevlar underwear and tank cars to help the world be a better place.

    To conclude, I liked Iron Man better.

  70. I believe they were supposed to be trained guard dogs not just some random mutt’s he picked up from the pound. Which would explain why they aren’t attacking the Joker.

    As for the bombs, I’m not sure they have to explain how he gets them everywhere. The police are on the take (or scared half to death). It’s kind of like asking why there are still roadside bombs in Iraq IMO.

    David, that’s kind of what I like about it. Some are looking at the movie and seeing a condemnation of George Bush. Others, like you, get something different. Leaving some things to the audience is a sign of a good movie.

    As to Batman arresting people legally. Umm. He is a vigilante. How much of what he could do would be strictly speaking legal? Even in the first film? That’s part and parcel of the character.

    It is a good question. One that The Incredibles picked up on and ran with. If there really were superheroes what would happen legally?

  71. I’m not so sure the glance was enough for me to buy into the idea that the guy knew it was Bruce. The facts suggest, at the very minimum, that he knew Wayne Enterprises was making the stuff for Batman, but I’m not entirely convinced he knows Bruce is Batman – after all, Wayne Enterprises might just be the R&D/manufacturer here.

    Dude, he KNEW it was Bruce. That’s the only way the conversation between him and Morgan works. Remember: “Let me get this straight, you think your employer is out at night beating up criminals with his bare hands and you want to blackmail this person?”

  72. Matt: The butler’s name is Alfred, not Albert, and he is trying to protect Bruce from his own idealism. Alfred’s job is to protect Bruce at all costs, and he is zealous about his job. Of course he thinks keeping secrets is ok. He’s been keeping the Wayne family secrets all his life, and he is one of the few who knows the secret that Bruce is Batman. Of course he doesn’t want Bruce to give that secret up, even if it means people get killed. That doesn’t make him a nut job, it makes him loyal and over-protective. Like a zealous father-figure should be.

  73. Clark: Interesting the Godfather film as I’d actually put this one close to it.

    Holy crap.

    That is the most astonishing and baffling sentence I have read in more than a month.

    Matt W: To conclude, I liked Iron Man better.

    Me too bro, me too.

  74. MCQ, ah, I wasn’t too clear on the dialogue. I do recall the Morgan character saying all that now. So yeah, you are correct – that guy totally thought Bruce is Batman.

    There’s a lot of libertarian sub-text going on in Batman, like you mention with outlaw vigilantes, corrupt police, illegal spying, etc. Although the film-makers had Batman doing stuff that the ACLU (as David J whips ACLU membership card from wallet) would never stand for, it does leave an impression about the freedom to take matters into one’s own hand. I suppose the unspoken yet necessary premise for most or all Batman films is that the police are incapable of doing their jobs.

    That’s awesome you caught that with The Incredibles – I did too. I interpreted the film as a pseudo-tribute to Ayn Rand as well, who I have read that Lasseter and some of the others read.

  75. If the vigilantism and political subtexts from The Dark Knight make your head spin, you might want to think twice before seeing The Watchmen next spring.

  76. LOL. Too true. I’m really curious about that film. I didn’t care for 300 too much simply because there was little to the film beyond the visuals (IMO). This is one that has pretty complex and weighty concepts but that might just be way too much for a 2 hour movie.

    The trailer didn’t excite me the way it did some. But I’ll definitely be there. I did like the music they picked for the Watchmen trailer though.

    BTW – anyone watching the quasi-animated version on iTunes?

  77. Geoff, as I said, difference strokes for different folks. This, for me, was the first movie that completely transcended the genre. (Although Watchmen is going to try for that as well)

    I really liked Iron Man. But it was ultimately fluff. Fun fluff, but fluff nonetheless. Dark Knight had strong layers to it.

    Godfather is a good film although it has many weaknesses. (I actually think the sequel is the superior film for various reasons) James Caan’s embarrassing fighting in it being one of the bad aspects. It is by far my favorite roll for Pacino though. (I like him better in the first film where he is losing his innocence more than in the second – even though his performance in the second is masterful)

  78. Anyone have a clue on the rating for Watchmen? I can’t really imagine a PG-13 version…

    Clark, how did Dark Knight transcend the Genre? And what Genre? Super Hero movies or Comic Book movies? I mean, Popeye the musical transcended the comic genre a long time ago… And Hancock transcended the super hero genre farther than the Dark Knight did. Maybe you mean Batman transcended the “Movies that are trying to be dark, but still PG-13″ Genre, if so, it definitely beat out the Crow…

  79. If Watchman is anything less than an R, then it’s a clear sign either the MPAA has lost all sanity (rather than just most of it) or the movie will be a watered down, unfaithful version.

    I can tell you right now, the current teaser trailer is solely for the fans. Every person I know who has seen the Watchman trailer (that is also ignorant of the comic) has gone: “Huh? What is this? I don’t get it.”

    For fans, it looks great. For non-fans, I hope they make a trailer meant to appeal to a wider audience.

  80. It’s been a while since I read it last. Is there really anything in it that demands it be R? It seems to me that the most problematic parts were the rape and the Viet Nam stuff. The latter you could have a lot happening off screen (although the preview suggests it’s in there) and the former was offscreen even in the comic. All the rest could easily be done in a PG-13 form.

    I thought the darkness of Dark Knight was way overstated too. But that’s just me. There was a huge difference between Batman and say The Crow.

    I haven’t seen Hancock so I can’t speak to how well it trascended the gender. From what I could see all it was was a “what if a hero was a dick” kind of vibe. But that’s not really transcending the genre. Although I’ll grant you that it pushes the edges.

    The reason I think Dark Knight transcended the genre is because it was about much bigger issues and made you think. Yes that’s been done on the pages of the comic books (often with Batman) – especially by Miller and Moore. But it hasn’t been done on screen. One could point to V for Vendetta though and I’ll grant you that. So I can see folks arguing that Dark Knight wasn’t the first. Of course I thought V for Vendetta kind of fell apart. But it’s the only other example I can think of. (As I said I’ve not seen Hancock so I just can’t comment there)

  81. All you haters might like this review. My favorite bit.

    As a plot mover, the Joker was less an agent of chaos and more like the TA for a freshman philosophy course, leading everyone through twisty little exercises in artificial circumstances that present the poor student with difficult choices. The answers in the movie were about the level of superficiality I’d expect from naive freshmen: he’s not a hero, he’s more than a hero, he’s a guardian, or something. Unbelievably, the dialog actually spelled out such empty nonsense.

  82. I’m not sure V for Vendetta qualifies in the “transcends the genre” category because it started out as a graphic novel and never had any of the baggage that a superhero franchise brings along. (In that way, The Watchmen doesn’t really qualify, either. It might have been interesting if DC had allowed Alan Moore to use the Justice League characters, or even directly use the Charlton Comics characters that the Watchmen were based on.)

  83. I agree that The Watchmen could be done as a PG-13 movie, if the filmmakers so choose. It could also easily be R-rated if they decide to take it in that direction.

    Like many people, I thought that The Dark Knight was plenty dark, thematically speaking. Interestingly, though, Nolan’s Batman universe actually owes a lot to the animated series, which is sort of a PG rendering of the Frank Miller Batman–and it works pretty well. It’s true that the ratings board can be pretty capricious, but it’s also true that filmmakers are becoming more creative and flexible with the way their material is presented within the confines of the ratings system.

  84. I agree that The Watchmen could be done as a PG-13 movie

    I don’t get it. Sure, it COULD be done, but have you actually read the thing lately?

  85. I don’t get it. Sure, it COULD be done, but have you actually read the thing lately?

    It’s been about a year. As Clark says, if you leave the rape scene off camera and make sure the dialog doesn’t contain too many f-words (I can’t remember one way or the other if the comic does), I don’t see it as a stretch. (I suppose that the Silk Spector/Dr. Manhattan sex scene may need to be trimmed as well, but the MPAA has already allowed full frontal Manhattan CGI nudity in the trailer. It’s amazing how much violence is acceptable in a PG-13 movie these days (The Dark Knight for one, and Pirates: At Worlds End for another).

    At the end of the day, as I’m sure you know, the decision always ends up being a financial one: how much more does the studio think that the 13-17 age demographic is going to add to the film’s bottom line. Often, that means quite a bit. On the other hand, movies like The Matrix and 300 did just fine with an R rating. The Watchmen is such strange, niche material that it may not matter, but I have no way of knowing what Warner Brothers’ thinking is on this project.

  86. For the most part I found the plotting muddled.

    First example, the bullet with fingerprints: Batman takes it to his secret lab where he sets up automated guns to fire on his range, because for some undefined reason creating a hole like the one from the crime scene will help him reconstruct fingerprints. Once the lab work has revealed a fingerprint and an identity, Batman tracks Harvey Dent to his secret interrogation of a criminal that Batman somehow knows is the same person who fired the bullet at the earlier, unconnected crime scene. And all this matters in the end because? Because knowing that the criminal had been in Arkham Asylum is what it takes to convince Harvey Dent not to kill the criminal. One disconnect after another, all leading up to not much.

    Second example, the death of Rachel Dawes: It took me most of the rest of the movie to catch on that she had not been saved. I thought that Harvey Dent’s mourning for her was a delusion or was being kept from him due to his madness.

    On the other hand, little Jimmy Gordon Jr.’s proclamation at the end to his similarly-aged pals in the audience that Batman is really a good guy, lest they be confused, was exposing the movies seams a bit too much for my taste.

    A problematic thing is that Christian Bale was only the fourth-most interesting actor to watch after Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, and Gary Oldman. Batman was not too far from being a supporting character. That’s not a problem for this movie, but perhaps a problem for selling future Batman movies.

    Please, if you loved the movie, don’t take any of these complaints personally.

  87. A problematic thing is that Christian Bale was only the fourth-most interesting actor to watch after Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, and Gary Oldman. Batman was not too far from being a supporting character. That’s not a problem for this movie, but perhaps a problem for selling future Batman movies.

    Not to mention Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman. I view this as more of a feature than a bug. I don’t mind my comic book movies being turned into ensemble pieces.

  88. I think the shooting of the guns was to see how, given the material, the bullet would disperse while breaking. Of course in reality it would be sufficiently random that this might not help that much. But the idea was to get an idea of the characteristics of the bullet. However given that the bullets are supersonic I’d be very surprised if a fingerprint would survive on a bullet.

    What the bullet gave Batman though was a clue about who the next victim would be. It didn’t prove successful but I don’t think we can say it didn’t matter. The idea was to portray Batman as a detective but have the Joker still outwitting him. Thus Batman becomes more and more frustrated because nothing he can do stops the Joker.

    The whole bit about Rachel Dawes doesn’t seem like a plot problem. It was pretty clear she’d been killed. The Joker told Batman an other lie. (Nearly everything in the movie he says is a lie) So he thinks he’s rescuing the girl while he’s actually rescuing Dent.

    Who’s the best actor didn’t really play into it. I thought Bale did a great job. It flowed in this movie. I don’t think it’ll be a problem selling future movies though. It all depends upon the script (IMO). But there definitely were a slew of great actors in this with only one disappointment (Gyllenhaal in my opinion)

    Greg, I think that the violence in most PG-13s of today still is way below what was in movies in the 80′s. Temple of Doom anyone? Raiders of the Lost Ark? (Which was PG!)

  89. To add, while I think the 80′s were more violent in PG-13s I do think that Batman and James Bond were on the upper scale even if I don’t think either came close to Temple of Doom.

  90. As Clark says, if you leave the rape scene off camera and make sure the dialog doesn’t contain too many f-words (I can’t remember one way or the other if the comic does), I don’t see it as a stretch. (I suppose that the Silk Spector/Dr. Manhattan sex scene may need to be trimmed as well, but the MPAA has already allowed full frontal Manhattan CGI nudity in the trailer.

    And leave out the brutal beatings of the Comedian, Rosarch finding his mother in the middle of sex (and her subsequent beating of him), the majority of the on panel blood and guts, the Silk Spectre/Night Owl sex scenes (while the sex is off panel, the foreplay and aftermath are not), the guy who slaughtered the girl and fed her to his dogs, etc. etc.

    This is not a matter of trimming scenes here and there (they’ve already taken out the Pirate comic). Of course, the movie will have to be condensed and a lot will get let out – but really, at what point does it start becoming watered down?

    I think to get a PG-13, it would have to be watered down too much. It’s not just a matter of what you say above. Even if they did all that, there’s still ALL THE OTHER STUFF!

  91. I think this answers Ivan. I’m not sure what to think about it. But it seems clear they’re going for an R-rating and also being pretty true to the book. Of course we’ll see what happens in the editing room when studio pressure kicks into gear.

  92. i still wish Katie Holmes had stayed on board as Rachel Dawes for the Dark Knight; it was like the time spent getting familiar with her character in Batman Begins was wasted…

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