Monday, July 28, 2008

The Dark Knight

My friend Brian always used to say that one of the ways he could tell if he really liked a movie was if he was still thinking about it a few days after seeing it. He didn’t mean it had to be a thought provoking film. He could be remembering the action sequences or laughing at the jokes. Here it is a few days after seeing The Dark Knight and I’m still thinking about it, trying to figure out when I can go see it in IMAX, and really still processing all that it was. So I must’ve liked it, if I’d had any doubts.

It’s a long movie, and I don’t mean that in terms of its running time (though it is technically long in terms of its running time as well). Some movies have long running times but feel effortless and the time passes so quickly you walk out of the theater all disoriented because it couldn’t possibly be as many hours later as it is (such as LOTR: The Two Towers). That’s not this movie. But I also don’t mean it was long because it was so bad it felt like you were aging in your seat as you watched it (such as The Hulk with Eric Bana).

No, The Dark Knight is long for two reasons. One, it’s a very intense movie (DO NOT BRING CHILDREN) that gets your heart pumping right away and really doesn’t give you any breaks along the way. This is largely due to Heath Ledger’s brilliantly creepy performance as the Joker. As a friend of mine told her boyfriend during the show “he’s creeping me out, even when he’s not on screen.” He should really get an Oscar nomination for it, it’s that good. And I know it sounds like I’m just saying that because he died, but I’m not. Even if he were alive, I’d be saying that. Brilliant, disturbing, freaky, creepy, good.

Another friend of mine complained that the Joker was never affected by Batman. I didn’t really see that as a complaint. It’s not his story. It’s Batman’s. (Unlike Tim Burton’s Batman which was the Joker’s story.) By making him unaffected, he was even more disturbing and inhuman.

The second reason the movie is long is because (mild spoiler alert: don’t read forward if you don’t want clues to the movie’s narrative structure) the movie feels like it’s wrapping up and then it bounds into another story arc. I wouldn’t call it Peter-Jackson-Multiple-Ending-Syndrome though because it never gets to the ending you think it’s hurtling towards. Rather, it’s a false climax that leads you down another narrative pathway.

I thought the whole movie they were setting up (spoiler alert: this time I give away specific plot points about who lives and who dies) Harvey Dent to be the villain Two Face in the next movie. However, they masterfully wrote the plot so as to set up the Joker as the recurring villain that he is in the comics. Batman’s not going to kill the Joker. The Joker’s not going to kill Batman. But Batman catches him and sends him to Arkham, just like he always does in the comics. Beautiful. Perfect. Satisfyingly done. Except Heath Ledger died. Not only did he die, but he gave a performance that no one could follow. They can’t recast the role. They just can’t use the Joker.

But they didn’t know he was going to die when they made the movie. So with the Joker not getting killed in the end, they needed some sort of ultimate climactic moment. So they killed off Two-Face. So in essence, you’re watching two movies with two distinct story arcs. Arc 1: The Joker reeks havoc and creates Two-Face. Arc 2: The Joker and Two-Face reek havoc and Batman stops them.

They’re two really good movies, just be prepared.

A couple of other points: The movie gets points for addressing the recurring problem of the Batsuit immobilizing Batman's head. I liked that Wayne Manor hadn’t been rebuilt yet after being destroyed in the previous movie. Christian Bale: just as good as he was in Batman Begins, though the way he talks as Batman is a bit annoying. Maggie Gyllenhaal: perfectly acceptable Katie Holmes substitute. Finally, I really liked that Cillian Murphy had a brief cameo as Scarecrow, but I want to see it again as it puzzled me a bit.


  1. I am the great commentator! Fear Me! I use words like Commentator!

    Um, so but... who says two face is dead? "He didn't make it out" is not the same thing, you know? I wonder how much they had to do in the editing room- was that always the end? Do you know?

  2. I don't know. A quick googling didn't reveal much.


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