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The Dark Knight

Considering I didn't love Batman Begins, I wondered at the wisdom of going to see The Dark Knight, but when Cas said we should, I didn't have anything to turn it down with and so I found myself standing in a line on Sunday evening in Blacktown. I knew I'd made a mistake when people started talking to me about Jesus.

It was probably because of World Youth Week that that had happened. There was a morbid display of Christianity during the week, where the crucifixion of Jesus was shown in a massive, multi-staged play that ended on the Harbour with the old boy being strung up. Some woman was singing and the question, 'Where were you when they crucified our lord,' and I suddenly realised I had an answer for that: my living room. Well, how nice. But it was a little ridiculous so many people watching that when they don't give a toss bout the very real hardships going on in the world, so I flipped the TV off and continued to ignore the week. Of course, there is a vague similarity here to the Dark Knight, because people have been sitting around and telling me that Heath Ledger is the second coming as the Joker, and the film itself is unbelievably awesome and so on and so forth. At the end of the two and a half hours of this flick, I thought, yeah, Ledger was pretty cool in the film, but he is the only bright spot in it, and when he's not on screen, the whole thing is a rather limp and dull affair.

Kinda like Christianity.

Drum roll, please.

Anyhow, back to the film, one of my biggest complaints with the Batman films is that they're so unnecessary. Each film essentially repeats itself, having Bruce Wayne face the question of being Batman, the origin of a villain (and Batman himself, though this is not always the case), and some new gadgets which you can sell to folk. At one stage in this new film, the Joker, strung up hi and laughing, tells Batman that he has the feeling that they could go on like this forever, and he's quite right. They can go on forever, unchanging because that would ruin the franchise, and forever delivering on something safe for an audience to lose a few hours in. Which is fine, to a degree, but the real problems begin when I start to look at the money that lies behind the film, and the things that money could do to make the world a better place, to actually go towards stopping the social conditions that form crime, for example, and which leaves me at the end thinking that if so much money is going to be dropped into such a project, and if so many people are going to rush out to see it, then it ought to be fucking awesome, and not give the impression that a bunch of people paused to earn some cash, before going on to their more interesting projects.

Part of the problem with the film comes from the director, Nolan, who has delivered what I would say is his least stylish film to date. He has never been a hugely stylish director, but there has been a certain quality to his films that, I would argue, has been diminishing of late. In The Dark Knight, it can be seen mostly in the action scenes, which are a painful, almost uncoordinated mess which seem to focus on Christian Bale grimacing as he hits things. Nolan feels a lot stronger in the scenes that--perhaps ironically--happen in the daylight, where characters interact, and plots are laid out. Perhaps his best scene happens in the police holding cell where the light is a bright, clear whiteness, an attempt to convey to the audience that what they are seeing is the characters in their most stripped back, true light. But there's no denying the fact that huge set pieces, such as Batman vs the Swat Team vs the Joker are a muddled affair, without any timing, grace, and sense of flair. I'll give him the small prop he deserves for the use of sound before the Joker strikes, but it's a tiny touch, a start, not a finish.

Still, I don't want to suggest that the film is a complete waste of space, since Ledger is quite good in it, and provides the film's true life. It's unfortunate that the film didn't actually focus on him more, and push into his background, and build him, but I got what they were trying with the opposite, where they tried to create a completely unknown individual, having just appeared out of nowhere, a figure who wants to watch the world burn, as Michael Caine says at one stage in the film. Still, I do think that Ledger is ultimately let down by the script, as he is ultimately surpassed in importance by Harvey Dent, who exists to provide the film's true closure. In a way that is problematic, as the film never truly lays out why he would pick Gordon to focus on, and Gordon's final words, as Batman rushes away, pursued by dogs and Police, is a little preachy, and I could have done without it. But, hey, I'm on the negative again--what is it with me and that--and the film does have a few nice twists and amusing menace given over to the presence of the Joker.

So, is it worth sixteen bucks?

Probably not, but then what is? A whole bunch of people are going to tell you the film is awesome, including Q, who is twelve, and maybe I'm just not that twelve year old any more, and maybe I've seen all this shit one too many times, and I just want something new, which is exactly what this kind of film won't give.

Comments

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ashamel
Jul. 21st, 2008 01:26 am (UTC)
You're just a bitter, bitter man.

But I'm with you on this one -- the movie was too muddled to be particularly effective.
benpeek
Jul. 21st, 2008 04:29 am (UTC)
bitter, but right!
catsparx
Jul. 21st, 2008 01:43 am (UTC)
and I suddenly realised I had an answer for that: my living room.

ha! Great post. But I'll probably dig the film.
benpeek
Jul. 21st, 2008 04:30 am (UTC)
that's cause you got trashy tastes ;P
catsparx
Jul. 21st, 2008 04:31 am (UTC)
who? Me?
benpeek
Jul. 21st, 2008 04:33 am (UTC)
nah.

i was thinking of grant ;)
catsparx
Jul. 21st, 2008 04:34 am (UTC)
phew!
(Deleted comment)
benpeek
Jul. 21st, 2008 04:31 am (UTC)
yeah, i figure the same. it's probably a mashup on youtube somewhere (like how people make their own trailers and the like).
angriest
Jul. 21st, 2008 02:46 am (UTC)
I'm still blown away that you describe the director of Memento, Insomnia, The Prestige and the last two Batman movies as "has never been a hugely stylish director".
lyndarama
Jul. 21st, 2008 04:20 am (UTC)
That's what makes Ben such an interesting chap...I will still see the film, if only for morbid curiosity...perhaps maybe on DVD though...
angriest
Jul. 21st, 2008 04:21 am (UTC)
Heh.

Plus Ben knows I would have read criticism of my precious Batman, seen red and not read anything else he posted properly anyway...
lyndarama
Jul. 21st, 2008 04:26 am (UTC)
Ask him if Batman's cape has wings that allow him to fly. That always gets him going. Ha ha.
benpeek
Jul. 21st, 2008 04:33 am (UTC)
;p

i don't even remember which side of that i was arguing now.
lyndarama
Jul. 21st, 2008 07:19 am (UTC)
I believe you were on the side you're always on: yours. ;-)

I was arguing that Batman's cape allowed him to fly (swoop really) from buildings etc. And I'm pretty sure I thought it was because the cape had wings; like a bat.

That's why they call him Batman you know.

But, I'm willing to concede ignorance and thus defeat, in deference to the Batman freak here...I know he's gonna correct me on this stuff.
benpeek
Jul. 21st, 2008 04:32 am (UTC)
that's what i like about you, grant. whenever i bag on batman, i can always count on you coming out to play :)
angriest
Jul. 21st, 2008 04:36 am (UTC)
Two of my favourite things in the world: 1. Batman. 2. Arguing about Batman.
benpeek
Jul. 21st, 2008 05:01 am (UTC)
i jus' llike arguin' ;)
strangedave
Jul. 21st, 2008 06:17 am (UTC)
And it shows.

That 'think of what else they could have done with the money' argument, for example. I'm hoping that you just threw that in to get a rise, because its more charitable to assume that than to assume you really think its a good argument.
benpeek
Jul. 21st, 2008 06:29 am (UTC)
*shrug* it's merely what i think when i see a bit, expensive film without that's not very good. if i wanted it to be a full argument however, i'd make it a different post.
benpeek
Jul. 21st, 2008 04:32 am (UTC)
what, you think he is?

MEMENTO is probably his most stylish film, but i can think of dozens of directors who're just more stylish in how everything is put together (though if they'd make a better film, i can't say).
angriest
Jul. 21st, 2008 04:38 am (UTC)
Well "stylish" is such a vague term to use. In the case of The Dark Knight, I loved how he took the characters of the Batman franchise and dumped them in the middle of a Hollywood crime saga like Heat, with a visual vibe much closer to 1970s cop flicks like The French Connection and Dirty Harry.
benpeek
Jul. 21st, 2008 05:06 am (UTC)
see, i don't think he did the crime saga at all. HEAT is a cool film, and there's a very different sense to it through its characters than THE DARK KNIGHT ever came through. i'll maybe give you the 70s cop flicks, but eh, y'know?

to me, style isn't a very vague term. it describes the personal touches of the director, and it influences the pacing, the scene selection, the emphasis of the theme, all the ticks, so to say. to use a comparison i know you'll love, there's michael bay. now he is, through these descriptions, a 'stylish' director, it's just that the style is more often than not a negative thing, and one which is often used in an attempt to hide the emptiness in his films. style over substance, in this case, and it's not even a very good style.

(except for TRANSFORMERS. that rocked.)

(hahaha)
angriest
Jul. 21st, 2008 05:35 am (UTC)
Ah, OK. I thought you meant Nolan didn't really have a sense of style, whereas now I think you mean he doesn't have a consistent one - which is a fair cop. I like the fact that he adjusts his visual style and storytelling pace to suit the kinds of films he's making at the time. I think that's a rarer gift that the one possessed by the Michael Bays and Ridley Scotts of the world.
benpeek
Jul. 21st, 2008 05:41 am (UTC)
nah, it's the first. i could go with the change in styles--but i don't think he's adjusted himself over the last three films at all, and INSOMNIA felt no different, i believe, to these.

he does, i believe, have a consistent style. the use of backgrounds to describe emotions and such in characters is there (off the top of my head) in the majority of his films, but part, i think, is that style he does have doesn't seem very well suited to BATMAN films.
angriest
Jul. 21st, 2008 06:12 am (UTC)
I found The Prestige very different stylistically to Batman Begins, and the two Batman films I found significantly different - within the context of the characters and setting, of course.
benpeek
Jul. 21st, 2008 06:30 am (UTC)
i dunno, i got to disagree there, but i guess that's how it falls, huh?
angriest
Jul. 21st, 2008 06:51 am (UTC)
One of the things I found so interesting about The Dark Knights was Nolan's choice to strip away all the excessively gothic, overbuilt stuff from Gotham City and make it basically look like Chicago. So much of the film is set in the day time, which is unusual for Batman.
angriest
Jul. 21st, 2008 06:52 am (UTC)
See how I can just keep discussing it forever? I'm brilliant that way.
lyndarama
Jul. 21st, 2008 07:20 am (UTC)
See, I *like* the Gotham City gothic stuff. Bummer. I always thought it was modelled on New York.
ext_106448
Jul. 30th, 2008 06:09 pm (UTC)
Which version of INSOMNIA...the original (Norwegian, which I think may have also been a remake) or the American remake? Since this discussion is about Nolan, I'm guessing the American and I'm too lazy to consult IMDB at the moment.

The Norwegian version I liked a LOT better.

The redeeming thing with DARK KNIGHT was Heath Ledger's Joker. The rest wasn't 'meh', it was better than WANTED, but I think Bale as Batman was the weakest link. The scene that made the movie for me was the holding cell scene between Batman and Joker.

This last month has been a movie month for me, KUNG-FU PANADA (liked), WALL-E (liked but was depressed afterwards), DARK KNIGHT (liked more than disliked), HELLBOY 2 (visually beautiful, otherwise meh), and X-FILES (meh).
ext_106448
Jul. 30th, 2008 06:14 pm (UTC)
TRANSFORMERS could've used less of the side-line love interest sub-plot found as a pre-req in so many American films. If anything the love interest sub-plot should have been between the robots...screw the humans.
ex_chrisbil
Jul. 21st, 2008 12:20 pm (UTC)
You should see The Following. A lot of it is filmed in the restaurant at Framestore, where I used to work, 'cos one of my colleagues was Nolan's flatmate throughout Uni (the rest of it was filmed in their flat).

I'm slightly bias, but I thought it was a cool film. Good idea, too. A bit twisted.
benpeek
Jul. 22nd, 2008 02:07 am (UTC)
yeah, i've heard it's okay, but just never gotten round to it.
angriest
Jul. 21st, 2008 04:39 am (UTC)
Completely unrelated, but just once I want to see a version of the Passion where Jesus punches the Romans in the face and gets away.
benpeek
Jul. 21st, 2008 05:07 am (UTC)
yeah, how historically inaccurate would that be?

:)
ex_chrisbil
Jul. 21st, 2008 12:21 pm (UTC)
Moderately? Followed by "turn the other cheek, biatch!" would be best... or just The Passion of the Christ 2: Crucify This from Family Guy...
benpeek
Jul. 22nd, 2008 02:07 am (UTC)
i want jesus to ride a dinosaur.
ext_106448
Jul. 30th, 2008 06:17 pm (UTC)
I was gonna insert a rather crude sentence involving Jesus, Mickey Mouse, and a lawn dart put in an uncomfortable place from a Bloodhoung Gang song, then I decided not to.

On a semi-related note, some friends have a DVD titled 'Jesus Christ Vampire Slayer: the power of Christ will impale you!'

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