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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?
(no subject) - benpeek - Jul. 21st, 2008 04:33 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - catsparx - Jul. 21st, 2008 04:34 am (UTC) - Expand
(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...
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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.
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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.
(no subject) - benpeek - Jul. 22nd, 2008 02:07 am (UTC) - Expand
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?

:)
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