Batman: The Dark Knight

The Nominations:

The Black-and-White:

A contributed review by LadyOscar23

I saw this film a bit after the initial release, and going into it I felt a great pressure to like it. The critics raved, “It’s dark! It’s gritty! It’s philosophically momentous! Did we mention it’s dark?” After seeing it, I felt that the adjective that best described the film was not “dark”, but “unpleasant”. The film pulls too many punches and has too muddy a plotline to be truly dark, but it half hides that fact with a smokescreen of unpleasantness.

Here’s the synopsis from

Gotham City appears to be heading toward a relatively crime-free future, because of the efforts of Batman, District Attorney Harvey Dent, and Lieutenant Jim Gordon, and Bruce Wayne hopes he will soon be able to abandon his secret identity. The arrival of the terrifying Joker, however, whose actions are motivated solely by his desire to outwit the Caped Crusader, forces Wayne to continue in his role as the city’s best hope against the powers of evil.

In the darker visions of Batman (such as that in Frank Miller’s graphic novel, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) Batman is a vigilante whose actions may actually do more to increase the chaos in Gotham City than to quell it. He is a superhero analog to all the cops of the Dirty Harry school of policing: a loose cannon, a figure of menace who terrifies criminals and makes innocent citizens nervous.

I feel that The Dark Knight really wanted this type of Batman, but was afraid to embrace him. Would he be too unsympathetic? Would parents complain? Worst of all, would they have to take a *gasp* R rating? The Dark Knight’s Batman is kind of violent, but he never strikes me as having the necessary homicidal rage simmering just beneath the surface. Heck, even Commissioner Gordon seems more hard-core than Batman. One example of the cowardice of the film is the scene in which Batman personally interrogates the Joker. It’s the traditional setup where the rogue cop loses it and starts beating up the prisoner, but somehow after Batman has been pounding the Joker’s face for several minutes wearing weighted gloves the Joker just wipes a bit of blood off his cheek. That’s cartoon violence, not dark, or gritty, or real.

Part of the problem with The Dark Knight is Christian Bale. I have nothing against him as an actor, and on paper he seems like a good choice, but he lacks whatever quality of fascination or charisma is needed to draw the eye to his character. Even without his death, Heath Ledger’s performance would have overshadowed Bale’s, and in any scene with the two of them together I found myself watching the Joker, not Batman. Unobtrusiveness isn’t necessarily a bad trait in an actor, but it’s a bad trait in a leading actor, particularly in a movie with so much sound and fury. Bale’s Batman also has the problem that when experiencing moments of angst, he mopes. Batman can brood, but he should never mope. Leave that for Spiderman.

Another issue was that the film’s creators tried to do too much. If they had concentrated on Batman versus the Joker the plot could have been tighter and had more of an impact. Introducing Two-Face muddied things and caused the movie to become long and unwieldy as they tried to awkwardly shove some extra “light versus dark” meaning into the movie. Additionally, while the makeup on Two-Face was undoubtedly extremely technically challenging, and was quite unpleasant to look at, it was also distractingly unrealistic. Instead of considering the moral ramifications of the situation that created him, I was wondering, “What, exactly, is supposed to be supporting his eyeball?” Again, the film chose to be unpleasant-yet-cartoonish rather than dark.

Perhaps I expected too much from this movie. Films based on comic books have a long history of mostly falling somewhere on the range between “adequately entertaining” and “wretchedly abysmal”, and this one is certainly towards the upper end of that scale. But its creators clearly want us to believe it’s something more, the critics seemed to feel it was something more, and it was close enough to being something more that I was disappointed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: