The Dark Knight

Movie Information

The Story: The sequel to Batman Begins finds Batman up against the Joker, an unpredictable, seemingly unstoppable madman with no desire for anything but mayhem and destruction. The Lowdown: Bleak, but often brilliant, and with the powerhouse performance of Heath Ledger at its center, the latest Batman movie is powerful filmmaking that simply goes on too long for its own good.
Score:

Genre: Comic-Book Hero Psychodrama
Director: Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins)
Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Michael Caine, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman
Rated: PG-13

Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight entered theaters last Thursday at midnight. By Sunday night, its projected weekend total was $155,340,000. Yes, that hands The Dark Knight the accolade for most successful opening in the history of movies. It also boasts a 94 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes (190 good reviews, 12 negative ones).

So is The Dark Knight good? Yes. Is it as good as the hype and the box office indicate? Except for Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker, no, it isn’t. It’s too long. The non-Joker scenes are too dull by comparison. And frankly, from a purely personal standpoint, the whole thing is such a downer that I really doubt I’ll ever have a desire to see it again. Were it not for the ferryboat sequence, the whole film would be such an exercise in nihilism that they might as well give out razor blades with every ticket.

It’s interesting to consider the film in connection with Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. When Burton’s sequel to his phenomenally successful Batman (1989) came out in 1992, it was the cause of a major uproar. It was considered too dark, too scary and just altogether too much. Parents were up in arms because it terrified their children. Warner Bros. was aghast at the response—and presumably at Burton’s film—and took steps (paging Joel Schumacher!) that this wouldn’t happen with any future installment in the series.

Here we are, 16 summers later, with a film of such dark ferocity that Burton’s neon nightmare is about as threatening as a Sunday-school picnic by comparison. Yet this time, instead of horrified outcries, The Dark Knight is raking in the accolades and the dough. Someone with a sociological bent can have a go at figuring out whether this says more about us as a people or about the respective merits of the two films. Perhaps it’s the very fact that Nolan’s film is so unrelentingly dark—it rarely cracks a smile—that it’s simply taken as a more serious work than Burton’s more playful approach to the mayhem.

Nolan’s film is very serious indeed. They almost might have called it Citizen Wayne. After all, its basic premise has a trust-fund boy—Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale)—who sets out to try to combat all the injustice and evil in the world, much in the manner of Orson Welles’ Charles Foster Kane. In both instances, the men find themselves despondent and alone and faced with becoming the very thing they hate most. The cinematic inheritances of The Dark Knight hardly end there—the ending owes more than a little to John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) and the overriding theme is remarkably similar.

The Dark Knight is comparable to Burton’s original Batman in that its core is Batman vs. the Joker—only this Batman is even more troubled than Burton’s version and the Joker this round is a fitting adversary for such a Batman. True, the Batman/Joker dichotomy was explored in the Burton film (each being responsible in different ways for having created the other), but not to the degree it is here—and not to the same end. The new Joker has no backstory (he offers several conflicting versions of how he came to be over the course of the film). We don’t know his origins. He is simply a force of crazed evil in love with chaos for its own sake and determined to make Batman cross that line that separates them by trying to make him violate his code of ethics.

At its best—which is to say whenever Ledger’s on the screen—Nolan’s film is powerful stuff. Yet oddly, it suffers from the same sense of imbalance as Burton’s Batman because its villain is so much more the show than its hero. In fact, it worsens the situation by dragging in the whole Harvey Dent/Two-Face (Aaron Eckhart) character and story line. The Dent material is essential to the theme of the film, but it’s so much less compelling than the Joker material that it bogs things down, especially when it takes over at the end.

Of Ledger’s Joker, what is there to be said? It’s everything you may have heard and more. I don’t think it’s entirely without precedent—the tone of voice and delivery kept reminding me of Brad Dourif as the Gemini Killer in William Peter Blatty’s Exorcist III (1990)—but that doesn’t keep it from being one of the most terrifying creations you’re ever likely to see. Ledger is quite simply electrifying. Not only does he tap into the character’s own darkest corners, but into our own. He makes us laugh at his insanity (disappearing pencil trick, anyone?) and then recoil in horror at our own laughter.

The movie would be a must-see for Ledger alone, but there’s more to it than that. If anything, the film is a grim portrait of our own paranoia, sense of hopelessness and selfishness—tempered only by one sequence and the sense that the madness of our age is only temporary, but it’s surely significant that the “bat signal’s” ultimate fate here is a direct comment on its status as a symbol of hope at the end of Burton’s Batman. In other words, it’s probably the perfect Batman picture for our era—for better or worse. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and some menace.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

75 thoughts on “The Dark Knight

  1. I loved this movie. It reminded me of a Michael Mann film. Each scene built upon the previous and by the end of it, I felt like I was watching something special.

  2. Ken Hanke

    It reminded me of a Michael Mann film

    Oh, Jason, that’s a horrible thing to say about any movie!

  3. Eddie Jenkins

    Good review but I can’t believe you gave “Hellboy II” a higher rating than this film. What did that film have that “The Dark Knight” didn’t? How did it do anything better? I couldn’t have been the acting, story line, or even the visuals. Just wondering.

  4. tatuaje

    True story..’Batman’ was the first word I ever said..

    I’ve been waiting for the crowds to die down and to have a mid-week afternoon free to watch it in relative peace & quiet…

    Wired magazine had a great article/interview about Nolan and his vision for how he wanted this film to look…not only dark, but huge, sweeping, with a lot of the film shot in IMAX…
    http://www.wired.com/entertainment/hollywood/magazine/16-07/ff_darknight

    …Eight stories tall. Cruel reality mashed up with the comic-book carnivalesque — unvarnished, without the comforting buffer of f/x. In an Imax theater, your eyes can’t wander off Nolan’s enveloping canvas and can’t easily dismiss what they’re seeing as trickery. Maybe that’s the most special effect of all.

    Pfister(director of photography) admits that even in an Imax theater, many viewers, wowed by the sheer size, might miss the finer photographic distinctions. But they’ll feel them. “It’s more of a visceral thing,” he explains, adding that Nolan’s longer, calmer cuts are designed to let viewers scan the huge Imax screen for detail — a refreshing change after years of synapse-snapping action-movie flash-cuts. “You can see something way off on the horizon,” Pfister says. “You can see a little glint of light, a reflection in Batman’s eye. You can’t see it in a conventional theater. And you definitely can’t see it on a plasma screen at home.”

    Guess I’m headed to Charlotte…

    …whole film would be such an exercise in nihilism that they might as well give out razor blades with every ticket.

    ..In other words, it’s probably the perfect Batman picture for our era—for better or worse.

    …and now I can’t wait…from Burton to Nolan, indeed…

  5. Ken Hanke

    Actually, I prefer Hellboy II to this movie by a pretty sizable margin. I think it does a lot of things better — including not thinking it’s holy writ. I know I’ll be called shallow, but I’d have been happier if The Dark Knight was a little less serious and a little more fun.

    But mostly it stems from the fact that The Dark Knight, so far as I’m concerned, wouldn’t be much without Ledger’s Joker. I really don’t find Christian Bale all that compelling as Bruce Wayne or Batman this round.

    Tim Burton’s Batman had a similar problem with Nicholson’s Joker being more interesting than Keaton’s Batman. But Burton’s film at least kept the focus on the two of them. This doesn’t, but there’s a reason, yes. The film can’t make its thematic point without the Harvey Dent plot. Essential from that standpoint, but not so hot from a dramatic one — at least, for me.

  6. “Good review but I can’t believe you gave “Hellboy II” a higher rating than this film. What did that film have that “The Dark Knight” didn’t? How did it do anything better? I couldn’t have been the acting, story line, or even the visuals. Just wondering.”

    Humor and humanity are the two main things for me. I liked it better as well… it’s the perfect summer popcorn flick.

    Without giving anything away, I don’t see where they can go after this installment of BATMAN, even if they plan to.

  7. Ken Hanke

    I respect your opinion, Ken.

    I wasn’t suggesting you didn’t, you young scamp.

    Did I mention that I loved you?

    Not in this particular thread at least.

  8. Eric

    Do you think Heath Ledger deserves at least an oscar nomination for his performance?
    I certainly do.

  9. Sunday

    First, let’s debunk some of the rumors out there.

    No, it’s not The Departed. Nor is it The Godfather Pt. II or No Country For Old Men. The Dark Knight is still a comic book film in every sense of the word, despite what you may have read. It’s not somehow magically transcended the genre to feel like something else entirely, except in specific moments that do manage to accomplish just that (the opening sequence for one). However, it is the best comic book film I’ve ever seen and it would rank very high on a list of best sequels ever. But it’s not crafted in such a way as to make you forget what it is. It still has that chewy exposition about an idealistic sense of justice that grounds the story firmly in the genre, the type of thing that’s really not labored over in a film like No Country or at least not in the same parable-spewed, Shakespearean style on which comic book films so often rely. In that way The Dark Knight is remarkably consistent with Batman Begins, which I loved, because fundamentally it still feels like that film, even when it often does not look or act like it.

    What elevates The Dark Knight over the first Nolan Batman film is quite simply the Joker. Everything you’ve heard about Heath Ledger is true and then some. I was relieved to see his performance was more than just snappy one-liners delivered during wit-laced killing strokes, which is what I feared by the trailers. In fact, he’s quite the conversationalist and the very best moments of this film revolve around these gems, such as an interrogation room scene that’s probably my favorite section of the film. And it’s in these moments that I was riveted and visibly tense because when he was on screen, his character is, no joking, believably dangerous. The Joker spews, “I’m just ahead of the curve” and this is quite true. He’s not just some slippery and elusive coward who manages to dodge justice. Like Spacey’s character in Seven, even when he’s captive you forget that the cuffs are really on you instead of him, until it’s too late of course.

    Even in the middle of his mania, there are a number of hilarious moments and bits of his performance that will indeed make you laugh out loud, but it’s carried on such a maniacal current that it’s never silly or goofy or campy. One second you’re laughing and the next you’re thinking, Holy God, did he just do…that?

    You see, the beauty of Ledger’s Joker is found in the little physical details, like when he rolls his eyes looking for the next best word, licks his lips with approval, tilts his head, shuffles in an out of a scene (wearing God knows what), or simply delivers to you his plan one jarring and disconcerting glance at a time. Every moment he’s on screen (6 total scenes maybe, I didn’t count) you’re riveted and whenever he’s not, you can’t wait to see him again. It’s quite simply the best acting performance in a comic book film to date and he invests heavily in this part. There’s not a gesture or utterance wasted by Ledger as he devours scene after scene. Seriously, study his face while you’re watching and then go see it a second time, like I did, to watch it again. The rest of the cast is wonderful, as we’ve come to expect with the first film, with a special nod this time to Gary Oldman, who gets more screen time this go ’round,. But Ledger takes the film to that special place. And what a dangerous place it is. He’s a simmering stew of Anton Chiguhr, John Doe, Kaiser Soze, and Hannibal Lecter. Heath Ledger himself, the actor…well, that’s the greatest trick of all. He simply…disappears.

    I wonder if the film could’ve benefited from less of the Harvey Dent storyline, with more focus centered squarely on the Joker-Batman relationship, but the Dent character is so tied into the overall arc of the plot (you’ll see) that to change it would mean to take a different tact altogether, so I understand why it was done this way…and you will too. And the Aaron Eckhart scenes are delicious and worthwhile, so it’s not a knock. It’s just that Ledger’s scenes (with anyone!) are so good, you simply want more of him. I appreciated the Dent arc more with the second viewing. There’s literally so much to ingest and Nolan cuts in and out of scenes so quickly and often that you’d be foolish to not see it a second time, provided you enjoy it. I’ll probably go another time or two myself.

    Yes, it’s that good.

    Visually the film is stunning. It’s big. It’s loud. It’s surprising. There’s a lot of carnage in this movie and there’s this overall sense that anyone could go at anytime, so it keeps you riveted to your seat. It’s not a safe film wrought with cliché and predictability. Nolan’s made it clear that nothing is sacred this go ’round and that yes, it’s as dangerous as it appears to be, pushing both your comfort level and its PG-13 rating from the very start to the very end.

    In the spirit and tone of Batman Begins we’re whisked to a new level, primarily propelled by a character who simply raises the bar for everyone around him. For that reason alone, The Dark Knight is both an improvement and unavoidably worthwhile.

  10. Ken Hanke

    Do you think Heath Ledger deserves at least an oscar nomination for his performance?

    Even as meaningless as the Oscars have become — always were really — yes. Whatever else I might say about the film, Ledger’s performance is the goods.

  11. Ken Hanke

    However, it is the best comic book film I’ve ever seen and it would rank very high on a list of best sequels ever.

    Obviously, since I’m assuming you read the review, I just don’t get this degree of adulation for the film. Without pausing to consider it very deeply, I’d call Batman Returns, X-2 and Hellboy II better comic book films and better sequels. (I’m assuming you’re strictly talking real comic book movies and not adaptations of graphic novels here.)

    Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate your viewpoint –I always appreciate intelligent discourse — but the film itself, for me, remains deeply flawed and ultimately off-putting. I admire it without liking it very much. I don’t know when or even if I’ll see it a second time. That’s exactly where I ended up with Batman Begins.

    Ledger to one side — and, yes, everything said about his performance is true — I was detached from it. I saw where it was going and the points it was trying to make, but it never completely connected with me. I didn’t much care what happened to the characters and when I was supposed (I think) to feel devastated, I ended up feeling just vaguely depressed.

    I do, however, think the film should be seen. It’s too big and too important to ignore.

  12. brebro

    Is it bad that I found the Joker to be kind of attractive when he was wearing that nurse uniform?

  13. Ken Hanke

    Is it bad that I found the Joker to be kind of attractive when he was wearing that nurse uniform?

    Bad? Probably not. Mildly disturbing? Probably.

  14. sparklecoogs

    Good review, Ken. Yet, your follow-up comments don’t seem to harmonize with your four-star rating for the film. Or perhaps, in smoothing out the fine points, your comments have created the erroneous impression you didn’t like the film as much as you did. Or perhaps it’s the whole “like it” versus “admire it” dichotomy. For example, I strongly admire “Boys Don’t Cry,” but please don’t ever let me see it again, because I most certainly didn’t like it.

    You did manage to use the one phrase I’ve long believed should be permanently retired from film criticism, which is “deeply flawed.” Ooh, it really gets my goat when critics use that barb. It’s the intellectually superior, grown-up equivalent of stomping your feet when you don’t get your way. To say a film is deeply flawed is to imply the superiority of your opinion and to suggest you understand the filmmaking process better than the actual filmmakers. I’m as big a film snob as anybody, but I never refer to a film as deeply flawed, and I’ve seen some epic stinkers.

    Anyhow, that wasn’t meant to sound like a rant, and I apologize if it did. Like I said, your review was excellent…thoughtful, meticulous, and well written.

    Now I implore you and the rest of the world’s film critics to stop using “deeply flawed” in your writings. To borrow and retool a phrase from Heath Ledger’s Joker, “The world needs a better class of criticism.”

  15. Tonberry

    I was making a stew the other day. I’ve made stews in the past, some really successful when I worked my way backwards, some a’ight when I couldn’t sleep, but this new stew I was working on was the most anticipated of them all due to a secret ingredient that had many people watering at the mouth. A few taste tests proved HIGHLY successful, that particular ingredient had many wondering how the stew was going to turn out. I grinned from ear to ear, this was going to be pretty epic, and the hype grew and grew. As I kept adding more and more to the wonderfully welcome crock pot, everything was in its right place. A stew like this only comes once in a lifetime you see. Although, I did make a a small mess near its end. A little too much started to bubble over on the side, seeping, and I grew melodramatic. I saved the stew in time, but if I hadn’t been watching carefully, I would have had an upsetting end to an otherwise well made stew.

    “Let’s put a smile on that FACE!”

    Back before The Dark Knight went into production, I would discuss with my friends who would be a great Joker if indeed, Batman Begins were to have a sequel. Robin Williams came up (lets add lib!), Adrien Brody (Boo-Hoo) and the teeny boppers suggested Mr. Johnny Depp himself (He can play anything! And he’s so hot!!!). Never did we mention Ledger, and when it was officially announced that he was to play the part, I wasn’t against or for. It was an interesting choice, and I liked Heath as an actor, so I was curious to see how he would turn out. Then that teaser trailer was online and I was happy, his laugh gave me chills. Then the 1st trailer trailer floored me. And so did the 2nd trailer trailer. Dark Knight became my most anticipated movie this side of Fellowship of the Ring, and I hoped it could at least live to its promise that this indeed, would be not only the best Batman film, but the best comic book movie to grace the screen.

    “You look nervous…”

    Having seen it twice (and maybe a few more times, movie like this doesn’t come around often) I am fully surprised it actually met its hype and actually surpassed it . This is a first for me, for a movie on this large a scale. Think those Star Wars prequels. Crap. Those Matrix sequels. Crappy Crap. And Spider-Man 3. Diarrhea from a skunk. (Sorry Mr. Raimi, not entirely your fault…maybe). But as for The Dark Knight, I was worried, and couldn’t help but have high expectations, and I be danged, this movie met them. (Though it’s not the best comic book movie, that honor goes to the awesome Hellboy 2). I don’t have to really go into Ledgers Joker into detail. Its nothing you haven’t read before. In my opinion, a comic book film is at its best when it has a great villain. Batman Begins wavered here. Iron Man’s was laughable (Why I think The Incredible Hulk was better than that movie). Yet me oh my, The Joker is not only the best comic book villain done right, he is also one of the best screen villains of our time. He steals the show and his performance is so magnetic, that I witnessed someone clap when the Joker blew up a hospital. Really that’s what disturbs me the most about the Joker, laughing, when you shouldn’t be.

    “I believe in Harvey Dent.”

    I hadn’t really seen Eckhart in anything besides Thank You For Smoking, and after that film, I wondered why he was yet a star. I believe The Dark Knight should make him one, he’s awesome in it, really everyone is, from Bale to Caine to Freeman to Gyllenhaal to Oldman to even Tommy “Tiny” Lister’s cameo. Though its Eckharts role that symbolizes the theme for this movie. It’s just a slight misstep in how they handle Two Face in the end, the first time I felt it was a bit much and took the focus from the Joker, even realizing this was still The Joker playing his hand. The second time I was more forgiving when I got around to it, however, I think the problem is it feels ‘tacky’, rushed. After The Joker has his final bow, either wrap it up quickly or at least present a finale that’s more developed. The final scene is in-between those extremes. I don’t mind a long movie, but I did wish the film would end and not spoil a story that was on the money. It’s not a terrible finale *cough*I could have saved three lives *cough*, just a bit much.

    “Well hello beautiful…”

    And this movie is beautiful. The lightning is gorgeous. I downloaded the soundtrack when I got home. And the cinematography, oh my dear lord, those aerial shots. I wish an IMAX was closer to town, sweet jesus I do. I apologize to all those atheists for the religious references, but the movie is a religious experience. I laughed however, when I heard this was the Godfather Part II of the comic book films. One Word: No. (The film is currently rated as #1 on the IMDB, a joke of a list anyway, but its amusing to read the fans of the first Godfather and this movie, duke it out over the top spot.) No, with its style, iconic characters, and sweeping cinematography this is more like The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly of the comic book films. And I can’t think of higher praise than that.

  16. TonyRo

    Mr. Hanke…I think you normally have at least some form a well opinionated criticism about every flick, but I have to tell you this…..

    Batman Returns is an awful movie. I think somewhere along the line the people in charge of making sure it was a Batman movie and less a Tim Burton movie failed miserably.

    Tim Burton knows nothing about comics or comic book movies, even to the point where he dissed Kevin Smith using this as an argument against the idea that he stole Kevin Smith’s comic book idea for the last shot of Planet of the Apes: “Anyone who knows me, knows I don’t read comics.” To which Kevin Smith said: “Anyone who watched the Batman flicks already knows this.”

    Not to say Tim Burton is a bad director. He has had good flicks (Ed Wood, Big Fish, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Mars Attacks!, and Beetle Juice), but most of his Gothic vision becomes repetitive and stale after a while (much like superhero movies).

  17. Ken Hanke

    Batman Returns is an awful movie.

    But, you see, I don’t agree with you.

    Tim Burton knows nothing about comics or comic book movies

    The former may actually be why I like his comic book movies. As for the latter, isn’t that a pretty overstated statement? It’s really unlikely that there’d be this glut of comic book movie you’re enjoying now has his 1989 Batman not been a huge hit. Presumably, he had something to do with that. Prior to that — the Superman movies, which I always found campy myself, to one side — there really hadn’t been a serious comic book movie.

    even to the point where he dissed Kevin Smith using this as an argument against the idea that he stole Kevin Smith’s comic book idea for the last shot of Planet of the Apes: “Anyone who knows me, knows I don’t read comics.”

    Actually, I’ve heard this story in more than one form. The one I’ve heard has Burton saying that anyone who knows him knows he would never use a Kevin Smith script (in reference to Smith’s Superman screenplay). But in any case, I’m not sure what him dissing Smith (it’s not illegal), nor what Smith’s remark (it’s not holy writ) actually proves.

  18. brebro

    I’ve had similar disappointed feelings about Burton’s Batman sequel and even his initial film as well, but have been reticent to speak them aloud. TonyRo’s bravery has given me the strength to come out at last and declare that despite the fervor with which I waited in line that first night of its late 80s premiere, upon reflection over the past two decades, I have come to the conclusion that despite Burton’s unique, but by now, admittedly repetitive vision, he really didn’t do much with the franchise that was not merely superficial. (How’s that for a long sentence?)

    This was the era of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns and other more sophisticated takes on the character in comics such as the Killing Joke and Batman: Year One. The fact that someone, anyone, was finally creating a live-action Batman story that was going to reflect the darker tone that comics readers had enjoyed for many years now and replace the campy Superfriends and Adam West incarnations that, let’s face it, most casual observers still had in mind when they heard, “Batman” mentioned was enough to have fans exult Burton’s film on that alone. The visuals were stunning, if overblown, still not quite gritty reality, but we know Burton loves his dark carnival atmosphere and at that time we had not seen it done to death, in picture after Danny Elfman-scored picture. But really, there was not much substance there past the visuals (and I won’t even get into the needless revisionism of having the Joker killing his parents) and the second movie was even more ridiculous, plot-wise with the Penguin coming up with one scheme after another that went nowhere, but nobody seemed to notice as long as the imagery was still all Beetlejuice-Corpse Bride-Frankenweiner-Scissorhandish.

    Batman readers have had to take what they can get when it comes to movie incarnations of the somber world of their protagonist and Burton’s films were definitely a step in the right direction and were justifiably hailed as such at the time. But Nolan’s take is much more on the mark and should fairly be placed ahead of any of Burton’s (and certainly Schumacher’s) misguided attempts.

  19. Dionysis

    “Batman readers have had to take what they can get when it comes to movie incarnations…”

    This is an astute observation, which I can identify with. Batman was one of my comic favorites growing up. I liked the fact that he was not endowed with super-human powers, and those comics always had a serious tone to them (as did other, forgotten comic icons from yesteryear, such as Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Aquaman, Blackhawk and others). I remember being outraged at how the Adam West television show was turned into a comedy. I always hated it. I was eager for Burton’s take, and was sorely disappointed in his films. They were just not serious enough for me; I thought the casting was odd, and really did not like that kind of carnival-like atmosphere Burton created (my favorite Tim Burton film is Ed Wood). Heck, I even preferred the old movie serial versions of the Caped Crusador. When Batman Begins was released, it was as if ‘finally, someone is doing it right’.
    I find that I agree with probably 98% of Ken’s takes on films, but the Burton Batman series never cut it for me.

  20. Ken Hanke

    Or perhaps, in smoothing out the fine points, your comments have created the erroneous impression you didn’t like the film as much as you did. Or perhaps it’s the whole “like it” versus “admire it” dichotomy. For example, I strongly admire “Boys Don’t Cry,” but please don’t ever let me see it again, because I most certainly didn’t like it.

    You pretty much hit it. (I’d more readily cite Requiem for a Dream as my, “Boy, that was brilliantly done and I never want to see it again” candidate.) But on another level, let’s face it, I don’t have the love for this movie that a lot of other people seem to have, and really it’s five stars of Heath Ledger — combined with what the film attempts to do — that brings it to four stars.

    You did manage to use the one phrase I’ve long believed should be permanently retired from film criticism, which is “deeply flawed.” Ooh, it really gets my goat when critics use that barb. It’s the intellectually superior, grown-up equivalent of stomping your feet when you don’t get your way.

    Oh, I really don’t agree — so long as you point out how it’s flawed. I certainly am not saying that I could have done it better, but I do find The Dark Knight deeply flawed. I stated some of the reasons I find it so. All in the world this means is that the critic found things — a few or a lot — that he thinks didn’t work. That’s pretty much the nature of criticism. It’s subjective, yes, but so is all criticism, which is fair enough, since all art is subjective.

    The funny thing is that a lot of people I’ve talked to — people who are much keener on the whole comic book business than I am — actually do keep telling me how Nolan could have improved the film, and I keep having to defend the film. The one thing I keep being told is that the movie needed to drop the whole Harvey Dent aspect. I understand what they’re saying and where they’re coming from, but you can’t drop that part of the story and make the point the film is attempting.

  21. Ken Hanke

    In my opinion, a comic book film is at its best when it has a great villain.

    That’s really true of any film — or book or play — that works on a heroes and villains basis. (It’s part of why Hancock doesn’t work. Other heroes have villains like The Joker, Dr. Mabuse, Rotwang, Prof. Moriarty, etc. Hancock has an uninteresting generic bad guy named Red. Even the name is boring.) Put it this way, no one ever read a Fu Manchu book or went to a film adaptation of one on the strength of Nayland Smith as the hero.

    I witnessed someone clap when the Joker blew up a hospital. Really that’s what disturbs me the most about the Joker, laughing, when you shouldn’t be.

    I’m trying to decide whether that disturbs me about the Joker or about the audience. You’re perhaps presupposing that the laughter is followed by a sense of guilt at having laughed. I’m not so sure that’s true — at least in a lot of cases.

    hadn’t really seen Eckhart in anything besides Thank You For Smoking, and after that film, I wondered why he was yet a star.

    I’ve wondered it ever since I saw Possession back in 2002.

    I laughed however, when I heard this was the Godfather Part II of the comic book films. One Word: No. (The film is currently rated as #1 on the IMDB, a joke of a list anyway, but its amusing to read the fans of the first Godfather and this movie, duke it out over the top spot.)

    All IMDb lists are pretty meaningless. I didn’t look, but I wouldn’t be surprised if The Dark Knight was “the best film ever made” a day or two before it was even released, but it wouldn’t surprise me. At least one of the LOTR movies was “the best film ever made” before most of those voting could possibly have seen it. Bear in mind, the IMDb is only slightly less appalling than the user comments section of Rotten Tomatoes where people who don’t agree with a criticism (often of a movie they haven’t seen) post things like, “You’re a homo. I hope you die soon.”

  22. cptnapalm

    One great thing about the superhero movies of this year is that there is now argument over which is the best superhero movie of all time. For ages, the only discussion was whether Superman I or II was better. Now we’ve got Dark Knight, Iron Man and a few votes for Hellboy 2; these movies are just from the last few months and don’t include Spider-Man 2 or any of the X-Men films.

    For those that don’t care for superhero films, well, there are not going to be many good summers for them for the next few years as it is looking. Westerns were once huge. Now it is superheroes and one day they will probably crash too. Then, 40 years from now, many critics will be whining about the lack of superhero films like some do now about westerns.

  23. sparklecoogs

    I agree that all criticism is subjective. But it’s that word, “flawed,” that irks me. More than any other word used it criticism, it’s a loaded term. The implication is not just that there is something wrong with the film, but that this is a fact. Of course, it’s not a fact, it’s an opinion. My hamburger would be flawed if it didn’t have a beef patty. My car would be flawed if it didn’t have tires. But I wouldn’t even refer to “Rocky V,” “Showgirls,” or “Armageddon” as deeply flawed movies. Do they suck? Oh I sure think so. But that’s just my opinion. And while I realize the tone of an opinion is implied in any criticism, some critics get carried away thinking they’re absolutely correct, as if there are clear rights and wrongs to the craft of making movies. That’w when “deeply flawed” rears its ugly head. Argh.

    Anyhow, I’m not saying that was your intent at all. I enjoyed your review. This is just me whining about semantics. But I’m an editor, and I’ll tend to do that.

  24. Ken Hanke

    I’ve had similar disappointed feelings about Burton’s Batman sequel and even his initial film as well, but have been reticent to speak them aloud.

    Why on earth should you be reticent to speak them aloud? There’s certainly no universal concensus on this topic. Batman Returns was not even particularly well-reviewed at the time of its release. And even if it had been, that’s no reason I can see to keep quiet about it. For years “everyone” kept saying that A Night at the Opera was the Marx Bros.’ best movie. Pauline Kael (not a critic I particularly admire or often agree with) kept saying, “No, their best is Duck Soup,” and finally people started to listen.

    As far as all this is concerned, I think it’s essential to understand that we’re coming at this from different angles. I’m far more interested in Batman Returns as a Tim Burton film than as a Batman film. I have no particular reverence for the comic books — from whatever era we’re talking about. Since I was not a working critic (in the sense I am now) at the time, it’s 50-50 whether I’d even have gone to see either of the Burton Batman pictures. Burton was the selling point for me (I find Burton far more interesting than Batman) and I liked the idea of getting away from the TV show (I found it wanting when it was new and I was the right age for it!) — and I agreed with his take that “it’s a story about a guy who dresses up like a bat to fight crime and I don’t care what anybody says that’s weird.”

    Here’s the crux of it, though, when you hire a filmmaker like Burton — any filmmaker who isn’t merely a craftsman — you’re buying a vision. Take it or leave, that’s what you’ve bought. When you buy Joel Schumacher, you’re buying a hired hand who will give you the film you’ve asked for, which, bad as his Batman pictures are, is exactly what he gave Warner Bros. — the movies they wanted to counter the darkness of Batman Returns. That was the issue — not that Burton wasn’t gritty enough or was too carnivalesque. The movie had drawn the ire of parents who complained — to both the studio and to all the companies (most notably McDonald’s) with marketing tie-ins — that the movie was unsuitable for children. The solution — at the time — was to bring in the more tractable Schumacher and offer something lighter and campier.

    The idea that the film was just more of Burton’s gothic schtick wasn’t an issue per se, because his style and approach were not nearly as generally familiar in 1992 as they are now.

    But really, all filmmakers are repetitive. (Guns for hire aren’t, but that’s not the point here.) It’s been said that if you laid the films of any filmmaker of note end to end what you’d end up with is one long film. That’s an overstatement, but there’s a core truth in it. (It’s a provable overstatement where even Burton is concerned because stylistically neither Big Fish nor Ed Wood nor Planet of the Apes are strictly in this gothic mode. Thematically, they’re of a piece.) The thing is Nolan’s films are as much (or more) of a piece as Burton’s. They all work on plot twists, they’re all rather grim, gritty and humorless. What you’re really saying, I think, is that you prefer Nolan’s worldview to Burton’s. That’s fine, but I don’t think Burton’s films are any more repetitive than Nolan’s — they’re just less realistic and mine a style you’re less in sympathy with.

  25. Ken Hanke

    But it’s that word, “flawed,” that irks me. More than any other word used it criticism, it’s a loaded term. The implication is not just that there is something wrong with the film, but that this is a fact.

    It’s all the same once you accept the idea that it’s subjective. You pretty much have to accept that or else you end up with every thought needing the qualification of “in my opinion” or “for me” or some variant. That’s awkward.

    Now, if I could strike one critical phrase from the lexicon, it would be “self-indulgent.” This is a meaningless pejorative term, because all art is ultimately self-indulgent. It only becomes something else — a calculated attempt to pander at what you think people want — when it’s no longer art.

  26. “Is it bad that I found the Joker to be kind of attractive when he was wearing that nurse uniform?”

    Kind of JokerBack Mountain, eh?

  27. I saw this yesterday. I liked it, but I’m siding with Hanke. It would have been a lame flick without Ledger’s Joker. I do wish they’d have set Dent up as being the next villain, rather than having him be a mediocre one at the end of this. It would have made for a great film to have an increasingly violent and criminal vigilante Dent killing corrupt cops versus a Batman who really wants to redeem him as the focus of a third installment, rather than a half-established version of that as this film’s third act.

    Plus, it would have freed-up valuable Joker time, which we’ll never get now.

  28. Ken Hanke

    It would have made for a great film to have an increasingly violent and criminal vigilante Dent killing corrupt cops versus a Batman who really wants to redeem him as the focus of a third installment, rather than a half-established version of that as this film’s third act.

    The problem is they wanted it all now, I think, especially since so many second act entries in proposed trilogies get abuse (The Empire Strikes Back may be the only exception) for being a set-up for the big third film. The real question with what they did is — what will they do for a third act?

  29. [b]The real question with what they did is—what will they do for a third act?[/b]

    The only thing that comes to mind is a Batman versus the cops and the criminals, both of whom have declared war on him. It would be a way to introduce a more realistic and robust version of his rogue’s gallery, since all the “real” mobsters are in jail. Maybe they’ll show these new guys as flamboyant Joker wannabes or something.

    It wouldn’t be that hard to make, say, the Penguin into a “real” adversary, since he’s basically just a mobster with pretensions on being a gentleman. I read somewhere that they had approached Phillip Seymore Hoffman about playing him as a British arms dealer for “Dark Knight,” and that he passed because he didn’t know what to do with the role.

    Or maybe they won’t do anything. I’d be OK with that. Two non-insulting Batman movies are plenty for me.

  30. Justin Souther

    Or maybe they won’t do anything. I’d be OK with that. Two non-insulting Batman movies are plenty for me.

    They’ve made waaaaay too much money not to try and cash in one more time. Even if Nolan and Bale split, I’m sure they could throw something together and have a hit.

  31. tatuaje

    The real question with what they did is—what will they do for a third act?

    I would love to see The Monk & Anarky… they’re obscure, which gives the potential to create something completely new & unique, as well as mixing the supernatural (The Monk was a vampire with religious undertones) with the political (I think Anarky’s name is fairly self-explanatory
    )…

    But, Nolan seems to be circling back (the Joker & Harvey Dent were in the first Batman), so that probably means the Penguin & Catwoman are up next…

  32. sparklecoogs

    But the problem, as many have pointed out, is that you can’t tell “The Dark Knight” story arc without covering the Harvey Dent angle. While I agree this slightly weakens the film (only because it takes the focus off the Joker…and we need as much Joker as possible), it could hardly be avoided. I like Steve’s idea of an escalating Two-Face problem, but apparently that can’t happen now. I don’t think Nolan will stop at two films. Isn’t everybody tempted to shoot for a great trilogy? The Penguin is an idea, but is he too comic-y? If we’re going to keep covering villains who’ve already been covered, I’d prefer the Riddler. Jim Carrey’s performance, a clear nod to the campy TV show, was okay, I guess. But how about a Riddler who is so smart he makes David Mamet characters seem like half-wits by comparison? And he’d have to be seriously, realistically obsessive-compulsive. Someone could really dig his teeth into that role. There are also plenty of lesser-known villains in Gotham, but after what Ledger accomplished, I’m not sure a lesser villain, even if played by the ghost of Laurence Olivier, will cut it.

  33. [b].. so that probably means the Penguin & Catwoman are up next …[/b]

    You know, I’m hoping they’d actually do a Robin story. That’s one thing that has never been done right, and one of the most peculiar things to the Batman mythos.

    Wayne is this tough crime fighter, one who had his childhood ruined by crime, and yet he adopts this pre-teen kid (with whom he admittedly has something in common since they both have murdered parents) only to constantly place him directly in danger because he’s trying to train the kid how to be a hero. He’s kind of a bad parent, and his motivations are surprisingly selfish.

    I’d like to see this story, largely because it walks the line between heroism and something rather dark — child endangerment — which would at least give something interesting to explore as a theme.

  34. [b]I think Catwoman will be part of the next one.[/b]

    I wouldn’t complain, because she’s a workable character. Set aside the “cat superpowers” thing, and she’s just a really good burglar.

    As long as it’s not Mr. Freeze or Clayface (that is, the supernatural blobby one) or Poison Ivy or anyone else with superpowers, I’d be happy. Or, if there was some non-supernatural way these people related to their names, I wouldn’t be put out, either.

    Like, say, a Poison Ivy who is an herbologist who poisons people with plant toxins or something, rather than psychically controlling plants.

  35. [b]But how about a Riddler who is so smart he makes David Mamet characters seem like half-wits by comparison? And he’d have to be seriously, realistically obsessive-compulsive. Someone could really dig his teeth into that role.[/b]

    That’d be cool. The Riddler has never been given his due, largely because he’s not a brutal killer like the Joker. He’s just a very, very smart criminal who can’t stand not taunting the cops with his cleverness. But the question-mark suit would have to go.

    I could see him as part of a “new crime syndicate” with the Penguin, and maybe have some middle-management thugs like Bane and Killer Croc as ‘roided-up ex-wrestlers. It’d be awesome to have all these guys around, and never call them by their comic-book names.

    It’s a shame they don’t pay me to write these things.

  36. Ken Hanke

    But how about a Riddler who is so smart he makes David Mamet characters seem like half-wits by comparison? And he’d have to be seriously, realistically obsessive-compulsive. Someone could really dig his teeth into that role.

    That’s actually a really good idea (not that anyone in charge cares what anyone here thinks), but it hits a snag right off the bat (so to speak). Who can play this?

    There’s another problem — going on after Ledger is a hard act to follow. And that’s probably one sound reason for it to be Catwoman. Plus, rumor has it that Angelina Jolie has been asking about the possibility of playing the character.

  37. [b]Who can play this?[/b]

    Steve Buscemi could do it.

    [b]There’s another problem—going on after Ledger is a hard act to follow.[/b]

    That’s true, and there’s also no villain as defining in the comics as the Joker. But, that doesn’t mean that there can’t be a good story without him.

    The “Hush” storyline was largely about the Riddler. He’s the only villain smart enough to have figured out the Batman/Bruce Wayne thing on his own, which has possibilities. It’s a shame that Hush is such a lame character without the Riddler to back him up.

    Catwoman isn’t really a nemesis so much as an annoying love interest. She’s the girl you want to save from herself, even though she has no intention of being saved by anyone.

  38. Ken Hanke

    Steve Buscemi could do it.

    Even granting that, I don’t see the studio going for it. They’re going to want a bigger name.

    It’s funny, but I just realized that the whole get Batman to defile his own image of himself idea goes back to the central concept of Le Chiffre’s plan in the 1967 Casino Royale. Had it been toyed with in the comics prior to that? (I read them when I was a kid, but I wasn’t morbid about it and never did any digging into the history until much later and then only in broad strokes.)

  39. [b]It’s funny, but I just realized that the whole get Batman to defile his own image of himself idea goes back to the central concept of Le Chiffre’s plan in the 1967 Casino Royale. Had it been toyed with in the comics prior to that?[/b]

    I can’t say for certain, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Batman was a pretty dark title until the early 1940s, when the Comics Code Authority pretty much forced DC to make him goofy, campy and clearly not gay. Before that, he was a violent outsider — he even carried a gun and killed people in the early days of the series.

    But I don’t know if the “No killing” rule had time to become the central tenet of the character before he was cleaned up and had to stop dramatically castrated versions of the Joker from turning Gotham’s water supply into Jell-o or whatever.

  40. Justin Souther

    You know, I’m hoping they’d actually do a Robin story.

    I read that Bale has gone on record as saying he’ll quit if they decide to add Robin. Of course, I’m sure some convincing (and a nice pay check) could maybe change his mind.

    I’ve also heard some quarters mention the fact that you never actually see Two-Face actually in the ground and buried, so that’s a possibility.

    For myself, I’m personally hoping for an appearance by Egghead.

  41. Tonberry

    Nolan has said the Penguin would never appear in ‘his’ vision of Batman because he’s too campy a character.

    “In The Gotham Times, a viral marketing website promoting the 2008 film The Dark Knight, Edward Nashton, an alias of The Riddler, is credited for a letter to the editor titled “Dent Cannot Be Believed” in Issue 2 page 2″
    “While doing press for The Dark Knight, Gary Oldman alluded that the Riddler could be the villain in the proposed third film”

    (Resource Wikipedia “Riddler”)

    Ah, love rumors. Anyways, my vote goes to Crispin Glover for the Riddler. I want to see this character done right, pulling off a series of crimes say “Seven style”. Because Jim Carrey’s Riddler, was mostly Jim Carrey being himself.

  42. Ken Hanke

    For myself, I’m personally hoping for an appearance by Egghead.

    If we’re going that route, I’m voting for Jim Broadbent to play King Tut.

  43. Ken Hanke

    Anyways, my vote goes to Crispin Glover for the Riddler.

    Despite Glover’s cult following, I think you’re facing the same problem you would with Steve Buscemi in terms of star value with the studio.

  44. [b]If we’re going that route, I’m voting for Jim Broadbent to play King Tut.[/b]

    I would pay to see this movie. Even if it wasn’t about Batman. Just Broadbent in pharoh gear eating up the scenery for 90 minutes would be worth my $9.

  45. JJ Funky

    Hype can affect my viewing of a movie. I saw the
    10:20 show, had a full day, and still in hype mode.

    I liked the movie, but I need to see it again.
    However, even though Ledger did a good job with
    the Joker, I don’t know about an Oscar nomination.
    Nicholson still is unsurpassed in all the detailed
    characterization of the Joker. Jack has a personality enabling him to devour characters and
    bring something unique to a film or film genre,
    at times.

    The best Joker would have been Jack in his prime,
    with the dark tone of Nolan’s direction.

  46. Great minds think alike. I thought of Jim Broadbent as King Tut a few days ago. Only Broadbent could bring the appropriate emotion and nuance to such biting dialogue as “My queen is disloyal, the handmaiden’s a traitor, and everybody’s being mean to me!”

  47. Ken Hanke

    Only Broadbent could bring the appropriate emotion and nuance to such biting dialogue as “My queen is disloyal, the handmaiden’s a traitor, and everybody’s being mean to me!”

    Think of Broadbent in a recreation of that great scene where a handmaiden offers the King a weenie (“Want a hot dog, Tut”) and Tut eyes the offending frankfurter before waving it away saying, “Unclean.”

  48. Vince Lugo

    Ya know, they had planned on leaving the Two Face storyline for part three and have Joker be the one who scars him during his trial. In retrospect, perhaps it’s for the best that they threw it all into this one. Personally, I loved every minute of this film and feel that this is going to be looked at as the moment that comic-book movies grew up, in a sense. Nolan has shown that the genre can be so much more than it has been and could finally be looked at as serious cinema while still retaining the elements that made these kinds of films popular in the first place, a difficult balancing act that he pulls off brilliantly here (and hopefully Watchmen will continue the trend, although I’m curious as to how they found a way to film a book that seems to be inherently unfilmable).

    WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS TO FOLLOW!

    As to the length, halfway through the film I realized why it’s so long: They weren’t making a movie perse. It occurs to me that what they did was take an entire season of an imaginary Batman tv series and condense it to movie length. Think of how it’s structured: The first 20 minutes are like the season premiere, Gordon’s “death” is like a midseason cliffhanger, his return is like the halfway point for the back nine and the last 20 minutes or so is like the season finale, ending on a cliffhanger that recalls similar endings from Smallville and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, setting up the next “season”. They may have written themselves into a corner, but if anyone can write back out, it’s the Nolans. I look forward to seeing how on earth they intend to follow this up.

  49. Brian

    What I don’t understand is the filmmakers’ insistence on putting Batman in the “real world” in the last two films. I read an interview where Nolan said he was trying to accomplish “what it would be like if there really were a man who dresses up as a bat, fighting crime.” It is such a colossal miscalculation that if someone pitched that idea to me, I’d stop him right there and say, “What do you mean it takes place in the real world? It’s about a man who flies around in a rubber suit. It doesn’t work.” And it doesn’t, no matter what people say.

    Since this movie tries to make it seem like it’s taking place in the real world, it comes off as even less real. Batman is supposed to be completely unbelievable and absurd. When Batman saves Robin at the end of Batman Forever by somehow cheating the laws of gravity, I didn’t care. It’s a comic book. It’s a kid’s movie. It takes place in another universe… But in this one, when Batman falls off the stop of a skyscraper and lands on the top of a car, and SURVIVES, it’s insulting because of the serious tone of the rest of the film.

    I think I have a new admiration for the Adam West version, after watching these last two pretentious concoctions. “Why so serious?” indeed.

  50. sparklecoogs

    Colossal miscalculation? Are you kidding me? That certainly ranks among the dumbest things I’ve ever heard someone say about a movie. This “colossal miscalculation” is among the most acclaimed comic-based movies ever made, and it is raking in money faster than any movie ever released. It seems you don’t have much support in your assessment of this film. And I think it’s fairly clear why you aren’t someone filmmakers pitch ideas to.

  51. [b]Colossal miscalculation? Are you kidding me? That certainly ranks among the dumbest things I’ve ever heard someone say about a movie. This “colossal miscalculation” is among the most acclaimed comic-based movies ever made, and it is raking in money faster than any movie ever released. It seems you don’t have much support in your assessment of this film. And I think it’s fairly clear why you aren’t someone filmmakers pitch ideas to.[/b]

    Seconding this. It’s the best version of Batman I’ve seen short of the first two seasons of the animated series. It’s not perfect, but from a comic-lover’s perspective, it’s one of the least-insulting versions of the character ever done.

    I just wish they knew what to do with Bruce Wayne. Nolan doesn’t seem to be able to convey the idea that Batman is the “real” Bruce Wayne, and the playboy is the mask.

  52. Ken Hanke

    As a more or less disinterested party in this matter (i.e., I thought the movie was good, far from great and way, way overrated, but then I have no vested interest in the character and am pretty far removed from being a comic lover), let me weigh in on this. I don’t entirely agree with Brian (he lost me at Adam West), but I do see where he’s coming from — and I frankly think it would have been more productive to discuss his point rather than have a flare-up over it, dismissing it as “one of the dumbest things” ever heard. If the best that can be done to argue the point is cite the critical raves and the amount of money it’s made, I’m not finding the case for the defense particularly persuasive.

  53. sparklecoogs

    Well, since film critics are so fond of defending themselves by pointing out that their criticisms are opinions, I’ll point out that my assessment of Brian’s claim as “among the dumbest things I’ve ever heard someone say about a movie” is a spot-on representation of the opinion to which I’m entitled. If I’m being blunt, so be it. I also believe citing critical raves is an excellent reason why someone might argue against calling “The Dark Knight” a colossal miscalculation. Apparently, most of the nation’s top film analysts disagree with Brian’s claim. Citing the film’s box-office haul is not as strong an argument in my favor. Nevertheless, to achieve the staggering numbers this film has, people must be going back for seconds and thirds. People don’t do that unless they’re impressed. And that many people don’t generally get impressed by colossal miscalculations. There are countless other arguments I could make, but I didn’t think anything other than the obvious was necessary. I have no problem with someone not liking “The Dark Knight,” but to call it a colossal miscalculation just seems absurd to me. By what measure, exactly? A calculation is something carefully thought out in advance with the desire to achieve an objective. Since the two most likely objectives of everyone behind “The Dark Knight” were 1) to make a good film and 2) to make money (not necessarily in that order), it’s awfully difficult to argue they failed.

  54. Ken Hanke

    My problem with all this is that it’s fine as far as it goes, but it only goes so far. True, you’ve made a case that the film isn’t a miscalculation because it got largely good reviews and has drawn throngs of people — and some for more than one viewing (though on the last as a barometer of actual quality, you’d have to grant the same degree of greatness to Titanic).

    But I never had the impression that the writer was calling the approach a miscalculation in terms of its critical response or box office, but solely as regards his own response to the film’s approach on an artistic basis. And he gave as his reasoning that the film doesn’t work because it insists the viewer accept a number of unrealistic elements as believable by placing them in a more or less realistic context. Now, I understand what he’s getting at, though I’m not sure I agree that the context is all that realistic (at the very least, it’s stylized) and I definitely don’t agree with the idea that Batman is necessarily for kids, or that there’s any merit whatever to be found in the Adam West show. But I do think he has a point that the film does mix a good deal of pretty fantastic material (more than he names, in fact) with a comparatively realistic context. In so doing, I think he raises a point worth discussing. I’d frankly like to hear some reasons why others think such a mix does work — or even to refute the idea that the mix exists at all.

  55. >or that there’s any merit whatever to be found in the Adam West show.

    What, no love for King Tut?!? (Though my own recent viewing of the show suggests that any merits whatever, on any scale, certainly have nothing to do with Adam West *or* the Batman character or in fact most of the elements from the comic book, though Burgess Meredith’s Penguin is pretty faithful to the then-funnybook portrayal).

    As to the larger question, there probably are ways of making a fully “realistic” Batman, but it would wind up being so only by replacing the “rubber suit” (or whatever it’s made of) with a simple black mask and dark clothing or something of the sort (basically going back to the older kind of vigilante hero, whose disguise was limited to a strip of cloth or a clearly makeshift mask and the like, ala Zorro, the Scarlet Pimpernel, Dr. Syn, etc.), limiting the gadges and Batmobile perhaps, only presenting “realistic” fight scenes and violence, and on and on. To me, it’s like making a realistic James Bond movie (though I still haven’t seen the recent “Casino Royale,” which supposedly mostly fits that bill): possible, but only by pretty much dropping, replacing, or reducing a majority of the elements that are associated with the established character/franchise/action movie conventions, and evidently Nolan didn’t want to go quite that far.

  56. Ken Hanke

    What, no love for King Tut?!? (Though my own recent viewing of the show suggests that any merits whatever, on any scale, certainly have nothing to do with Adam West *or* the Batman character or in fact most of the elements from the comic book, though Burgess Meredith’s Penguin is pretty faithful to the then-funnybook portrayal).

    Much love for King Tut, but the series that houses him, no, not much. As for Meredith’s Penguin, I never can get past some comedian playing George Bush (the first one) as Meredith’s Penguin during the 1988 elections to think of anything else anymore.

    evidently Nolan didn’t want to go quite that far.

    I think the original poster’s problem was that Nolan didn’t want to go quite that far. (Or he knew the studio wouldn’t stand for it.) As a result, he went for a middle-ground that mixed a kind of gritty/grubby realism with fantasticated elements. I’m not sure I care much one way or the other, but it’s an objection that does tap into the attitude of some of the harder core fans who want to make claims for the film’s greatness and realism on the one hand, while defending its fantastications because it’s a comic book movie on the other hand.

  57. Barry Gaynor

    Did Heath Ledger see any part of the movie, before he died?

    Did he see his clips?

    Did he have any idea how good his performance was, and did he realize how well his performance and the movie was going to make him?

    Or was he suffering so much from personal matters, that he was unaware of all of this?

  58. JJ Funky

    Sorry, I am not amazed at Ledger’s performance.
    It was fitting and creative, but not mind-blowing
    nor a shoe-in for an Oscar.

  59. Ken Hanke

    Sorry, I am not amazed at Ledger’s performance. It was fitting and creative, but not mind-blowing nor a shoe-in for an Oscar.

    Why should you be sorry? I’m actually kind of glad to see someone who wasn’t blown away by it just for diversity’s sake. As for the Oscar, whether he deserves it or not, I think he probably is a shoo-in if they nominate him for Supporting Actor.

  60. Brian

    I’m sorry you lost it at Adam West Mr. Hanke. But I think you understood my other criticisms pretty well.

    What I find interesting is that no one seems to be defending this film as a faithful adaptation to the comics. Having read them as a child, this movie seems to be pretty far removed from the actual comic book, especially the ones from the late-40′s and 50′s, which were closer to the Adam West show in terms of tonality (read: campy). I think for most people under 25, their first memories of Batman come from the Tim Burton version, which was seen at the time as a dark and violent deviation from the actual source material, and closer to the Frank Miller graphic novels. So I can see why people easily accept these last two films.

    While I think Ledger should at least get nominated, if this movie gets nominated for Best Picture, it would just be another notch in the death of American cinema. If Forrest Gump’s best picture Oscar was a malignant tumor, then Batman is full blown cancer. Because we’re only going to get more of this crap. And if people keep being forced to take it seriously, there’s no telling how long it will take to recover.

    As far as superhero movies go, the only one I would even consider talking about as “great” would be the original Superman with Christopher Reeve. Now there was a charming, fun movie that knew exactly what it was. In The Dark Knight we have muddled attempts at existential moral questions, while at the same being asked to accept ridiculous car chases that in reality would claim the lives of hundreds of innocent drivers. There goes your deep moral questioning. This movie asks me to take it seriously, and then to suspend my disbelief to watch some stuff get “blowed up real good”, to pull in the summer-movie going drones. It doesn’t know what it wants to be.

  61. Ken Hanke

    Having read them as a child, this movie seems to be pretty far removed from the actual comic book, especially the ones from the late-40’s and 50’s, which were closer to the Adam West show in terms of tonality (read: campy).

    The problem with this line of reasoning is simply that there is no definitive Batman. The character as he originally appeared was a pretty hardcore vigilante — more in keeping with the modern version, albeit in a much less fantasticated manner. The character changes through the years, in part through pressure from the “comic book code” and all that sort of thing, so the comic book Batman of one’s childhood depends on when one’s childhood was.

    I think for most people under 25, their first memories of Batman come from the Tim Burton version, which was seen at the time as a dark and violent deviation from the actual source material, and closer to the Frank Miller graphic novels. So I can see why people easily accept these last two films.

    While I at least in part agree with your premise that the new film makes an artistic error in the mix of fantastication and realism, I’m incapable of seeing that there’s anything wrong with the mindset you state here. Since the comics themselves have never exactly stuck to a characterization, I don’t see that there’s anything wrong with the Miller or Burton Batman per se — unless you’re arguing that it’s wrong because it’s not the Batman of your childhood, which is strictly a personal objection. Someone born in 1933 might as easily object that neither incarnation is valid because they have fond memories of Lewis Wilson as Batman in the 1943 serial.

    The Adam West Batman, by the way, was the Batman of my childhood and I found it tedious then, but even if I didn’t, it would be pretty narrow to take the view that this is the only way it could be. Among other things, I wouldn’t like to think that my tastes stopped developing at age 12.

    While I think Ledger should at least get nominated, if this movie gets nominated for Best Picture, it would just be another notch in the death of American cinema. If Forrest Gump’s best picture Oscar was a malignant tumor, then Batman is full blown cancer.

    I agree this isn’t Best Picture material. It’s even unlikely to end up on my ten best list. I also agree that Forrest Gump wasn’t Best Picture material — though to an even more spectacular degree. But really I don’t think that Oscars are in any way related to the life or death of the American cinema. At one time, maybe (though even that’s debatable), but not today. They’ve become increasingly irrelevant and mean very little to more and more moviegoers. That’s evident from the post-Oscar response to movies at the box office, which isn’t what it once was.

    And if people keep being forced to take it seriously, there’s no telling how long it will take to recover.

    I asked myself the same question in the days of E.T., Forrest Gump and Titanic. I’d have probably asked it had I been around when Gone with the Wind came out.

    As far as superhero movies go, the only one I would even consider talking about as “great” would be the original Superman with Christopher Reeve. Now there was a charming, fun movie that knew exactly what it was.

    Yeah, but I found it hard to sit through because I found it too absurd without meaning to be. For me, it has the same problem you’re finding in The Dark Knight — just in a different key. It wants me to take the main story and the Superman character seriously, while giving me campy, broadly played villains. This is truly all subjective.

  62. Adam Renkovish

    I wasn’t impressed. The only reason to see the film is Ledger’s performance, in my opinion.

  63. Christopher G. Robin

    I confess that I have not read the comic books, but I am impressed by well informed and insightful comments that those of you who have followed this closely. I hope that the writers, director and producers of future Batman films will consider the comments each of you have made.

    I don’t know whether these questions were answered, but does anyone know whether Heath Ledger had an opportunity to view his clips from the film, or see parts of the film, or did he realize that the film was going to be such a commercial success? And does anyone know about his emotional condition during the making of this film? I gather that he was having considerable personal difficulty (possibly due to his failed relationship, custody of his child, etc.). Thank you.

  64. Ken Hanke

    I wasn’t impressed. The only reason to see the film is Ledger’s performance, in my opinion.

    Now that the film is no longer the event of the moment, I wonder if we’ll be seeing more views like this?

    In non-answer to Christopher G. Robin’s questions, I doubt anyone can actually give you an authoritative answer on most of those points. I certainly have no idea. Speculation, of course, runs wild.

  65. Christopher G. Robin

    Thank you for your response,Ken.

    Again I hope that those who produce the future movies will read and consider the comments you and the others have made. As I said I’m quite impressed by your knowledge and insight into these matters.

    By the way what did you and your peers think of the Jason Bourne movies?

    I thought they were amazing.

    –C.R.

  66. Ken Hanke

    Here are the reviews of the Bourne pictures. I didn’t do the first one.

    http://www.mountainx.com/movies/review/bourneidentity.php

    http://www.mountainx.com/movies/review/bournesupremacy.php

    http://www.mountainx.com/movies/review/bourne_ultimatum

    My overall feeling is that they’re fine — maybe a little more than fine — but they’re not the sort of thing that’s apt to stick with me. I enjoyed them, admired them, but have never had any desire to see them again.

  67. JJ Funky

    Morgan Freeman’s character, Lucius, annoyed me
    with Nolan’s obvious attempt to slam the Bush
    administration. Lucius primary concern was tapping
    while a madman destroys the city. Ridiculous.

  68. Ken Hanke

    Well, it’s hard — probably impossible — to annoy me by slamming the Bush administration, so I can’t say it bothered me on that score, if indeed that’s what it was. Frankly, I thought the way it played out was more like an endorsement of the Bush administration than a slamming. I will say I found the whole sequence preposterous and so vague that it never made much sense.

  69. JJ Funky

    The absurdity of that sequence, in my viewpoint,
    is because of the message Nolan is trying to relay. “Destroy our city, Joker, but we’ll text one another to the end. Hah!” is the gist.

  70. jasondelaney

    I personally LOVE characters that are a more of a force of nature then a person. This way they are above reproach. You cant help but root for the Joker’s embodiment of chaos persona.I find guilty pleasures in these types of characters that I would never act like, due to moral brainwashing, (thanks mom, now my crippling guilt wont allow me to enjoy a killing spree) but I delight in their ability to follow a consistent, unapologetic ambition. See also Gaius Baltar from battlestar galactica for that sort of survive anything anytime no matter what simplicity. As for the theme we keep finding different similarities for? How about A Tale of Two Cities? It might be older then even that.

  71. After all, its basic premise has a trust-fund boy—Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale)—who sets out to try to combat all the injustice and evil in the world, much in the manner of Orson Welles’ Charles Foster Kane.

    Yes, but Kane is a lot more fun.

  72. For myself, I’m personally hoping for an appearance by Egghead.

    But who could possibly measure up to Vincent Price? I’m thinking Ian McKellen – but would he be willing to play two iconic supervillains?

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