Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Guest Review: The Dark Knight (2008)

By: T-Rav

The Dark Knight is my favorite superhero movie ever. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s as close to perfect as any of the big players in this genre, and in many ways transcends the superhero format altogether. And, of course, it’s often thought of as a deeply conservative movie. I agree, but for somewhat different reasons than the oft-cited ones.

** spoiler alert **
The Plot
Hopefully the basics are known to most people here. In the second part of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, the Caped Crusader (Christian Bale) is waging his battle to clean up Gotham and its criminal underbelly, with the help of Lieutenant Gordon (Gary Oldman) and D.A. Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). In retaliation, the mob enlists the maniacal Joker (Heath Ledger) to take our hero out (read: the plot of every ‘90s Batman movie). What seems like a straightforward conflict, however, quickly takes on much larger stakes as the Joker takes control of events, overthrows the mobsters, and wages war on Gotham, with an agenda that only gradually becomes clear. Batman and his allies are pushed to—and beyond—the limits of their endurance to prevent Gotham from descending into total chaos.
Why It’s a Great Movie
I was blown away by this movie the first time I saw it, and that impression hasn’t changed. The cinematography and well-paced musical score were many people’s first introduction to Nolan’s technical genius as a director, which Inception subsequently confirmed. An interesting point made before is that for a Batman movie, most of the action takes place in the daytime; yet there is a certain quality to it that makes it feel like night, all the time. A clever element in this is the way in which the film closely mirrors the post-9/11 world, given its terrorism allegory. We have warnings of mayhem broadcast, a suicide bomber of sorts, and even a shot of the aftermath of an explosion that resembles the World Trade Center rubble. The subtext is clear without being ham-fisted.
The acting is similarly great. Heath Ledger’s show-stopping performance as the Joker has been exhaustively discussed on five hundred other sites, so I won’t say anything more about it here; rather, I want to point out the ensemble work you see here with the actors. In addition to those already mentioned, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are great as always, and Maggie Gyllenhaal—well, I thought she was a step or two up from Katie Holmes as the love interest, for whatever that’s worth. Even the minor supporting characters are surprisingly well drawn. Also, given that this is a Nolan film, it goes without saying that The Dark Knight is about as far from the campiness of the Schumacher era as you can get. This is gritty, grim realism all the way through (though not entirely without humor—the scene where the Joker destroys a hospital is chilling and laugh-provoking all at once), yet nonetheless ends on a ray of hope.

The only flaw of sorts is the plotline involving Dent/Two-Face, whose character was not fleshed out as well. I would have suggested saving him for the third movie, except the way things played out in the movie there’s no other obvious way he could have gone. (If you have thoughts on this, by all means suggest alternatives in the comments.)
The Dark Knight and Conservatism
After the movie came out in 2008, there were a lot of commentators at National Review and elsewhere who argued that it was clearly conservative, mainly because Batman’s struggle against the Joker mirrored the military/law enforcement’s fight against terrorism; ergo those who want to stop terrorism are the good guys. One guy—I forget who—went so far as to call Batman a stand-in for George W. Bush. Before Andrew’s head explodes, I want to say that while there’s some truth to this, it’s a bit superficial and needs some digging into.

Obviously, much of this movie revolves around the clash between Batman and the Joker, who represent two ways of looking at the world. The Joker is a nihilist. He informs Batman that morality is a social convention, “a bad joke—to be dropped at the first hint of trouble.” Push people hard enough, he claims, and they’ll forget all about ethics and fight like animals for survival. Batman, on the other hand, stands for the idea that people can stand up for something good outside of themselves, rather than act selfishly. True, the men and women of Gotham haven’t been very encouraging in this regard, but that’s why he’s doing what he’s doing—to awaken them to the better angels of their nature. Seen in this light, the fight between Batman and the Joker is not a matter of one person beating the other, but a struggle of opposing philosophies.
This complicates Batman’s task because he can’t simply dispense vigilante justice and kill the Joker. He’s never been a fan of that method anyway, but it becomes awfully tempting given this anarchist’s crimes and the fact that he’s constantly daring Batman to “break your one rule” and kill him in cold blood. Arguably, this would save a lot of lives, but it would also be an affirmation of situational ethics and the notion that the ends justify the means, which is what the Joker is claiming—and which is also, incidentally, a very liberal belief. In order to defeat the Joker and what he stands for, Batman must therefore fight within a constrained morality. The constant debate over the extraordinary measures he takes is evidence of this; for example, he creates a machine that conducts surveillance of the whole city and then hands it over to Freeman’s character, the one man who expresses misgivings about it, destroying it after the Joker is located and put away. Nolan doesn’t come down squarely on either side of the “security vs. civil rights” debate; what he does clearly say is that power must be handled carefully and sparingly; the lengths to which Batman goes are a case of extreme circumstances, not day-to-day affairs. This is all very conservative.

And then there’s the movie’s finale, which needs explaining in some detail.
The Joker sets up one last conundrum for the defenders of Gotham: Two ferries are rigged with explosives, and the people on each are given the detonator for the other boat. One is filled with criminals, the other with ordinary citizens. The people on each ferry are told if they blow up the other boat, they will be allowed to live; if nobody on either boat has pressed the button by midnight, they all die.

Now, what we don’t get here is a deus ex machina of any kind. Batman can’t come in the last minute to save everyone; he’s tied up fighting the Joker. The cops are too far away. The choice comes down to the people on the ferries. In each case, we see them come to the very brink of blowing each other up. The convicts, as might be suspected, nearly stage a riot, wanting to take the detonator from their guards by force; but what happens on the civilian boat is even more telling. The impulse is to kill the criminals, who after all “deserve it” because of their crimes, and they hold a vote which overwhelmingly decides to do so. Here we see the democratic process put to perverse ends: under direct pressure, the people have voted to commit murder.

But in each case, something happens. One of the criminals steps up and tells the guards to give him the detonator; he then promptly throws it into the water, and he and others gather to pray. Meanwhile, none of the civilians want to be the one to actually press the button. A man who was pressing for the decision finally takes the detonator, prepares to trigger it—and after a long moment, can’t bring himself to do it. It’s at this point that Batman is finally able to beat the Joker and prevent him from blowing up the ferries himself, but really, he’s already won. Faced with the prospect of certain death, unless they chose to blow up other people—a literal “kill or be killed” situation—the people of Gotham, after a moment of desperation and readiness to do the deed, made the choice to sacrifice themselves in the name of what’s right.
This is an obvious rejoinder to the Joker’s version of morality, and the fulfillment of what Batman has been seeking all along. His goal, as he explained as far back as Batman Begins, was never to just beat up criminals, but to inspire the people he protected to believe that they, too, could make the right decisions. Batman isn’t a vigilante; he’s a symbol for good and people’s capacity to choose it. Seen in this light, this scene is the climax of The Dark Knight and indeed the whole trilogy. It also makes a deeply conservative point: Our institutions, as excellent as they might be, can only carry us so far. Ultimately, a society depends on the behavior of its citizens, not the structures we’ve put in place, and on the recognition of an objective morality, whether it derives from religion or natural law.

Conservatism sees human nature as fixed and flawed, and I generally have an especially dark view of it. People will be selfish a great deal of the time, as we see over and over. But that’s not the same as saying that human nature is irredeemably evil. Equally fundamental to our beliefs is the existence of an objective good, one people can aspire to, however short they may fall. That’s the broader argument The Dark Knight makes about the human condition, and that's why this is not only a great film but a great conservative film.



Kit said...

Andrew Price,

I agree w/ what you say about the movie's themes but first a question:

Have you ever read Alan Moore's Batman vs. Joker graphic novel THE KILLING JOKE?

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, I didn't write the article, T-Rav did.

But no, I haven't read that.

Kit said...

Oh, sorry, my mistake. :)

(Note: You should, its a great read. Also quick and easy).

Kit said...


Have you read Alan Moore's THE KILLING JOKE?

Kit said...

One thing about the movie (and the trilogy as a whole) is how many ways it can be analyzed. Christ Allegory, War on Terror Allegory, Greek Tragedy (Harvey Dent), the meaning of Justice, etc.

"His goal, as he explained as far back as Batman Begins, was never to just beat up criminals, but to inspire the people he protected to believe that they, too, could make the right decisions. "
If you think about it, this begins at the end of the movie with the practical canonization of Harvey Dent and in the climax of RISES with the cops charging the bad guys. The people of Gotham are taking back their city.

Anthony said...

Every aspect of The Dark Knight was brilliant. My favorite scene is the bank robbery scene in which every criminal is a short sighted idiot happy to cut someone else out in order to increase their share of the split.

Also, I thought they did a really wonderful job with the Joker's nihilism. I loved the part how he would always tell people whatever lie would most creep them out about how he got his scars.

I also loved the Batman's first meeting with the Joker. The Joker says 'You've got in a little fight in you, I like that!' to the Batman's love interest, at which point Batman comes out of nowhere and replies 'Then you're going to love me' before he slugs the Joker.

Not letting the girlfriend finish her final speech was also a really nice touch. I could gush about every scene in the movie (which I've seen countless times).

I didn't see Rises as part on an arc, I saw it as the equivalent of badly written fan fiction, the Batman equivalent of X-men 3. It went in a different, less convincing direction than its predecessor (which didn't claim crime would magically disappear or that Batman would be crippled) led one to expect and the whole thing wasn't staged nearly as well. The Joker's bank job had suspense and excitement (you didn't know who the Joker was), the government arresting Bane and some guy Bane was interested in had no suspense because you knew all of Bane's captors were dead meat.

I could rip Rises apart all day, but I'll save it for the thread dedicated to Rises.

Kit said...

re: The Killing Joke
The book gives an origin story via Joker's flashback and then at the end implies that it may not be true at all.

Here is the climactic speech by the Joker.
Here is it being read by someone doing a dead on impression of Mark Hamill (voice of the Joker during the Animated Series): LINK

Here is the text
“I've proved my point. I've demonstrated there's no difference between me and everyone else! All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That's how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day. You had a bad day once, am I right? I know I am. I can tell. You had a bad day and everything changed. Why else would you dress up as a flying rat? You had a bad day, and it drove you as crazy as everybody else... Only you won't admit it! You have to keep pretending that life makes sense, that there's some point to all this struggling! God you make me want to puke. I mean, what is it with you? What made you what you are? Girlfriend killed by the mob, maybe? Brother carved up by some mugger? Something like that, I bet. Something like that... Something like that happened to me, you know. I... I'm not exactly sure what it was. Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another... If I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice! Ha ha ha! But my point is... My point is, I went crazy. When I saw what a black, awful joke the world was, I went crazy as a coot! I admit it! Why can't you? I mean, you're not unintelligent! You must see the reality of the situation. Do you know how many times we've come close to world war three over a flock of geese on a computer screen? Do you know what triggered the last world war? An argument over how many telegraph poles Germany owed its war debt creditors! Telegraph poles! Ha ha ha ha HA! It's all a joke! Everything anybody ever valued or struggled for... it's all a monstrous, demented gag! So why can't you see the funny side? Why aren't you laughing?”

Kit said...

"I didn't see Rises as part on an arc, I saw it as the equivalent of badly written fan fiction, the Batman equivalent of X-men 3."


I'll admit there are flaws in Rises. But comparing it to X-Men 3 is a bit harsh.

And it IS a completion of the arc.

"the government arresting Bane and some guy Bane was interested in had no suspense because you knew all of Bane's captors were dead meat."

Hm, it filled me with suspense.
I knew they were dead meat, I was just wondering HOW exactly Bane was going to pull it off.

Kit said...

But it does finish up the arc, especially Gotham City's arc.
The Dark Knight Rises is supposed to be a city at peace but it is a peace built on a lie. Now the lies must come out and Gotham City must be tested. Can it live without the lies of Gordon and Batman.
Does it need a Harvey Dent anymore?
Or has it risen above the need for a lie.
At the end of Dark Knight they needed the lie of Harvey Dent in order to live without batman. Now they can live without Batman and without the lie of Harvey Dent.

I'll admit some flaws in terms of clunkiness that come from what was likely a rushed script (a few extra scenes building up the Catwoman-Batman relationship would've been nice) but overall, I felt it tied things in nicely.

X-Men 3 really didn't.
It dropped story arcs by the barrel (Rogue, Scott, Xavier, etc.). I'm serious about Rogue. They could've handled her character much better in 3. We'd already seen her come out of her shell. Now let's see ROGUE. The sassy southern badass! But she disappeared for 90% of the movie. Then people acting out of character (Magneto). I'll give it some credit for a nuanced handling of the "Cure" issue but other than that, it was fairly mediocre.

Tennessee Jed said...

I've enjoyed all of Chris Nolan's work that I've seen; Momento, Insomnia, The Prestige, Inception, and his work in the Batman franchise. I can't say there has been any that have been less than totally entertaining, and he is an extraordinary talent.

I grew up with Superman and Batman as part of DC Comic books in the 50's. Like the westerns, this tended to be black and white fare with easy morality; good guys and bad guys. The caped crusader always had colorful and interesting villains. First and foremost was The Joker, a true arch nemesis. There is no question in my mind, but that the Nolan/Bales take on Batman is the best film adaption of this character. And while the moral dilemma facing the passengers on the ferries is a classic, I always have believed humans can and do make good choices and bad choices. If enough are faced with the same issue, inevitably someone will not choose wisely. Good review, Rav

Anthony said...


Batman 2's ending implied that Batman was going to continue to fight crime from the shadows even as the police hunted him down and at no point did anyone indicate that Dent's death would get a law passed which made crime magically go away and made Batman unneccessary.

The beginning felt like one of the old serials where they alter the ending of what preceded it to better suit the latest story they were trying to tell.

The notion that Batman (a guy protrayed as ridden as driven to do what he does) would go into quasi-retirement that easily and that the city could solve its crime problem with the right law both kind of fly in the face of the logic of the Batman universe (including Nolan's version of it).

Also, why would people dump a magical crime eliminating law just because the guy that inspired it many years ago was a villian and not a victim? It would be like getting rid of a medicine that cured cancer because the guy who claimed to invent it didn't actually invent it.

And those are just my issues with the opening premise.

T-Rav said...

That's okay Kit! I have read The Killing Joke, which Nolan has said was one of several inspirations for the movie. It's very interesting, and you can certainly see some aspects of it in the film; as I haven't read most of the Batman canon, however, I probably can't appreciate it in its full context.

T-Rav said...

Thanks, Jed!

I can't say there's anything of Nolan's I really dislike, either--and while I've never been much on Superman as opposed to other comic-book characters, I may have to go watch this new film just to see what Nolan does with the character.

As for the scene involving the ferries, yeah--that's perfectly reasonable in retrospect, but the movie does such a good job of setting it up it doesn't seem that way at the time. Everything you see about these people at first leads you to believe they'd blow each other up without hesitation, and that the only way they won't is if Batman saves them. And then neither of those things happen. It's a really brilliant presentation, and that's the climax of the movie for me.

T-Rav said...

Anthony, I'm glad you think as highly of this movie as I do. :-) It really is one of those films I could watch over and over again and never get bored.

Personally, I like this exchange from Batman and the Joker's first encounter better.

Batman: "Let her go."
Joker: "Very poor choice of words...." (drops Rachel off the building)

I have very complex feelings about Dark Knight Rises; I don't love it and I don't hate it. I may come back to it later, but I'll just make this observation for now--I don't like callbacks in a movie. If it's a continuation of a previous film, fine; but it should be able to stand on its own two feet. Rises ought to have been largely independent of the rest of the franchise, given its events occurred years later and all, yet the movie borrowed plot elements and even lines of dialogue from its two predecessors, sometimes with an over-obvious wink and a nod. None of this was necessary. We're familiar with the Nolanverse, we don't need to have these things pointed out.

A larger problem is that Rises wasn't a movie that needed to be made at all--much of the emotional arc for Batman and Gotham collectively is wrapped up by the end of The Dark Knight, and it doesn't seem like this third movie needed to be made for any reason other than that someone felt this should be a trilogy. For that reason, I wouldn't compare Rises to X-Men 3 so much as to Terminator 3, another third movie that was unnecessary after a second movie that pretty much wrapped things up.

T-Rav said...

Kit, it can indeed be analyzed on multiple levels, and one of the things I like about it is that it doesn't have a simple message. It doesn't say, for instance, that there's a "right way" and a "wrong way" to approach criminals and terrorists. What it says is that morality, while real, is not always easy to properly discern, and it's something you have to struggle with. At the same time, it's not a struggle you can walk away from, because it will confront you, one way or the other. I think this degree of realism is what keeps people like me talking about it.

Koshcat said...

Great review. I agree about the ending. It wasn't bad just a little flat. Who cares if nobody knew Dent turned into Two-Face. You could say that when Two Face came about is when Harvey Dent died. That little issue is what makes the third one stand on a weak premise. Batman may have killed the body of Dent, but it was the Joker who killed the man and I don't think it would have been that difficult to tell people.

Perhaps a better ending would have been if they didn't quite make Two Face as evil but mostly conflicted. Not kill him but arrest and send him to Arken but tell the city the Joker killed Dent. Putting him in the asylum caused him to lose what was left of his rational mind and in the third movie Bane could have released him as well as the lie behind it. Then you have conflict. You took this hero of the city who was conflicted between good/bad and screwed him up so he became evil but it was with...

...wait for it...

...good intentions.

Mr_Severus_Snape said...

I agree, T. IMO, TDK is the best movie of the 21st century. I saw it 3 times, when it was still in theaters! Yes, there are flaws here and there like Dent's story should have definitely been explored more and Rachel is self-explanatory -- there's no need to beat a dead horse. Nonetheless, TDK has layers upon layers of awesomeness to make up for it.

I also agree with you on TDKR. It's more like Terminator 3, not the atrocity known as Xmen 3. I personally think it's the best movie of the year, but it's just very hard to top TDK. I was fully satisfied with the outcome. I should buy a bluray copy soon.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks for an excellent review T-Rav. :)

I haven't seen the new one yet, but I did like this one a lot. I actually haven't considered the politics of it yet, but it struck me as leaning conservative, without being really political.

I think the scene on the ferries is an excellent affirmation of human nature at its best.

T-Rav said...

Snape, well I think "atrocity" is a bit strong, but it was definitely a worse movie for that franchise than TDKR is for this one. I liked it all right, especially the second half; during the first half, though, there were so many plotlines being set up I found it hard to follow, and had to watch it again the other day to get things clear in my head.

Besides what I already said in reply to Anthony, let me add that the character played by Marion Cotillard (who I dislike to begin with) is rather unnecessary, that the love scene between her and Bruce Wayne is completely unnecessary, and that the way they do the reveal on her true nature kind of reduces Bane, when it should have been mano e mano.

That's really the one knock a lot of people have against Chris Nolan--good as his stories are, he doesn't seem to be very good at writing his female characters.

T-Rav said...

My pleasure Andrew! I'm still not sure what to make of the third installment, having now watched it twice. I think an argument can be made that it's more overtly conservative, but at the same time not quite as good from a cinematic perspective.

The ferry scene is a pretty positive one, and I'm always mystified why people say that this movie ends on a dark, brooding note. To me, it has the opposite impact--a message that no matter how bad things are, we can make them better if only we have the will.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I haven't seen the new one yet, so I can't really comment. But I suspect it probably is conservative if for no other reason than that the ideas upon which comic books usually rely tend to be conservative in nature because it's hard to sell liberalism and make stories that attract general audiences.

I agree with you about the ending. I don't see it as dark but as positive.

T-Rav said...

Koshcat, that's an interesting scenario. I hadn't thought of that.

Part of the weak point with his character is that he's kinda written into a corner by the end--he almost has to die to resolve that plotline. And TDK is pretty long, so it's not like they could have given much more depth to him or Rachel due to time constraints. That would be a nice resolution to it, though. Another idea would be if he escaped at the movie's end, still somewhat in vigilante mode, and the third film saw him slide more and more into outright villainy.

I don't know. It's a bit of a puzzle.

Kit said...

The thing about Bane/Talie (Marion Cotillard's character* is if you watch the reveal scene, Bane is still pulling his own weight. After she leaves to go press the button after telling Bane not to kill him so he can feel the fire of Gotham blowing Bane decides to kill Batman anyway saying "I guess you'll just have to imagine the fire."

I'll admit that the movies have flaws. Few, if any, films are perfect. But they are among the best, if not THE best, Superhero movies put out.

And, unlike Spiderman and X-Men, the final chapter wasn't completely disappointing. (Spiderman3, now THAT was a bloated mess.) Or Star Wars, Thank God there were no Ewoks.

*Yes, I am a Batman geek and I probably misspelled her name.

Kit said...

By the way, if you want to know what I think is the best 3rd movie in a trilogy its Toy Story 3.

Kit said...

Also, anyone here played Arkham Asylum or Arkham City?
I've played the second and its Mark Hamill's great Joker performance (especially his performance of "Only You").

T-Rav said...

Andrew, there's that, and also I think Nolan is suspected of genuine conservative leanings by a lot of people. No particular reason why; there just aren't any obvious liberal messages in his films. None that I've seen, anyhow.

T-Rav said...

Kit, fair enough. Her character still isn't necessary to the plot in any way, though, and I just find her annoying. And despite the knocks I have against it, I will agree that TDKR's strengths outweigh its weaknesses. On the whole, I was pleased with how it concluded the trilogy.

I have not played either video game, but I have watched Arkham Asylum being played, and it seemed very impressive as far as that sort of thing goes. (I'm not a gamer.)

Kit said...

Also, am I the only person to notice that, if you think about it, Gotham is presented as a de facto constitutional monarchy with the Waynes as its Royalty and , Lucius Fox as the "Prime Minister" or chief advisor, etc.

In viral marketing Bruce is even called the "Prince of Gotham".

Just a weird thought considering the Director and a sizable chunk of the cast are British. In fact the only non-Brits that immediately come to mind I can think of are either black or women or bad guys.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I'm late!

I've got nothing new to add. I haven't seen Rises yet though I enjoyed this film immensely.

This movie proves that you don't need a complicated backstory in order to make a compelling villain. I see that criticism a lot, especially on conservative websites - usually something to the effect of, "They gave the villain a backstory so we might sympathize with him! How dare they!" or some such thing.

And while I'm usually the first to defend such choices, this movie proves it isn't always necessary.

BIG MO said...

I was in an all-day conference and thus missed most of this discussion on one of the greatest movies ever made of any genre.

I've previously written a lot about this movie (unpublished), but T-Rav, you and I are pretty much on the same page on just how awesome this movie is.

If Andrew & anyone else are interested, I can supply an essay I wrote exploring all of the comic influences on Nolan's trilogy.

One thing I will add: I disagree with those who say that Rises was unnecessary. It had to be made, otherwise the TDK ending leaves you hanging. Of course, it’s nowhere near a cliffhanger like Empire Strikes Back, but it is something of a philosophical – even a little theological – cliffhanger: Batman and Gordon hastily agree to a “big lie” that lets Batman take the fall for Dent’s crimes. We’re left wondering whether it will work: Will the law triumph? Will the momentum started by the triumvirate of Dent, Gordon and Batman to wipe out major crime in Gotham be sustained? Or will the whole thing fall apart, with Gotham sinking back into the abyss of the criminals and corrupt ruling the city? If that happens, would it mean that Batman’s mission was ultimately futile and Gotham should be destroyed, as the League of Shadows demanded in the first film? These are serious questions (at least for me), and I needed answers from Nolan in his incredible depiction of Batman as the Dark Knight.
**Some spoilers here** I remember that Ted Beher (SP?)'s Christian movie review site called the ending of TDK morally repugnant (or something like that) because of the “big lie” instead of the truth, regardless of the consequences. If you look at TDK as a standalone movie, their criticism is valid. But not as the centerpiece of a trilogy. Batman’s and Gordon’s decision has severe consequences in Rises. The “big lie” reaped tremendous short-term benefits because seemingly most crime in Gotham was wiped out. But success bred inertia among Gotham’s leaders, in that they sought to dump “war hero” Gordon because it was now “peace time.” Then Bane arrives. Right before freeing the hardened criminals, murderers, rapists, etc. in Blackgate Penitentiary, Bane reads Gordon's original speech commemorating the Dent Act. (Gordon was going to finally tell the truth, no longer willing to praise the man who tried to kill his family.) Bane used the truth of the “big lie” behind the Dent Act to unleash the hell of riots, murders, pillaging and all-around Occupy (spit) style violence upon Gotham.

In short, Nolan took the questions he raised in TDK quite seriously and answered them satisfactorily in Rises.

rlaWTX said...

I loved TDK - also saw it multiple times at the theater.

I loved the intensity of the story - it stays pretty tight and together throughout. The Harvey Dent part was also my least favorite. And I had actually like KHolmes as Rachel more.

Ledger's Joker takes the movie to that next level. I really like the trilogy, but without THIS Joker, I think TDK and the trilogy would not be iconic. But even with his portrayal, the script had to have solid ideas. I think this one is the best depiction of Batman's intent as well as his "worst" enemy (other than himself who is his other main nemesis) who has a totally opposite view of human nature's possibilities. I think that Batman & Joker both know that humans are capable of great depravity, but Batman also sees the chances for good in man while Joker does not.

I agree (review) that the supporting cast (characters & actors) were superb. Fox's reluctance to help when he finds the project unethical, Alfred's guidance, protection, and support, Gordan's searching for help and hope... (and of course the actors did the characters justice)

Back to Harvey Dent, one area that I think he is important is that his "leave it to chance" idea could be considered a "third way" alternate to Batman & Joker. The movie shows us how this perspective is "fair" but not just.

I disagree (comments) that the ending didn't fit with Rises' beginning. We aren't told WHAT Batman will be doing - just that he won't be the heroic idol anymore. Making him totally superfluous seems as good as any response to his "treachery". (OK - I have had to work in the midst of typing this, so I refreshed before publishing and just read Big Mo's TDKR comments, and that's what I was meaning here - Mo just says it better)

AndrewPrice said...

Big Mo, Sure, I'd be interested. :) E-mail it to me at the site address:

Kit said...

"This movie proves that you don't need a complicated backstory in order to make a compelling villain. I see that criticism a lot, especially on conservative websites - usually something to the effect of, "They gave the villain a backstory so we might sympathize with him! How dare they!""

I don't get why they are so upset about that. Yes, its not necessary in EVERY movie but its good if done well and the conservative criticism that by just by making us sympathize with the villain we forget how villainous he is is absurd.
The first two Spiderman movies made their villains tragic figures. People who could've been good, maybe even great, but made certain moral choices.
Same with Amazing Spiderman. Sympathetic villain but still a VILLAIN.

Now Ledger's Joker mocks the whole notion of the backstory with his multiple back stories. Of course, the Joker is supposed to be someone who defies every rule of logic that comes with dealing with super villains. This is something the movie caught. He is not supposed to make a whole lot of sense. He is an agent of Chaos.

Also, the Joker was given a backstory via flashback in the Killing Joke. A pretty sympathetic one -that at the end was implied to not even be true.
"If I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!"

Kit said...

The Joker is best described, in my idea, as a nihilist who thinks that everything is a big joke.

"When I saw what a black, awful joke the world was, I went crazy as a coot!" (from the Killing Joke)

And I think it was either Paul Dini or Bruce Timm (Dini, I think) who said the Joker and Batman work so well together in part because they are perfect foils for each other. Joker is the funny man and Batman is the straight man.

Now, my biggest problem with Rises is that we didn't get any Harley Quinn, but then again, we got Joker Blogs, so I'm cool. :)

T-Rav said...

Kit, I haven't ever thought of the Batman world as a monarchy, but I guess you could look at it that way.

As for the Joker, in this particular case I think the lack of an understandable reason for why he's doing all this is what makes him so terrifying/memorable. As the killer in Psycho says, "Admit it--it's scarier when there's no reason."

T-Rav said...

Big Mo, I suppose that's a valid point. It occurred to me from the start that this was a somewhat flawed resolution, and true enough, if you look at it as part of a trilogy, it becomes clearer that it can't be a final resolution. The problem is, TDKR doesn't dwell on that aspect of it all that much. One of the early conflicts is that the rich have neglected the poor, which is somehow supposed to be a consequence of this lie; yet it's never made clear just how that is. Plus, at the end of the movie, it doesn't appear that Gordon suffers any consequences for what's happened; he's still Police Commissioner, as far as we know, despite being complicit in the wrongful imprisonment of hundreds of people. I don't care what Gotham went through, there's no way he would be allowed to stay on after that.

Long story short, I will agree with you that the ending of The Dark Knight made The Dark Knight Rises necessary, but that movie kind of fell down when it came to extending the moral arc you speak of.

T-Rav said...

That's okay Scott! :-)

I remember back in the day at BH, where someone discussing this film made the argument that the Joker is actually Satan. I don't agree with that conclusion, but I can see why it was reached. He's a guy no one can ID, he speaks of chaos and destruction for its own sake, and he seems to have quite literally come out of nowhere. That's partly why I say he represents (as does Batman) an idea, rather than being a real person. And in this context, it totally works.

T-Rav said...

Glad we have a similar analysis, rla!

I liked Maggie Gyllenhaal a bit more in the Rachel role than I did Katie Holmes, but I didn't think either was great. As an ensemble effort, though, the actors are great across the board.

And I agree, without the philosophical aspect to this movie, Heath Ledger's Joker would just be remembered as an outstanding performance in your standard action movie. Having these two and their respective ideas fight it out raises it to something much more.

Post a Comment