Wednesday, 6 August 2008

A Very Long Dark Knight

All right, I’m just going to say it – I wasn’t wild about Dark Knight.

Don’t let me wrong, parts of it were superb. Strong imagery supported powerful themes; the entwinement of Bats and Joker, the order/restriction/heroism interplay with chaos/freedom/passion, twisting thoughout the film – iconised by the (sadly brief) addition of the much under-used Two-Face. A smartly self-referential narrative rather skilfully veered away from several classic genre clichés (the girl died – yay!) and the array of gadgetry was strongly visual, yet wasn’t over-used – and managed to keep its cool.

Sub-plot points for the realisation that the all-powerful Bruce can’t achieve this stuff alone. Any Bat-fan knows the brains belong to Alfred and Fox added a level of technical support worthy of Bond’s Q – extra bonus for the ultimate sonar gadget. Plus the young Commissioner Gordon kicking bad guy butt with a ‘Pow’!’ and a ‘Zap!’ – if this can be echoed by an equally potent whiskey-swilling Chief O’Hara in the follow-up, I may just change my mind about the whole thing.

However.

Faced by the awesome curtain performance of Ledger, flanked by Caine and Freeman, Christian gets bunged in with the lions – and doesn’t stand a chance. Out of armour, he’s outclassed – but add the appalling and predictable ‘gravelly rasp’ and the Joke really is on him. It didn’t quite ruin the film – but it did undermine Bats’ credibility and make me wonder if Brucey hadn’t made his trust fund providing new soundtracks for bad 70s porn.

Which brings me to the point.

There is such a thing as a climax that goes on for too fucking long. Another explosion, another confrontation, another hostage situation, another wave of tension-and-release… that’s enough. Faced with yet one more end-of-level showdown, I’m drained and no longer seeing the funny side.

Two-Face, though iconic – was wasted. The realisation of the character was thrown away, lost in a rising tide of detonation. The smashing of the Bat-symbol was a childhood memory over-turned – and, by that point, long over-due. When something that powerful and reminiscent is lost under a bad case of auditorium-wide fidgets..? Looks like everyone’s about climaxed out.

Why so serious? Because there are some Knights that just never seem to end.

7 comments:

adambullied said...

I'd have to disagree on a couple of points - but I'll do so as a normal human and not a raging fan boy =)

There is a lot going on in this film, there's no question. But I don't feel like Bale was outclassed in any way. He's a fantastic actor, and I think he pulls off the dual personalities quite well.

If anything, they set the flick up in such a way that the Joker was just "there" -- like the shark in jaws. So, you knew he was going to appear at some point (usually indicated by the theme), and he just shows-up.

That anticipation can sometimes muffle other important things going on - especially with regards to Bats / Bruce and the conflict he struggles with of wanting to give Batman up and lead a normal life.

On the two-face item - remember, Nolan really pushes this franchise to be in as much of a realm of normalcy as possible.

An individual who sustains injuries such as the ones Dent did (and especially when refusing medication / skin grafts, as they point out), he's bound to die quickly. The really show off how fragile the accident made him.

I think it was more of a study in how quickly someone can decline in to the pit of despair when left with no other choice. As the Joker points out, Dent was his "ace in the hole" -- he really did pull him down to his level of anarchy and destruction.

And because Dent was inherently good (just driven to the point of desperation by twisted logic and facts -- exhibited by the Joker's hospital monologue), he couldn't sustain long enough as a person - nevermind factoring in all of the physical injuries on top of that.

He wanted to die. That was the point - he knew he was nothing without Rachel. And thus, wanted to right the wrongs he felt were made against him, as he points out in his closing monologue with Gordon.

I'm a huge fan of the movie, but I think your points are very fair. I could see how folks would not like the constant up and down at the end. I've read some reviews that felt the ending was rushed.

Whether it was or wasn't, I don't know. I had heard rumors that up until 2 months prior to it's theatrical release, there was an additional 30 minutes that paced it differently.

Maybe we'll all get to see that on the DVD -- probably not, but one can hope...

John said...

WALL-E overshadowed the Bat this summer! Send in The Clones!

nik butler said...

was it me or does this whole film feel re-cut in favour of the Joker and theres a lot more Two-face we didnt see because of Ledgers death ?

and yes it was about 1 hour tooo long.

Dunkndisorderly said...

I have to say I thought the film all round was excellent I can see both sides of the argument. Heath was so good that I think the Joker did overshadow Batman in a way. I thought the Two faces element was actually very clever and agree with adambullied all he wanted was death. At one point I saw a sequel coming on with him as the lead villain however. I did feel the end was dragged out and could have been shorter and I thought the jokers death was a little disappointing as well. Loved it though!

AKA said...

As much as I liked the movie (and particularly Heath Ledger as the Joker), I think the death of Maggie Gyllenhal (who was by far the weakest performer in the movie) and the birth of Two-Face should have been the end point of the film, not another twist to spin off the story for even longer.

And I was getting fed up of being hammered over the head with War on Terror symbolism. "Do you see? Batman is Bush! And the Joker is Bin Laden! See? See?" I'm all for genre fiction reflecting the world around us, but it should be window-dressing, and not the focal-point.

(I know it doesn't sound like it, but I did enjoy it...)

Danacea said...

I completely understand the psychology of the narrative behind Two-Face - and agree with Dunk and AKA that his creation should have been the end of the film. There was so much there, as Adam says, and it was wasted - thrown away as cross-cutting between explosions.

In any Batman film, we know that the villain will be cooler than Bats - the problem with the Dark Knight is he's exactly that... he's stern and he's brooding and it's a difficult thing to make him charismatic. Maybe that's why he has so many cool gadgets.

I'm going to stick to my opinion of Bale being upstaged - how much it was him, how much his direction or script is open to interpretation. The Joker taunted... I didn't find Bats' all-too-brief flares of passion convincing :(

Who knows - perhaps the I couldn't hear anything past that awful, AWFUL, overdubbed rasp!

adambullied said...

Well, I saw it again last night for the fourth time. See - told you I was a huge fan :-)

There are many great comments here - I think there's a lot I understand, but disagree with. And that's OK - that's what movies and entertainment and fans are all about.

Nolan really did make it very clear what the purpose and underlying message was - mainly in dialog and some in imagery.

Keep in mind the final exchange - Bats points out the Joker knew Harvey was the best of them. And set out to tear him down, and he did.

As Gordon then points out - they bet everything on Dent. And it was all undone, hence Bats taking the blame for everything in the end, because he's not the hero.

As for 9/11 imagery and the calling out of the Joker as a terrorist. I think it's hard not to see the parallels. But, I sort of look at it like "it is what it is."

The Joker is not really a terrorist. They call him that, but in order for him to be he'd have to be acting out of his own personal / political gain. Which, I suppose he is to some degree - his enjoyment.

A building blowing up is a building blowing up. I don't think it's meant to depict the twin towers or anything. Batman standing in rubble is Batman standing in rubble looking iconic.

Also - the Joker never died in the movie. He was slated to come back for #3, thus providing a very hard argument - does he get re-cast? Some think yes, some think no.

If the flick ended with Rachel and Dent dying, that would have made for horrible loose ends. We never would have gotten any resolve to some dialog, nor would we have had some resolve to how Bruce dealt with Rachel's death, seen how Dent dealt with it, the ramifications of the Joker almost taking over Gotham, etc, etc...

Nor would we have had that phenomenal exchange between the Joker and Two-Face in the hospital. Because that's one of the best in the film.