The DONK DONK Knight

Nobody could possibly care here, but since I said I'd put my thoughts together about The Dark Knight, let me try being a man of my word for once.  I mostly enjoyed it as I watched it, at some points quite a bit.  And there are some very, very strong parts of this film.  The performances, led by Ledger and Eckhart, are pretty universally great.  The direction isn't perfect but the technical stuff is pretty impressive.  They invented stuff to make this movie!  But if you spend any time thinking about this film it falls apart like a first-year-teacher's ability to love.

For one thing, I, like T., was pretty bothered by the utter dour seriousness of the material; not because I think superheroes can't withstand that sort of treatment, and not because I don't like serious material, but more because of the utter self-importance of it all.  "This isn't just some roller-coaster boom boom movie with Batman!"  (Yes, actually, it is.)  "This is about DEEPER THEMES!"  You can tell it's about deeper themes because the goddam script hits you over the head with it.  There are points of this film where the dialog makes me want to pee in my eyeballs.  Whenever a character starts one of the damn speeches about heroes and deserving and etc., hitting the goddam theme on the head . . .that's just bad text, not subtext.  The dialog was also cliche-ridden and silly (in a non-fun way) often, which could be excusable if the movie didn't demand to be taken so seriously.  On the good side, Ledger's Joker clearly had some great lines, especially when he didn't say much.

Speaking of dialog, Bale's annoying "Batman voice" gets even more ridiculous when he's using it to have a conversation beyond "I AM HITTING YOU!!!"  This is actually just a symptom of a larger problem of Batman in this film.  They took such pains to make this as realistic as possible that the few fantastical elements they kept look completely foolish.  You've got, basically, an action-packed Law and Order episode except there's this weird guy who talks like Super Dave Osborne walking around in a costume.  DONK DONK.  When you ground it THAT much and you've still got this sculpted, sci-fi outfit, it diminishes both the seriousness and the fantastical.

Batman is the least interesting character in the film by a good deal.  By the last torturous scenes I just didn't want to see him anymore.  Bale's Wayne is actually a far more interesting character than his Batman, who stands around, looks silly, and gets involved in vague, uninteresting fight scenes.  I like the point a friend made that Bale really gets that it isn't that Batman is the real person and Bruce Wayne is the mask.  There's the real Bruce Wayne who has two masks:  dumb playboy and Batman.  The real Bruce Wayne, even in this film, is pretty fascinating until he puts on the Batman mask.

And that costume . . .we get plenty of time, wasted celluloid, explaining EVERY SINGLE THING ABOUT IT.  Oh, it's made of that.  Oh, the joints work like this.  Oh, he can turn his head.  Oh, the things on his arm shoot out.  Etc., etc.  It gets explained to death in a failed attempt to make it not look like it's completely out of place in this real-world-based film.  We even get over-detailed bits about how he got the Hong Kong gangster out (a fun scene, not really necessary for the plot, especially at such length and doubly especially with the beyond-pointless ballet-boat stuff).  But the Joker?  The character we're actually fascinated to watch no matter what?

No explanation for anything.  How does he, for instance, get hundreds of barrels of oil and explosives onto municipal ferries?  Uh, no idea.  Unless he has magical powers, there's no way that could happen, especially in such a realistic movie world.  The same goes for wiring the hospital unseen, getting DNA of all his enemies . . .everything the Joker does is pretty awesome, and if this movie didn't want to be something other than a summer flicker, it would maybe have gotten away with just that.  But, no.  It wants to be serious.  So how the hell did any of that stuff happen?  The amount of pre-planning and work that any single part of his scheme would require . . .it completely falls apart if you think about it.

The film wants to have its cake and eat it, too.  It wants to be a fairly critic-proof boom boom explodey movie, but it also wants to be a critically-acclaimed deeper piece on 21st century life.  It's possible to do both; difficult, but possible.  I'd even posit that something like Iron Man, which keeps a sense of humor about itself and realizes it's an explodey film, makes more headway with making deeper points than the spoon-force-fed stuff in the Dark Knight.

It's not a terrible film.  Like I said, the performances are almost all, at the very least, very good.  But the screen-writing on this thing was just rife with bad choices.  This could have been a rollicking summer action flick or a morality tale grounded firmly in the real world; it could MAYBE have combined the two.  But the manner in which they tried to combine it made both the fantastical and the real seem silly and shallow.

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