Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Batman, The Dark Knight: I didn't like it

I wanted more.

Thanks to my favourite Irish website, Movies.ie I saw the new Batman movie tonight (Tuesday) at the Savoy in Dublin.

There will no doubt be a vast amount of reviews up - I'm greatly anticipating Darren's, who bounced around outside the Savoy in his excitement afterwards. Yet I can't say I was as thrilled as he or Rick seemed to be.

If you haven't seen Batman Begins yet, you may as well stop here. The film that defined the hero, redefined the genre and gave us back Batman, rescued from the silicon masked, rubber suited parody that he'd become under the "care" of Joel Schumacher who gave us the cringeworthy Batman Forever and Batman & Robin.

Christopher Nolan did away with the cartoon that Batman had become and redesigned him into something believable, someone human, somebody cool. Batman Begins set up the story with Bale's Bruce Wayne as a man driven by his demons to rid the city his father has worked so hard to fight. He has a worthy enemy - the League of Shadows, a group set to rid the world of decadence:

a check against human corruption for thousands of years... Gotham's time has come. Like Constantinople or Rome before it the city has become a breeding ground for suffering and injustice. It is beyond saving and must be allowed to die.
His triumph against Ra's Al Ghul is well fought, well planned and executed with flair. Gotham's problems aren't fixed, but Batman's presence is necessary. The movie was fantastic, with nods to its heritage but a firm grip on its own identity.

The Dark Knight's Gotham is different. Supposedly only a few weeks after the end of the first movie, the sense of hunger, of desperation and of panic is missing. Criminals are less confident, the police more so. Supposedly a city in the grip of Mob rule, Gotham shows no sign of the rampaging fear that should be caused by the release (and presumable failure to capture) of its top criminals from the secure wing of its criminal psychiatric hospital.

Instead we're presented with a city who carries on, happy to ignore the crime, almost waiting for something big to occupy its time instead.

And when that happens, boy does it happen.
Bruce Wayne: I knew the mob wouldn't go down without a fight. But this is different. They crossed the line.
Alfred Pennyworth: You crossed the line first, sir. You squeezed them, you hammered them. And in their desperation they turned to a man they didn't fully understand.
At no point during the film did I once look at

and think

Ledger was incredible. This was the Joker. Jack Nicholson may have brought a maniacal clown to the screen in true Nicholson style, a version of Batman's enemy; but Ledger was The Joker, an excitable, twisted, sadistic and oh so brilliant character, who delivered his lines with delight.
Bank Manager: The criminals in this town used to believe in things. Honor. Respect. Look at you! What do you believe in? What do you believe in!
The Joker: I believe whatever doesn't kill you simply makes you... stranger.

"Do I really look like a man with a plan, Harvey? I don't have a plan. The mob has plans, the cops have plans. You know what I am, Harvey? I'm a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't know what to do if I caught one. I just *do* things. I'm a wrench in the gears. I *hate* plans ...

I am not a schemer. I show schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things really are ... I'm a man of simple tastes. I like gunpowder...and dynamite...and gasoline!"
In a strange way I wanted to see the Joker triumph. I wanted to see what he'd do with the power he got, the anarchy he caused, the mania he possessed. In one of my favourite scenes, and quite possibly the most visually appealing in the movie, The Joker blows up a hospital. He saunters away from the building and delights in its destruction. I wanted to see more of that. I wanted to see Gotham burn.

But no. Batman is there. Of course Batman is there. Even when it all goes horribly wrong and Bruce Wayne - or any reasonable hero - should have thought "Ah feck this, let someone else do it" good old Batman heads out there, this time on a very cool steed, to sort the bad boys out. His methods are ingenious, but as with any effective plan, it's over far too quickly. It looked too easy. I wanted it to be more difficult.

As much as I would love to see Ledger be nominated for his role in this movie, I hope Aaron Eckhart does equally as well. His talent and charisma were evident in his performance and he acted the role of "a bit square but actually I'm alright" DA Harvey Dent brilliantly. In Batman Begins we followed the evolution of Bruce Wayne to its dark conclusion - this time the transformation is in Dent. Again, I felt that he wasn't given enough, he wasn't used enough. He didn't get enough opportunity to scare. I believed in Harvey Dent. I believed in what he became a lot more.

The Dark Knight fulfils what any good sequel is supposed to do. It expands the story, gave us more characters and a greater view into existing, familiar ones. Michael Caine as Alfred was excellent - a suitable foil to Bale's Bruce Wayne. Gary Oldman as Gordon, Morgan Freeman as Fox and Maggie Gyllenhall as a very different-from-the-first-character Rachel Dawes all fantastic in their roles. The cinematography flawless, the special effects wonderful. One of the features I became most conscious of was the sound editing, and if there's any justice the wizards behind the sound effects this time will sweep the Oscar board.

The film is almost two and a half hours long and there were scenes that dragged, places where my mind wandered, plot devices that could have been better with a bit more thought and time. All very easy for me to say I know, but dammit, I'm not satisfied. I said to Niamh on the way out - I have to see it again. I couldn't take it in. I have to return. And I will. I think I'll find better seats on a quieter showing and re immerse myself. I'll stop looking for the nods, the references, the "did you see that card, well that meant..." bits and just enjoy it.

I didn't just like The Dark Knight. I loved it. it may not be the "best movie ever", but it's so close that it's difficult to say why it's not. Maybe it didn't go far enough. Perhaps it's the storyline, perhaps that needs work. We may never know what parts were taken out because of Ledger's death, or see now what could have been, but it's an epic that should only be better with repeat viewings.

Even as I write this my mind is racing with the possibilities of the next one. Bale says he'll do it if Christopher Nolan directs. I think it would be a brave director who'd try replace him. The potential is incredible and the third one could well be the best movie ever made. If I could I'd book my tickets now. I'll just have to make do with the Dark Knight, Thursday, again.

Great to meet so many bloggers - Pinky, David, Anthony, Sinéad, Damien and Rick were all there, as were Neil Delamere and Brian Kennedy. Swit swoo, or what?

They're discussing the movie now over on Movies.ie - I'm off to share my thoughts. If you've seen it and have any comments, I'd love to hear them.

Images taken, lovingly, from the best Dark Knight blog ever.


  1. Excellent review, very thorough, as always.

    I've always thought that Aaron Eckhart was a criminally underrated actor and, if he is as good as you say, I hope he gets some recognition from the entertainment establishment for it. While No Reservations was a crime against cinema, his role in Thank You For Smoking was so brilliantly performed that even thinking back on the film after two years or more, you still always think of 'Nick Naylor' as a self-serving entity, and not of 'Aaron Eckhart playing Nick Naylor'.

    Argh! Wall-E, The Dark Knight, even Kung-Fu Panda... so many to see at the moment. I might just duck out of all of them and go with Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging. :-P

  2. "it may not be the "best movie ever", but it's so close that it's difficult to say why it's not." - Best line about the movie I've read yet.

    Still. Disappointed that Gary Coleman didn't make an appearance.

  3. I loved Aaron Eckhart in this movie. It IS a pity that he was so under-used, because Twoface is such a fantastic villian.

    Great post Darragh. Good to see you last night. Sorry I didn't stick around.

  4. super, thanks Darragh. no need to go see it now.

  5. I didn't win tickets.... again. Grumble!

  6. Eckhart's even great in The Core!

    I never read the comics or anything, but I though Neeson was the major weak link of Begins. Cillian Murphy, on the other hand, was absof*ckinglutely amazing.

    The Dark Knight will have to be amazing to beat the Prestige, which I rewatched last night cos everyone else was rewatching Begins.

  7. Excellent review, D! You're wrong, of course, but it's an excellent review. ;)

  8. Thanks for that review, Darragh. I wasn't going to bother but now that I've read this,I'll certainly go and see it in the cinema.

    Excellent. Well done.

  9. Oooh, pretty much what Bock said. I wouldn't have bothered checking it out - Joel Schumacher perpetrated serious crimes against cinematography - but now I think I will! Any movie that leaves such a thirst is something special. Cheers :)

  10. Nice review. Linked here: http://fitzyscloud.blogspot.com/ Batman should be an inspriation to all you billionaires. Roman Abramovic, how much do you love London!?

  11. "So close that it's difficult to say why not"

    The New Yorker has a review that (I think) puts the finger on the why not...


  12. Lovely to meet you the other day.

    A very interesting review. I'm hoping to hop along at the weekend to see The Dark Knight, so I'll be back with thoughts/ramblings!

  13. Oh have been looking forward to this almost since before I left Batman Begins!

    Fingers crossed will get to see it this weekend.

  14. Thanks for all the comments folks. Much appreciated!

    @Gav - You're right about Eckhart. Thank You For Smoking, though dark, was a great movie. As for your choices - Go Dark Knight, Wall-E and then save yourself for Hellboy2 perhaps?

    @David - what you talking about, maybury?

    Sinéad - thanks my dear :) Ah there'll be plenty of other occasions!

    @Rosie - ah rosie, as you now know, I could have posted the entire script up here and you still wouldn't get a sense of the movie, its epic scale and the variety of twists and turns it takes.

    @dardardrinks - I reckon it's luck, having your profile up to date and even more luck!

    @B - I quite liked Neeson in Begins - an odd choice certainly, but he is a jedi master after all! Cillian was his usual self, and as for the Prestige? Well, I'll leave that judging to you ;-)

    @Darren - wrong is such a temperamental word.

    @Bock - thanks indeed sir! Hope you thoroughly enjoy it.

    @Nay - thank you too. If you're stuck for company, I suppose I could sit through it again :-P

    @richie fitz - thanks for the visit, the comment and the link Richie! Appreciated :) Can you imagine a batman figure in London?

    @Le Craic - thanks AJ. You have an uncanny ability to find great links. I'll see that article and raise you a BBC review. Hope you get to see (and enjoy) it. Looking forward to the back of a box scribble...

    @Jen - lovely to meet you too Jen! Thanks for the comment - hope you enjoy the movie!

    @Lyndar - ah hello to you! Yes, as I said in my post, I think this one, like Batman Begins, has set the scene for an even better sequel. I look forward to enjoying them both when it's out on DVD. I have no patience ;o)