While I agree with Avi that The Dark Knight may not be the greatest movie ever, I do believe–and I realize this is bold–that it sets itself head and shoulders above any other superhero movie ever made and speaks very uniquely to America and the post-9/11 world at this specific point in time.
The thing that has always appealed to me most about the Batman series is that its hero is not an alien (Superman), mutant (X-Men, Spiderman), or mythical demigod (Hercules) like so many other superheroes. Batman is one of us: just a regular dude with a messed up past.
The Dark Knight presents a world in which villains, too, are so unmistakeably human, which is precisely what makes them so scary. The Joker is a deranged sociopath, Two Face a fallen DA with a couple of skeletons in his closet. Sure, the producers may have gone a little overboard with the CGI on Two Face, but he’s still the same traumatized wreck that he would have been even without the gasoline facial.
By humanizing the villains, as well as the Caped Crusader, The Dark Knight enables itself to speak to its audience on a personal level that is very modern. Our parents’ generation took Golden Age comic concepts and saw them as outlandish, which explains the ultrasaturation of colors and interjectory written sound effects in the 1960s television series.
If you think about it, even in the earlier Batman movies, the villains, played by some of the biggest actors of that generation including Tommy Lee Jones, Jack Nicholson, and Danny DeVito, just seem silly (not to even mention Arnold Schwartzenegger). In a post-9/11 world where the real bad guys don’t seem so different than ordinary people, The Dark Knight introduces a new Batman narrative that is as psychologically complex as it is foreign, which is what makes it so credible.
[I don’t know who else noticed, but there were a few moments in the film that had clear 9/11 influences, such as the idea of using vehicles as weapons, for example. I thought that was very interesting.]
Another thing that I loved is how they refer to Batman as “The Bat Man,” which removes the familiar “Batman” image and distances the characters from any old Batman schemata.
As for Avi’s thoughts, I like most of his points, but disagree with a few:
- In the scene in which the Joker escapes from his holding cell after making the guard go all hissy, by not showing everything, as the film does in a few places, the film adds to the Joker’s mystery. As viewers, we know the Joker is both very crazy and very sharp. We don’t know how he escapes, but it doesn’t matter. While I did find it silly that the Joker manages to get explosives on boats and bridges and coordinate elaborate sociopathic schemes while in custody, the escape scene in the jail does not bother me. What does bother me about that scene is the boneheadedness of the police officer, whos should know better than to let the Joker mess with him. If he’s really a police officer he should know better and know how to control his emotions. In any case, I think the omission of the actual escape, if anything, just adds focus to the main twist of the scene, which I won’t spoil for anyone who has still not seen the movie.
- Lucius Fox did not have a choice. In the situation at the end of the movie, all bets are off, regardless of principle. Fox knew that if he did not use the system then, people would die. He used it once and destroyed it, no harm done.
That said, I did think that some of the Joker’s operations were very unrealistic in terms of everything just-so-happening to work out perfectly as he plans. Nothing really goes that smoothly all the time, whether with the perfectly choreographed opening scene, the disappearing pencil trick, the above-mentioned jailbreak, demolotion setup on the ferries and bridges, etc., was all way too clean for me.
Besides that though, I’d like to congratulate Chris Nolan for a job very well done. I now leave you to go watch all the earlier Batman movies (yes, even the Tim Burton ones) and laugh.
Talk atcha later,
- Website of the moment: www.movievillains.com, a site that rates movie villains based on several categories of badness. Worth a look-see. Too bad most of it is about 5 years old, but cool nonetheless. Heath Ledger would wipe the floor with Jack Nicholson’s 47.