Sunday, July 27, 2008

I Said I Wasn't Going to do This, But It Appears That I am Quite Spineless


I really wasn't planning on sharing my thoughts on that new bat-man flick, but loyal reader josh commented thus on July 24, at 2:51 AM:
Tell us your thoughts about the movie, snowman-man. Best ever?
This site relies on the continued kindness of readers, so I'll try to answer josh's request. As I already mentioned, I don't like movie reviews which tell me what to think about a movie before I see it, so this is your warning about spoilers, sharing my opinion, etc.

So, is The Dark Knight the best ever? Emphatically no. Here's why:
  • I thought that no one besides for that Joker fellow was given enough screen time. I know some pundits are already awarding the Best Supporting Actor Oscar to Ledger (which is always foolish to do six months before the year is up; 18 days is also sometimes too early) but they've got it all wrong; Ledger supported nobody. He was the lead actor here, and no one came particularly close. Which is all fine and dandy. The problem here isn't with Ledger taking too much screen-time, it's with the lack of development of anyone else.
  • Rachel Dawes was not a character; she was a plot contrivance designed to make Bruce Wayne sad and Harvey Dent crazy. Also, why is it that she always falls in love with her boss? If Dent's the new guy in town, how long have they even known each other before he proposes? But, again, it doesn't matter, because Rachel isn't real--she just moves the plot along.
  • The director, Nolan, does too much telling and not enough showing. For example, the Joker overcomes that cop who has lost six friends in the interrogation room. I think that'd have been pretty cool to see how he did that. But it all happens off-screen. All we see is the Joker holding a jagged piece of glass to the poor guy's throat. How did that happen? Also for example, the kidnapping of Dent and Rachel was kinda a big deal in the plot. That is the type of thing that the viewer needs to see, instead of just being told about it afterwards through dialogue. I hate to say it, but telling a story through dialogue is a pretty lazy way to go about making a movie. This isn't radio. Show us what happened, please. I think Nolan made that decision because he wanted to preserve the surprise of who betrayed Dent and Rachel. But the price wasn't worth maintaining this very mild suspense.
  • I didn't for a second believe that Lucius Fox, so principled that he would resign his post if B. Wayne kept the wiretapping technology, would use this weaponry "Just this once." Having developed characters agree to do something abhorrent to them just this once in order to move the plot along undermines that character. It's bad storytelling.
  • One of the saddest parts for me--because it overshadowed the bat-man impersonators, one of the cooler parts of the movie--was that the Scarecrow showed up pretty much out of leftfield in that parking garage scene. What was he doing there? I think he shows up again later as one of the Joker's henchmen. Wasn't he in prison or an asylum or something? This was just confusing.
That said, I loved a whole bunch of aspects of this movie, including:
  • As I mentioned before, I thought the bat-man impersonators were really cool. This is a superhero movie which was conscious of the hero's effect on the city at large. These movies too often rely on the cliches of showing newspaper headlines or some type of like serious CNN debate whether the bat-man is good or bad. The Dark Knight had plenty of that also, but it also managed to go beyond these cliches, and show how the average citizen may have reacted to all these big events going on in their city. In general, Nolan did a good job of utilizing the media, particularly when the Joker called in his hospital threat to that cable news show.
  • Ledger was pretty much awesome.
  • I thought the wiretapping/sonar debate was timely and well done (except for Fox's decision, of course).
  • I loved the idea of learning less about the Joker and his backstory the more he told us about those things. It certainly interrogates something or other.
  • This movie went beyond the superhero norm by the positioning of bat-man as the hero the city needs, even if it means taking the blame for all those deaths. This goes hand-in-hand with the nice contrast between Dent as the public, legitimate (white) hero and bat-man as the private, faceless (dark) hero. The limitations of bat-man's ability to change Gotham were particularly satisfying.
Overall, really solid movie that did a whole bunch of things right. However, there was just enough that I didn't like that prevents me from labeling this the best ever.

Final Grade: 4.7/5

3 comments:

Toke-Dawg said...

Nice post. My response: http://themidnighttoker.wordpress.com/2008/07/28/i-am-the-bat-man/

Joseph said...

it is quite possibly the best movie ever!

Avi said...

@joseph
Well argued.