The Dark Knight: Final Verdict.

20 July, 2008

Spoilers, obviously.

I’ve seen The Dark Knight twice now. Last night, upon my first viewing, I was on the fence. I liked the film a lot but I couldn’t see what was so brilliant about it, if anything. But after the second viewing I like it a lot more. Mr. Nolan and the rest of the cast and crew should be commended for tackling some heavy subjects in what could’ve been just another superhero sequel. They succeeded in making a film that was not only enormously entertaining but also intelligent and thought-provoking. They also more than topped the last film, Batman Begins.

But even as my enthusiasm has greatly increased, I still wouldn’t go as far as to call it a masterpiece. I’m sure we all have different definitions of what makes a masterpiece, but for me, it has to transport me. I need to feel like I’m in that world so that when I go back to reality I’m in a daze. And every element in the film has to be working towards that goal: The directing, the writing, the editing, the cinematography, the music, the performances, etc etc etc. All my all-time favorite films do this. They dare to color outside the lines. They slap you in the face but you love every moment of it. The Dark Knight almost gets there but not quite.

Nolan does a decent job at creating an unsettling atmosphere with Gotham City, especially as The Joker wreaks more and more havoc. But the fact that he is making a blockbuster film to be released in the summer I feel holds him back. There’s still a body count mentality to the violence that refuses to go into the horrifying reality of violence. Of course, I understand why. An R-rated Batman film would be unacceptable to Warner Brothers because of profit losses. Fair enough. But if I’m going to call a film masterful, this lacking element is important to me. It’s the reason why No Country For Old Men won Best Picture. It’s the reason why David Fincher’s Se7en freaked audiences out so badly. But when a movie can’t even show you blood, how can it possibly have the same effect on you?

Therefore, the sense of dread that The Dark Knight could’ve had over me just wasn’t there. So if we’re going to compare it to crime dramas, which it most certainly is, it’s more The Departed than The Godfather. But that’s fine by me because I loved The Departed. Not in an ironic sense either, I genuinely think it’s a fine film. On the other hand, both films also have the same fatal flaw: A complete mess of a third act.

When it could’ve easily wrapped up after Dent’s transformation into Two-Face and Batman interrogation of The Joker — by far the best scene in the film — they just had to keep going. I didn’t mind The Joker’s thread per se but I didn’t feel it necessarily added anything we didn’t already know about him. But Two-Face’s one day of raising hell in Gotham was totally forced and felt like it belonged in its own movie, which is what I expected anyway. Instead his inclusion felt like Two-Face Cliff Notes. The schizophrenia inherent in his character wasn’t explored at all. He was instantly a maniac. And while I thought Eckhart did a superb job as Dent, his Two-Face was as forced as the character’s inclusion in the story. Why didn’t anyone tell him that the constant screaming was excessive?

But this was my only major complaint. Everything else was solid. It just didn’t quite live up to the hype I expected with one exception: Heath Ledger. There is no way he won’t at least be nominated for an Oscar now. His performance is what Alex from Clockwork Orange would be in a nightmare. It has made Jack Nicholson’s take on the role irrelevant. Believe the hype on this one. He. Is. That. Good. And almost everyone else delivers as well. Gary Oldman also deserves an Oscar nomination for his heartfelt portrayal of Lieutenant Gordon, a part which most actors would phone in because it’s not as flashy. I wasn’t mad about Maggie Gyllenhaal but at least she was a huge improvement over Katie Holmes. I also have to give credit to Eric Roberts who was deliciously entertaining as Salvatore Moroni. He deserves more credit.

So there you have it. Certainly not genius but certainly not a waste of time either. 8/10

As for the next film, I can only wonder where they’ll go from here. With Ledger gone and Two-Face out of the picture, I think their only choice is to dig deep into some of the more obscure villains. They can afford to because everyone will see the next movie regardless. Nolan says he’s not using The Penguin — Thank God — and I really can’t see any of the other mainstream villains working. However, you have a perfect fit with Black Mask, as long as P.C. blowhards don’t take any racism from it. I’d also vote for The Mad Hatter as long as they got the right kind of actor and didn’t ham him up too much. Finally, it seems to me that we have a perfect fit with The Ventriloquist as long as we get real-life dummy Peter O’Toole to play the part, heh.

Regardless, this is one hell of a tough act to follow.


4 Responses to “The Dark Knight: Final Verdict.”

  1. righton said

    Glad to read someone else compare Dark Knight to The Departed. Not an obvious comparison at first, but I got the same feeling coming out of both: the films were so dense, so packed with double-crosses, quick quips, and moral questions that I felt I had to see them again. I love both films in all their imperfect glory. I’d much rather see a train wreck of a 3rd act than a tidy, cliched ending (see Iron Man).

  2. Noah said

    I know what you mean. I still loved Iron Man, though. There was nothing deep about it; it just plain rocked.

  3. I just viewed Dark Night, I give a lots of credits to the Director and the Script writer specially the part of the Joker “How everyone sees live, what everyone expect from everyone and what the live game is”.

  4. patrick said

    at times the Joker seemed almost too smart, borderline clairvoyant, but i guess that makes him a good foe…

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