Lowdown: Batman’s answer to the eternal question of whether the good are entitled to do bad things in order to achieve their noble cause.
Christopher Nolan and I do not seem to see eye to eye. With the exception of Batman Begins I did not particularly like his films. Sadly, despite The Dark Knight being the most hyped film of the year, Nolan does not make amends with it: In my opinion, The Dark Knight is too compromised to be considered a good film.
Taking us from where Batmen Begins left us, Dark Knight pits us once again with Christian Bale as Batman. Gotham City is engulfed by crime again, but with Batman in the hood the criminals are becoming more and more desperate. It’s not just Batman, though: Gary Oldman as a high ranking policeman and Aaron Eckhart is the district attorney aided by Batman’s ex girlfriend (Maggie Gyllenhaal) are all doing their best to vanquish evil from the streets.
Enters Heath Ledger as The Joker, a pathological liar, an anarchist, a deceptive guy with an agenda of setting evil loose throughout Gotham. Against a guy as resourceful as The Joker the law seems unable to do much and even Batman has a very hard time. The Dark Knight is the complex story of these hard times.
But Dark Knight is not about its plot. It is about the philosophical question at its core: Are the good people allowed to use evil means in order to achieve their good goal? What is the difference between “us and them” if we’re all using the same means to achieve our ends, then? In a way, Dark Knight reminded me of American Gangster, another forgettable film dealing with the similarities between good and evil and how close these two opposite poles are.
These are all very interesting questions, but The Dark Knight fails to deliver in the answer department. Or rather, it does deliver, but its delivery is too full of deliberations and tokens. In my book, The Dark Knight, like Nolan’s predecessor The Prestige, is quite decisively erring into the side of deliberations for the sake of deliberating rather than providing us with anything meaningful. It’s the sort of stuff that will probably appeal to those heavily in touch with their so called spirituality, whereas I have nothing but contempt for such pseudo science bullshit. Perhaps the best example for what I am trying to say is provided by The Dark Knight’s final scene, where Batman takes upon him the evils of everyone else so that the world can move onwards. The analogy with Jesus who supposedly died for our scenes is unmistakable, which leaves The Dark Knight wide open to a wide range of criticism I won’t even start specifying here; suffice to say the idea of atonement is inherently ridiculous. My point is simple: The Dark Knights goes way too far to the realm of the bullshit and does so under a serious pretense.
Once you turn a blind eye to the philosophical elements of the film, The Dark Knight becomes a case of the naked king: an overlong film at two and a half hours that tries to pack too much plot and too many characters (but doesn’t really succeed). There are some interesting action scenes but nothing that will truly blow you away and there is some suspense but nothing to really captivate.
In its favor, Dark Knight does host an excellent line of actors. You have to wonder, though, if the talents of Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are not wasted on the minor roles they have here just because of Batman Begins’ legacy. On the other hand, Maggie Gyllenhaal shines as always – she is really something that directors should use more of, ten times better than Katie Holmes who played the same character in Batman Begins. Most credit, however, should go to Heath Ledger’s joker: For a start, it’s a Ledger first (and sadly last) where he’s not mumbling his role through. There’s more to it, though: Ledger is the one that keeps the screen interesting through his portrayal of the demented Joker. I am wondering, though, if his acting is so successful because he portrays the deformed character the way Hoffman did in Rain Man or Charlize Theron did in Monster.
Most annoying scene: As I have already said, Dark Knight has too much plot for its own good. To help navigate the film in the right direction the plot often suffers some major black holes, as in the case of passengers on two ferries finding themselves stranded mid-water when the Joker claims to have placed bombs on the ships. Everyone on the boats sits and waits for some sort of an elusive salvation and for some reason no one is doing anything about the circumstances: No rescue operation is taking place; no one even plans for one. Hell, if I was on one of those boats I would just jump in the water and swim for safety. The way the film shows it, the swim to the shore would have been irresistibly short...
Technical assessment: This Blu-ray title delivers consistently good picture and the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack delivers immense dynamic range: while most of the film is quiet but very well articulated, the action scenes really sound bombastic.
Overall: I’m sorry to say it but while the Dark Knight is not a bad film it fails to justify all the hype surrounding it. 3 out of 5 stars.