Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Dark Knight

So, yeah-- The Dark Knight is no good.

Spoilers, yeah?

The movie motors around on the edge of coherence for pretty much the whole thing. There are many, many blockbuster movies with worse plots, but really, theres so many head scratching moments. Why, in the pivotal chase scene, weren't there more cops in support? I understand that they were trying to sneak him out in the dead of night, etc. etc., but come on. And, of course, we later learn that the Joker wanted to be caught and gain his access to the holding cells. But he comes pretty close to his goal of killing Harvey Dent anyway. And why-- why, why, why-- would you leave the Joker, who has gone on this legendary killing spree, unmanacled and unchained, in a holding cell with a single middle aged police officer in a suit? Does that strike you as some sort of impenetrable guardian against this guy who's been creating terror and havoc?

Why was that boat full of cash still sitting in Gotham? Or did the Joker go to China? And why did the Joker go to all that trouble to kill Lao if he was just gonna kill the mobsters and burn their money? I mean who cares at that point?

Let me join the chorus in saying this movie is too long. And not by ten minutes or even twenty. This should have been a tight, gripping Batman vs. Joker story of two hours. But it's not just the length; it's what the length does to the pacing and the story. There is an extended scene in Hong Kong that, while it makes some little difference in the plot, is essentially worthless for the larger vehicle-- except that it introduces the (extremely unconvincing) "sonar cell phones" plot device. (Which itself serves to introduce the orphaned Big Brother/warrantless wiretapping theme. I think people literally cannot have Morgan Freeman in their movies without writing in a scene where he reveals himself to be the conscience of the film.) I found the two boats sequence at the end entirely lifeless, as was pretty much the entire climax.

Simply put, the people behind this movie made two and refused to choose. For the life of me I don't know why the Batman franchise refuses to learn the lesson that having two villains in every movie dilutes them both. Batman has great villains, but you can't waste them the way they have. The problem with the bloated Batman Forever and Batman and Robin seems to be that they felt it wasn't an "event" if they didn't stick two villains in per movie. But I don't understand why the two Christopher Nolan movies had to be the same way. It's bad enough to have the Joker and Two Face (maybe Batman's two best villains) in one movie, and it's bad enough when two lamely portrayed villains further diminish each other by crowding the other out ala Batman Begins. But what's truly unforgivable is that Two Face (and Aaron Eckhardt) are wasted in such a way that dilutes Heath Ledger's performance and the at times great Batman/Joker showdown of this movie.

And it is, indeed, a powerful performance by Ledger, though I felt it faded along with the movie as time went on. The opening sequence is awesome and I think a tighter, more restrained movie could have been filled to the brim with the power of Ledger's performance. As it is the movie is such a hairy dog, so thematically and narratively promiscuous that even a huge performance like Ledger's Joker gets a little lost in the shuffle. (I'll be here all week, folks.) Again-- drop the Two Face story line. Bring Eckhardt into the story, end with him getting his face melted and set it up for a great Two Face movie next time. Let this movie be powered by Ledger and Bale and their animosity, instead of literally leaving the Joker hanging there-- a deeply unsatisfying conclusion to that storyline. (Sadly, Ledger's character will hang there forever.)

What's really depressing about this movie is that it's just one more example of how badly movies need to be trimmed down. Every movie I see these days is twenty movies too long. Everyone seems not to trust their material; we've got to add another fight, we've got to fit in five more gags. And it leads to all this useless time-wasting. It's the sort of thinking that gets you the Batman-as-James-Bond scene in Hong Kong or so. much. tangled. thematic. exposition. (You know what would have been awesome? If someone in the movie had a discussion about the real meaning of heroism, or something).

It's such a shame. Nolan is a talented guy, Ledger and Bale are great. There are times when the movie gets the Joker so completely right, where the scary, grim tone-- evident from the first trailer-- really takes the movie to the next level. If Hollywood had the discipline to let those moments, the interplay between Batman and the Joker, power the movie... it could have been something really amazing.

Restraint, economy, subtlety-- they're powerful tools.

Update: The more I think about these plot holes the more they multiply, and the more they annoy me.

Update 2: There's nobody else to pin the Two-Face murders on than Batman? Really? Nobody? They can perfectly fake Jim Gordon's death, but they can't pin the murders of two mobsters and two crooked cops on someone else? Like, I don't know, the Joker? The city's been in chaos for weeks, a hospital just blew up, there's bombs on every boat and building, the Joker just happened to have murdered a bunch of gangsters anyway, but the public will be so interested in these four particular murders out of dozens, and the truth is so certain to get out, that the only way to save Gotham's conscience about Harvey Dent (which is apparently the most important symbolic construct since Jesus Christ's) is to blame the killings on Batman. Batman can pull the fingerprints off of a single disintegrated bullet and match it to someone, but they can't plant the fingerprints of another dead mobster onto the gun and bullets that killed a couple of crooked cops, a mob boss and his goon? Sure, that'd be a lie, but you're lying to them anyway! You can choose anyone! Tell them the goddamn Scarecrow did it!

Update 3: People whose opinions I care about tell me that I'm allowing myself to be overly swayed by the plot holes. And, you know, they have a point. They're annoying, but I guess that's summer blockbuster for you. My major complain remains, though-- I just find the encroachment on the Joker/Batman conflict by the tacked-on Two Face conflict inexcusable, and a real waste of Two Face, who should be given his own movie.

1 comment:

Steve Sailer said...

Well said.

It's too much work to keep track of all the plot balls in the air.