Dark Knight

I’m going to join most people in saying that Dark Knight is a good movie. Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker is amazing. He manages to bring a layer of plausibility to the character while still being a homicidal maniac. You can almost believe that this character could exist. (I have to note that Roger Ebert’s review of the movie suggests that the Joker is telling the truth about being an abused child, but I think it’s pretty clear from the movie that the Joker was just, you know, joking. He may or may not have been an abused child; the movie doesn’t say.) (Ledger had a number of memorable performances, and his death is a real loss.)

The movie in general doesn’t pull any punches. It’s decidedly more intense than a typical summer movie, but the intensity is psychological rather than the route taken by most action movies: having bigger explosions. Of course, the Dark Knight explosions are still pretty big.

Still, while I recommend Dark Knight, I’m going to have to stay with Iron Man as the best comic book movie. Dark Knight had several problems as a movie. The story was too long and had too many moving parts. The Scarecrow was on screen for about thirty seconds and added nothing to the story. The ordinary people dressing up as Batman didn’t help the plot and I didn’t think they made the point that the story wanted; they didn’t show Batman as inspiration, they just showed crazy people. The Hong Kong sequence didn’t add anything that I could see.

I couldn’t suspend my disbelief about some of the plot; it’s always a bad sign when you start asking yourself during a movie whether something could really work (asking yourself after the movie is normal). The Joker was really crazy; you wouldn’t stay in the same building with that guy. And he didn’t care very much about money. So where did he get his henchmen? And how did he set up all those explosions? Did he spend weeks before the story started getting everything all arranged? The final confrontation in the movie was gripping and plausible and scary; the final decision made by the Batman, in some sense a minor point the movie was building toward, not so much.

For a very comic-booky criticism, Batman’s fighting style was all wrong. There’s just no way the guy in the movie could beat up all those thugs. He has to be both very quick and very strong, and the movie character was slow. The cape is also always a problem in the movies. In the comic books, although nobody ever mentions it, the cape is basically magic; it changes size at the whim of the artist and it never gets in the way. The movie has to have the cape so that it looks like Batman, but without the magic properties it doesn’t really work.

Final note: the movie had a preview of The Watchmen, a movie based on the excellent graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The movie pictures looked remarkably like the comic pictures. Unfortunately the comic book is very tightly written and very dense, and smoothly juggles several major characters. The plot barely makes sense, and the charm of the book is the details and the characterization. In other words, the comic is completely unsuited to be an action movie. It’s being directed by Zack Snyder. It doesn’t have any stars known for their acting, unless you count Billy Crudup, who is presumably going to spend most of the movie naked and covered by blue makeup. I don’t have high expectations for the movie.


  1. Michael Hubbard said,

    July 22, 2008 @ 3:23 pm

    I was wondering the same thing about the hospital explosion scene. The opening bank robbery was great because towards then end you get a glimpse of how such a crazy and chaotic scheme may have been orchestrated. Maybe they just needed another huge explosion, but didn’t have time to squeeze in any story line behind it. Like you said the movie was a bit long already.
    As for The Watchmen I’m still holding out hope. Poor acting and overly choreographed fight sequences might hurt the film, but it looks from the trailer that they may have captured the dark, textured urban dystopia that I loved from the novel.

  2. Ian Lance Taylor said,

    July 23, 2008 @ 4:44 pm

    Yes, the hospital scene was one that really started me wondering.

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