I cannot tell you how sorrowfully my hopes were dashed when I first saw The Dark Knight in theaters. Unfortunately, Nolan refuses to realize both the limitations of an audience’s attention span, and how much plot one can squeeze into one film. Christopher Nolan created what, as disparate elements, are absolutely amazing components of a movie. Theoretically, one would expect these should have come together in a mind-boggling display of superhero goodness. Alas.
Before I get into the film itself, let me make it clear that Batman is hands-down my favorite superhero. Also, I should note that I did not hate Batman Begins. On the contrary, I actually rather appreciated what Nolan was trying to do in his attempt to reboot comic book icon for the big screen. I eagerly awaited the sequel.
To address the elephant in the room, I confess that I loved the character of the Joker. Heath Ledger gave us a performance for the ages that was absolutely deserving of its subsequent Academy Award. Never before has a live-action villain, in anything that I’ve seen, reached the levels of lunacy and depravity of Ledger’s Joker before or since.
Nevertheless, must ask all of those fans of The Dark Knight: did you truly love the film itself, or did you love the Joker?
The first two scenes starring the enigmatic villain had me on the edge of my seat. I was ready for Nolan to bring down the house and top off my list of favorite films. I thought to myself, how could he possibly steer a film down from such impressive heights? As they say, the bigger they come.
The aforementioned brilliance of the Joker seems to be the shiny respite from this tarnished film, replete with pacing and tonal issues. Each scene the audience has to sit through listening to Bruce Wayne whine and Harvey Dent carry out his political campaign appears to be tiding us over until the next sadistic act from The Clown Prince.
But I thought this movie was called The Dark Knight? Isn’t that Batman?
Ah – well here’s the clever thing. I’m pretty sure that Nolan really had a secret title for this film, tucked away for no one to see, called The Clown Prince. He never shared this with anyone, though, and so the producers just assumed that they should run with its original title despite limited involvement from the title character.
Okay, maybe that’s not true. What is true is that Batman is hardly the star of the show, making only the briefest appearances at the introduction and in the grand finale. The snarky, haughty, rich Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), on the other hand, gets a chance to show the world how annoying and uninteresting he is as Nolan’s version of Batman’s alter ego.
All of that aside, I believe that the biggest downfall of this film lies in its story. At two and half hours, The Dark Knight does its best to fit what feels like 50 volumes worth of comic and graphic novel information into its runtime. This gives the film a distinctly overstuffed feeling.
And that’s all without even mentioning how Maggie Gyllenhaal, normally such a compelling actress, was wasted in this movie. How about the way Nolan nonchalantly incorporated Two-Face into the plot? He successfully managed to destroy the legacy of a major Batman villain by giving him 10 minutes of screen time, much to the disappointment of many fans.
The film consists of a mishmash of mostly unfocused ideas which, had they been reorganized and re-cut, probably could have solidified this as a tour de force of modern filmmaking. As it stands, Nolan produced a merely decent film which happens to contain some truly brilliant individual performances. It’s not a bad film by a long shot, but it is certainly a missed opportunity for all involved.
Verdict: Movie Meh
A Note About Batman – Batman lack the infamous “batnipples,” which is a plus, some serious problems remain with his characterization:
- He’s supposed to be the world’s greatest detective, and yet he never does any detective work – that bothers me.
- What’s going on with his voice?
A Note About Too Much – This film easily could have been split into two separate films, alleviating its bloated plot. I believe “the hospital scene” would have been an excellent start to a sequel film also starring the Joker (and perhaps another villain).