BATMANIA!: THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)
I am a Bat Fan. Let me just get that off my chest before we begin. Since I was a young kid, Batman was my favorite. It seems cliché to say now, but from the day I first saw Adam West waltz around in tights, I knew Batman was the hero for me. I’ve enjoyed almost every single Batman film and while I am not often caught up on the comics, I enjoy reading them as often as I can. When Christopher Nolan took over the film franchise, I was cautiously intrigued. Batman and Robin had left a bitter aftertaste in my mouth, so I went in, hoping I’d get something good. What I got was the Batman film I never knew I’d been wanting all my life, so believe me when I say, I may be a little biased when it comes to Batman. Here at Wag, the core group of writers each have different styles of writing and different niches. You have Kevin with the 3000 word essays, Josh with his monster blogs, Anthony with cartoons, Alicia with the weird exploitation stuff, and Ian with penises, but for a while, I had no idea what my niche was here, besides editing and running the site. Now I know. My niche is talking about movies using personal experience from my past to inform my discussion, so in this case, I will look at WHY I like The Dark Knight so much, and what perhaps I was blind to in my original views of the film
Let’s start with the fact that Dark Knight came out at a very tough time in my life. I had lost a job, was about to loose an apartment, and about to have to move away from the city. None of it was very uplifting, and yet, when Dark Knight came out, I was pumped. I was able to set aside the bullshit of my life and geek out about a new Batman movie, and I geeked for sure, perhaps a little two hard. For me, Dark Knight defined that summer. I saw it multiple times in theaters, to the point where some people would probably call me crazy, but that didn’t matter to me, I had a getaway. Now, looking back at the film itself, it’s kind of a weird movie to pick as an escape, because, let’s be honest, Gotham is never a friendly place, and certainly not in Dark Knight. After moving out of the city, I spent almost two years unemployed, and due to me overindulging with the film during the summer of 08, I didn’t watch the film again until the summer of 2010, in anticipation of Inception. I realized that it wasn’t a perfect film, that perhaps I was caught up in the thrill of a legitimate phenomenon, and now, away from it, I could see it in a new light. I still loved the film, but it wasn’t because I was a a Batman fan. Since freshman year of High School, I had long wanted to be a filmmaker. When I graduated from High School, I ended up not following that dream, and wandered aimlessly for several years, some of which were the years in the city. In 2010, I looked at The Dark Knight, and what I liked about it, and it kick-started my desire to make films again. A few months later, I signed up for film school, and now, two years after that point, I am a year into the program, with good grades I couldn’t predict, and the respect of several of my professors. It’s been a journey, and in a way, I do owe it to Chris Nolan and his take on Batman.
Looking back at the film from this point in my life, I can see it’s flaws. It has some odd leaps of logic, doesn’t explain itself all the time, and is perhaps a bit too big for it’s own good, but one thing the film is often accused of is sloppy editing. I am going to actually put my vote in the corner of the editing. Some really jarring cuts ad to the menacing quality the film carries throughout. The Joker is a force of nature in the movie, and having his actions cut rapidly and abruptly aids in making him scary. Combined with Hans Zimmer’s tense strings and Ledger’s phenomenal performance, Joker truly becomes something inhuman.
There are some subplots that could have been trimmed or re-arranged. The Wayne Enterprise employee who feels the need to blackmail Bruce is simply there to set up an action scene later in the film and could have been introduced a little more organically. You also have the Two Face subplot that could have been introduced a little earlier perhaps, giving it more time to breath. I agree with the choice to kill of Harvey Dent at the end, because in this particular version of the story, Harvey doesn’t seem like he’d become a super-villain committing crimes with the number 2 in them or giant pennies. This, however, doesn’t really excuse how fast they toss in the Two Face stuff. It changes the tone of the film almost, and it tries to compete with Ledger’s Joker, which is just too strong for it to overcome.
What works in the movie, though, really goddamn works. Much has been said of Ledger, and so I’ll just state that it always a thrill to see the work he did in the movie. I am not sure Ledger would have won so many awards had he been alive to see them, but there is no doubt in my mind that he would have been the name on everyone’s tongue, and his already bright career would have skyrocketed. Overshadowed by the Joker is Harvey Dent, who is really captured by Aaron Eckhart. Dent is one of the better characters in the Batman world, and seeing his pain and torment as his life is ripped away from by forces he can’t control is a real highlight of the film. These are all well and good, but my absolute favorite thing from the film is Gary Oldman. His Commissioner Gordon is a far cry from anything we’ve seen before in previous iterations, but he captures the everyman aspect that is so familiar from the pages of DC Comics. His work towards the end when he realizes that his acceptance of mob plants in his unit has lead to the downfall of Harvey Dent is sublime.
I am happy to have been part of such a pop culture zeitgeist in the moment it happened. It’s what I imagine people my parent’s age meant when they talked about seeing Star Wars for the first time. It’s a film that will remain in the public’s mind for a long time to come, no matter how well the new sequel does, and I have to say, that pleases me greatly.
I know I didn’t go into the depths of the story here, and Nolan’s Batman has plenty of meat to chew into when it comes to analyzing themes and subtext, but that really isn’t my area of expertise, and I’d probably just sound silly. I’ll just say that Dark Knight isn’t my favorite film, but it’s certainly a film I am very fond of. I know he won’t read this, but I would like to extend a thanks to Christopher Nolan. Not for making Batman, not for being a cool filmmaker, but simply for making a film that made me take a look at my life, and think about how I could change it for the better. That sounds goofy as hell, but there it is. Thanks, Chris. I can’t wait to see where you go next.
Posted on July 19, 2012, in Batmania, Events and tagged Aaron Eckhart, Batman, Batmania, Christopher Nolan, Dark Knight, Film School, Gary Oldman, Heath Ledger, Look Back. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.