Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dark Knight Disappoints

Not at the box office, of course. I liked this one more than Batman Begins, which I really didn't care for, but I didn't like it very much. I'm a little surprised at its critical success. My complaints:
  • TOO LONG: The movie is 2.5 hours long. There's about 1 hour of good movie in there, the rest is crap.

  • Gruesome: The camera lingers over a grenade stuck in a gunshot victim's mouth as he wonders when he'll be blown up. A pencil is driven through somebody's eye into their brain in a big ha-ha moment. A man is menaced with a knife stuck in his mouth. A cell phone and bomb are sewed into somebody's stomach. It's like they grafted a Saw movie onto Batman. I don't like the Saw movies. The movie's relentlessly grim and gritty.

  • Badly plotted: Scenes end without coherent logic - the film just jumps from one thing to another. Some storylines are pointless. Batman goes to Hong Kong for no compelling reason other than they storyboarded something cool to happen there. Much like Batman Begins, the real story begins in the last 1/2 hour-40 minutes. The rest is largely needless.

  • Dark: I think this is what people must be responding to, the visual style. The movie certainly has a look. It's dark and underexposed in a style that looks really dated - like a lot of late 90's/early 2000's movies, you can see one sliver of something per shot. It's a look - I don't like it, but it's a look.

  • Drearily comic-book-y: Handwringing (christ, so much handwringing) about superhero honor codes, what truly makes a hero...Stuff that's interesting only if you're really invested in rationalizing the internal logic of comics. Also, there's a "I've put 2 people in danger, you've only got time to save 1"-style dilemma. While this plot device is a comix classic, it was the climax of Spiderman 1, which is only 6 years old.

  • Silly Climactic moments: At the climax of The Joker's movie, The Dark Knight turns into The Snuff Film with a Heart of Gold. Two boats, prisoners on one, straights on the other. Each boat is lined with explosives. Passengers on each boat have the trigger to the other's bombs. Blow up the other boat, you're spared. If neither pulls the trigger, both die. At first, I really liked this - I was waiting for something nasty and fun to happen. Instead, both groups decide not to kill the others and make a virtuous Hallmark moment out of it, complete with Noble Black Prisoner. It's saccharine, ridiculous, racist, and completely out of place in a movie that's busy getting guffaws out of pencils in eye sockets. cf Hannibal, a movie with a similar but far more consistent tone. Holy Crap, I can't believe I wrote that sentence.

  • Silly Climactic Moments 2: Meanwhile, at the climax of The Two Face movie, Batman decides to take the rap for a murder or a kidnapping or something because Harvey Dent was a hero, and people need heroes. What? First off, do you know any heroic DAs who aren't fictional? Second, the great moral dilemma of this story is revealed to be about what makes a good role model. Are you fucking serious? This is the thematic stuff of an in-depth The View conversation when a pro athlete is caught doing [x]. Who cares about this shit?

  • Gadget Fest: Batman's best when he's using his head to solve mysteries intelligently and with style. In this movie, he's basically The Terminator, with a lot less charm.

  • As Dopey as Camp Batman: Harvey Dent's the main offender here. He gets search warrants for the vaults of every bank in Gotham City with nothing other than the word of one cop that they'd really like to have the warrants. Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized, anyone? Maybe I'm being picky, but he gets these warrants after an exchange that goes roughly like this: "Why do you want warrants to search the vault of every bank in the city." "I can't tell you that." "Alright, dammit, I'll get you your warrants!" It's dumber than Law & Order. This is a Michael Bay moment, really. Also pretty dumb - he arrests every member of the mob, who allplead simultaneously in a courtroom filled to the brim. Dent justifies this to the mayor: "Even we you don't get a conviction, you've got x crime-free months while we process these creeps." Honestly, at that point I thought the pencil had been driven into *my* frontal lobe.

  • Elfman-Spiderman-style soundtrack: Every scene it feels has the same crappy bassline. Blech!

Having said all that, it's not all bad. When Ledger's not gross, he's a lot of fun, as when he disguises himself as a nurse. Pretty Boy (Blonde) is a charming, and he's a gross/fun Two-Face. It's a shame that they killed him, cos they can't bring Ledger back. The bat-cycle chase is fun, as is the opening (until we linger on the grenade).

Mostly, I'm really surprised at the critical raves for it. The movie is frequently very gross and unpleasant, but worse than that it's always incoherent - it's just a bunch of shit that happens. It compares very poorly to Iron Man, which had a coherent, engaging, and logical story and was very charming.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I agree with you. The Batman that I love is a smart detective who happens to have a few cool gadgets, not the gadget toting cliche in the movie. The movie distills Batman. Bruce Wayne becomes a snotty playboy and Batman becomes a glorified batbelt of gadgets. There is a lot more that could have been included to the benefit of the film.