Monday, January 12, 2009

It was a dark and stormy knight.

(NOTE: I started this post almost a month ago and I haven't finished it until now. Christmas, New Year's and my daughter's birthday intervened.)

So, I finally saw The Dark Knight. My one word review? Neh. If you haven't seen it, (unlikely, since I seem to have been the last person who hasn't watched, except for my wife who refuses to do so) I'm going to SPOIL IT for you.

There were a lot of little problems with it, much as there was with Batman Begins. I'm not going to swoon as my brother did. And yes, the voice was still awful. In fact, most of the minor problems of the first were still around in the second. Alfred still sounds too Cockney, too many people know about Batman's identity (were they hinting in the interrogation scene that the Joker knew as well?) and they don't treat the other characters with the respect they deserve. (I can't believe they made Montoya a dirty cop.) Gordon was a bit less one-dimensional (I know, I know, comic-book movie, what do I expect?), but it was only a bit.

It had more significant problems too; it was preachy at times and I think the writer/director had drunk a little too deeply from Nietzsche's well. (Or looked too long into his abyss?) We learn that prisoners are more noble than your average citizen, that it is never right to kill anyone under any circumstances unless you've learned that rules are for the untermensch and if you can transcend to become ubermensch you're able to dispense with such nonsense. There was the obligatory political point about the evils of using technology to investigate crime and how popular heroes must inevitably become villains. These might have been easier to ignore if the points hadn't been made so ineptly. (Though it wasn't so ham-fisted as the most recent Bourne installment.)

Even when the movie was good, I think it failed. For example, Heath Ledger did a marvelous portrayal of the Joker and his madness. It was a subtle, careful performance that demonstrated just where nihilism leads and the problems with not bothering to believe in any sort of transcendent purpose or meaning. But I'm afraid it was undercut by how "cool" the Joker ends up being. I mean, I understand that the evil of the Joker has to be made somewhat enticing. After all, nihilism does have a certain cachet that attracts people, but it is worrisome that the movie may do more harm than good. The average unthinking American adolescent will, in all likelihood, ignore the critical points made of the Joker and embrace his joyful plunge into depravity. Don't think so? How many people understand that the Godfather movies were being critical of organised crime?