Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dark Knight - a spoiler-ridden non-review analysis

I saw The Dark Knight on Saturday, but I am still thinking about it. That is the sign of a good film. The way the Joker would tell different people different stories of how he got his scars was interesting. Is he just a pathological liar? He was also very charming, tailoring his message to his audience, as when he convinced Harvey Dent to flip out. The other notable lie I recall is when he deliberately switched the addresses for Rachel and Dent when giving them to Batman. But what I wonder about him is whether he was telling the truth when he said things to suggest that he had no plan... that he was just "like a dog chasing cars" and wouldn't know what to do with one if he caught it. Look at the plan he developed to get caught and put in prison so he could break out the Chinese guy. Or the bank heist!

I think that, rather that being the embodiment of pure chaos, which is what he claims, he is actually very methodically saying and doing things that will create the most chaos.

Though the Joker was not the only one who was manipulating the truth... Harvey Dent claimed to be Batman. Gordon pretended to be dead. Alfred destroyed Rachel's letter to Bruce. And Batman took the blame for Dent's murders at the end. Deception seems to be a strong theme in Christopher Nolan's work.

I thought that, as a thriller, The Dark Knight had a good, complex story with lots of little bits, and good character development. And it looked good visually. Also, it was funny, like when the Joker said "Do I look like a guy with a plan?". Or when that other guy said: "So you think your client, one of the richest and most powerful men in the world, is secretly a vigilante, who goes around at night beating criminals to a pulp with his bare hands? And your plan is to blackmail this person? Good luck with that."

Things I didn't like: This film seemed a little too realistic, in the sense that including the scene in China seemed to anchor the film too much in the now and in the real world, whereas Batman Begins seemed a little more timeless, and Gotham City, a little more alternate-reality. Remember the monorail in Batman Begins? Nowhere to be found in The Dark Knight. But the killer was that I found the action scenes too much in the modern, trendy, up-close shots so that you can't really tell what's going on. While there were close, fast cuts in the previous film, I only had the impression of disorientation when the Scarecrow character gassed people. I guess that that filming style makes you feel more like you are in the fight, but it decreases my enjoyment.

The other problem was that, while the story was better in the sense that it was more complex, I preferred the story of Batman Begins, which was about Bruce Wayne struggling with a desire for revenge and becoming a vigilante. I found that, both in terms of the story and in terms of the action sequences, watching Batman Begins the first time charged me up and left me excited. (Though I watched Batman Begins a second time, and it loses a lot when you know what's going to happen. I suspect that The Dark Knight may hold up better under multiple viewings.) Where The Dark Knight worked was on a psychological and character development level (though being more about the Joker and Harvey Dent with some stuff about the Bruce Wayne - Rachel Dawes - Harvey Dent love triangle). Ultimately, the film is maybe the best crime thriller (or something... its genre is not so well-defined) that I've ever seen, but it was not the most awesome action film.

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