Review: The Dark Knight

I was never a fan of the Batman character. A very wealthy man playing superhero with gadgets only he can afford, to foil crooks from money he obviously doesn’t lack. I preferred perpetually broke Spiderman. After hearing the phenomenal reviews and ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB, I got curious. Just how well written can a bombastic summer action blockbuster be? I tend to prefer smaller indy films with good scripts, yet decided to venture in the movieplex with the expectation that The Dark Knight was way overrated. Boy, was I surprised.

The Good Stuff
Christopher and Jonathan Nolan’s screenplay and Christopher’s direction is above and beyond what viewers usually get from these action blockbusters. I am pleased that it has finally dawned on some of these studio execs that people will reward you, if you don’t insult their intelligence. Nolan’s adaptation adds ethical dilemma and alludes to contemporary issues like intrusive surveillance, torture and corruption in some of the institutions we rely so much on to get our sense of security. They also put a ruthless variation of the Prisoner’s Dilemma to add to the psychological and ethical tension. The characters are well fleshed out and the storytelling compelling.

The acting was solid, and Heath Ledger’s Joker is probably the darkest and most sinister portrayed on the screen. While his fine performance might not quite be Oscar worthy, he’s likely going to get serious consideration since it was his last role before his tragic death. Aaron Eckhart did excellent job in the role of righteous DA Harvey Dent, a performance that might be easily overlooked facing Ledger’s intense presence. Christian Bale’s Batman was competent, acting behind a mask using a raspy voice limits one’s ability to show a nuanced performance.

The Quibbles

FX and score overwhelm dialogue: This has happened in various instances where I couldn’t sort out the dialogue from the booming sounds. I’m not sure whether it was the cinema’s issue or the sound editor, but it did distract me enough to mention it.

Batman’s raspy voice: Mentioned above. It makes some sense that Batman would attempt to disguise his voice not to be recognized, but Bale’s raspy voice does not make him “creepy” and just hampers comprehension and performance. I hope that Nolan will have Bale just use his regular voice in future films and the audience will forgive that. It’s already tough acting through a mask and the voice didn’t help. We accept Superman’s ludicrous disguise (glasses), so having Bale use his regular voice isn’t a big deal.

Film still slightly overrated: #1 on IMDB??  Really?? It’s a fine film worth seeing, but I can rattle off twenty better films off the top of my head. At the moment it’s a pop culture phenomenon, and I suppose that many are so starving for fine intelligent entertainment that this film appears above and beyond what’s come out in recent memory.

All in all, it’s a good, unusually intelligent summer flick that reminded me how fun it can be to venture into the cinema. 8.5 out of 10.

On a side note, I saw the great trailer of the upcoming Watchmen movie, an adaptation of the brilliant comic book/graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The story is a thorough deconstruction of the superhero archetype. The trailer looks promising and lets hope director Zack Snyder doesn’t muck it up.

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7 Responses to “Review: The Dark Knight”

  1. great movie.

    I like the way you reviewed it.

    Shamelle

  2. Thanks Shamelle. I hope to expand on it, as some viewed it as propaganda (our specialty here! 😉 ) . I felt the writer/director gave the audience enough credit to make up its own mind, but some differed.

  3. Spent a little time browsing your blog. Good stuff! I have plans to see the Dark Knight after the hoopla dies down – thanks for your take. You’re gonna make a great added link.

  4. 99PPP: I agree with you that the film does not deserve #1 billing. I do think that somewhere Heath Ledger’s death made his performance all the more poignant, as a man who is evil because he enjoys it and has nothing to lose.

    However if considered at a slightly less superficial level, the film poses interesting questions about the resident evil inside all humans, and what factors may bring it out and what motivates some to let it take over while others suppress the urge.

    I wrote a post about the evil business when I saw the film a couple weekends ago. If you get a chance, do read it and let me know what you think.

    Thanks.

  5. Tim: Thanks for the feedback and I’m glad you liked the review. I took a quick peek at your blog and see we share an affinity towards taoism. I’ll give it a better look sometime soon.

    Shefaly: I agree the film is a good exploration into ethics. I’m going to check out your post and comment there.

  6. V Profane Says:

    I know it’s only a ‘quibble’ but I don’t think being overrated is a valid criticism of a movie, only of the critics/fans.

    On the ‘Batman voice’, I seem to recall seeing some promo images for Batman Begins which showed some circuitry in the Batman costume which goes over the throat to produce the unnatural sounding voice. This ties in with rationale and exposition presented in Batman Begins for him affecting the whole Bat garb (fear, and of course identity concealment), but for some reason, that plot point didn’t make it in to the final movie. Since Bruce gets a new costume in The Dark Night, and the voice is even more exaggerated this time, they probably should have touched upon it.

  7. V Profane: Good point, that quibble is not about the film, but the hoopla (fans/critics) as you mentioned. Yet since I mentioned the response to the film aroused my curiosity about it, I needed to contextualize that while its a fine film, there may be a general over-enthusiasm over it.

    Thanks for the comment

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