Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Long Dark Knight

The Dark Knight
~ I wanted to like this, I really did. Hell, I wanted to love it. And based on the record-breaking box office, and the renewed interest in comics as fodder for Hollywood, I really wish I did… But it was not to be. This could be one of the biggest disappointments of the summer, if not the year.

I don’t get it. How could this be that nearly two decades after Tim Burton’s Batman when comics readers breathed a collective sigh of relief when we finally got what many of us perceived as the real Batman – a dark creature of the night – how could it be that now … my reaction is “it’s too dark,” how could this be?

The problem is, that’s the least of the problems I have with The Dark Knight. There are sequences, dialogue and characterizations that are dead on, and in some cases, perfect. But those do not make a whole movie.

Perhaps part of the blame goes to director Christopher Nolan for hiring his brother to help with the screenplay. David Goyer runs hot and cold for me. The first Blade is perfect yet his Dark City does nothing but give me migraines just thinking about it. Why not hire someone who has his feet firmly within both camps, film and comics, to help write the thing? Alan Brennert must be in the loop somewhere as he wrote one of the episodes in “Gotham Knight,” the anime that bridges Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and it should be noted he’s one of the better comics and TV writers around. His “Twilight Zone” work rivals Rod Serling’s and his Earth-Two stories are second only to Roy Thomas, if not better. He understands comics, and the characters.

Another thing that bothers me is the Oscar for the late Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker. Yeah, he’s good, but was he that good? Hard to say. He certainly nailed the Joker, personality-wise at least, if not the visuals, and Ledger’s Joker definitely is frightening. Anyone else get the shivers every time he clicked his tongue? Yes, Ledger was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. He shines whenever he’s on screen, even in nurse drag. But personally though I think Aaron Eckhart and especially Gary Oldman were just as good. If the late Heath Ledger gets an Oscar, then at least Oldman should have gotten at least a nod as well.

Christian Bale’s Batman growl has got to go. In the previous movie it was annoying, here it’s just downright infuriating. How about just a tonal change of voice like Christopher Reeve used to do with Clark Kent and Superman? That’s all that’s needed, really.

Really, what more do I need to say? The guttural noises coming from Bale lessen the character. The Batman character comes as much from Doc Savage as he does from the Shadow. Where is the Savage intellect? In this version of the dark knight it seems that either Lucius or Alfred do all the thinking for him.

Why do the movies hate Two-Face so much? He is easily one of the Batman’s deadliest foes, not just because of his insanity, or his loyalty to that coin, but because he was Bruce Wayne’s friend. He is not just the Riddler’s sidekick or the Joker’s freakish revenge – and he never was – why reduce such a opportunity-filled nemesis by linking him to others?

And Two-Face’s make-up/appearance… wow, it’s horrific, and pretty close to the comics for once, in theory. I think the idiots that brought their infant children to see this flick paid for their mistake with numerous nights of their children screaming awake from nightmares. Ratings are there for a reason, idiots. Just because it’s based on a ‘funny book,’ doesn’t mean it’s for kids.

I suppose that somewhere in this dreck written by Goyer and the director’s brother there might have been a good movie somewhere, but in my opinion it doesn’t make it to the screen. There are, despite my contempt for this film, parts I liked. The Joker’s interactions with the underworld elements of Gotham City are priceless and the entire Hong Kong sequence is amazing, but that’s only a small percentage of a very long movie. Too long.

I suppose I can hope that the next film in the series will be better, but that tact didn’t work back in the 1990s when Joel Schumacher took over the franchise. Perhaps Batman will be the opposite of the Star Trek film series and the odd-numbered ones will be the good ones. I hope so. I really don’t want to hate going to see Batman movies again...

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  1. FYI, it wasn't me who wrote for the anime GOTHAM KNIGHT, it was Alan Burnett, writer-producer on the animated Batman series. But I do agree with you about THE DARK KNIGHT--way too dark, way too long, and the Joker is way smarter than Batman, which should never be the case. I hated it.

  2. Sorry about the flub, sir, I am a big fan of your work, but obviously not as big as I thought. ;-)

    Props to both you and Mr. Burnett. I'll get it right next time. :-)

    Thanks for reading!

  3. No worries, even DC gets us confused sometimes! And thanks for all the kind words about my work.

  4. Heironymous3:59 PM

    This movie, from my own unfilterd "Hollywood" angle was a "cash-fest". Since, it was the "second" movie in a restarted series (the first being a commercial success), the mantra in filmland is to give the director what they want to keep producing this kind of film. So, the producers will allow the director to throw out some bones (nee - bundles of cash) to those who are either close to them or are loyal.

    That might explain some of the "creative" choices by mr. Nolan.

    Now as for the "dark" tones in the movie, I always hypothesized that this is what "sells" to audiences in this day and age. Look at most of the animation, video games, or science fiction that is aimed at kids age 7 and up today. It is enough to make a parent want to scream.

    (..and I do!) ;-)

  5. Couldn't agree more. The Dark Knight just didn't do it for me.

  6. Hi people. Where to start? Maybe just by keeping it simple. Thankfully you guys stand alone and are not in the film industry or involved in it in any big way. That's a relief... uuufffff! It was thanks to Chris Nolan's brother that many of certain key elements of the comics are somehow portrayed in the film. How do I know this? First because I'm a big fan of comic books especially of Batman. Second, in different interviews it is shown that Jonathan Nolan is a huge fan of Batman and of the comics and in fact is reflected in the story line of the movie. And at last but certainly NOT least I'm tired of listening to certain snub critics and snub people to say "Oh... It's long for a comic or superhero movie". GEEEEEZZZ!!!
    I didn't know that comic book movies had a limited time length due. I didn't heard no one complain on that OVERRATED CGI like movie AVATAR on its length. And I could go on Heath Ledger s' performance but I'll save MY time on that one.

  7. First, Rod, there's no us, it's just me.

    When I said long, I was referring to how the film made me feel, not the actual length of the film. It seemed like it went on forever.

    And I am a bigger comics fan than I am a film fan, and believe me, I know Batman. This was barely Batman in my opinion.

    For the record, I liked the other two films in this trilogy, but hated this one. And I think we agree on Avatar and Heath Ledger's performance.

    Even if we disagree, good to hear from you, and thanks for posting. And if you're a comic reader, take a closer look at the blog, I think you'll find lots to enjoy. Peace.

  8. And just for kicks and giggles, I reviewed The Dark Knight again for Biff Bam Pop! just before the release of The Dark Knight Rises.

    My opinion didn't change much in two years. Enjoy.