Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dark Knight

I am not going to review this film. It would be another review praising it unconditionally since I am a biased fan of the movie. There is no benefit in that but I will discuss the movie and some of the questions it raises in an intelligent manner instead of just rambling on about how good the movie is. I'm going to start with the ending of the movie since it seems the most logical place. I saw the movie twice, once as a pure biased fan and again as a consumer with less bias. The second time ending was better for me. I was disappointed as to Two-Face's transformation as it wasn't climatic/intentional but kind of an accident. As I thought about this interpretation I began to enjoy it more and the part about him going crazy made more sense within the context of the movie. Having it be an accident as it was made more sense because he would completely abandon all his morals because he has nowhere to direct his rage. If he had someone to directly blame for the accident the scene at the end of the movie would never happen so within that context his scarring made more sense. That might have been my biggest complaint about the movie is the role of Two-Face, to me Eckhart had moments of brilliance and got the job done but compared to Ledger was disappointing. The ending also had an awesome voice over by Gordon where he does Batman justice and basically explains why we all love the character. He does good for the sake of good and not glory. He is really a hero. It sort of ends on that hopeful message that no matter how many Jokers there are there is a Batman who does good and endures the evil. The boat scene where neither boat blows up each other was a great sign that no matter what the Joker does that people will still have a capacity or some good. That was the ending I thought about and why I was confused when people said this movie might be "too dark" because it had a pretty optimistic ending that good endures that is until I read a statement by Padfoot1492: "I mean, whether you like it or nor, people are, in fact, inherently evil. You don't need to be taught to do evil, but you do need to be taught to do good. That and the condition of the world should show you the true nature of humans."

After reading that, the dark part of the movie really starts to come alive for me. Just reflecting back you are never taught evil, you act and if you happen to act badly people tell you your actions are bad, tell you why, and you learn about the right way. Growing up your parents teach you about bad [evil is too strong a word] as you do things that are unwittingly bad that you don't think about. After understanding that you get a larger sense of what the Joker represents and what Two-Face stands for. The Joker is the most natural character and his monolog about doing becomes more important. If people all just did then there would be more evil which makes his anarchy that more dangerous. Two-Face meanwhile becomes more tragic as that is the real Harvey Dent, that is him embracing his human nature and the ugly side that we are all that close to. Then there is Batman. Whether you consider this a flaw or not he wasn't really the main character in his own film. It felt as if this movie had no true lead. Batman and the Joker are opposite so if I consider the Joker to be purest character then easily Batman is the most "tainted" character. Writers sometimes build up Batman so much that it becomes hard to believe is a human. He is disciplined beyond belief and has an amazing will and resiliency that Hal Jordan can only dream of [let's face it; if Bruce Wayne didn't use fear as a weapon he would the greatest Green Lantern ever]. He has humanizing qualities but beyond that no man can actually become Batman and in many ways is as unattainable as Superman. This brings up the question where does he stand? If the Joker is the human condition in its purest form, Harvey Dent being the man who once was good but was hiding his real self [hence Two-Face], then Batman has to be the personification of good, he has to be symbol. “As a man I'm flesh and blood I can be ignored I can be destroyed but as a symbol, as a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting.” [Batman Begins] All of a sudden Batman Begins becomes relevant again. Remembering that quote I know exactly where Batman stands. As a human Bruce has the same capacity of evil as anyone else in the film, but as Batman [a symbol] he doesn’t have that. That is what Batman stands for right there and that is why he is a symbol. I hadn’t realized a lot of that the first time I saw the movie and am amazed that one quote was able to send me off on that little tangent. Adding to the complexity of the movie is also the political allegory that occurs as a result of the Joker. This is slightly easier to grasp than the whole nature of humans theme. Some might argue that Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark are the two most American heroes since they are capitalist [Superman illegal alien, also Steve Rodgers is clearly the most American superhero but I could see Stark and Bruce at 2] and that the Joker in this movie is a terrorist [that is a tough one to refute].

If this movie is also thematic [I’m not sure if this is a theme or allegory] about the current political climate then Batman is America, the Joker is a terrorist, then Harvey Dent is what we should do. I am not going to get political here, this is what I speculate the movie is saying. There are some indicators of political commentary in this film. The most glaring example is Harvey Dent’s speech about turning in Batman to the Joker which is a message straight out of South Park. If you remember the Cartoon Wars you remember a random being talking about how easy it was to support an ideal but when it comes time to defend it that we back down. Dent was disappointed in Batman for giving into the terrorist and would not allow that happen. He had a really good point about when the time comes for Batman to answer; it should be to the law and not to the Joker. The Bat-sonar technology that basically let Batman spy on anyone is wire-tapping and other surveillance techniques that are questionable. Morgan Freeman represents everyone that is scared about what a big violation of rights this is and Batman is the realist who wants to stop the Joker and is willing to cross that line to catch him. I think the message there is in times of absolute crisis [DC’s next big event, look for it] we should be able to suspend some rights in order to protect people from a threat similar to the notion that Harvey brought up about the Romans and their suspending of the law in times of trouble earlier in the movie. That being said, there is the assumption that when that time is over then things should be restored [i.e. the machine self destructing], sometimes though people don’t want to give up that power which again goes back to the Caesar side story at the beginning of the movie. Thematically I believe the message to be that the government has pulled a Caesar with wiretapping, and pertaining to the narrative we gain a little respect for Batman because he is able to destroy the project and be a true hero and return the power that sonar gives him. The way I see it, I think the point was that the state should never have the power to do that but instead we give it to a private body that would have nothing to gain by having all that power, similar to the Federal Reserve with it being independently owned.

This movie has a lot going on for it and it is more than a superhero movie. The great blogger over at made a great point about this movie “a horror movie masquerading as a superhero movie, and not a superhero movie itself.” I wouldn’t say a horror movie after seeing it but it is more than that. To that point there is some validity in this being a concern for pursuit. That is why a lot of critics say it transcends being a superhero movie and is a crime drama and such. I recall reading something that said Iron Man was the best comic book movie ever made and the Dark Knight is simply a better film than Iron Man. I don’t agree with that but do see where they are coming from. In closing, the Dark Knight was a great [the best ever] film. I won’t say best superhero [he is a superhero] movie because that is injustice to typecast it like that. It is a great [again best ever] movie that I thoroughly enjoyed and will enjoy again, in IMAX. I’m hoping to hear your reactions to the movie and hopefully we can start discussing it and share what you got out of the movie. Leave your comments and we can get the ball rolling.

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