Say Anything: The Dark Knight
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on July 23, 2008
Spoilers like they’re going out of style
So after getting shut out on opening night, I finally got to see The Dark Knight today. When you go to see a movie at 2:15 on a Tuesday afternoon, get there early, and still have trouble finding a decent seat, I think it’s fair to say you have a hit on your hands. Obviously TDK is that and more, and doubtless most of you have already read the opinions of countless other writers more educated and insightful on the subject than myself. Still, it’s not a real blockbuster until I give my half-assed, uninformed take on it, so I’ll give you a short one-line summary on my thoughts (good, flawed, better than most but probably not as good as the last one) and then some general thoughts in no particular order.
- I’d heard the “It’s not even like a superhero movie…it’s just like an art movie!” descriptor a bunch of times before seeing this. Mmmm…gonna have to say no on that. I think, at the very least, that art movies by law aren’t allowed to have the last line of the movie be the movie’s title.
- Not like I need to say it, but Heath Ledger as The Joker…yeah, you could make a case for all-time best superhero movie villain. My personal favorite moment (besides the pencil scene, anyway) would have to be when he’s taunting one of the cops about his recent misdeeds, and asks him how many of his cop buddies he’s killed. The guy answers six. “Six?” The Joker mouths back at him with mock concern. It exemplifies the perfect mix of childlike glee, pouty emotion and nervy mania that Ledger steals just about every scene with throughout the movie.
- Rachel Dawes — upgrade in actress (Gyllenhaal > Holmes, although not by as much as most think), but downgrade in character. Whatever people think of Holmes, her character in Begins was a legitimately important force in the movie, for what she said and did as much as for what she represented. Yet such a nothing it role it was in TDK that when she goes kablooie mid-sentence in her confession of love to fiancee Harvey Dent, it’s not as heartbreaking as much as it is hilarious that the movie appears to be telling her “SHUUUUUUUT UPPPPPPPPPPP“
- Prediction: Aaron Eckhart will go down in (very very unofficial) history as the best actor of his generation to never get nominated for an Oscar. Seriously, he’s already excelled in three career roles (here, Thank You For Smoking, and, uh, that other one), yet it doesn’t seem like he’s ever gonna find quite the right one for Oscar baiting–especially since he might never be able to play a guy that stays decent throughout an entire movie (besides that bizarro beardy turn in Erin Brokovich, anyway). He’s fairly deserving of one here, but Ledger already more or less has the category locked up, and for two actors to get nominated for a superhero movie in the same category just seems too weird.
- So that was Anthony Michael Hall as a reporter in that one scene? The only reason I can think of why he could possibly end up in this movie is if Christopher Nolan had missed The Brat Pack entirely growing up and just responded to his tryout by saying “this poor, middle-aged, red-headed chap, if he still hasn’t made it in Hollywood, this bit part is the least I can do.”
- Bruce Wayne’s gravely, sometimes shouty Batman Voice–totally badass in the first one (“SWEAR TO ME!!!!!!“), kind of chuckle-worthy in this one. I get why he uses it and all, but in his scenes with Commissioner Gordon, I kept expecting him to turn to the Bat and be like “y’know, you don’t have to keep doing that weird voice thing, I got you.”
- Speaking of Gordo–what was the deal with his fake death? OK, so he did it to protect his family, fair enough–but how did he actually do it? I mean, he did get shot by The Joker, no? Did he plan on getting shot by an in-disguise Joker? Good thing no one in these movies ever aims for the head.
- Speaking of Batman–was he even in this movie? TDK reminded me of Batman Returns in a number of ways, but none moreso than this–just like in Returns, where the movie was so overstuffed with screen-dominating, scenery-chewing villains (Catwoman, Max Schrek, Penguin) that Batman himself felt like a supporting character, Bale’s own personal struggles seemed relatively inconsequential in the movie’s grand scheme. Yeah OK, I get it, he’s tired of being an outcast, he wants a normal life, he’s worried about ultimately doing more harm than good. Now get back to Ledger fucking with cops’ heads already.
- Props to the movie for the Two-Face makeup. When they do that supervillain-standard movie trick of showing the normal half of face for most of the scene before he dramatically turns to the camera to reveal the whole thing, I was gearing myself up–don’t be shocked, don’t be weirded out, it’s probably gonna be more gruesome than Tommy Lee Jones was in Forever, but it’s still just a PG-13 Superhero Movie. But when they finally rolled out skeletor-Eckhart, his face looking like it was a night’s sleeping on the wrong side of the bed away from falling off entirely, I defintiely got the willies anyway. Impressive.
- The one thing these movies are really going to do to fuck the legacy of the Burton/Schumacher series is in their treatment of how these bad dudes first became deformed and evil. After all the thought, psychology, and character backstory that went into the evolution of The Joker and Two-Face in this one, to look back and see how Jack Nicholson just got accidentally dipped into some bleaching toxic waste and how Tommy Lee just had the misfortune of trying to prosecute some baddie who smuggled acid into the court (???) but was a bad toss, you kinda have to break down into hysterics. Burton and Schumacher’s defense: “uhh, well we had Prince and Seal megahits on our soundtracks, WHAT YOU GOT ON YOURS SUCKA”
- The Honorary “New Yorkers Throwing Fruit at the Green Goblin” Award for Supremely Groanworthy Cheese in a Superhero Movie goes to the scene where ex-wrestler and ex-fictional president Tiny Lister throws the detonator off the boat, nobly dooming him and his prisonmates to a watery (well, fiery first, then watery) grave. Uh-huh. “Welcome to Gotham, pal! You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us!”
- I’ve heard some rumblings that Two Face might not be dead, and that they’ll trot him out for the next one to be the primary villain. Hope so, because the character just felt like it was starting to get going, crossing that all-important line between pissed-off, vigilantous anti-hero and just straight up supervillain. To only give him 1/3 of a movie to work with as Batman’s primary foe, after doing such a good job of building his character as a compellingly tragic figure, really seemed like they were selling him short.
- The real innovation–or the real unprecedneted breakthrough, at least–of these movies is that the action scenes are so much worse than the scenes where the characters sit down and talk. When there’s actually a chase scene, it’s usually confusing, clumsy, and not terribly suspenseful. You spend the entire time hoping that it’ll end soon so you can see the characters get back to brooding and pondering their misery for a little while. How many action movies in the past could you say that about ?
- Anyone taking bets on who’s going to be playing The Riddler when he’s inevitably shoehorned in as a secondary villain in 3 or 4? I’m gonna say it might be time for Steve Carrell to stretch a little.