Here is my review, which I was forced to write in light of all the love it’s getting. Spoilers, blah, blah, blah.
First the good:
Yeah, Ledger is really good, and the 15-20% of the movie that he’s in is also really good. The pencil scene, which has been noted here, is awesome. The downside of that however, is that it was good because it was a funny joke by the Joker, and I would have appreciated many more such gags, but he was actually rather "serious" much of the time, and the pursuit of mayhem ought to have been more mirthful. Still really good, though.
I enjoyed the first hour quite a bit. The opening scene was great, as was the Hong Kong action scene, and, as mentioned, all the scenes with the Joker. It was well directed and scored, and I thought it struck a nice tone.
I always respect it when major characters get killed off, so good for them on that score. I would have respected it even more if the people on the boats had blown each other up. If you want to make a dark movie, make it really dark… As an aside, another Ledger movie, <em>The Patriot</em>, though a terrible movie, wins my all-time respect award on that score. The movie spent 20 minutes on a rather tedious love story between Ledger and some woman, only to have the evil Brits crowd her and the rest of the town into a church which they then burned down. Awesome.
On to the (lots o’) bad:
The glowing reviews really pissed me off. It has been showered with a "purple rain" of glowing prose such as (all pulled off www.metacritic.com):
An ambitious, full-bodied crime epic of gratifying scope and moral complexity, this is seriously brainy pop entertainment
A bit of Hamlet is in this Batman
Mr. Kirk Honeycutt of the Hollywood Reporter, solid family man though he may (or may not) be, should be immediately sacked, as Dalesman would phrase it. I even get his point, but still….
The Dark Knight will give your adrenal glands their desired workout, but it will occupy your mind, too, and even lead it down some dim alleyways where most Hollywood movies fear to tread
Nolan turns the Manichean morality of comic books--pure good vs. pure evil--into a bleak post-9/11 allegory about how terror (and, make no mistake, Heath Ledger's Joker is a terrorist) breaks down those reassuring moral categories.
Pitched at the divide between art and industry, poetry and entertainment, it goes darker and deeper than any Hollywood movie of its comic-book kind.
It's proof that popcorn entertainments don't have to talk down to their audiences in order to satisfy them
Gah! This movie is not "brainy" or "smart" or "morally complex" or that of that stuff! It made me dUmbEr and I actually felt a tad manipulated and even insulted by what was supposedly passing for braininess. I thought the plot and "themes" were really pretty silly, and to the extent that it stimulated your brain, you really should read better books. Or something. Here goes my laundry list of whines.
-Generally speaking, this movie had a bunch of the same (tiresome by this point) themes that every damn superhero movie has, but since it was darker, people feel the need to take it more seriously. E.g., Batman questioning whether he should give up being a superhero. Maybe he’s doing more harm than good! This happens in every superhero franchise. I didn’t find it particularly compelling the first time I encountered it, and it’s not any more interesting in this movie. I kept expecting Morgan Freeman to say "with great power comes great responsibility"….
-The DA guy’s character change: makes. no. fucking. sense. So some of those cops were corrupt… Why does he want to kill Gary Oldman’s family? Gary Oldman didn’t do anything to him. So… the Joker turned him evil by killing his gf and showing him "the folly of planning."… This does not impress me. If this plot element was supposed to be "brainy" or "morally complex" than apparently I lack a brain and also lack moral curiosity.
-The coin-tossing conceit in No Country for Old Men was awesome and rather chilling, whereas in the film, it was just rather lame and, frankly, confusing. Many films try to invoke fate or chance in the hopes of achieving some gravitas, but these attempts almost always wind up just being dumb.
-People are fundamentally good, even hardened criminals (and we know that big black dudes are the hardenedest criminals of all…)! The Joker was wrong! Wooooooooooo people! Would people really react that way if faced with that boat situation? I don’t know, but I suspect not, since it only takes one. I do know that I can’t muster up the energy to care about that particular absurd situation. The only way I would have liked that scene is if the movie had taken seriously the idea that maybe they should blow up the other boat. I might have liked that.
The ending really was awful. We were supposed to feel somber or sad or heart-swellingly proud or some such thing when Batman has to go into hiding and they destroy the bat signal. But it’s hard to feel that when it doesn’t make any fucking sense! Why should the people of Gotham hate Batman? He seems like a great guy to me. Fights crime. Why celebrate the DA guy? Why were supposed to even like him in the first place? We were I guess supposed to accept the notion that he was the somehow better successor to Batman as the savior of the city who people could believe in or whatever, but there were no reasons given for that. It is just confusing!
-It invoked some contemporary debates about terrorism and surveillance, but didn’t really do much more than invoke them, and I would personally rather than films not invoke such things at all, as they (especially action movies) are quite poor vehicles for any insight into such matters. I challenge any of you: What did the movie say about such issues that was interesting in the slightest? One can probably draw absurd lessons right (such as in today’s WSJ…) or left, but in either case it is just people projecting their opinions onto the film.
-Batman’s voice: what the fuck was up with that? It was terrible!
I miss Adam West.
Have at me, if you managed to get through all that…..