Movie Review: The Dark Knight

I sort of feel bad because the main reason I watched it was because Telkontar expressed a profound fondness for the movie. OTOH, this isn’t the first movie we’ve had different opinions on.

Best Part: The first 45 minutes. Some pleasant, well-orchestrated tension and violence.

Biggest Question: How did anyone accomplish any of the things they did? Why were all the key moments in the movie hidden in the scene breaks? What, actually, was the main conflict? (Admittedly, yes, that’s three questions.)

Too Long By: 75 minutes. If it had ended at the 1:20 mark, I probably would’ve liked it. No such luck.

Additional Gripe: There were no rules in this movie-world, which means that anything could happen — and when anything can happen, nothing matters.

Haiku Synopsis:

Joker’s a winner

 Over and over again:

Moral quandaries ho!

Final Score: 4/10, including a full point docked for making me sit through Heath Ledger licking his lips for at least 60 minutes of the run-time — between that, the Batman-voice, and the non-stop soliloquies, I got no-joke nauseous.


  • Christopher Bigelow

    I agree with you, mostly. I liked the first part, felt the second half was way overstuffed and too long. I was quite weary by the end. They tried to cram two movies into one, so the Two-Face track got botched, IMO.

  • bkdunn

    Two movies in one and I think the first one was better than the second. Not sure why they thought that every single character in the movie had to have his or her own plot line, either. Full disclosure, though, I’ve never really liked a superhero movie.

  • telkontar

    I accept full responsibility, but offer no apologies (except for maybe 10 minutes of lip-licking by the deceased guy).

    And thus we see: BK is biased against superheroes and orca-exploitation. (The Incredibles is either #1 or #2 on my all-time list, _______ [couldn’t think of a good insulting epithet that did not go beyond the pale].) Ironman may be the most entertaining superhero movie, but no deeper themes run in that river.

    Yes, it was too long. The romance motif was irrelevant, other than making the final choice of whom to save somewhat poignant. Could have just as well been a choice between Alfred and Speed Readerman. I thought the action and Batman toys were not all that great, but I liked the Hong Kong infiltration and exfiltration scene. The movie was not believable at all, although I can (and do) suspend my disbelief quite easily. Believe!

    BK’s analysis in the haiku is apt – Moral quandaries indeed! That’s why I liked it.

    Major issues: “Some people just want to watch the planet burn.” If you want a personification of Satan, you got it here, I think. We are still awaiting the “What’s the point” blog post. The antagonist wanted individuals and society to fail at moral tests and pull them down to his level. That’s it. That’s all. He burned his own mountain of money To quote what someone called the “most evil” children’s song ever, “Go and read the news.”

    DA – compare his Gotham crusade to honest politicians in Mexico where drug cartels govern society. The interplay between Dent sacrificing himself by “confessing” to be Batman while Bruce Wayne was going to sacrifice himself was an interesting interplay, I thought. Both were willing to sacrifice their lives for a city. Gotham never seems to deserve such goodness. Then the whole 2-face thing. B-man: “If the Joker got to even Harvey Dent, what chance do the rest of us have?” A passer-by saw Abe Lincoln throw a man out of his office. Abe, noticing a disproving stare, stated: “Every man has his price. He was getting too close to mine.” At what point do we surrender all ethics and morals? [See boat scene, next.]

    Issue: Who’s good? I found the moral dilemma on the ferries interesting, although the strange plot convolutions to make both parties at sea at the same time had to be glossed over. “I’m gonna do what should have been done a long time ago.” The convict then throws the detonator out the window. How good are humans at removing the source of temptation from themselves? I found it evocative of irreligious Bill Murray in Ghostbusters: “Nobody steps on a church in my town!” Of course, my son’s favorite Star Wars character is Darth Vader – he saves Luke in the end, thereby saving the galaxy. I like redemptive scenes. On the other boat, Schmuck-man wants to push the button — until he holds it in his hand. It’s always nice to have someone else do the dirty work on your behalf. It’s a little different to be the one with your finger on the trigger. (See High Noon for similar themes.)

    Even the Washington-esque rejection of power in the cell phone multiscreen tracking room should have appealed to (or disgusted) an anti-Patriot Act person such as BKD.

    Biggest Question: Like cost/benefit analysis, much action is merely assumed. What sort of key moments were you looking for? The key moment was Bruce and Harvey at the press conference – both willing to sacrifice for the common good. On-screen agonizing about their decisions would not have worked in this medium. Joker’s set-ups would have been interesting – how did he arrange his heists? What was the source of his intel? How effective are mental patients at implementing mid-term schemes? How did he really get the scars? (Perhaps for Joker, truth truly shifts according to circumstance and his immediate needs. No long-range planning.)

    I will find fault with the anti-self-help motif. Those (in the movie) who had been inspired by Batman to protect the city were denigrated as fools. Solo vigilantes are not a good thing, but I put more faith in the common man and his right to defend self and society that the film seemed to portray. I believe it was Brecht that wrote: “Sad is the society that has no heroes. Sad is the society that needs heroes.” The whole point of having a hero is to inspire average-Joes to do good things when the situation allows or requires. If you open the door to Batman vigilante-ism, why not allow beer-bellied men with shotguns to do so? Read about Teddy Roosevelt’s posse days in the Dakotas and reference Edmund Burke about good men doing nothing (if y’all like that sort of stuff – perhaps you prefer a nanny-state or nanny crusaders in capes as the sole protector of liberty).

    And I found the jokes about Bruce Wayne’s lifestyle funny, if sophomoric. “I think they’ll pull 2 tables together for me. I own the place.” Or the (female) Russian ballet disappearing to his yacht to cover his covert operation. Or the safe room in his penthouse.

    Finally, it would have been cool if Batman had a calling card that he handed to persons while cool background music struck fear or awe into their hearts: “Batman Darknight. Superhero. Have cape, will swoop. Shine Batlight on clouds.” I always vote for the noble, suffering action hero — the Paladin, if you will. (See final sentence, infra.)

    “Profound fondness???” That is an oxymoron. Maybe a top-10 movie for me. Probably not top-5. The Longest Day is still riding there. Prince Caspian is a sweet 16-er, but that may fade. (I like animals fighting, especially noble ones fighting for liberty and a Christ-symbol.) We’ll see if Dark Knight endures in my esteem.

    I will watch Quantum of Solace this week and probably take the kids to Monsters vs. Aliens on Saturday. I guess I am that shallow.

  • bkdunn

    So when I went to Clarion (the writing workshop in Michigan), one of the instructors (Michael Swanwick), in talking about plot, instructed us to “choose a zebra”. Because if you’re a lion out on the Serengeti and you see a whole herd of zebras, sure they all look tasty, but if you run off and try to catch *all* of them, they’re gonna scatter and you’ll go hungry. I think the Dark Knight director needed to choose ONE ZEBRA. Just IMHO.

  • telkontar

    Did you like Goethe’s Faust? How many zebras were included in that work? I thought there was one huge zebra in DK, but agree that there were superfluous plot lines.
    My taste is superior to your tastes, in my arrogant (but not hubristic) opinion.

  • bkdunn

    I think Goethe was a *little* more artful in maintaining a clearly central theme and conflict, whereas the DK dude — well, every idea was a good one to him, I’m guessing. And I don’t think anyone will remember that director’s name in 200 years (I, for instance, forgot it immediately after viewing).

  • telkontar

    And I still don’t know the director’s name. I am waiting for the director’s cut, though.

  • telkontar

    TO keep the masterpiece alive:
    My son wanted to watch a movie about the Batmobile and chose this one. So I ended up watching it a 3rd time.
    I still like it and was entertained for the entire superfluous time. With the theme of moral quandaries, 2-face was not necessary, but added another twist. Could have easily dropped his descent easily, but it fit in just fine.

  • rsdymp

    Telkonar resurrects the DK dialogue and it took me a month to realize it. Only a true and hubristic genius could pull that one off.

  • Natalie

    Choose a Zebra? Really? Wow. I’d get your money back just on the weakness of that metaphor. Oh, and tell him to talk to Woolf and Faulkner about that Zebra crap. And I’ll mail him all my Hemingway cuz I’ll never read it again anyway.