The Dark Knight…an OVERRATED film

Posted by Matt Rosenberg on November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

The Dark Knight…an OVERRATED film

So I watched the Dark Knight in IMAX, on regular screen, and on Blue Ray and in that order.  The hype for the first time I saw it was through the roof.  From the fan point of view I was, for lack of a better word, gitty to see this movie.  Along with the rest of America, I was beyond excited to see this highly anticipated film; to see the post humous performance of Heath Ledger as the Joker, and Bale back as the badass Batman character he created in Batman Begins.  Upon leaving the theater (IMAX) I had many thoughts running through my mind…

…Heath Ledger was awesome but what was the deal with all the Oscar buzz.  He is a fantastic and talented actor but I wasn’t quick to give him the Oscar unlike many of my friends, and pretty much all of America. His role was broken down like this; go get painted to look as creepy as possible, wet your hair, and act deranged and crazy.  He’s an actor, he’s supposed to be able to do that.  Don’t get me wrong he nailed the part, but that just doesn’t provide a good enough reason to award him an Oscar.  Will he be remembered for his role, absolutely, but whoever played that part was going to be remembered for the role; the forever comparison to Nicholson and just the sheer magnitude of the role.  Ask yourself this, could anyone else besides Russel Crowe have been Maximus, could anyone else have played Rocky besides Stallone, could anyone have been Forrest Gump besides Tom Hanks?  Now, could any else have been the Joker, and the answer is YES.  Personally, I thought Daniel Day Lewis should have been the Joker, but that’s another post for another day. Just look at that face…it was born to be the Joker .

However, the issue of the movie was not Heath Ledger. The issue of the movie and why it was overrated is that the story was good, but not great.  The interesting life story of Batman captured the first film. There really was very littler substance to this movie; it was just a good guy trying to catch a bad guy.  Batman Begins was a better movie than this.

I constantly found myself comparing Batman Begins to the Dark Knight.  I thought the Dark Knight was just too hectic and unrealistic. Nolan built this new Gotham world in Batman Begins on platform that it was a real city. The Dark Knight loses that as the Joker does just does too much in too short a span of time. He’s in too many places, has too many people following his plan to perfection. Think about it, if one minor tid bit of his plan doesn’t go right than his entire scheme is finished. And yes, despite what he thinks, the Joker is a schemer.  He schemes to ruin Dent and beat Batman.

Another aspect that bothered me was that the fight scenes were too confusing to follow. In the final scene when Batman dives into the under construction building with sonar, the editing is too choppy.  It’s too much to follow and in fact watching it on IMAX made me dizzy. Watching the film on the regular screen was a much better movie experience.  Nolan deviated from what he achieved in Batman Begins.

Batman Begins was cerebral, intelligent, cool, original, and simply awesome.   Still the best of all classic comic movies. The movie is driven by Batman, not the villain.  That is the biggest thing Nolan lost in the Dark Knight.  The movie is really about the Joker and yes, his scheming.  In addition,  Dent was a completely unrealistic Two Face, Maggie Gyllenhaal was not as good looking as every character made her out to be, and there was no Wayne Manor or Batcave.

I will leave with these words, the Dark Knight is a very cool movie.  It’s just not as good as people are saying. Nearly 3 hours and constant chaos. Not enough story and not enough Batman.  Hopefully, Nolan  goes back to basics for the third.  All we know is right now, is that he is shooting the next film entirely in IMAX.

Let us know what you think.  Show me how I am wrong or how I am right.  Thanks

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  1. ok so i’m gonna have to disagree with you. while you bring up some valid points about ledger’s performance as memorable for the role and maggie gyllenhall really not being that hot (haha) , i feel like you only are brushing the surface of the movie in your judgements of it.

    ultimately, as nolan’s second batman film, he had a choice. he could either try to upstage his previously awesome batman begins, or he could try to approach Gotham from a different angle. i can see how he wouldn’t want two of his movies being too similar to each other, because then one overshadows the other instead of being appreciated individually for its differences.

    one might say that this movie was completely fueled by the joker rather than batman, but sometimes the audience can learn more about the main character by watching his reactions rather than his actions.

    if you look deeper into the historical context of a joker (or a jester, particularly as the character is depicted in Shakespeare’s plays,) he is a truth-teller– wise enough to act like a fool in order to reveal what no one else could about the king or other members of the royal court. (kinda like when you tell ur friend something mean but true and then disguise it as a joke). this idea of a joker exposing the “truth” in people coincides with the joker’s role in this film. he is constantly putting batman in situations that make him question himself, his character, and whether he wants to continue on this martyr path. also, the joker is able to break Dent’s squeaky clean character down enough to reveal the evil inside of him. The joker literally takes half of Dent’s face off. Talk about exposure!This idea is further supported during the scene with the boats. The whole time the joker is expecting one of the boats to blow up the other, because, as he says, everyone’s true nature is evil and people are always gonna put themselves first. when the joker realizes that perhaps he is alone in his darkness (no pun intended), the audience is able to get a deeper view into a person with a lost soul (and we almost feel bad for him! that takes talent.)

    SO…the joker drives the action in order to reveal the other character’s reactions, and allow the audience to get to know their hero through a different lens. what we see in each of these characters i think is up to interpretation. but i don’t think it is fair to compare this movie to batman begins, because he’s trying a more sophisticated approach here– through a character that i couldn’t take my eyes off of. could it have been better? of course, no movie is perfect. but to deny its depth and interesting approach would be to place it in line with other 2 dimmensional comic book movies – which I think we can both agree it isn’t.

  2. @Nancy,

    We appreciate your feedback. I just want to say it was extremely insightful and great read. I do agree with on various points you bring up.

    The meaning/purpose behind the Joker’s plan is brilliant. I think trying to expose an saint like figure as Dent drove a big part of the film.

    Additionally, like you, I feel that the ending of the movie was easily the best part. And, it was the LEAST violent of any scene. So technically, the most simple scene was the best part. It was the most cerebral and most original. Somehow, the darkest of people (criminals) were internally good. Ironic huh.

    However, I just don’t think the film making aspect was as good as people think. The film making aspect took away from the movie experience. I got dizzy and thought there was too much going on. But remember, I do want people to think I didn’t enjoy it because I did. Bale is an incredible actor and Ledger nailed the part of the Joker. The Batman character created in this movie is a legendary figure. One for the ages.

  3. I enjoyed the movie but did not jump on the bandwagon like a lot of people. It was dark and complex and very character driven which I liked a lot. Some of the directing and storytelling got to me though. The action scenes were shot too close up and cut too quickly. Watching it in Imax I was getting a bit sick and got confused at times of what was going on. I also thought the cat and mouse games between Batman and the Joker got ridiculous. I mean, the Joker knew he was going to be arrested so he already had a bomb placed in a guys stomach beforehand? Come on. Also the scene at the end with the boats was not needed. Could have done without it and let the movie run longer than it needed to be. Good movie, not great, loved the dark feel and excellent acting although I though Maggie was underused.

  4. I can’t add anything to Nancy’s excellent discourse, so pardon me if this feels vague and dumbed-down…

    I will give you the action scenes bit, as that was something I complained about in BATMAN BEGINS. Nolan needs to take a cue from Snyder. And yes, I think Maggie was way underused, wish she had had the screentime of Katie Holmes. But I think the cat-and-mouse bit was pretty logical in its chaotic way. I think it does strech it a bit, but I can see something like that happening. I don’t see (to pinpoint the jailscene) the difference between that and what we see in the OCEAN’S movie, THE ITALIAN JOB, HEAT… And yes, anyone could have played teh Joker, but no one could have made it so… HIS, you know? I mean, he disappears, and not just because of the makeup, IMHO. DDL would have been absolutely haunting yes, and maybe Johnny Depp would have been insanely good in the role… but I don’t think they would have done it better. Nicholson’s Joker, brilliant as it were, was more cartoonish, and I think that’s why Heath is considered “better”. I don’t, I just think they’re very different.

    I agree, this won’t be history’s greatest action thriller. In that aspect, it is a bit overrated. But I think it deserves every praise it gets, minus the fanboyish “OMG it’s like WTF, so cool I peed, LOL” praise.

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  5. @Juan Carlo

    A couple things, one I completely agree with you that Ledger was better than Nicholson. Jack’s was more cartoonish. Well, the world Burton created was more cartoonish. So the role fit. Ledger was haunting and disturbing in a more real setting. He did a great job. They both did. My reference to Nicholson was not to compare them but merely to introduce the idea that people will do so. And that, will make the role more timeless as years from now we might still be having the same discussion.

    I also agree with the fanboyish jargon that its getting. Your feedback is appreciated. Please tune back into the daily to discuss other movie topics, and of course for more BANTER


  6. First no one reads the comics about Batman and Joker. Recently in the graphic novel “Joker” they compare the Joker and Gotham to a disease…that there is no cure for, only a Batman. Think about it without a Batman could there be a Joker?

    The story was absolutely incredible and there were some over the top parts and it did drag on a bit to long but how could you say the movie is about the Joker. The first movie explained how Bruce Wayne is Batman and the “mask” is Bruce Wayne. It’s about the development and character of The Batman. Which as you can tell by the end, its whatever Gotham needs him to be.

    Plus how could you say Harvey Dent is unrealistic. He was a man who lost everything, his career crashed, face was burnt, and fiance killed. As you know justice “is” blind and that was his MO with the coin flip.

    Also for some sweet Batman graphic novels to get everyone more awesome I would recommend “Joker”, “The Killing Joke”, “The Long Halloween”, and “Hush”

    Rock on

  7. You wrong dawg. That shiznit was gangsta yo. One love. Blah blah

  8. Interesting to hear your point of view on this Matt. I remember entering the cinemas to see this film carrying a huge bag of hype and critics reviews, but once the film had ended, i left the cinema saying “was that it”. It was a good film, but i think too many people just followed everyone else’s line, and just played like it was the best film ever. I myself did not think it was the best. Many things could have been better, Nolan did do a great job, but he is no genius.
    Heath was the best part of the film, i found myself just on the edge of my seat waiting for his next scene, not even caring about what Bruce Wayne was up to. And please dont even get me started with Batmans voice.

    It was a great film, but it wasnt the best…

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  9. I wish I had more to say to you but other than I completely agree, there isn’t much. I found that most people did feel the same we did. Just expected more and guess disappointed because of all the hype. Thanks

  10. best. movie. ever.

  11. Matt I have a problem with your wording.

    You say “the Dark Knight is a very cool movie. It’s just not as good as people are saying.”

    Did you ever stop to consider that others simply think differently than you do? Sure, YOU don’t think it is worth all the hype. Makes sense as not everyone has the same taste. But to go as far and say that it is not as good as people are saying is completely untrue. Why? Because it is THEIR opinion. Opinion cannot be proven true or false. Just like you say it isn’t the greatest (which I don’t think it is the greatest, but it is great) others will think differently. I can see your stance on this film, but to call others out for saying it is the greatest is truly a waste of breath. That is like trying to tell Twilight lovers those movies suck. Are they good to most movie connoisseurs? Of course not. Do the Twilight fans think they are the greatest? Yes! And that is their God given opinion to think so. You can’t say that it is not as good as people say, because what people say is up to them…NOT you.

    As for you saying that Ledger’s role could have been played by DDL, that is also your opinion. We have hard evidence that Ledger destroyed his role, and that is more than enough. Oscars aren’t picked based on the fact that other people could play the role, they are picked on the role played. I am sure other actors could have played Gump, Maximus, or Rocky had they been challenged to the role. But again… it’s a matter of opinion.

    As for the Joker saying he wasn’t a schemer, he was not saying that because he believed it. He was saying it to manipulate Dent. How could you miss this? Really? We see him scheming the WHOLE movie. We as the audience know he schemes. So why is this piece even relevant to any argument? Ever notice how the Joker has a different story for each time he discusses how he got his scars?? He lies, he manipulates, he deceives. That’s in his character.

    I think Nancy hit the argument on the head. The Joker exposes fear in the people after the city starts to take a turn towards the good in the first film. He uses that fear to destabilize the city, and even more so push the boundaries of what Batman said he’d do. All of this is brought about from the discourse in the movie through Alfred and Bruce, and the Joker and Batman (you’ll have to break your one rule).

    No Batcave or Wayne Manor? Are you serious? The first movie clearly showed the mansion burning down right? REMEMBER? The first movie ends with a reference to the Joker, meaning they couldn’t elapse time years, the problem of the Joker was already presented. Should the second movie just jump ahead with a magically created mansion and cave to make you happy? That is called realism, and good storytelling. His house was burnt down, this is how he dealt with it.

    And Dent being unrealistic? That claim is not backed up, so I don’t even know where to go with this one.

    Finally…. @ Craig. He didn’t know he was going to get arrested to plant the bomb. It’s called, a Plan B. By having a back up plan for his scheme to capture Dent, this allowed him to escape after failing. Of course he didn’t know he was going to get caught… but in the event that he did he placed a bomb in the guys stomach. Is that really so difficult to believe the Joker would take a worthless pawn and put a bomb in him to save his ass in case he gets arrested? I think not. That is not that fictitious… even most sane people have a Plan B, I would have to think a notorious villain would have one.

    Moral of the story… spit your opinion and call it that. Don’t call people out for having their own. It is simply ludicrous for you to sit and say others are wrong. You can say this is why you don’t agree… but WE are not wrong, and neither are you. OPINION.

  12. Ledger was great in The Dark Knight, but the story just doesn’t hold up–needlessly long and confusing plus their efforts to keep things realistic are uneven and raise more questions than they’re able to answer.

    Without a doubt, based on everything we’d seen in both films, the boat subplot would have ended either with the people blowing each other up or with the few good people fighting off a mob, yet to make a Big Moral Point we’re forced to pretend otherwise. Lucius and Bruce are able to stop the accountant from exposing Batman’s true identity–yet there’d be scores of others who’d know enough to figure everything out. Batman Begins was smarter in that they injected realism in areas that could support it, but let you suspend your disbelief in the areas that can’t be explained. Because if you can’t adequately explain things, you’re best just leaving things alone rather than drawing attention to them.

  13. It was a good movie, but being a big big Batman fan, I have to agree with Matt Rosenberg on the point he made about the film lacking in a really great story.. The movie doesn’t dive into the history of The Joker or anything about him. It’s more like hes just thrown in there (I guess trying to keep him “mysterious”) to cause chaos everywhere he goes. His plans are too perfect and sometimes with little to no explanation behind them. I think Ledgers perfomance was good but not great… If you want a GREAT Joker, Mark Hamill from the animated series and arkham asylum game seriously nails it to the letter.. But thats besides the point.. Ledger did the job he was meant to do with a decent but not great script.. Christian Bale could have eased up on the raspy voice a bit as Batman and rather then The Joker just destroying everything in his path with explosives I would have much rather seen a mix of explosives, and poison “happy” gas that hes notorious for. In sum The Joker was too invincible and not believable in this movie.. The situations that Nolan put him in are just not well executed in explaining how he actually set them up.. We are to just guess that “oh The Joker must have planted bombs all around the precinct when he made his phone call to kill EVERYONE except him (mean while he was like 5 feet away from the guys pointing the guns at him) right.. And don’t explain how he had the whole precinct rigged to blow, maybe some crooked cops? Don’t know, we just have to guess and thats what makes the movie not so great.. Too much unexplained unpredictablity that was in favor of the Joker, thus making Nolans “realistic” view on this Batman film not exactly realistic.. 3 out of 4 stars I give it

  14. I thought this was one of the most overrated films ever made. Batman Begins was a far better film. I study film as not only a hobby, but as homework for my future career. The elements that deterred from being an enjoyable film were so blatantly ‘in-your-face’ that it is laughable that so many people loved this movie. The story was weak, the “scary” threat at the end…not nearly as frightening as the Scarecrow’s assault of hallucinogens on Gotham. Now THAT was scary. Heath’s performance as the Joker was mediocre at best. I had read somewhere that he studied Malcolm McDowell’s role as Alex in A Clockwork Orange for months…um…right. Alex was truly a multi-dimension character. The Joker was not.

    Chris Nolan is a really good director. I enjoy all of his films (with the exception of this one), but it appears he was trying too hard to achieve something with this movie, but failed. Audiences eat it up for many reasons. The death of Heath, it’s a sequel to the great Batman Begins, lots of guns and cool gadgets, comic book characters, etc. But none of those things make a film ‘great’. Great films are great because of great stories, and great acting and great dialogue and great emotion. This film had none of those.

  15. I thought this was one of the most overrated films ever made. Batman Begins was a far better film. I study film as not only a hobby, but as homework for my future career. The elements that deterred it from being an enjoyable film were so blatantly ‘in-your-face’ that it is laughable that so many people loved this movie. The story was weak, the “scary” threat at the end…not nearly as frightening as the Scarecrow’s assault of hallucinogens on Gotham. Now THAT was scary. Heath’s performance as the Joker was mediocre at best. I had read somewhere that he studied Malcolm McDowell’s role as Alex in A Clockwork Orange for months…um…right. Alex was truly a multi-dimensional character. The Joker was not.

    Chris Nolan is a really good director. I enjoy all of his films (with the exception of this one), but it appears he was trying too hard to achieve something with this movie, but failed. Audiences eat it up for many reasons. The death of Heath, it’s a sequel to the great Batman Begins, lots of guns and cool gadgets, comic book characters, etc. But none of those things make a film ‘great’. Great films are great because of great stories, and great acting and great dialogue and great emotion. This film had none of those.
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  16. Matthew, the reason the situation in Begins was so scary was because the overall theme was FEAR. However, the theme in the Dark Knight was ESCALATION. It wasn’t supposed to be scary, and I don’t understand why you wanted it to be. It was, however, an intense, in-your-face (just as you said) confronation between opposing forces. Good and evil, White Knight and Dark Knight, the presence of Two-Face, heads and tails, etc. Note how throughout the film, these opposites are MULTIPLIED. Batman and the Joker meet head on, pushing the limits, breaking down boundries as they try to one up the other. Of course everybody else: the mob, Rachel, Dent, Lucius, Gordon, Gotham City are all along for the ride. Order comes to Gotham thru Batman and his moral code (the “immoveable objet”). He’s challenged by the Joker, an evil entity that manifests as a heist guy only to become a full-blown supervillain spreading chaos throughout the city in response to Batman’s morality (the “unstoppable force”). From this encounter Gotham and its “hero” come to truly define themselves in the end. In order to save Gotham from this lunatic, Bats must change. He must become “more than a hero”. He must transcend morality to become something more. This is why he ends up using that Orwellian monitoring device to find the Joker. This is why he ends up telling lies in the end. This is why he assumes the ultimate responsibility. Thus is the culmination of escalation. It’s like Hegelian Dialectics, and Batman becoming the Dark Knight is the synthesis. There’s more to this movie than you seem to realize. You also complain about other things but don’t support your arguments. I don’t know what you mean by a “great story”. Maybe you were looking for something “original”? Well sometimes great stories are rather simple, often rather unoriginal. For example, a story of good versus evil like in the Dark Knight. The trick is how you go about telling it, what themes you will incorporate, presentation, exceution, etc. The Dark Knight understood the story it was telling and it succeeded as far as I’m concerned. If you ask me, its hype is well deserved. I wonder what’s in store for the Dark Knight Rises?

  17. What really pissed me off about the Dark Knight was that it failed to meet just about every standard set in Batman Begins, particularly the abilities of Batman, but let’s start with the overall cast. Katie Holmes is an actress of mid-level talent, but she was good enough to play Rachel in Batman Begins. Why replace her with the far less attractive Maggie Gyllenhaal? She’s talented, yes, but not as attractive as Katie Holmes and when you change out a perfectly good actress for someone one, you need to up the ante in some way and the Dark Knight didn’t even meet, let alone exceed the standard set by Batman Begins. Also, Nolan made the Dark Knight like it was the last Batman movie that would ever be made. What I mean is, he made a huge mess of Batman’s character and of Gotham in general and he’s got an uphill battle in The Dark Knight Rises to restore Batman to proper badass hero form. It couldn’t have been more obvious in the Dark Knight that Bruce Wayne is Batman. There’s a party at his penthouse and when the Joker shows up looking for Harvey Dent, Bruce and Harvey are both conspicuously absent and Batman jumps out of a window to save Rachel, who only Bruce and Harvey care about, basically narrowing the list of suspects down to Bruce and Harvey, who is later confirmed not to be Batman.
    The worst failure to meet standards however, was in the action. In Batman Begins, you would see a thug walking with his gun ready, then a flash of black cape, a scream, and he’s gone. Batman had little trouble beating four members of the elite League of Shadows in Batman Begins, but in the Dark Knight, he struggles to beat, in a basic fist fight, a bunch of common thugs who he would’ve disposed of in a split second in Batman Begins. Jason Bourne would’ve beaten Batman in a fight. Also, his defense is far weaker. When he decided not to run over the Joker in the street, he skids slowly into a truck, falls about three feet off his bike and is down for the count. I, an average young man in shorts and a t-shirt, would’ve gotten up from that. When Batman, Gordon and his family, and Dent are in the standoff at the end of the Dark Knight, Dent flips a coin and shoots Batman, who in Batman Begins would’ve disappeared while Dent was flipping the coin and disarmed and dispatched him before Dent knew what hit him.
    If Nolan wanted the Batman in the Dark Knight to be a bitch, then he shouldn’t have created such a badass Batman in Batman Begins. Bruce Wayne in the Dark Knight was not mentally or physically cut out to be Batman. Let’s hope we see a return to form in The Dark Knight Rises.

  18. I agree with joe’s comment. In Batman Begin’s, various standards of character, combat, realism, and overall ability are set and Dark Knight falls short on all of them. Bruce/Batman was a badass in Begins. He would take out thugs in a flash of cape. A scream would be heard and the guy was done. In the Dark Knight he would engage and often struggle in open view fist fights with common thugs. Basically any decent boxer would easily handle him. In Batman Begins he gets poisoned, jumps about eight stories out of a window and gets back up. In the Dark Knight he skids into a truck and takes a light fall off his batpod and he just sits there helpless. In the beginning when the “copycat” batmen are ambushing Crane and his men and Batman shows up and he jumps onto the van, I thought that was still a copycat because he failed so epicly trying to break into it.
    The biggest problem, other than Batman’s greatly reduced combat abilities, is Bruce Wayne’s character. In Begins, he’s a badass in prison who gets trained by an elite combat fraternity and maintains said badass form throughout the movie. He plays the part of a playboy to perfection, but remains emotionally sharp throughout the movie. In the Dark Knight, he wines and complains and for all intents and purposes, completely gives himself away. The Batman in Batman Begins would’ve let someone kill Colemann Reese and he wouldn’t have saved the joker from falling to his death. He sets the standard in Batman Begins when he tells Rhas Al Ghul on the train that he won’t kill him, but doesn’t have to save him and he lets him fall to his death. He should’ve exercised the same discipline with the Joker, just as he does in the original Batman when he lets Jack Nicholson fall to his death.
    I also didn’t like the various changes made. Dark Knight was a sequel to Begins, meaning it’s the same environment. Various buildings, including Wayne Tower, are different than they were in Begins. There is no train, a focal point of the city in Begins, and there are no scenes in the Narrows or on the ruins of Wayne Manor. The worst change of course, was swapping Katie Holmes for Maggie Gyllenhaal. Maggie’s more talented, but Katie was talented enough and far better looking. You don’t swap actresses for a major character unless you have a very good reason and I can’t think of one. The one redeeming scene of this movie is when Rachel dies.
    The Joker, played wonderfully by Heath Ledger, was the only reason this movie was any good, but it was too much about him and not enough about Batman. Also, his character, for an ordinary man of at least initially limited means, is capable of far too much. His highly dependent and intricate plans have too much room for error, even the slightest of which would ruin his whole operation. Also, the bank robbery scene in the beginning, which was very cool, would never work in real life which was apparently what the movie was trying to emulate. Police attention would’ve been called as soon as shards of glass started falling onto the street which would lead people to look up at two guys ziplining across the street 300 feet up. The numerous gunshots would’ve further alerted people outside. At some point in the robbery of $68 million, which would’ve taken at least 15-20 minutes, the police would’ve showed up guns blazing and taken down the narrowing, lightly armed crew. Another change that bothered me was Batman turning his suit, which worked fine in Batman Begins, into an ugly hybrid skydiver/black ops agent suit. Finally, I didn’t like how Batman destroyed his vehicle, a bunch of presumably important stacks of paper, and his reputation within the city. He goes from a mysterious badass who every criminal is scared stiff of to the scapegoat for all the problems in Gotham whose act, restricted by moral codes, every criminal is wise to.

  19. I’ll start from the top of your comments and work my way down.

    In regards to Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker, it’s honestly a performance that I felt no other actor could’ve come close to rivaling. You mention how all Ledger had to do was put on make-up and act deranged, but I think that ignores the complexity of his performance, in terms of both complete immersion in the role as well as faithfulness to the source. I won’t go into the written aspect of the character, but the way Ledger moves back-and-forth between the “playful Joker”, the “psychotic Joker” and what I like to call the “real Joker” is almost effortless. There are several moments in the film where the Joker is able to turn on a dime between the first 2 personalities very convincingly, like the first scene with him and the mob.

    For the most part he plays the role very playfully but there’s this underlying sinister nature to the character that Ledger is able to channel through his quips and one-liners with ease. As well, in this scene we’re introduced to the “real Joker”, where we see Ledger putting on a performance within a performance. For the most part I went into this film expecting to see a Joker that was both psychotic and flamboyant, but was actually surprised by moments where, like in this same scene, Joker’s cut short by remarks of his being a “freak” or “crazy.” The look in Ledger’s eyes as this is said to him adds another layer of complexity to the character, as the Joker himself breaks character and attempts to recover & continue on with his own performance. We see this again later at the end of the film, when Joker anticipates the ferries blowing up, which never happens. The look in the character’s eyes, as this was the moment alluded when he talked about “when the chips are down”, saw the Joker once again break his act in a momentary stand-still. What was he to make of this moment, a moment he was so sure would go down as he had anticipated, validating everyone he stood for? In this moment I saw a Joker that was so lost in his battle chaos, so “alone”, as Batman would shortly put it thereafter, that it wasn’t simply a matter of looking of this character and thinking “this guy is bonkers”, but moreso “just how crazy is this Joker?” And for me, this was achieved all through the way Ledger carried himself.

    You say a lot of people could’ve played the Joker, and I do think that’s true, but there are certain aspects of Ledger’s performance that just point to the complete immersion of a character. Where Nicholson acted the part as a darker version of the Cesar Romero Joker, I felt Ledger’s body language, his manner of speech, his eyes, and the way he interacted with the rest of the cast felt like a guy who had embodied the character rather than simply acting like the character, if that makes any sense.

    To the comment about the story not having any substance, I must say I strongly disagree. Yes, you can point at Batman and say he’s good, and point at the Joker and say he’s bad, but it’s not as simple as you make it out to be. It’s not so much about Batman trying to defeat a bad guy as it is trying to uphold the ideals established in Batman Begins, about being able to defeat evil without compromising the foundation that Batman is built upon. And it’s not just with Batman, either, but you see this in Gordon and Dent as well. All 3 are men who provide different methods on how to handle justice. They’re all working towards the same ideal, but they’re all willing to bend the rules in their favor. Batman has operates freely outside the boundaries of the law, as we see in moments like the China scene. Gordon is willing to risk shills in his department in order to bring down the mob, which later comes back to hurt both Batman and Dent. And Dent’s hypocracy is evident from his first scene, leading into his transformation to Two-Face. What we’re dealing with in central protagonists are men that are trying to be heroes to Gotham in different ways, but are not the golden boys that heroes usually are in movies. As I said, they have ideals, but they’re also selfish and ultimately flawed men. They feel like they can save a city from the evil that’s rotting at its core, but ultimately their own evils are exposed by the very evil, in the Joker, that they’re trying to stop, and by the end of the film it’s definitely starting to look and feel more like Batman Begins, in that the vision of Gotham they all aspired to, and the one that was teased in the very first shot of the film, is now back in this gritty, broken state.

    In your next paragraph you mention the world of these films being established as real, and the Joker’s plans being in perfection, but this is something I also have to disagree with. Yes, the look of these films is that of a very real looking city, but that in no way signals that the Gotham of this series is a duplicate of any generic city in our world. What Nolan is dealing with is verisimilitude, expressionism, and a heightened-realistic approach. From both Batman Begins to The Dark Knight the city itself is taking on the attitude of both the state of crime and of Batman’s ascension. In Batman Begins the city is still real, but it’s covered in a thick fog of blacks and browns, giving off the impression of a very dirty, crime-ridden city. By the beginning of The Dark Knight, Gotham is now taking on the appearance of the city that Dent, Gordon and Batman have idealized. It has a very clean look and feel to it, as if they are reaching their vision of a revitalized Gotham, but as we see in the first shot, the city may be clean but, as I mentioned, there’s an evil inside it, eating at the core of a city that is more fragile than is let on. And, as I said in the previous paragraph, by the end of the film, specifically the last scene, the color scheme has definitely changed, resembling the Gotham of Batman Begins more than anything, once more emphasizing the just how far Gotham, Gordon, and Batman have fallen.

    Going back to the aspect of verisimilitude, while this Gotham looks real the intention was never to present this city as being completely real. By contrast to the Burton and Schumacher films, this is a Gotham that looks and feels like it could be real, no matter how implausible the world actually is. Is that a flaw? It really depends on how much you’re willing to buy into the Gotham of these films, but looking at the different aspects in both films, they really aren’t that far removed in this respect. In Batman Begins you had fantastical aspects such as the properties of the blue flower, some of Batman’s gadgets and the microwave emitter, and The Dark Knight you have the sonar device and the sticky gun. Are these aspects so different from each other? Despite the fact we’re dealing with pseudo-science in both films, how is the microwave emitter not as ridiculous, if not more than the sonar device? This is not a shot at those aspects as flaws on my part, but in both films (moreso in The Dark Knight) Nolan has planted the seeds that allow for these aspects to exist and function in a realistic fashion. Are they real? Of course not, but do they have to be real in our world in order to be plausible in this world? Not at all. It’s not a flaw on the film’s part that these aspects exist in this world, because this world was never completely realistic to begin with. Now, whether you bought into how these aspects were introduced is another thing altogether.

    This brings me to your comment about the Joker’s intricately plotted schemes, and his scheming in general. This is a complaint I’ve seen from time to time, but it’s never really held all that much weight with me considered how the Joker is first introduced in the film, and how Nolan has initially signaled to us how were are to approach and accept this Joker in these surroundings. The prologue basically tells us everything we need to know about the Joker. We find out from these first six minutes that the Joker is deceptive, that he spreads misinformation in order to manipulate his henchmen into doing what he wants. This aspect comes back to your point about the Joker being a schemer while telling Dent otherwise. At face value he’s trying to convince Dent that he does things on a whim, despite just how intricate his plots throughout the film prove. But are we to believe everything the Joker says, word for word? Aside from lying to his henchmen, he lies to the mob in deciding to toy with Batman rather than kill him, he lies about his origin to anyone willing to listen, and he lies about which location Dent and Rachel are in. The Joker simply isn’t a very trustworthy guy, so rather than viewing the hospital confrontation as a flaw in writing, I see it more as the Joker, once again, manipulating Dent in saying all the right things to get him to embrace chaos; “he’s my ace in the hole.”

    As well, the prologue also shows not only how intricate the Joker’s plotting is but also how the film views him in relation to his surroundings: an omniscient presence. The feel of the Joker in this film isn’t of some thug who put on some make-up and kills people, but rather of an all-knowing being that, like in the comics, is always one step ahead of anyone who confronts him. We see his henchmen get killed off in the perfect fashion, with no one left to cause him trouble. We see the confrontational henchmen ge killed by a bus coming through the bank door. How did the Joker know the bus would come through at the right moment? How was the Joker able to get away in a convoy of buses and not get noticed? This is never explained or addressed, but it doesn’t make it a flaw but rather the exclamation point of how the Joker functions in this world. He may be a physical man that Batman can interact with but he carries the presence of a demon that I feel is consistently echoed throughout the entire film. From his orchestration of the killings of the Judge and Loeb, to the attempt on the Mayor’s life, to his tracking of Dent in the semi & his subsequent escape, and so on, his presence is always felt no matter where the characters are. If we were dealing with a conventional run of the mill thug then perhaps these events would come across as heavy-handed, as how can some thug make up plans so complex & execute them with such ease? But the Joker never was, and never will be just some random thug, and I think the prologue lays the proper ground work for his behavior throughout the film.

    On your next paragraph, I half agree with you about the fighting. I thought the fights in Batman Begins had a nice flow to them and we every kinetic and powerful, if a bit chaotic (visually speaking), whereas the fights in The Dark Knight felt a lot more staged. However, I didn’t really find the the construction scene very confusing, or any other action-oriented moment from the film. I thought it was all pretty clear and, since you did bring up IMAX, I thought that sequence looked really great. Generally speaking, though, I can’t enjoy very many action scenes in theaters. It’s never as clear as watching it on an HD tv. A lot of the action scenes in Batman Begins, that were confusing in theaters, came off very clear at home.

    For your next paragraph, I strong disagree about the movie not being about Batman. This is a comment that I see brought up from time to time, but I think it has more to do with the fact that Batman is now part of an ensemble. Yes, characters like Dent and even Gordon are given a lot of screentime, but the focus is never really taken off Batman, and what’s going on with them all comes back to tie into Batman in the end. A character like Dent, for example, is really a mirror of Bruce’s ideal self. Dent has Rachel, the woman Bruce loves and wants to be with, and he’s also a successful DA, which is the kind of hero Bruce values over Batman, but when Dent becomes scarred and gives in to chaos, Batman takes the blow along with him, falling into a state where the dominant personality in Batman, like with Two-Face, now becomes to primary persona for this character, a trap he can no longer escape as the man that was supposed to succeed him falls beneath him.

    As well, Gotham, through expressionism, reflects on Batman. Going back to the beginning of the film, Gotham’s ideal state reflects Bruce’s inner desire to finally hang up the cowl, as the goal he’s been looking to complete is nearly at an end, but as the Joker’s reign takes its toll on Gotham, and Batman himself, we see them both brought down to their lowest level where, as we’ve seen Batman’s vision of Gotham crumble, the perception of Batman crumbles along with it. I think the perception that The Dark Knight really isn’t about Batman comes from the impression that if Batman isn’t on screen all the time giving speeches then the film isn’t about him, but that really isn’t the case, as the story can still maintain its focus on the main character through other means, as I’ve stated. And on a side note, since you did mention the film being more about Joker’s schemes, I disagree with that. The Joker as a character has no real journey in the film, and unlike Batman, has no arc to conclude. Yes, we have a series of Joker plots throughout the film but they’re designed more as moral tests for Batman, Gordon and Dent than anything, helping to reflect on their character’s inner conflict.

    Also part of that same paragraph, I disagree on Dent not being a good Two-Face. I thought the presentation on a guy like Harvey using his own form of manipulation in his two-sided coin to construct his world, coupled with his desire for a life of happiness, really laid nice groundwork for his transformation into Two-Face; the moment where he breaks down at seeing the defaced coin is a superb moment.

    On Maggie, I never saw her looks as an issue, and the notion that she needed to be conventionally beautiful as baffling. Her chemistry with Bale, as well as Holmes’, wasn’t very good and is the real issue, but I never once thought that because she doesn’t look like a super-model there’s no way to believe both Wayne and Dent would love her. That honestly strikes me as shallow.

    And the issue of there being no Wayne Manor or Batcave never really bothered me. I liked the fact that The Dark Knight aimed to keep some solid narrative continuity between both films, which look to be concluded with The Dark Knight Rises, and appreciated they didn’t cop-out with a “time passed by and it’s been rebuilt” direction. It was cool seeing Bruce/Batman in a new environment, but not everyone is going to like it.

    To conclude my response, I just want to say I respect your opinion on the film even if we don’t share it, and it’s always nice to engage on a fun topic without getting rude in our discourse. One last thing I would like to comment on is the nature of this film’s popularity, and while I understand that a lot of people out there genuinely don’t like this movie, it strikes me as very odd and a bit childish that some would like to absolve the film of any real genuine praise through faulty justification. Just looking at Matthew’s comment up above, he lists off his reasonings for why people do like the movie, such as Ledger’s death and cool gadgets, and never once gives the movie proper credit. It strikes me as very myopic course of thinking because he is unable to see past his own opinion of the film, and that opinion seems to have pidgeon-holed his reasoning where he is unable to consider the possibility that some people may have liked the film because they did enjoy the story and the characterization, and not because one of the actors happened to die.

    Because so many people happen to like The Dark Knight as much as they do, does that make them delusional in that they truly believe every aspect of the film to be flawless? No, of course not, and I don’t think one person can look at a film without a critical eye. For example, look at my post. I’ve spent paragraphs defending aspects of it, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s perfect. I do recognize there are flaws with this film, as there are with every film. For example, if there’s one aspect I think The Dark Knight barely gets right but Batman Begins asbolutely does is the emotional side of the story, where in Batman Begins I felt that the film did a really good job of bringing empathy to Bruce Wayne & the various reflections of the father figure, whereas The Dark Knight simply presented a lot of moments that acted emotional but didn’t feel that way.

    Now having admitted that I think there are flaws in this film, does that mean I don’t think it’s great? No, I do think it’s great, and I still believe it to be the defining film of its genre, because while there may be flaws with the film, the film as a whole, for me, was so well put together that the flaws themselves didn’t shine through. Am I ignoring them? No, they just don’t happen to hinder the experience for me. Does that put me in the wrong for not being more open about them? Absolutely not.

    We all view movies this way. Some of our favorites do indeed have flaws, but don’t we simply sit back and enjoy the experience, or are we forever focused on the imperfections? So while The Dark Knight may not have been a perfect film, it didn’t need to be in order to give me a perfect experience.

  20. I disagree the hell with you. Nobody could have played Joker to this degree but Heath Ledger. The Joker he portrays is so bad-ass, he LAUGHS in the face of death. He’s a crime boss. You can break down many other classic films in the same way you did. The Dark Knight is far more complex than you give it credit for.

    It’s not just about a good guy trying to catch a bad guy. It’s about how much the morality of humanity is tested to the breaking point. It’s about how unfortunately, evil has no limitations, but good must have limitations. The movie was about as Dent said “you either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain,”.

    The Dark Knight does what movies almost never do: Combine intelligent philosophy with intense, exciting action. The Dark Knight is only overrated if you’re some kind of hipster jackass.

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