Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Dark Knight Review

Heath Ledger as THE JOKER. Photo Courtesy of Warner Brothers
I don’t know what to think, exactly, about The Dark Knight.
My first impression is that Heath Ledger was amazing and this movie should have been called The Joker.

My second impression is that the editing felt jolted, often ill-timed, and left me feeling frustrated. It turned me off. There was a moment when Batman comes into a fundraiser that he, as Bruce Wayne, arranged, for Harvey Dent. The Joker has crashed the party and now he’s got Rachael Daws at knife point. Batman interrupts him with his low grumble, “Then love me”, and he goes in for the attack to save his beloved. This scene doesn’t work because the editing confuses the dialogue and the focus of the scene. I wanted to rewind it to figure out what the director’s intent was. It felt like a gaff. There were several instances of this odd, ill-timed editing throughout the movie and I felt really irked by it. It reminded me of what was wrong with a near brilliant piece of movie art: Gangs of New York (the editing).

My third impression was that the pacing of the movie was chaotic, dysfunctional, off. It didn’t build and it didn’t ease off. There were no contrasts. It was all jump, action, jump, confrontation, jump, blow things up, jump confrontation, jump, action, etc.. You get the picture… And the thing is, none of these action scenes were fresh or new. None of them had the artistic vision I'd expect from a director like Nolan.

I felt that many of the dialogue driven scenes were cut short and I was not given enough time to sink into the mood or find an overall theme in them. I wanted to meditate on the ideas and the words and be with the characters, but every time I started to get into a scene it would cut to something entirely different, not thematically or visually related. Again, it felt jolted, patched together, unpolished. Perhaps Nolan will have a director’s cut? I hope so.

I’m not sure if the lack of continuity and narrative is in the script or the editing, but it stands out like a pink elephant in a dining room.
Even Christian Bale, who I always look forward to seeing in movies, and who never fails to deliver mesmerizing performances, doesn’t get a chance to shine in The Dark Knight. The movie doesn’t give him enough screen time or a developed character arc. And this is highly frustrating, because, as a viewer, I want to watch the transformation of Batman into The Dark Knight, and the only real hint of it I get is at the end when Batman tells Lieutenant James Gordon, sensitively played by Gary Oldman, that he is not the hero that Gotham needs right now. Thus, he has to go into hiding and let Gordon “chase him”. This is all dialogue and it’s fast and short at the end of the movie and feels confusing and cheap.

I wanted this movie to be better. I wanted it to be as tight and complete as Batman Begins, a true work of movie art.

As much as I respect Christopher Nolan and love his movies, with The Dark Knight I feel disappointed, confused, and upset. Perhaps I feel disappointed because the contrast with Batman Begins leaves this movie lacking, and definitely as this is Heath Ledger’s last film performance (unless Terry Giliam manages to include some footage of Heath in his new film). I wanted the movie to be perfect and amazing. Ledger’s performance is, and for now, I will see this movie as an homage to his unique gift as an actor, and not as a tour de force by Nolan.

After writing the above, I have found some other, more established and well-known, movie critics voicing similar sentiments about The Dark Knight, as follows:

MTV's Kurt Loder's review, The Dark Knight: Ledgerdemain

David Edelstein's 2 parter: Bat Out of Hell in which the reviewer states that "Even its most wondrous vision...can’t keep the movie airborne", and The Dark Knight of My Soul in which he says, "the plotting is herky-jerky, the psychology perplexing, the action scenes incoherent".

Fox News' Four Reasons to Skip The Dark Knight in which the reviewer says "the film borders on pastiche" and asks "is it too much to ask that a Batman movie be about.. Batman?"

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