Thursday, July 24, 2008


Maybe it's just me being all old and cynical, but I simply didn't love The Dark Knight, the newest Batman movie that everyone is raving about. I'd like to say it's the most overrated movie of the year, but maybe I shouldn't be rating movies like this at all. It's obviously not aimed at me, since I'm neither a teenager or a comic book fan. I thought at the very least I'd enjoy this as a movie fan, but it wasn't satisfying even on that level. Basically, it was a huge disappointment. And screw it, this is my blog so here's my review.

When Tim Burton's Batman was released in 1989, his dark vision and the use of Jack Nicholson in the role of The Joker, it was universally loved by critics and audiences alike; today it seems it has lost a bit of its luster due to the exceedingly campy sequels that followed it. Critics are even retrospectively proclaiming Jack's Joker to be overacting nonsense, which really just means that we've now finally realized that Jack is merely acting like himself in every movie (see: The Departed, Something's Gotta Give, Mars Attacks!). When the Batman franchise was given a makeover in 2005 via the reinvention/rehash/regurgitation Batman Begins, it was hailed as a return to form for the Caped Crusader. I admit, I haven't seen it but I can't imagine it would have enhanced my enjoyment of this latest endeavour. If anything, this movie should have been more satisfying, as the back story was out of the way leaving nothing but storytelling and action.

However, it just seemed like a jam-packed mess to me, leaving me with a feeling akin to being pummeled in the dark for nearly 3 hours. While Heath Ledger was effectively creepy and deranged as The Joker, I can't say that any of the other actors stood out (hey, just like the previously mentioned Batman movie), especially Christian Bale and his scratchy "I just gargled glass" Batman voice. Aaron Eckhart's (as D.A. Harvey Dent) transformation into Two Face was treated as if a switch was flipped, and thus not really believable. Also not believeable or emotionally impacting was the love triangle between Dent, Bruce Wayne and Maggie Gyllenhaal's Brenda Dawes character. I used to like Gary Oldman, but here he had two acting modes, murmuring or screaming; meanwhile, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine were wasted only being used sparingly as affable, smiling old guys.

I know, this is a big fantastical, exploderiffic summer blockbuster movie, so I should forget about the acting and focus on the other stuff like action and storyline--but even those elements left me scratching my head. There were no real jawdropping car chases or action sequences (minus one nifty trick with a tractor trailer), and the jump cuts and low lighting during fight sequences made it difficult to follow. During the entire movie, each scene followed the next so quickly with no establishing shots and little coherence, and the scenes themselves were edited so tightly, that half the time I thought I missed a few lines of dialogue or action. At one point I thought that maybe half the movie was explained in the first movie, or hopefully would be explained later (what did they go to Hong Kong for?), but that never happened. I thought that if I stuck with it, it would start to make sense and build to an effective ending, but it got more convoluted as it went on. And on. And on. No, it never "dragged" per se, it was just relentless. It was as if director Christopher Nolan was throwing expensive set pieces in your face with little regard for how they would propel the plot. After one and a half hours, I had had enough . . . and then realized it still had an hour to go.

David Denby's review in the New Yorker (one of the only 5% negative reviews on RT) sums it up nicely:

". . . this movie is grim and jammed together. The narrative isn't shaped
coherently to bring out contrasts and build toward a satisfying climax. "The
Dark Knight" is constant climax; it's always in a frenzy, and it goes on
forever. Nothing is prepared for, and people show up and disappear without
explanation; characters are eliminated with a casual nod."

Personally, I can't recall the last comic book movie adaptation that I've enjoyed. While Spiderman was entertaining, I almost felt like I forced myself into liking it, but looking back it was just a novelty and I have no desire to ever watch it again. (The novelty wore off with the exceedingly silly Spiderman 2, and I don't plan on sitting through Spiderman 3, or 4, when it inevitably comes out). The newest attempt at the Man of Steel story Superman Returns was brought nothing new to the table, and I still think the casting of Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man, which I haven't seen, is questionable at best. As for recent big screen adaptations of The Hulk (twice), The X-Men and Fantastic Four, none of them have interested me. I officially call this superhero trend over when Seth Rogen stars as the title character in The Green Lantern. (Yes, that's actually going to happen.)

While The Dark Knight had some well-crafted scenes and I respected the overall attempt at a more realistic, dark tone, I honestly didn't think it was anything special. Since the general consensus for this movie has been excellent, I guess it's just not my thing. Either way this is officially the last comic book movie I willingly see in the theater, unless they make the new and improved version 18 years from now, which seems inevitable.

Grade: C

1 comment:

Kris said...

But wait, RD, Jr. is universally loved in "Iron Man" - 93% loved according to RT.

Oh right. I didn't see the newest Batman thing, and I don't have a lot of plans to right now, but generally if it's universally loved then there's a damn good chance I'm going to dislike it...but that's also the contrarian in me.