Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Dark Knight


I just read an article about David Edelstein, a critic for New York Magazine, who gave this movie a fairly bad review. By no means a total pan (50%), but far from glowing. I understand he’s been deluged with angry letters, some of them tipping over the edge into what you might call hate mail. Now, I’ve read his review, and I don’t agree with all of it, but good lord! 82% at Metacritic? 94% at Rotten Tomatoes? And at the IMDb, in 4 short days it fucking catapults into the #1 position? Better than The Godfather? Better than Schindler’s List, Casablanca, and The Lord of the Rings? (I thought they had some sort of weighting system to avoid the tyranny of the moment, so the hottest piece of trash in theaters right now didn’t make the Top 250 until the pic showed it had some legs, but apparently not.)
The fact is, far from being #1, it’s not even very good. Am I going to get hate mail?

For 90 minutes it was a pretty fair popcorn cruncher, but unbeknownst to me, it still had almost an hour to run. It began to go seriously wrong just about the time the Joker was caught, and Batman started torturing him for information. Batman backed off, of course, but soon Joker was escaping, easily. Too easily, to my mind. (Apparently Gotham City is policed by the Keystone Kops.) It’s okay if the bad guy is a step ahead of his antagonists, even two steps. But nineteen steps? To do some of the things he pulled off Joker would have had to have spent the last several years planning, along with his psychopathic gang of idiots, and I just can’t see him that way. He’s an instant gratification kind of guy whose idea of fun would be to hijack a school bus full of children and toss one out every five minutes as he makes his getaway. Instead, here he spends all his time making everyone around him perform a moralistic dog-and-pony show. “So, Commissioner Gordon, which do you choose? A bad choice, or a worse choice?” This is the deeper, more mature moral complexity everyone’s been crowing about, and I found most of it fatuous and contrived and, worst of all, repetitive. How many times are we going to have to see Batman choose? Is it really interesting to see him being played like a puppet by the personification of evil (or chaos, as Joker prefers it)? Not for me, it isn’t. And that’s another point where I depart from the raves, which with near-unanimity praise the script and actors because they create “characters you care about.” Hey, in the final analysis, every character in the piece is a comic book character. I couldn’t care about anyone except maybe Maggie Gyllenhaal, and she gets killed. (Oops! Hope I didn’t spoil it for you!)
Hey, I can have a good time at a comic book movie. I thought Iron Man was clever and lots of fun; I’ll to go the sequel. I can also be moved by a movie based on a graphic novel, such as Persepolis.

But to tell you the truth, this movie alarms me. Is this the kind of movie we’re going to go to now when we ponder the deeper questions and moral complexities of life? Eschew making movies like The Shawshank Redemption and To Kill a Mockingbird, for over-the-top moral angst from a nitwit in a black cape and phony muscles? Put aside the real evils shown in movies like Taxi Driver (alienation), Paths of Glory (war), Chinatown (power and corruption), and The Grapes of Wrath (poverty), for some clown—literally!—having a bad hair year?

I could have forgiven this movie a lot more than I did—remember I said I had fun for an hour and a half—if it hadn’t gone on for so long. And on, and on, and on … one more fistfight, one more chase, one more moral dilemma—do you blow up the convicts on that other ship, or let them blow you up? What to do, what to do? And then top it all off with a 5-story fall, landing on one’s back—and he’s not Superman, remember—getting up, dusting yourself off … and driving off in your cool Batcycle to fight crime and injustice another day. Sure is nice to be a billionaire. By then I was bored silly.