Dark Knight Fans: Why So Serious?

Wearing this costume inexplicably causes me to overact.

Wearing this costume inexplicably causes me to overact.

Well, I was one of those insane folks who stayed up until 3 AM this past Thursday night partaking in the two and a half hours of darkness and gloom that was The Dark Knight. The film, once seemingly a hapless victim of its own hype, is now apparently being considered one of the cinematic masterpieces of our time.

Where do I begin with this one? Comic books have long had the reputation of being mediocre escapist entertainment for teen boys. While not necessarily true (as evidenced by the works of Frank Miller, Alan Moore, etc.), this is a stigma that lingers. With Batman Begins, and now The Dark Knight, director Christopher Nolan has taken a medium commonly known for its absurdity and attempted to root it in reality.

His efforts in Batman Begins were that of a mixed bag. Marred by shoddy pacing, terrible action sequences, and a weak conclusion, Begins was a film that could have been so much more. With The Dark Knight, Nolan looked to correct his mistakes by delivering a high intensity experience with a formidable (and far more memorable) Batman villain. The results, although generally pleasing, in no way stand up to the excessive hyperbole being dumped upon the film.

The Dark Knight is an intense affair. It’s an almost exasperatingly long film that still struggles to fit all of its details into the mix. From the moment the film begins, to the moment the credits roll, The Dark Knight punches you in the face relentlessly with its nihilistic brutality. This is probably the darkest and most menacing PG-13 film I have ever seen, and it certainly is without peer in its genre. When the Joker gruesomely impales a thug’s face with a pencil, you wonder exactly how this film managed to avoid an R rating.

Speaking of the Joker, I would be remiss if I were not to touch on such an apparently legendary performance. I was unaware that the Academy Awards were decided in mid-July. Make no mistake though, Ledger’s Joker is very intense and dangerous, and steals nearly every scene he appears in. This is a far cry from Jack Nicholson in face paint dancing around to Prince. Ledger’s final performance is a strong and lasting one, but his relative lack of on screen time in a jam-packed film means that this deranged vision was sadly never given enough time to truly shine.

This film simply has too much content. All of the explosions, hostage situations, and beatdowns punctuating the interrogations, character turns, and police procedure ends up being a bit too much. Nolan was too ambitious for his own good. The Dark Knight tries to do too much and thus stumbles attempting to solidify its position in any regard, really. The film plays like it wants to be a thought-provoking procedural crime drama and a big budget blockbuster action film simultaneously. The Dark Knight’s breakneck pace never allows characters like Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent to fully develop and never gives one enough time to react to the weight of the events transpiring on screen.

The Dark Knight aspires to transcend all other comic book adaptations, and in this respect I don’t think it is unreasonable to say Nolan has succeeded. The film, despite all of its issues, does indeed surpass much of the brainless slop that populates the superhero film genre. This does not however, mean it is a great modern crime drama. Despite Nolan’s best wishes, The Dark Knight is still a prisoner to its own source material. He has to fit this action-packed crime thriller into a mold with face-painting psychopaths and billionaire vigilantes in bat suits. Nolan’s attempt to bring absurd fantasy to life is to be lauded for sure, but it is not one to be taken so… seriously.

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~ by theoberlander on July 21, 2008.

4 Responses to “Dark Knight Fans: Why So Serious?”

  1. I would concur that perhaps there are too many subplots involved, but I am one who believed the film lived up to much of its hype. I do agree, however, that Batman Begins was capable of so much more and felt short on so many levels. The Dark Knight was a superio film to its predecessor.

    One thing I have always had an issue with the “current” Batman, however, is Bale’s Batman voice. I mean, really? Lame.

    – Gary

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