The ‘geek’ review

Posted by · 2:38 pm · July 18th, 2008

Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight(Read the official “Dark Knight” review here.)

Alright, now that most audiences have begun filing out of cinemas across the country, I figure it is time to offer up The Geek Review of “The Dark Knight.”

Bear in mind, this review/column/joygasm will be filled with spoilers. If you want to go into the film fresh (as indeed you should — despite the overall lack of major surprises), then steer clear. Most of the spoilerish stuff I’ll save for after the jump, but for now, I’d like to get into the filmmakers’ handling of the source material.

Christopher Nolan and company have always been aware of the necessity for being faithful to the seven decades of material available to them when digging into this franchise. What has kept the series fresh and not simply a cut-and-paste effort has been a willingness to test those fan-set boundaries and still get away with some rather brazen decisions.

“Batman Begins” was filled to the brim with such instances: Utilizing Ra’s al Ghul as a creation point of sorts for the Batman. Introducing a love interest previously absent from the canon and revealing Batman’s secret identity to her. Destroying Wayne Manor. Etc.

With that in mind, “The Dark Knight” has its fair share of departures that still work in the hyper-real-world setting of the franchise, and, presumably, will be allowed to pass, if not cheered outright by fans seeing the film this weekend.

Spoilers coming! You have been warned!

Alright, for starters, the vision of the Joker seen in this film is not at all something fans would have considered an expected definitive. Trailers and TV spots let the cat out of the bag on where Heath Ledger was taking this thing, but they thankfully didn’t reveal the hidden depth that is there (and which, I must say, has always been lurking, yet never fully capitalized upon on the page).

Ledger’s madness mixed with a drive to reveal hypocrisy has therefore become the definitive. Forget Mark Hamill, forget Jack Nicholson and, of course, forget Caesar Romero (if you hadn’t already). This is what this iconic figure could have always been, and now, he is.

The way Nolan has tweaked the origin of the Joker is also a breath of fresh air. There are two sides of the coin: some fans prefer an origin-less Joker, while precious few others prefer the “one bad day” hypothesis of Alan Moore in “The Killing Joke,” as expanded from the old Red Hood stories of the 1950s. The latter is hinted at by Ledger in one instance (“I had a wife”), but obviously negated by the fact that every time he talks about the scars, it’s a different story.

Kind of brilliant, I say.

Next up, it seems I was dead on the money back in May when I hypothesized a fire-driven genesis for Two-Face as opposed to the acid origin of the comics.

At first, this bothered me. The scene is clearly building up to it and is slightly silly (what with the multiple shots of Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent character wallowing in the gasoline…we get it…it’s coming). But when “it” happens, and we see the fire hitting Dent’s face, I thought, “Eh…not so much.”

But as the third act moved forward, I began to respect the choice more and more. The first relief, of course, was that the character was not born out of the direct hand of the Joker, as had been the rumored case since the original trilogy had been outlined by Nolan and David Goyer. Then I recognized the sheer randomness of the occurrence, and it dawned on me that it is quite applicable considering Two-Face’s obsession with chance.

Of course, I don’t think it’s very believable the fire would have done THAT kind of damage, but we can go with it.

The Oracle shout-out apparent in Lucius Fox’s transmissions to the Batman in the film’s third act (the wicked technological device that allows vast spying and is an obvious smack down regarding our political environment) is also a nice touch, and perhaps a way around actually going through with such a story angle in future films. Obviously we won’t see Barbara Gordon growing up any time soon to become Oracle, but it’s nice to see the writers still weaving separate pieces of the tapestry together.

Batman’s relationship with the Joker is also handled with the utmost care and pays off extraordinarily well. The final scene, with Joker hanging upside down and Heath offering those final, meaningful lines, is sheer bliss in this light. “I think we’re destined to do this forever.” If only, Heath.

It’s probably obvious that the character was not supposed to come to an end here. Leaving it at that isn’t exactly impossible, but if the franchise is to go on with a Joker, I say heaven help the actor charged with filling Ledger’s shoes. But with a little creativity and voice actor work, he can live on in Arkham, perhaps, but i’m certainly not in charge of such things.

The sad thing is that the Joker really is primed to be the ultimate thorn in Batman’s side now. On the other hand, the anarchy he unleashes in this film could certainly not be topped in any future installment, lest it feel familiar and in the way of other character development. But with this Joker in play, would we as the audience expect anything less? I should think not.

Thankfully, the Rachel Dawes character has been put out of our misery. And right at the end of a bland performance from Maggie Gyllenhaal that didn’t amount to much emotionally. Dawes was always the weakest part of the “Batman Begins” script and though she served her role well in that film, it really would have been wise to have written the character out of this installment.

Still, the writers needed some way of allowing Dent a path to insanity (though Jeph Loeb certainly didn’t need such devices). I’m glad she’s gone, regardless, because too many fucking people know Bruce Wayne’s secret! Now if only we could do something about the guy who was supposed to spill the beans on Anthony Michael Hall’s show.

And as mentioned, I’m fine with Fox stepping in for Oracle. For the time being, I guess I’m cool with him knowing what’s up.

The gadgetry and sleekness of the underground Bat headquarters was fine, though I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’m ready to see the Batcave up and running in its full glory. With all the sweet detective devices revealed here (that gunshot fingerprint test was amazing), they just seemed out of the proper environment.

It all goes back to what I still feel is an unwise decision to destroy Wayne Manor in the original film. There’s no reason the next stage of the Batcave couldn’t have gone forward here, but I suppose we’ll get it eventually.

I liked the early hat-tip to Scarecrow. He was used effectively rather than bothering with tossing another rogue into the main fray. Perhaps he can be utilized again and with a little more menace behind his efforts. We’ll see.

Finally, and this is not a spoiler, obviously, but a lot of people kept telling me “I don’t want to say too much.” Nothing major happened in this film that I wasn’t expecting, but that build-up put one thing in my mind and one thing only: when is Ra’s going to show up once more.

Let’s face it. They played with the immortal thing in “Batman Begins” with the idea that there is always someone new to take up the guise of the underground, Keyser Soze-like villain. But I think we all know something more was going on in that closes-his-eyes “death” scene at the end of the original film. Suddenly I began wondering if he was going to pop up at the end here and have had a hand in the Joker’s treachery, still aiming at destroying Gotham however he can.

I think there is a lot that can be done in that light and I hope it’s at least considered. You can’t just do away with the guy. There just has to be more to that story. Doesn’t there? Right?

Anyway, let loose with your spoiler-filled thoughts on the film in this thread. Did you hate it, did you love it, what worked, what didn’t, etc. I hope you all had as wonderful a time as I did, and to all my fellow Bat-fanatics, I trust you were grinning ear to ear, just like me.

So have at it in the comments section below.

→ 59 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Reviews

59 responses so far

  • 1 7-21-2008 at 12:54 pm

    Mr. Gittes said...

    I don’t believe there was a casket. So it’s a memorial for Dent in what context? For his disappearance? His admittance to Arkham? It’s all part of Nolan’s plan…

    It’s pretty clear that Nolan was going to expand on the “chest-game” between the Joker and Batman in the next movie. With that said, I keep touting Daniel Day-Lewis as a more than suitable replacement for Ledger, but what about James Franco? Young like Ledger, similar facial structure, etc. Food for thought…

  • 2 7-21-2008 at 11:05 pm

    Brian Kinsley said...

    Jonathan Nolan seems to think Harvey Dent is dead in the new Creative Screenwriting podcast…

    Sometimes sloppiness is just plain sloppiness I guess. :'(

  • 3 7-22-2008 at 10:38 am

    David Fincannon said...

    Hell yeah, Kris. I once met Breyfogle at a local signing he did. He walked in wearing that cover on a shirt. lol as a “Cheers” joke we all yelled “NORM” when he walked in. lol he replies “Somebody get me a beer , eh?” lol good times man.

  • 4 7-22-2008 at 10:41 am

    David Fincannon said...

    As far as someone taking over Heath’s Joker the only person I could really see doing Ledger’s Joker any real justice is Johnny Depp.

  • 5 7-22-2008 at 6:22 pm

    RyddlemeTHIS said...

    ok, Coleman Reese becoming the Riddler? STUPID, heres why- The Riddlers name is EDWARD NYGMA. Yeah….shocking right? I find it baffling that any Bat-Fan would consider this a good idea! How about Alfred becomes lonely because Bruce is always out fighting crime, so he gets a dummy to..uh..keep him company, and learns that their is a dark side to him he never knew existed…thus becoming THE VENTRILOQUIST!! Seriously, everyones entitled to their opinions…but keep the extremely ridiculous ones to yourself :)

    Plus Coleman Reese was a little bitch in the movie. (I was really hoping they were going to shoot him. Maybe not kill him, but SHOOT the prick!)

    BUT ANYWAYS-TDK is now one of my all-time favorite movies but I have one small problem-How the hell didn’t Nolan realize that Bale’s Batman voice sounds anything BUT scary?! I love Bale in the role, but he seriously has to take that voice down a couple notches for the next one.

  • 6 7-22-2008 at 8:51 pm

    dakid said...

    I think that Ryan Gosling would make a great Joker…but he shouldn’t appear in #3 out of respect to Mr. Ledger.
    Between Depp, Day-Lewis and Gosling, I think you’d have the best shot at getting Mr. Gosling to sign on the dotted line. And he’s a marvelous young actor, to boot.

  • 7 7-22-2008 at 9:48 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    “I find it baffling that any Bat-Fan would consider this a good idea!”

    It’s not that crazy. Wouldn’t be nuts for Reese to take on the Nygma moniker. After all, it’s just a play on ENIGMA.

    Reese as Riddler would be a great idea. Hardly “extremely ridiculous.”

    The rest of your comment, RyddlemeTHIS, is obviously hyperbolic, silly and offensive. Come to the table with some intellect, please. This ain’t AICN.

  • 8 10-10-2011 at 10:32 pm

    Fitz said...

    Well Kris was right about Ra’s being brought back.