With Trepidation: Box Office Rec: The Dark Knight

The new computer came yesterday. So far, so good. I just need to adjust to the tighter keyboard configuration and it will work out very well indeed. Nice clean Linux interface with Firefox already installed as the default web browser.
Understand that today's post is as late as it is not because of computer issues, but because of my own reluctance to discuss the following film. It's a recommendation, but not as strong as previous entries. Be warned: there will be flip flopping and some harsh words about the film.
Box Office Rec: The Dark Knight
My first bone of contention with the film is all of the hype surrounding Heath Ledger's performance. He's very good in the film. I can't deny that. I just think he got screwed over by very flat characterization.
The Joker's a crazy anarchist. That's well established in the DC universe. I get it. He has no motivation other than to destroy society. And he does it with a permanent smile on his face. That's not an excuse to write a one-dimensional character that works the same way in every scene.
He has a big unexpected entrance that gets a laugh.Then he tries to charm the other characters on screen and use a little logic. Then he messes with their minds. Then he fakes them out with the threat of an attack. Then he strikes. That's every appearance on screen without exception. None.
The Joker's character arc is actually a circle, and a poorly drawn one at that. Which is why Heath Ledger's performance is that much more admirable. At least he tries to bring something different to every scene, even if every scene is the equivalent of a Batman Madlibs.
I wish in the most sincere way possible that Jonathan and Christopher Nolan could express mental illness in broader strokes than the following equation: mania + violence = mental instability = The Joker.
Now it sounds like I didn't enjoy the film at all. I did. The action sequences were very well plotted and the Harvey Dent story was phenomenal. I almost wish so much emphasis hadn't been put on the Joker so there could have been more exploration of Dent trying to take down all the organized crime in Gotham City.
The dog, cat, mouse, and cheese game between Dent, Gordon, Batman, and the mob was wonderfully entertaining. So were the glimpses into the fine line between Wayne Enterprises, the man, and the Batman. The references to Bruce Wayne's wealth being used to acquire information for his night work was handled perfectly. Then watching the interactions with Dent, Gordon, and Rachel Dawes cooperating with Wayne Enterprises when only one knows the truth of Batman was as close as a superhero movie could ever get to a quiet drama of manners and society.
I know people are applauding Nolan's direction, and a lot of the film is great. But there are things that make me question what he was thinking at all. For example, Maggie Gylenhaal is a powerhouse actress capable of fine nuance and making awful characters seem human. Whatever Nolan told her to do with Rachel Dawes made the character insufferable. I was hoping that every scene she had was her last because the Dawes came across as awkward and almost not real. Nolan might as well have pulled the split personality card ala Identity and claimed nothing in the Batman universe ever really happened with how poorly Dawes and other supporting characters came across.
I know I'm being critical, but that's the problem with so much hype. There's going to be a let down eventually. Much like recent crowd pleasers Juno and Little Miss Sunshine, inevitably, The Dark Knight will grow to be resented for its success over other films that don't receive a huge press junket. Many of the people who claim it to be the best film ever made will be the most vocal critics when awards season starts up. They will be the ones to cry "J'accuse! It is only a superhero movie!"
I recommend seeing it for yourself. It's far more of a movie than any superhero movie that came before, if that makes any sense. It's bigger than the crime fighting. It's a complete picture. Love it, like it, or hate it, at least Nolan realized he was making a film, not a comic book. The mediums often cross, but rarely meet in a way that does justice to both. The Dark Knight finally shows a proper match.

Labels: Box Office rec