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The Dark Knight (2008)


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popechild wrote:

: While I really, really enjoyed the movie overall, I have to side with those who felt a bit of last-30-minute-fatigue. In a few comments, you and Peter mention the lack of a "seam" that you were expecting. For me, this came somewhere right around the time that the Joker was

caught and imprisoned.

It's not a hard seam, per se, but it feels like a climax of sorts, and while you know it wasn't "big" enough to really be the end, it certainly felt to me like we were close to the end. Nuh uh. I empathize with the "last 30 minutes as a sequel" comments, specifically because of this. They started an entirely new storyline

(two-face)

AFTER what felt in many ways like the movie's climax, or "pre-climax."

I can sort of see what you mean ... but if THAT is the seam that everyone is referring to, does it really come 30 minutes before the end?

I finally finished writing an 800-ish word piece on this film, which was so frustrating, because I had a very hard time figuring out how to focus my thoughts -- how to pick and choose what to focus on, since you obviously can't cover ALL of this movie's riches within such a tight word-count -- and yet at the same time I had to avoid spoilers etc. Sigh.

This is one of those films I don't want to "review" -- I want to discuss it at length with other people who have SEEN it.

And I just realized that I never mentioned Jim Gordon in my review. How odd, since his presence in both films -- and specifically in the final scenes of both films -- has given me a lump in my throat every time I've seen them.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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'Dark Knight' sets midnight record

Warner Bros.' "The Dark Knight" grossed the most ever for midnight shows, racking up an estimated $18.5 million.

The follow-up to 2005's "Batman Begins" outstripped the previous midnight record set by Fox's "Star Wars, Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith" which grossed $16.9 million from 3,663 venues. "Sith" went on to make $50 million in its first day, which was a Thursday. The highest single day opening record is currently held by Sony's "Spider-man 3" which made $59.8 million.

"Dark Knight" unspooled in a record number of sites - 4,366 - outstripping the wide bow of Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" which touted a theater count of 4,362.

Warner Bros. reported that the $18.5 million did not include 3:00 A.M. and 6:00 A.M. . . .

Variety, July 18

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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SDG, still thinking about the ferry sequence. Does it matter, I wonder, that while the Joker

is wrong

, he does not know WHY

he is wrong

?

Show hidden text
I mean, he says people are only as good as the world allows them to be, and he says people will turn selfish and murderous in their own defense once the chips are down, etc., but do the events that unfold necessarily prove the Joker wrong? Does it not matter that the "good citizens" on the one ferry vote in FAVOUR of blowing up the other ferry, while the civil authority on the other ferry LETS the criminal take the detonator out of his hand, presumably so that he can blow up the first ferry?

What we see here, on BOTH ships, is a willingness on the part of many people to Let Evil Happen, so long as Someone Else Does It -- which is not necessarily all that different from what Harvey Dent describes as the people of Gotham "appointing" Batman by default because they Let Evil Happen and now they are Letting Batman Fight Back. (I don't have Dent's exact quote, alas, but it was something in that vein.) So on a certain level, the Joker's lack of faith in humanity is vindicated. The ferries both survive because, in one case, the people were too weak to DO what they voted to do, and because, in the other case, one man got up and took a stand.

But the Joker doesn't KNOW any of that. All he knows is that his plain failed -- all because of a slight "glitch", you might say, in some human beings known as a conscience or a soul, a "glitch" similar to the one that affected the Joker's detonator on his way out of the hospital. Would the Joker feel more vindicated if he knew WHY his plan for the ferries failed? Would he feel more vindicated if he knew How Close He Came to being proved right?

I am reminded of how the film ends with people Not Knowing various other things, and acting on beliefs that we, in the audience, know to be false. Think of how Bruce

believes Rachel would have married him

, or of how Harvey

is given a hero's burial, so that Gotham never has to know what he became

. The film derives part of its strength from the fact that there are all these little ironies built into the story -- could not the Joker's knowledge, or lack thereof, with regard to the ferry incident be one of them?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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A little breakfor score keeping. When I checked Metacritic this morning this film had 17 scores of 100! I was looking because at the Boy A screening yesterday I overheard Joe Morganstern saying he was going to be in the minority on this one -- and he is, with a score of 60.

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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I expect the Joker would take what "vindication" he can get, and of course

the moral failures of the voters on the boat and the warden

do matter.

But it also definitely matters that

a strong man stood up and took the choice out of the hands of a weak one -- and did the right thing

, and also that

individuals willing to accept a tiny share of diffuse social responsibility for the destruction of the other ship were not willing to actually push the button

.

This is the perilous thing about many forms of reductionist worldviews, including nihilism: They really do account for a lot of the data, and fail only in the exceptional cases. In a sense, they are nearly true, you might even almost say true most of the time, at least in terms of explanatory power. The view that all human behavior is essentially self-interest probably "works" more often than it doesn't.

But the Joker has reduced the whole thing to cause and effect, human behavior to an elaborate Rube Goldberg device (e.g., "

I kill the bus driver

"). The fact that

the kind of behavior he anticipated was not wholly absent on the ferry

doesn't really vindicate him, in my view: It is the

behavior he

didn't anticipate

that is decisive, both philosophically and consequentially.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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This response just came in from a reader to my few words of praise on my blog, Anyone who wishes is welcome to respond to it. It was sent to the Body of Lies comment thread:

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I saw the midnight screening last night, so I'll share my own thoughts. "The Dark Knight" felt flat, with elementary ruminations on fate and goodness (ignore anyone who says this film is profound). A couple fine performances and a engaging chase scene can't save a hollow film. I won't deny that the is is slick in its presentation. But a slick film is easy enough to come by; "Transformers" and "Superman Returns" come to mind.

I'm not sure why everyone gets orgasmic about Nolan. He's been credited for rendering the series realistic for the first time. I don't see that as much as an achievement. And when did the ability to cover up a shabby script with banal visuals become praise worthy? The script was uneven, too densely populated with awful dialogue dripping with pretension: Quote "You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villian." Nolan's urge to turn the Batman films into something other than comic book films is interesting. But the effort fails, because his two films work neither as comic book films or traditional thrillers. And if he really wanted to succeed that making the films into something else, he needed to pitch that clunkily-forshadowing dialogue, like above, that typically permeates comic book films. Nolan has also lost the humor of comic book films. Burton's films were flawed too, but they did retain a nice degree of humor; they were imaginative and

inventive, vivacious and playful. The humor that arises in Nolan's films is heavily scripted, clunky and flat. Perhaps even more importantly, Nolan lost the wit. There's nothing especially clever about "The Dark Knight"; it's just scene after scene of sick and flamboyant morbidity. That's certainly not art, and I know some that would call it a new breed of pornography.

The praise for Heath Ledger is appropriate; it is a fine performance from a most promising young actor. There's the tragedy. It is impossible to view the film without the knowledge of his death, yet I wish I could. I think there was more potential for the character than what Nolan and the script allowed, but the late actor's performance is definitely a highlight.

Gary Oldman deserves all the praise I can muster. He performed with such sensitivity and subtlety. Unfortunately, no one told Oldman that his soft voice would soon be drowned out by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard's stygian odes to flatulence.

Quite simply, I think overall, the film has been overpraised. [Overstreet, I'm flabbergasted!] The Dark Knight isn't high art. It isn't even pop art. There's no or little meaning underneath the chrome and cement veil that Nolan has created.

I'm surprised that Denby, and his review, have been labeled as snobbish. Certainly there is an atmosphere of sophistication in the piece, but it is the bloody The New Yorker. Tthe reason I'm surprised at the response to his review is that Denby's main complaint, seems to be a moral one. Quote: "'The Dark Knight' has been made in a time of terror, but it's not fighting terror; it's embracing and unleashing it--while making sure, with proper calculation, to set up the next installment of the corporate franchise." This is a bold statement on American culture, and of how, perhaps in time, 9/11 will mean nothing to the average American.

If Denby's review is chastised, then I, Plugged In Online, Christianity Today, and others must be criticized too for daring to weigh a film with moral compasses.

"The Dark Knight" is a glance through a microscope at sadism, but it is without proper respect for the specimen. The Joker may be bouncing about laughing about killing people, but we certainly can't be. I heard a few too many giggles in the audience during the pencil incident. And America doesn't need to be riveted by watching hospitals blow up. Again, the Joker was having a jolly-good time. But I don't think that Heath Ledger, wherever he is, is laughing now. God rest his soul.

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I just got out of the showing...I didn't realize how long it was when it was over. I also never found myself thinking about Ledgers death at any point. Instead I was in awe. This is the Joker. The think I found fascinating is how unsettling he was. I sat rigid...and when I did laugh at his lines, it was uncomfortable laughter-the whole audience would laugh in a shaky laugh. This was the kind of Joker you get with Grant Morrison or Alan Moore...which happens to be my favorite take on the character. And you know what just wracked my nerves (in a good way)?? The music that would play behind the Joker...it was often just a loooooong buildup of notice...you did not even notice it at first...did I just miss comments about that part of the score? Yeah....I will be watching the Blu-Ray...more thoughts later...

"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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SDG wrote:

: But it also definitely matters that

a strong man stood up and took the choice out of the hands of a weak one -- and did the right thing

, and also that

individuals willing to accept a tiny share of diffuse social responsibility for the destruction of the other ship were not willing to actually push the button

.

I agree it matters, I just can't help seeing those plot elements in light of Ra's al Ghul's remark that "Training is nothing! Will is everything! The will to act!" I am not sure that humanity is vindicated, or the Joker

proven wrong

, simply because

the majority are weak and there are a handful of people who are willing to act -- for good

.

Incidentally, I found myself thinking of the ferry sequence today in light of the crowd scenes in the first two Spider-Man films.

Show hidden text
The first Spider-Man, produced around the time of 9/11, had an embarrassingly glib citizens-all-band-together scene in which the people of New York stick up for Spider-Man and fight back against the Green Goblin because "You mess wid one of us, you mess wid all of us!"

The second Spider-Man nicely subverted this, by having citizens band together in Spider-Man's defense, but [1] they are anything but glib about it, in fact you can see it takes real courage for them to do so, and [2] their efforts are completely ineffectual. But the notion that the citizenry would band together pretty much unanimously for the superhero is still there.

The Dark Knight, on the other hand, presents a citizenry that is more mixed, more varied, so much so that they even take a vote on what to do, and then they aren't sure that they want to abide by the results. This is so much more realistic, and in some ways so much more satisfying. (Though I still love the scene in Spider-Man 2.)

Overstreet's reader wrote:

: Nolan has also lost the humor of comic book films.

Has this guy read the Batman comics? Does he KNOW what sort of humour he ought to be expecting here?

: Burton's films were flawed too, but they did retain a nice degree of humor; they were imaginative and inventive, vivacious and playful.

Blecch. Just what we need. A "playful" Batman.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I went to a 3:30 showing and had to wait in a long line...and the auditorium was full (the audience clapped at the end of the show to). I also noticed it was a hugely diverse audience. When I walked out the line for the next show was even longer than the one I had to stand in. I was surprised that the 3:30 show was so full, as when I saw Iron Man opening day, there were plenty of people, but no wait in line and plenty of open spaces. I am not used to seeing such a busy afternoon matin

"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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Although I didn't have a very good time at this movie, I'll admit I'm torn between criticizing the film's blatant unpleasantness and appreciating it as part of Nolan's overall strategy. ("It's supposed to be unpleasant! It's the perfect film for our troubled times!") We could argue this point endlessly.

If I were an appetitive reviewer, like the excellent Stephanie Zacharek, I would probably pan it as she did. If I were more analytic, like many of the excellent folks here, I might be inclined to praise its ambition. I think it fails as art in the purest sense (it doesn't use film technique particularly expressively), and in its pursuit of deeper meaning, it doesn't offer much in the way of good, old-fashioned entertainment. If it's not art and it's not fun, then what is it good for?

There were a couple of parts during the film's tortuous 152 minutes where I felt a rush of genuine movie pleasure. First, there's the "Ten Little Indians" bank robbery that opens the movie, which has a terrible logic and proficiency to it. Second, there's the long, galvanizing scene of Harvey Dent being transported to prison while being relentlessly pursued by Joker, who is himself being pursued by Batman. This scene offers some exhilarating shifts in momentum. The rest of the movie is exceedingly violent (viscerally if not demonstrably), morbid, and talky. But mostly talky.

I'm a believer in Heath Ledger's performance as Joker. It's sick.

In answer to Peter's question, one can pinpoint the exact moment the film seems to end, only to pick up again and continue for another 40 minutes. It's the hospital scene in which the extent of Dent's injury is revealed.

I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of responses accumulate over the weekend.

Edited by Nathaniel

"A great film is one that to some degree frees the viewer from this passive stupor and engages him or her in a creative process of viewing. The dynamic must be two-way. The great film not only comes at the viewer, it draws the viewer toward it." -Paul Schrader

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There's nothing especially clever about "The Dark Knight"; it's just scene after scene of sick and flamboyant morbidity.
(from the comment Jeffrey Overstreet quoted).

The funny thing is, that's exactly how I would describe the Burton films--they're interesting, but they're soul-sick. And no comparison to The Dark Knight. The darkness in Burton's movie is the darkness of a twisted evil that delights in itself; the darkness of The Dark Knight is the darkness of a world gone wrong, a world where everything is broken, but a world which can and will change. The cliche most of the main characters quote, "it's always darkest before the dawn," is certainly true here, and the emergence of the Joker is proof of it. And the Joker himself--Nicolson's Joker is magnetic, but Ledger is mesmerizing, confounding expectations, turning over audience preconceptions of the character with as much glee as the Joker turns Gotham on its head.

I didn't feel that the film's ending was too long, but the first thirty or so minutes I was nervously shuffling in my seat, wondering if I had pushed my expectations too high, wondering if I was missing something--thinking too hard or not hard enough. But that dissipated once all the pieces were in place and moving.

(As an aside, I mentioned the possible political angle to the person I was with, and they didn't see it at all, even when I pointed out

the Joker's habit of videotaping prisoners

. It seemed pretty clear to me, and a reasonably complex response to evils that I and all too many others have begun to forget over the last couple of years).

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I agree with some of the criticism of Burton's films, although I liked them very much at the time of their release. But earlier this week I watched Sweeney Todd again, and that's a great movie -- morbid, but with a point, and (arguably) a strong moral worldview. (Did I just write "strong moral worldview"? Gosh, I'm not even sure what I mean by that. I sound like Ted B.) I had thought of comparing The Dark Knight to that Burton film (unfavorably, BTW), but the Burton Batman films are the more obvious point of comparison. Still, I might argue that Todd shows a certain degree of moral development in Burton's work that, had he kept up with the Batman franchise, might have resulted in a better film than even The Dark Knight.

This line of argument completely avoids the question of faithfulness to the comics, etc. My concern is with the quality of the film as film, not so much as adaptation. (Although Todd was an adaptation -- so should Burton get the credit? Hmmm. Gotta think about that.)

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Dave Kehr gets it!

Comes down completely on one side of the argument, but hey, I'll take that. Short and sweet -- and to the point. First review I've seen that discusses the movie in these terms, and these terms only. (Which accounts for its length.)

EDIT: Note the one commenter who corrects Kehr on clearly missing the "You complete me" reference.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I agree it matters, I just can't help seeing those plot elements in light of Ra's al Ghul's remark that "Training is nothing! Will is everything! The will to act!"

:huh:

Yes, I'm sure Ra's would judge

the businessman

very harshly, along with

the warden and most of the others on both boats

, for lacking the will to act. And

the prisoner

too, in spite of the fact that he had the will to act, because from Ra's perspective he chose foolishly.

Just like Ra's judged Thomas Wayne harshly for not acting, and Batman for acting foolishly.

Ra's is a psychopath. Are you bothered by the suspicion that Thomas Wayne was weak for failing to attempt to disarm Chill, or that Batman is a fool for trying to save a fallen society rather than destroy it?

I am not sure that humanity is vindicated, or the Joker

proven wrong

, simply because

the majority are weak and there are a handful of people who are willing to act -- for good

.

:(

Okay. Look.

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Thoughts on Keith Uhlich's pan of the film. I'm wondering what to make of his, and other critics' charge, that the movie is "incoherent":

The human drama in Batman Begins held my attentions, so I wasn

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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So far, the best review I've read along these lines is Sonny Bunch in the Washington Times, titled "Gotham City's war on terror." The title is actually much more on point than the review itself, which fails to mention some of the many allusions to war-on-terror tactics depicted in this film. Cell-phone detonators, car bombs, attacks on public facilities, videotaped torture. The movie is really quite something when seen through that prism.

Sonny's just blogged a reaction to Dana Stevens' take on the film over at Slate, who writes, "In short, Chris Nolan does more nuanced thinking about the war on terror than we

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Due to finances, I haven't seen this film yet. I was greatly looking forward to seeing it, in large part because of the very positive reviews, on here and elsewhere. I say "was," because a few minutes ago, I read this passionately negative appraisal of the film, which has given me a bit of cause for concern. The author is a Christian, but he doesn't seem to be coming from a knee-jerk "it's dark (or simply not explicitly Christian); therefore, it's bad" perspective. I'd love to hear what others think of his take on the film. The comments after the post are interesting too. Here's the link:

http://branthansen.typepad.com/letters_fro...f-the-soul.html

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Due to finances, I haven't seen this film yet. I was greatly looking forward to seeing it, in large part because of the very positive reviews, on here and elsewhere. I say "was," because a few minutes ago, I read this passionately negative appraisal of the film, which has given me a bit of cause for concern. The author is a Christian, but he doesn't seem to be coming from a knee-jerk "it's dark (or simply not explicitly Christian); therefore, it's bad" perspective. I'd love to hear what others think of his take on the film. The comments after the post are interesting too. Here's the link:

http://branthansen.typepad.com/letters_fro...f-the-soul.html

Don't let this negative review from this hyper-fundie sort dissuade you from enjoying an awesome flick, TT. ::pinch:: His comments were picayune; his appraisals naive and simple-minded IMNSHO.

Long days and pleasant nights.

***

"I am Tyler Durden's raging spleen!"

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Don't let this negative review from this hyper-fundie sort dissuade you from enjoying an awesome flick, TT. ::pinch:: His comments were picayune; his appraisals naive and simple-minded IMNSHO.

Wow, Roland, I'm really surprised that you read this guy as a "hyper-fundie!" :) I've been reading his blog, on and off, for some time now, and if anything, he seems more sympathetic to the emerging/emergent church movement, broadly speaking. "Bibliolater" is one his favourite terms for theologically conservative Protestants who try to carefully apply God's word to questions of ecclesiology ("regulative principle" subscribers, for example, such as myself). Having said that, I still like to read him, because at times, his thoughts are provocatively Biblical. I'm just not sure if this is one of those times... but I am thinking about it. Thanks for your thoughts, Roland!

In case anyone misses it, Brant's post is split up into three or four short "sections," I believe.

Edited by Truetruth
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Truetruth, speaking for myself, I'm turned off by the fact that he barely talks about the movie at all. He talks about our culture, and how much he dislikes it...but if I don't already agree with him, he can't really convince me, because he doesn't offer an argument, just a screed.

Edited by David Smedberg

That's just how eye roll.

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Truetruth, speaking for myself, I'm turned off by the fact that he barely talks about the movie at all. He talks about our culture, and how much he dislikes it...but if I don't already agree with him, he can't really convince me, because he doesn't offer an argumesant, just a screed.

Well said, David. :)

I pretty much generalized with that guy's critique. While he may be Emergent in his theology, he comes off sounding like a hyper-fundie while ripping on the Bat. He sounds much like Dobson's Focus on the Family peeps sound on their critique of TDK. 8O

Long days and pleasant nights.

***

"I am Tyler Durden's raging spleen!"

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Ok. I have just spent the last two hours catching up on all the comments posted here. I've been avoiding this thread for the last week, terrified of accidentally having anything spoiled. The first trailer in January/February was perfect but I just knew the marketing people could not hold out. I've been driving my wife nuts skipping over the more recent trailers. "But I thought you wanted to see that." and then I have to explain my spoiler issues. Then we finally get to the theater and have to sit through some horrible Verizon Wireless commercials promoting the very film I'VE ALREADY PAID TO SEE! TWICE!

I'm a huge crime film geek so the Heat comparison's had me really excited. (Michael Mann can do no wrong in my book.) I have no doubt now that Nolan watched the bank robbery scene from Heat when creating the opening scene. And unlike Michael Bay in The Island, he's not just ripping off Heat, he's actually honoring it and acknowledging it by casting William Fichner (Heat's Van Zant) as the bank manager with a surprise for the thieves. This heist is what would have happened in Waingro had been in charge.

And I just realized that I never mentioned Jim Gordon in my review. How odd, since his presence in both films -- and specifically in the final scenes of both films -- has given me a lump in my throat every time I've seen them.

I had the same reaction to Gordon/ Oldman. In Batman Begins I was really touched by his compassion for young Bruce after his parents are killed. You know he doesn't quite know what to say. He gives Bruce his coat and just tells him "It's ok.", and that's enough. In Dark Knight I was completely caught off guard when Gordon's son, half awake, asks him "Daddy, did Batman save you?" and Gordon says "I saved him.". I fully expected to be exhilarated and disturbed by this film (ok, not that disturbed) but I was not expecting to find myself fighting back tears.

As for Ledger there's not much to say that hasn't already been said. The Oscar talk is well deserved. I mostly was not thinking of his death. I was too caught up in the performance. Where Nicholson's Joker was mostly camp with occasional menace, Ledger's Joker is mostly menace with the occasional one liner. The performance is so effective because you can't really pin it down. I loved Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood. It's a great performance but everyone is aware by now that the voice is basically John Huston. Ledger's performance, including the voice, is appropriately all over the place. One minute ("Byat -Myan") he sounds like real life crazy person Andy Dick (who shows up on the BB DVD in the MTV "Tankman Begins" skit) and another minute ("I'm a man of my werd.") his voice drops and he sounds like Beetle Juice played by ...Well, you know.

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Nathaniel wrote:

: In answer to Peter's question, one can pinpoint the exact moment the film seems to end, only to pick up again and continue for another 40 minutes. It's the hospital scene in which the extent of Dent's injury is revealed.

Really? I seem to recall that the Joker storyline was still badly in need of resolution, there. Anyway, if I see this film a second time, I'll be sure to remember to check the time; I left my cell phone in the car when I saw the film the first time. :)

(I don't have a watch, I use my cell phone for telling the time, but don't worry, I always make a point of hiding it under my outer shirt or my jacket so as not to distract my fellow moviegoers. I HATE it when people light their cell phones up in the open during a movie.)

SDG wrote:

: Ra's is a psychopath. Are you bothered by the suspicion that Thomas Wayne was weak for failing to attempt to disarm Chill, or that Batman is a fool for trying to save a fallen society rather than destroy it?

I don't see the point of the question. Batman is who he is because of Ra's. Everything Batman knows, he learned from Ra's ... with the exception of his conscience. These are simply the facts, as laid out in the earlier film. Whether I am bothered by Ra's's opinions regarding other characters' actions is neither here nor there.

: As far as "vindication" goes,

I'm not looking to canonize the passengers on the boats as martyr-saints. I'm saying the Joker's nihilism is wrong, that muck and darkness is neither all there is to humanity, nor the bit that necessarily gets the last word "when the chips are down."

I dunno.

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While the Joker was certainly wrong about the ultimate OUTCOME of his little scenario, I don't find all that much to celebrate in the fact that one of the reasons the Joker's nihilism was proved wrong was because the people on at least one of those boats were even weaker than he expected.

If you think the Joker's defining statement is "I am making a prediction that something will happen," and then that something doesn't happen, then I guess you are proved right and he is proved wrong. But then, as the Joker himself says, sometimes things don't always go according to "plan", right?

For me, the more telling statement is when he says, "People are only as good as the world lets them be." And it would certainly seem arguable that the opposite is true, too: that people are only as bad as the world (including their upbringings, their instincts, etc.) lets them be. The people on at least one of these boats actually take a vote and choose in FAVOUR of the evil course of action; they're all just too weak to actually go and do it themselves. Something isn't "letting" them do what they have all expressed a desire to do.

: Given that circumstance, many people would argue that it would be moral for

one boat or the other to blow up the other and save themselves -- in fact, that it would be

immoral to allow both boatloads of people to die rather than to save one. A proportionalist or consequentialist philosopher would certainly argue that

.

Yes, this is an extension of the same dilemma we find when the Joker threatens to blow up a hospital unless one man is killed, etc. Why not kill the one man and save all the hospital's staff and patients? Etc., etc. Of course, eventually the philosophers would have to come back down to the real world, and address practical questions such as, How can we trust a person like the Joker to keep his word? Or, What example are we setting by giving in to a terrorist, and how much more violence would we be encouraging down the road if we DID give in to the terrorist and save a few lives in the short term? Etc., etc.

: By "Lifeboat"/"values clarification" relativist standards, I suppose

the "innocent" citizens ought to blow up the convicts. Perhaps the convicts themselves recognize this; perhaps that's why they don't even take a vote

.

I don't think we're supposed to believe that the convicts have any mixed feelings on this matter; it is only the warden and his staff who are supposed to wrestle with the issue, and they certainly don't seem to be in the mood to

take a vote

because they presumably know what the result would be.

: The prisoner's act

is almost astonishingly heroic

. . .

Absolutely. He has the will to act, and he acts.

: On the other boat,

despite the vote, no one will actually turn the key -- literally not to save their lives. Even a man who thinks he could and would do it finds that he can't. Ra's al Ghul would have his interpretation of this.

Not being a psychopath, I reject his interpretation. The will to act is not the single meaningful criterion. There is a line this man will not cross for anything, and that says something

.

I think where I disagree with you is on the question of whether there is a "single meaningful criterion". I think there is more than one. Whereas you seem to agree with Ra's that there is only one, but you find it in a different place than he does.

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: I found the way it went down to be an inspiring outcome. If you didn't, well, I'm sorry.

Forgive my saying this, but there's a hint of condescension in that. (It has a whiff of "I'm sorry, but I can't help you.") I DO find the outcome inspiring, to a point, but I also think the scenario, TAKEN AS A WHOLE, paints a rather complex portrait of humanity. And it absolutely HAS to be seen in the light of comments that are made in BOTH films regarding people who "let" things happen -- whether it is Ra's blaming the elder Wayne for not taking action against the criminal, or Harvey Dent saying that the people of Gotham "appointed" Batman by default when they let things get so bad in the city and/or when they let Batman take it upon himself to do something about it.

The film makes it very clear that the passengers on the one boat were not only willing to "let" someone blow up the boat with the convicts and the prison guards, they actually ENCOURAGED the destruction of that boat and its passengers by voting in favour of said destruction. Yes, it is good to see that something resembling a "conscience" was so deeply embedded in those passengers that none of them could bring themselves to go ahead and actually DO it, i.e. none of them could actually blow the other boat up. But by the same token, none of them -- not one, not even the people who voted AGAINST blowing up the other boat -- were willing to STOP anyone from blowing up the other boat.

I am vaguely reminded of how you resisted the interpretation of The Matrix which said that Cipher spoke the secret message (the cipher, if you will) of the film when he said that the machines had won and humanity needed to accommodate them somehow. No, no, you said, Cipher is a traitor and a villain, so we can't take what he says seriously. And yet, lo and behold, that is EXACTLY the direction that the Matrix sequels went. I think Chris Nolan is doing something similarly complex with the Batman movies, giving us deeply flawed heroes and villains who sometimes pick at a truth that we might find uncomfortable. (But, being villains, they don't see the larger truth that surrounds the tiny truth that they think they have found, and so they are missing the Big Picture.)

And it is the complexity of Nolan's treatment of these issues that I find inspiring, as much as anything else in these films. Really, I do. The layers of nuance that he packs into sequences like this beats "you mess wid ONE of us, you mess wid ALL of us!" any old day.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I think where I disagree with you is on the question of whether there is a "single meaningful criterion". I think there is more than one. Whereas you seem to agree with Ra's that there is only one, but you find it in a different place than he does.

Not at all. I'm simply zeroing in on the criterion that happens to

confound the Joker's calculations

. That doesn't mean other criteria aren't relevant for an overall evaluation of human beings. I don't at all discount the rest of the picture -- quite the opposite, as I think my review indicates. I take that for granted as the baseline. And precisely because that is the baseline, what I'm interested in is the blips that rise above the baseline, the indications that the baseline is not the entire picture.

: I found the way it went down to be an inspiring outcome. If you didn't, well, I'm sorry.

Forgive my saying this, but there's a hint of condescension in that.

Condescension isn't quite right. I'm just beginning to feel like the Gotham ferry is the new Axiom, as it were, and I'm unhappy that it seems somewhere we must find a sore tooth, or even a tooth that could be sore, to be worried and probed unremittingly.

I DO find the outcome inspiring, to a point

Really? Perhaps you could say more about that, since until now you've seemed to me bent on playing the Joker's advocate, as it were.

but I also think the scenario, TAKEN AS A WHOLE, paints a rather complex portrait of humanity.

As noted, I think my review, as well as my subsequent comments, makes this point pretty clear.

And it absolutely HAS to be seen in the light of comments that are made in BOTH films regarding people who "let" things happen -- whether it is Ra's blaming the elder Wayne for not taking action against the criminal, or Harvey Dent saying that the people of Gotham "appointed" Batman by default when they let things get so bad in the city and/or when they let Batman take it upon himself to do something about it.

Dunno about "absolutely has to be." In principle, at least, one psychotic misanthropic philosophy per film is enough for me, but if you want to rack 'em up as you go that's certainly your privilege. I don't deny that it could be a helpful interpretive matrix. I don't see the need for it in this particular case.

I am vaguely reminded of how you resisted the interpretation of The Matrix which said that Cipher spoke the secret message (the cipher, if you will) of the film when he said that the machines had won and humanity needed to accommodate them somehow. No, no, you said, Cipher is a traitor and a villain, so we can't take what he says seriously. And yet, lo and behold, that is EXACTLY the direction that the Matrix sequels went.

I remember resisting the idea that the original The Matrix film presents Morpheus and his comrades as "terrorists" (though I agreed that they were in fact morally equivalent to terrorists). I don't remember the thesis that "the machines had won and humanity needed to accommodate them somehow" as such being raised or debated.

I think Chris Nolan is doing something similarly complex with the Batman movies, giving us deeply flawed heroes and villains who sometimes pick at a truth that we might find uncomfortable. (But, being villains, they don't see the larger truth that surrounds the tiny truth that they think they have found, and so they are missing the Big Picture.)

And it is the complexity of Nolan's treatment of these issues that I find inspiring, as much as anything else in these films. Really, I do. The layers of nuance that he packs into sequences like this beats "you mess wid ONE of us, you mess wid ALL of us!" any old day.

And, again, I agree with all of this.

Perhaps the difference in our approaches here (and I would not say this of the earlier Matrix debate) is that I'm starting here in some ways in the so-called "desert of the real," and looking for windows back into the real world of meaning and humanity. I'm starting with the assumption that reductionism and nihilism are by and large realistic philosophies in terms of explanatory power, that it takes a leap of faith to see reality in a higher register of meaning, and then I look for signs -- though not excuses or pretexts -- warranting such a leap. My paradigm isn't disturbed or particularly engaged by venality, self-interest and corruption, and I don't spend my critical time there, not because I don't take it seriously but precisely because I take it for granted as an inexorable norm of human experience, a baseline.

In a word, my question is not "Are human beings rotten?" We are. My question is, "Is the rottenness of humanity the final and decisive truth about it, or is there something more to humanity?" The Joker is convinced that there isn't. I'm interested in signs that there is.

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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