Thoughts about "The Dark Knight"
"The Dark Knight" is really good relative to the other comic book films that have been made. In absolute terms, it has a number of problems.
- The most serious flaw in the film is well explained by James Bowman in his review of "Minority Report":
This is the Spielbergian idea of entertainment — and, to be fair, one that an awful lot of people are willing to go along with — first you create some kind of preposterous scenario to do with aliens or time travel or real-seeming hallucinations or some combination of all three and then, when people have adjusted to it, you remind them at unpredictable moments that none of these things exists.In "The Dark Knight", the premise is that Batman's efforts to fight crime in collaboration with the Gotham City police are so staggeringly effective that the city's criminal gangs are on the verge of being checkmated when the film begins. The film then proceeds to reveal that this was actually a staggeringly ineffective way to fight crime. By exerting himself to the fullest in crusading against crime, Batman has done nothing more than drive the criminal gangs into a desperate last resort: unleashing the supercriminal terrorist mastermind "The Joker" against Gotham City.
- A related problem with the film is that the Joker is given a Spielbergian level of resources -- multiple cubic meters of pure cash worth -- to devote to his terror crusade against Gotham City. For example, the Joker has access to infiltraters hidden within the police heirarchy to the point of absurdity. At one point in the film, a bomb is detonated within the police building while the Joker, having escaped his cell, is holding the police at bay by threatening a hostage. When the dust clears, all of the police -- hostage included -- have completely vanished, apparently leaving the Joker at liberty to escape.
The bomb is not an accident, of course. The Joker also has a magical ability to instantly materialize a bomb of any size in any place at any time without anyone noticing until it is too late. Just get used to this if you watch the film.
- The Spielbergian ethos doesn't end with the Joker. It turns out that the film essentially innovates an entirely new theory of Bruce Wayne's psyche to explain why he fights crime.
The original motivation for Bruce Wayne's career of crime fighting is that his parents are murdered in front of his eyes when he is a child. We further postulate that Bruce Wayne possesses the resources of body, mind, and wealth to be an especially effective crime fighter in a city menaced by an especially intractable criminal element. It thus seems particularly plausible -- in fact, not even that unusual -- that Bruce Wayne would devote his life to crusading against the criminal element. Throw in the costume and you have a Batman.
That might have worked in the 1930s, but today the mass audience expects Batman to be "one sick puppy" perhaps a step removed from the Joker himself. In "The Dark Knight", the implication of the story is that Batman fights crime out of a deep-seated sense of masochism. The Joker, as you might have expected, makes full use of this knowledge, since the Joker knows that his full-spectrum assault upon Gotham is perhaps the ultimate turn-on for Batman. Ultimately, this mars the ending of the film rather severely (unless film masochism appeals to you).