Thursday, July 17, 2008

More Dark Knight

I haven't been holding out on you--I've got some thoughts about Dark Knight, but have been busy doing a larger piece on it which will run tomorrow. And apart from that, I've been grappling with how to talk about the movie without dipping too heavily into the realm of spoilers.

So I think I'll have some spoiler-filled thoughts tomorrow (appropriately noted, of course), but in the meantime, some general observations:

* I understand how annoying the hype surrounding this movie is. I realize how over-sold almost every movie event in recent years has been. (Godzilla, Cloverfield, Spider-Man, etc.)

All of that said, even if your expectations are very high, I think this is more movie than you're prepared for.

* Ditto the accolades for Heath Ledger's Joker. Look, Ledger's performance isn't legendary, but it is inventive, off-kilter, and very, very fine work. His voicework in particular, impresses because he hits odd cadences and registers. And his physicality, for me, is really great. The Joker is never supposed to be physically menacing--he's skinny and weak. But (and this is mentioned again and again in the comics) he's deceptively quick, particularly with his hands. Which makes him kind of unexpectedly scary at close range. Ledger and Nolan get this just right.

But most of all, the character is perfectly conceived. This isn't to take anything away from Ledger's work, mind you, but just to point out that it's build on really solid, thoughtful writing.

* I have no idea how much money this movie is going to make, but my unscientific guess is: a ton. I have no idea what the opening will be ($80M? $100M? $115M?), but I'll be really surprised if it doesn't have fantastic legs through July and August.

* It also would not surprise me if, at some point in the next couple weeks, the left decides that they have a political objection to Dark Knight. It isn't an overtly (or even covertly) political movie, but it does have something to say about the capacity of Western liberalism for dealing with a certain type of nihilist challenge, and the limits of liberalism's social compact.

I suspect that this is the real root of David Denby's infantile criticism of Dark Knight and other liberal critics may join in, particularly if they think that conservatives are embracing the movie as some sort of apologia for Bush/Cheney/neoconservatism/Iraq/Guantanamo/warmongering/suspension of habeas/etc.

David Edelstein's negative review complains that Christian Bale's smirk reminds him of "Dubya entitlement" and that Batman employs "FISA-like surveillance."

But I could well be wrong; maybe no one will attempt to invest any political meaning in it.

More tomorrow.

Update: One final point--even the title is perfect. I was wary of it, because I assumed Nolan was just using it as a sop to fanboys since there was no way he was going to use the Miller Dark Knight stuff. But I was wrong.

This isn't Miller's Dark Knight, but the title is absolutely integral to the film and not even in the obvious "dark night" of the soul sense.


Anonymous said...

I agree and couldn't help find countless political parallels within the script, characters and overall plot.

Anonymous said...

you didn't count on dana stevens, whose endless quest for cinematic hidden meaning (specifically, critiques of W) would put leo strauss to shame.

eg, "And despite a falsely heroic closing speech from Gary Oldman's character, police Lt. Jim Gordon, the movie seems to arrive at much the same conclusion about Batman as Americans have about Bush: Thanks to this guy, we're well and thoroughly screwed."