Wednesday, July 18, 2012

THE DARK KNIGHT (Christopher Nolan, 2008, USA)

THE DARK KNIGHT is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. The narrative attempts to be a modern myth, a prescient legend that remakes King Arthur as an emotionally tortured and brooding sociopath, a millionaire who plucks not the sword from the stone, but Hollywood gold from our pocket. This is a superficially contrived hyped-up morality play that is crushed under its own self-important weight. 

Once upon a time Director Christopher Nolan made two great films: FOLLOWING and MEMENTO. But this script is inundated with awkward dialogue whose internal logic is skewed with unbelievable character motivations: Harvey Dent’s transformation (physical and mental) is a jejune plot device to create frisson, both pretentious and improbable. The direction is lazy with spiraling nausea-inducing camera movements and sloppy editing; the actors perform as wooden clacking marionettes fulfilling allotted roles without individuality, their strings manipulated, lacking basic human DNA. The writer pushes square dialogue through their round holes, blathering insipidly about morality and justice without regard to a thinking audience who can figure it out on their own (thank you very much): this condescending attitude is unacceptable. 

Heath Ledger as The Joker seems to be the embodiments of anarchy, his goal the destruction of social order to create a lawless society, to see the citizens of Gotham revert back to the Dark Ages. But his plans are meticulous and artificial; the polar opposite of a chaotic maddened mind that seeks to burn down the world. The plans are so mechanical that we can see the writer’s hand at work, busy punching plastic lettered squares that create a vapid electronic text which masquerades as drama…but is an illusion that hides, not a half-scarred script, but a faceless and phony social commentary. Heath Ledger’s inspired performance is the bright spot in this dismal failure. To awaken your numbed brain, please refer to Frank Miller’s original four-issue series that gave birth to this catastrophic mediocrity. 

Final Grade: (D)


Roscoe said...

I think that the disparity between the Joker's monologues about chaos/anarchy and his carefully planned schemes is very much the point -- he's first and foremost a LIAR of almost cosmic proportions. Agreed about Ledger being the sole point of interest about the film, though.

Alex DeLarge said...

Good point about the Joker. His plans were absurdly impossible: how did he wire the hospital with explosives? Staff wouldn't have noticed demo experts placing plastic explosives and weakening the structure months before?

Like you, I enjoy thinking while being entertained. A good story must earn my suspension of disbelief and not insult my intelligence.

Dusty said...

At one point I thought you were a good critic. Your last couple of pieces have made me think otherwise. Your first sentence alone takes this piece out of the realm of criticism.

I enjoy reading dissenting opinions as long as the reasoning is fair. Jim Emerson constantly criticizes Christopher Nolan and does so with wit and intelligence. He also writes a lot about the nature of film criticism. You should check some of that work out.

Alex DeLarge said...

Well I appreciate your insights. I really do. But my criticisms of the film are relevant, based on character motivations, direction, and stilted dialogue. I don't pretend to be a professional film critic, just a person who enjoys films. And I didn't enjoy this one very much. I write very few negative reviews because, well, there are so many great films to write about.

I hope two reviews doesn't keep you away from my blog. Your comments can only help me become a better writer. I truly mean that.

Caftan Woman said...

I watched "The Dark Knight" despite not being able to make it through "Batman Begins" and despite my daughter's (a Batman fan) warning that I would not like it. She thought it was "okay", but opined that I would find it too loud and had seen too many good film-noir in my life to be fooled by "The Dark Knight". I should have listened. Not only was I unimpressed, I felt grave sorrow for the deluded fanboys (must be the mother instinct).

Alex DeLarge said...

Thanks CW! Ironically, I wanted to like this one and thought I would despise WATCHMEN.