21 July 2008

2 shots!

I, along with ferry boatloads of other people, saw The Dark Knight over the weekend and was surprised to find my expectations (which were high going in) exceeded by Christopher Nolan's latest film. The film is dark and smart and scary (not in the 'boo' slasher sense, rather in the afraid of yourself because you're laughing at that sense) and funny. The film also rounds out (though likely doesn't finish) one of the oddest series of films ever to be scored by the joel & joel shot system of movie ratings with this latest installment scoring 2 shots & an earlier rendition (Batman & Robin) scoring a record 17 shots.*

By way of warning, this post may contain some minor spoilers...

Because there are clearly better & earlier reviews of The Dark Knight out there, i won't go into too much detail about the film and its high & low points, instead i want to think about its themes & implications. By far, Heath Ledger is the best part of this movie. He's scary & hilarious and while the makeup surely helps (Oscar nod & win is already in the bag for that make-up job, methinks), the Oscar talk for Ledger himself is actually not that far off. But the character of the Joker is much more than he's ever been in earlier film versions, because he wants nothing but chaos. The writing somewhat clumsily equates anarchy & chaos (and terrorism), but what seems to be missing (or contradicted) in a lot of conversations about this theme in the film is that The Dark Knight ultimately comes to a very conservative & statist conclusion. The film sets up an unfair binary (the only variety there is) of the Joker's variety of disordered violence & the institutional order of the police (& the corporation - Wayne Enterprises) as the only two alternatives. Clearly, no sane person would prefer the mob warlords world where everyone's life is constantly threatened by those who are stronger (or have the most guns).

The ferryboat scene offers a possible 'third way', and delivers (afterwards, i couldn't quite decide how i wanted that scene to turn out, i think it would have spoken volumes had any of the possible outcomes happened), but ultimately they are all rescued by the established institutional forces. While you can point out that Batman is a vigilante, on the run from the law (at least officially) during and at the end of the movie, this serves as a fine critique of corporate power & its abuses as well as an illustration of any government's willingness to look the other way when corporations break laws if it helps maintain the established power structure. All in all, The Dark Knight is a strong critique, a good movie, a fun ride, and a useful jumping off point... Go enjoy it.

*To purists who will immediately object, yes, of course i understand there is no connection between earlier Batman movies and these latest two, but just as i will consider J.J. Abram's upcoming Star Trek (which, OMG, i am SO excited for) a part of the franchise, i see these films as perpetually linked

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