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Dark Knight Nolan's Best so Far

August 3, 2008
The Dark Knight - Christian Bale

The Dark Knight - Christian Bale

I finally got ticked off enough at another movie that it motivated me to write about my enjoyment of this one. When I saw Memento, I thought, finally a director that can do something different with a story. Christopher Nolan was brilliant and I couldn’t wait until his next film. Then Insomnia came out and it fell flat with me. Then Batman Begins and I thought, well, it’s just ok. The Prestige brought me back to enjoying his visual style, but it was Dark Knight that made me love him again as a director.

In the sequel, Batman and James Gordon (reprised by Christian Bale and Gary Oldman) join with new D.A. Harvey Dent (inspirationally played by Aaron Eckhart) to fight the mobsters that have overrun the town. But turns out, their attempts lead the mob to fight back by joining with Joker (yes, the beloved Heath Ledger) to “kill” the Batman. Cillian Murphy reprises his role as the Scarecrow (this time as one of the Batman copy cats). Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman (yes he really is now officially required to be in every movie being released in theaters) give their usual comforting roles as well as Batman’s little elves. Maggie Gyllenhaal takes over for Katie Holmes (and yet somehow unlike the Mummy’s switcharoo- this didn’t bother me).

But this is more than just another superhero movie. Dark Knight speaks to the human condition, to the darkness within each of us and the choices we make to either repel that darkness or eventually succumb to it. I don’t really want to talk about the plot alot, because it is fun to just discover the film on your own, nor do I care to talk a whole lot about the general review stuff much more – who played who and why, etc. What I want to talk about is how this movie has hit a nerve in the American audiences. People are just returning to it again and again. Why is that I wonder? 

It is not the first film, not even this summer, to hit upon that condition within us, the choices we make that can hurt us and the ones we love. And yet, for me, it brought me back to a belief in heroes. That is the thing about Batman. He is depressive, clearly still reacting to his parent’s death as a child, and yet, does something about it. He gets out there and acts.

Yes, he’s a vigilante, but isn’t that the American icon? The hero that goes beyond the law into an ethical arena that the police and others can’t touch.

It reminds us of the “proper” way to be a citizen, to not rely on others to take care of things for you but to be out there giving to the community. Excuse the strange bridge I build here, but the dark version of Batman is like Chaplin’s Tramp. The character reminds us of how to be human, even if we continue to shun them as the outsider. I could pull out the religious overtones but that’s not my style. But still, that reminder of the human condition, of goodness, of hope in darker modern times, is what I believe is hitting the audience’s nerve. It’s the simplicity of using the good versus evil theme but doing it in a subversive and amusing way. They show it, and they show the failure of it (Two-Face). That makes it stronger than if they’d just continued having talking heads spouting how things should be. Instead, Batman just gets in and gets things done.

And yet, unlike the Tramp, who is simple without any gadgetry or fancy clothes, Batman is the modern thing we fear, the wealthy elite with too much power and a love for modern gadgets. But despite that conflict within him, he uses modernity against itself – and attacks the insanity in society.

But despite the response to Batman, it is The Joker that thrills us as he scares us with his insanity. He is the classic sociopath and with him, there is no chance to reason away what he does or understand a pattern. He is just an anarchist who doesn’t follow the rules. And even though we are being taught that Batman is doing what is right – there is that dark side of us that gleefully smiles as The Joker manages to get away once again.

We all want to rebel a little bit and liking the Joker more than the Bat lets us do that safely. And besides, someone who despite his best plans blowing up (or not actually), he can shrug it off and move on to the next moment. Isn’t that interesting that Batman, the good one, can’t ever let go of a moment in his past and his haunted soul is tormented into becoming a hero..and yet the Joker lives completely for the moment and in a way is the one that is free.

Anyways, if you are possibly still reading at this point (and I don’t blame you if you gave up on my ramblings long ago), see it in the theater. Watch it a second time even. Better to spend your money here again than The Mummy.

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