R3view: The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight one-sheet

Director: Christopher Nolan (Memento, The Prestige, Batman Begins)
Writers: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, David S. Goyer
Producers: Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven, Emma Thomas
Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 152 min


Synopsis:

Batman continues to act as a force of vigilante justice in Gotham City, but his presence causes a number of copy-cat ‘crime-fighters’ to complicate the situation. District Attorney Harvey Dent steps up to clean up the criminal element using more due-process means, while the Joker comes to town to burn the place down. Mayhem and pondered morality ensue.



Jonathan:

Let me just put it out there: this is the best superhero film ever made.

With a running time of a hefty two and a half hours, director Christopher Nolan and his mega-ensemble of talented actors exceeded all of my high expectations. Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman – the cast could seemingly be a snapshot of a “best of” lineup, and each performer nails their respective role, all creating effectively well-rounded characters that one can relate to. And I was very pleased to see Oldman get some major screen time as Jim Gordon. Props Nolan. You know what not to waste.

Of course, one actor outshines the rest. We all know who I’m referring too, as the hype surrounding the actor’s last complete role has been enormous. And as expected (and as has been repeated over and over again), it’s not just hype. Heath Ledger really is that good, creating an iconic and memorable villain worthy to stand by the likes of Anton Chigurh and Darth Vader alike. The delivery of his lines, the attention to The Joker’s quirks, his sardonic laugh – you know that Best Supporting Actor nomination everybody is talking about? It’s his.

The Dark Knight is a complex, sometimes brutal tale of morality, of hope, of choices, of men’s limits – and it really does play out less like what we’ve come to know of superhero movies and more like a serious crime-drama, perhaps a spiritual successor to Heat (a movie Nolan cited as a big influence). Each scene, from the opening bank heist to the climatic finale is tightly woven to create this impressive tour de force of summer blockbuster brilliance. It’s all aided by the beautiful cinematography, the fantastic score by Hans Zimmer and James Newton, the well-done but not over-used CGI, and the fantastic action sequences and character interaction.

Like all movies, there are flaws (and with each viewing, it’s possible more may become apparent), but for me, I had so much fun that they were easy to overlook. This did everything a summer action blockbuster should do and far, far more. There will be plenty of those that roll their eyes, those that just can’t bring themselves to eat this exquisitely delicious meal that Nolan has cooked up for us, and that’s just fine (if not expected), but as my first five-star review of the year, this has raised the bar for not only superhero movies, but summer blockbusters in general. Take some notes on Nolan, Michael Bay – action, style, and substance are more than possible to combine.




Marina:

It was expected that The Dark Knight was going to break box office records. The film’s promotion machine seems to have been going full swing since Comic-Con ’07 and the collective excitement of fans was starting to rub off on people who had only heard of Batman in passing. As reviews for the film started coming in, I began to worry. Did Christopher Nolan’s really new creation be this good or was I being ramped up for disappointment? I was hoping for the best but as I expected and somewhat feared, Noland’s film didn’t blow my mind. Actually, it didn’t even make my top 5 list of films seen so far this year. A reaction to the hype? In part yes. My reaction is partly elevated by the hype for the film but the truth is that The Dark Knight isn’t perfect.

It’s unfair to lop Nolan’s achievement as simply a comic book movie. Though some directors have attempted, and failed, to elevate superheroes from the pages of comic books and brought them into the real world (see Iron Man (our review)), Nolan has successfully created a film that is far above and beyond its predecessors. This is much more than a comic book film; it has taken a character from a comic (a character which has the odd tendency to dress up as a bat and fight crime) and made him human and believable in a reality akin to our own. The Gotham City created by Nolan is a crime ridden city reminiscent of many a real locale and the themes of love, violence, evil and morality aren’t limited to a comic book scope, they’re human and they are handled as human emotions from individuals that feel like real people. Nolan deserves all of the credit he is given – it is a massive and exceptional achievement. Where things go wrong is with the story itself.

Conceived by Nolan and comic book writer David S. Goyer, the film starts off well enough but approximately 90 minutes in, the entire thing goes south. The audience starts to get shifty and there’s an elevated level of chatter as the film seems to come to a natural conclusion. Except that it’s not over. There are still 60 minutes left but what’s left to fill them with? This is where The Dark Knight goes from being exceptional to being good. The last hour of the film feels tacked on as an unnecessary after thought and the characters that fill it seem rushed and a little wasted. I would have preferred to see them get their own film and more time to develop and grow.

At the 90 minute mark, I also realized that a few things that had not bothered me until that point started to wear me down. Christian Bale’s raspy Batman voice, Aaron Eckhart’s knight in shinning armor shtick, The Joker’s lip smacking. The excellent performances from the cast started to wear thin as the innovation they brought to their characters waded through an unnecessary story and the more I watched, the more annoyed I became. The downhill trot didn’t only affect my reaction to the actors but also to Nolan’s choices. The action sequences started to feel overly long and gimmicky and I started to drown in sensory overload, something that didn’t even happen with Speed Racer (our review). I felt tired and drained and when the credits started to roll, I had to force myself to get up. Nolan didn’t just wear me down; he tired me out and depressed me; I felt the weight of not having enjoyed this as much as everyone else seemed to.

I enjoyed watching the first part of The Dark Knight but by the time the encore started, I was ready to call it quits. Nolan’s film is far from bad but it does suffer from trying to cram too much into one picture. What the film does put on display is Nolan’s even further elevated flare for visuals and characterization. I look forward to seeing what he brings to the table in his next non-comic book film. I have a feeling we’re in for a great treat.




Kurt:

The Dark Knight just might put the nail in the coffin of Tim Burton’s German expressionism molded films as the chief cinematic image of Batman. And, boy, oh boy have we gone a long way from the neon-lit, side-kick heavy Schumacher entries (the latter of which is certainly bane of the fanboys existence, the mere mention is akin of bringing up Adolf Hitler in any kind of internet conversation). While Christopher Nolan’s first entry into the new millennium incarnation of everyone’s favourite vigilante (well outside the Charles Bronson fan-club), aimed to ground the comic sensibility in a veneer of ‘realism’ to mixed success, his follow up brings that style and tone a step in a more interesting direction. One that can only be described as Fincher-esque.

While New York Times critic Manohla Dargis pointed out similarities between the actions of the Joker and the Zodiac killer (a heady cocktail of media-induced celebrity and media-induced fear as portrayed in the best film of 2007), I think the look and feel of The Dark Knight can be viewed through the prism of David Fincher’s entire career and how that career has influenced American movies in general. Take the Jokers elaborate schemes, which aim at driving the anarchy and nihilism factor of Gotham City to the breaking point. Now look at John Doe in Seven. If there was a box with Rachel Dawes head in it, I would not be too surprised. It is rather ludicrous at times, particularly how he get gets along with his ‘co-workers,’ that the Joker’s schemes seem to run like clockwork. For a bit of a nutter, his schemes have a built in awareness of where people are going to be, even in something as random as a chase or even incarceration. As in Finchers most over the top film, The Game. And the ‘laugh while the world burns’ and prisoners dilemma type games theory writ large on an urban canvas comes across like a wet dream from the Tyler Durden’s imagination. The old Batman comic saw of ‘Freak like Me’ also echoes the relationship of Fight Club’s narrator and his inner anarchist. The ‘green happy face’ of Project Mayhem may just as well be a Joker calling card. And what the hey, the temporary ‘bat cave’ which ends up being a super-surveillance network might as well be a form of Panic Room as the city is on fire. In fact, a party guest asks at one point during the Jokers big entrance into the Gotham elite asks Bruce Wayne if he’s got a panic room handy. Maybe a stretch, maybe not. The make your own island in the sea of chaos before the winds blow you down sentiment belongs in the Fincher ouvre well enough.

The Dark Knight is playing right alongside another unusual comic book sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army. At one point Hellboy director Guillermo del Toro was going to direct Seven, but turned it down because in his own words, “it was a very cynical view of the world. I loved it, I wanted to see it, but I’m a romantic, fat bastard and I don’t subscribe to that view.” Well, some of the moral quandaries thrown at the Bat Man and the citizens of Gotham have no clean solution. In that post 9/11 sort of way, heroes may have to burn half the place down to stop the terrorists, compromise their own ideals and likely cause just as many ripple-effect problems as the problem they are trying to eliminate. This is the ugliness of The Dark Knight, which makes it oh-so-different than cotton candy like Ironman. This is not to say that Christopher Nolan is simply stealing or copying from David Fincher. But rather the nihilistic Nolan of Memento and The Prestige is out in full force in this one, where it was curiously muted under the ‘realism-laced’ reinvention of Batman Begins, here it is unfettered as Batman gliding over Gotham wings out but nevertheless still dominated by the vastness of the city below. Gotham is the crucible for a bombastic morality play going on for every single one of those necessary 152 minutes, and Batman is dwarfed by the inferno.

Now imagine a triple bill of No Country For Old Men, Zodiac and The Dark Knight. Who says going to the multiplex is a wasteland of sugary emptiness? These are fascinating motion pictures that all evaluate violence from the American psychic journey of competent go-getter to the worn out and broken sighs of the best intentions leading to greater failure. It makes me love American cinema like I love those 1970s ‘movie brat’ pictures from Friedkin, Scorsese and Coppola. Throw in Michael Haneke’s remake of Funny Games (either version) for the angry European reaction to all of this. And what interesting timing for the Funny Games US DVD to act as a primer for on-screen mayhem of The Dark Knight and what it means for families to bring their children to such casual and brutal murder. The Dawes/Dent dilemma as well as the two ferries in the narrows are pretty brutal stuff for little Johnny and Sally.

Further cinematic linkage would be Jack Nicholson in Rob Reiner’s A Few Good Men, snarling out the catchphrase, “You can’t handle the truth!” A previous ‘joker’ himself, Nicholson’s statement (along with the more expository explanation (“Son, we live in a world that has walls and those walls need to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and curse the Marines; you have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives and that my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use then as the backbone of a life trying to defend something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said “thank you,” and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest that you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to. “) is a thing that The Dark Knight chews on and chews on until its audience is sore from the punishment. I don’t think the film takes one side or another, its murky un-message is kinda the point. But it has no hesitation indicating that often enough the truth is better burned out of existence. We (the people) can’t handle it, it will confuse us and distract from a higher purpose. Of course, in a way, because we (the audience) have gods eye while watching this film, we get to know nonetheless. Is it more palatable to shout ‘you can’t handle it’ if you are in fact the keeper of the knowledge? There are a couple controversial executive decisions made in the film which should be fun to digest on further viewings.

Ditto on the similarities of Anton Chigurh’s coin tossing vs. Harvey ‘two-face’ Dent’s. While I think Anton’s is more of a demonstration to his victim and Anton is going to do what he feels like doing, justified by the coin or not, I actually think Dent’s insane ‘random-trumps-all’ tossing is scarier, and dovetails nicely in with The Jokers gamemanship. It is fair criticism that both Dent and Chigurh are pretty comic-book in their portrayal on screen while The Joker seems to transcend to fun comic-ness of Nicholson’s portrayal into something much darker, a bogey man for our times. One that only exists this perfectly in the white noise miasma of the media subconscious: the school shooters, falling World Trade Centers and Hurricane Katrinas. Oh they are real, but just not quite this ideal as the balls-to-the-wall spitting Ledger (who further adds some meta with his own celebrity suicide).

Oh, did I forget to actually review The Dark Knight? Well, that is because there are so many interesting ideas, and layers of Gothams players (much of the spectrum is represented here, a boon to the lengthy and deserved run time) that you forget that you are watching a comic book blockbuster. In that regard, Christopher Nolan fails somewhat with herky-jerky editing that often goes nowhere interesting, particularly any notion of fight choreography or clear geography. Not a big deal, I was too busy thinking to care if my eyes were distracted by the usual comic-book fireworks (although the bat-bike was pretty slick). Christian Bale remained about as serviceable as usual in the lead role that here, pleasantly, is one of many characters, rather than the focus. Nice to see Aaron Eckhart channel some of his smarm/charm back from his “In the Company of Men” days (I think it his hilarious that this lawyer is the ‘White Knight of Gotham’, did nobody watch Neil LaBute’s directorial debut?). And Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman are all great and get goodly amounts of screen time, which is nice to round out the picture, and give these fine players (well the latter three) something more to do than the first go around.

Pop The Dark Knight up in the company and class of Ang Lee’s Hulk. A thinking fellows comic book film. One that lives up to the “Dark” in its title and demonstrates with cynical glee that ugliness is a way of life and that a light at the end of the tunnel is unlikely; but that doesn’t mean we should stop groping for a solution. Yes, David Fincher has got to like this one.




Andrew:

“Some men just want to watch the world burn.” Mr. Caine speaks some of the truer and more poignant words reflecting exactly our world today. To destroy these men, the good guy might have to do some burning of his own. One of several layers of the sweet smelling blossom of an onion that is The Dark Knight.

To all those fans and critics out there awarding pictures such as Hellboy 2 with a prestigious five stars, what are you going to do now when you see how a superhero movie can really be made? – one with depth, drama, humor, action (and then some) and supreme acting? Are you going to give it five and a half out of five? Take notes; Christopher Nolan shows exactly what can be put into a film to make it truly worthy of your “perfect” scores.

Having thoroughly enjoyed The Dark Knight, I personally wouldn’t put it quite at the level of Oscar worthy. I can be convinced that Ledger should be nominated, but best picture? Let’s not jump the proverbial gun.

The funny thing is, I don’t really have any complaints* about The Dark Knight. There are no eye rolling moments, the sick humor is pinpoint precision, the drama is believable and engrossing, the directing style and cinematography is top-notch, the acting is of the highest caliber (even beyond Ledger’s magnetic performance), that crescendo-ing score is chair-arm gripping(!) and it certainly didn’t feel like 2 1/2 hours. Still, it just doesn’t hit that perfect note for me. I’m unable to put a finger on it exactly, but I think a huge part of it is the usual problem of high expectations. When I read review after review claiming it’s the best picture of the year (probably even by Academy standards) it’s difficult to keep expectations to a minimum; despite my general distaste of these types of summer blockbusters.

But if all superhero films follow in the footsteps of Mr. Nolan and The Dark Knight, I’ll be more inclined to visit more of them that are sure to come next summer.

* = actually, if you’re going to have William Fichtner in your movie, please have William Fichtner in your movie (same goes for Cillian Murphy)! Other small nit-picks to follow in an upcoming Cinecast I’m sure.




Dave:

The arrival of The Dark Knight to movie screens the world over brings to an end months of discussion, speculation, and high expectations. With Batman Begins in 2005, director Christopher Nolan breathed new life into a franchise most pundits had written off as dead, and in so doing set the bar high for all sequels that were sure to follow. So, naturally, when a follow-up film was first announced, the buzz started circulating within seconds. Through the entire process of bringing The Dark Knight to life, people sat up and took notice, and the finished product, whether a success or failure, was destined to be one people would talk about.

Then, this past January, all discussions were ratcheted up to an even higher gear. Heath Ledger, the fine young actor who Nolan had cast to play Batman’s arch-enemy, The Joker, in The Dark Knight, was found dead in his hotel room. He had completed principal photography for his part as the clown prince of mayhem, meaning The Dark Knight, along with all the natural hype, was now also to be known as the film carrying Heath Ledger’s final (complete) on-screen performance. Suddenly, an already high-profile film got much, much higher.

And now, finally, The Dark Knight is out there; the tickets are selling, and the critics are speaking. What are they saying? Well, quite a lot, actually. Some have appointed The Dark Knight as not only the best Superhero film ever made, but also a possible Academy nominee for Best Picture. As for Ledger, he’s already been tapped by many for this year’s Best Supporting Actor class, which would mark his second and, tragically, last chance to win an Academy Award.

Is The Dark Knight really that good? Yes…absolutely. Was Ledger really that good? Again, the answer is absolutely. Does Ledger deserve an Academy Award nomination? Certainly…and yet, I can’t shake this feeling that, were he still alive, Ledger’s incredible performance in this film would most likely have been overlooked once nominations were announced. Films slated to be blockbusters right out of the gate rarely receive Academy recognition beyond a technical level. There are exceptions, of course (a recent one being Johnny Depp’s nomination for Best Actor in the first Pirates of the Caribbean film), but such exceptions are few and far between.

And to overlook Ledger’s contributions to The Dark Knight, under any circumstances, would be a damn shame.

Heath Ledger has reinvented the role, indeed the entire character of The Joker. In past incantations, The Joker was exactly what you’d expect a guy with white make-up on his face to be: a clown (a dangerous clown, surely, but a clown nonetheless). In The Dark Knight, The Joker may be a prankster, be he is certainly no clown. A prodigy of chaos, this Joker is nonetheless three steps ahead of his adversaries at every turn. He knows what’s going to transpire before the police do, before the D.A. does, even before Batman himself does. He wreaks havoc, and believes in nothing but total anarchy, yet possesses the intelligence to calculate every progression from point A to point Z, usually quite flawlessly.

I know what you’re thinking; that the screenwriters had more to do with the above than Ledger. True to a point, but it would be a mistake to underestimate the late actor’s contribution to the part. What struck me about Ledger’s Joker was that, despite the built-in flamboyance of the character, his overall performance seemed…restrained. Now, I’m not suggesting for a moment that this Joker is anything but wildly insane, but when compared to what I expected from The Joker, from what I went in expecting from Ledger’s performance, I was genuinely surprised. Here was a character whose very nature had always demanded an over-the-top interpretation, yet Ledger not only shied away from such a performance; he made every other Joker (including Jack Nicholson’s in the first Batman film) seem pathetically circus-like by comparison. Whether addressing a gathering of mob bosses in a warehouse or socialites at Bruce Wayne’s luxury suite, Ledger’s Joker makes us smile as we squirm, laugh as we cringe. He is unhinged enough that we never know what to expect from him, yet never so much so that he is not in complete control at all times. The Dark Knight marks the first time that I was ever truly afraid of The Joker, and Heath Ledger must be given most of the credit for that.

Alas, it’s unavoidable that, should Ledger receive a nomination for his performance in The Dark Knight, there will be some who’ll call it a ‘mercy nomination’, that Ledger received such accolades simply because of his tragic death.

That would be an even greater shame. The Dark Knight is a tremendous film, and Heath Ledger is the glue that holds it all together.




Consensus:

Average score:

What did YOU think of The Dark Knight?



Watch the trailer:

Relevant Links:
IMDb profile
Official Site
Flixster Profile for The Dark Knight

138 comments

  1. We already talked about this movie. Lame

  2. Wow – especially at Kurt. Since you have Batman Begins listed as the film "that everyone loves that you don't" I am (happily) surprised you loved The Dark Knight. I was actually anticipating a semi-hate rant from you about how overrated it is, good to see I was wrong to do so.

    It's still to open here in the UK but I have my advanced screening ticket already booked for Wednesday (it doesn't open widely here until Friday). LITERALLY shaking with anticipation.

  3. @ "It’s unfair to lop Nolan’s achievement as simply a comic book movie."

    Marina, you're killing me.

  4. *** Light Spoiler ***

    *****

    Things I never thought I would see in a Batman franchise… the Joker's confrontation with Rachel and the utterly disturbing stories he tells (all making fun of origin stories by the way) about how he got his scars… truly horrific.

    That stands out as well as Batman pummelling the Joker in the interrogation room and the Joker goading him on "you have … nothing… that can hurt me." and you know he is right, and it is chilling, a person beyond all rules, the ultimate nihilist, and brute force does not intimidate. That to me is the fascinating part of this film, and Nolan for the most part played this out perfectly.

    My only problem I had with the Joker was that he never really wanted to kill Batman, and I think you need that edge to a villain.

  5. "the utterly disturbing stories he tells"

    Am I the only one who had the feeling watching the movie that the villains needed something bigger than a borderline TV-looking crime thriller to relish in? I think the film is quite good, but could have been brilliant if it had been R-Rated and less, shall we say, mondane.

  6. "To all those fans and critics out there awarding pictures such as Hellboy 2 with a prestigious five stars, what are you going to do now when you see how a superhero movie can really be made? – one with depth, drama, humor, action (and then some) and supreme acting? Are you going to give it five and a half out of five?"

    With a couple days after seeing Batman to reflect, Im not sure which of the two films I prefer. Whats funny is the kiddies want to see Batman, but its not a kids film at all. Hellboy 2 sort of is, but I bet the parents dont want to take the kid to see Satan be a hero.

    Regardless, Hellboy 2 is still a very different film, with different motives – one of which is humor which overall succeeds on its own terms at a much greater level. It's also somewhat of a fantasy film. So Andrew, you're being a bit of a jerk comparing it to Hellboy, which you guys all year have complained about comic book films having a specific formula and blah blah blah. Hellboy shatters the formula, you still complained with very little detail other than being bored. Come on, you can do better than that.

  7. Oh, and don't give the The Dark Knight too much credit for 'making fun of origin stories'. Credit goes to Alan Moore, whose interpretation of the Joker utters "If I am to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!"

  8. "if it had been R-Rated and less, shall we say, mondane."

    A dark Batman in film is fine, but if you get too dark and start throwing every motherfucker around and don't have any grunt or citizens talking ridiculous, the more ridiculous and less realistic Batman looks. I think with this one Nolan has more or less found the right balance, and even there its going to scare a lot of the kiddies who just wanted to have fun.

  9. "actually, if you’re going to have William Fichtner in your movie, please have William Fichtner in your movie (same goes for Cillian Murphy)! Other small nit-picks to follow in an upcoming Cinecast I’m sure."

    I don't know about Fichtner other than him maybe being a friend or wanting to make the only actual FACE in that opening scene be a good actor.

    Murphy is easily defensible, showing that he's still out there and working. Simple cameo, simple gasp. No problem.

  10. @ Henrik

    well its novel in film adpatations of comic book stories and that is good enough for me.

    and I think what will scare kids off this film is not so much the Joker but the unforgiving clip of the procedural drama, which also takes its cues from the Wire style of storytelling. The first time I saw the film I was entirely lost at how Christian Bale was able to get to the right spots at the right time, only on the second viewing did the barrage of information start to make sense. For a kid I would imagine it would be far worse.

  11. Kurt Halfyard

    @rot – "he Joker’s confrontation with Rachel and the utterly disturbing stories he tells (all making fun of origin stories by the way) about how he got his scars… truly horrific."

    Er. Haneke's Funny Games.

  12. I'd just have liked The Joker to be more sadistic… The best part was when his dogs was on Batman and he was beating him with metalbars. And in Star Wars they burned a face, why couldn't they show that here? I loved that .5-second clip of his face burning, and wanted more. I agree that Nolan has found A balance, but not the right one for me personally.

    I miss Tim Burtons expressive horror-romance opus, I think the villains begged for a bigger scenery. Mostly the Two-Face storyline.

  13. Kurt Halfyard

    @Goon – "Regardless, Hellboy 2 is still a very different film, with different motives – one of which is humor which overall succeeds on its own terms at a much greater level. It’s also somewhat of a fantasy film. So Andrew, you’re being a bit of a jerk comparing it to Hellboy"

    100% Agreement here. I loved Hellboy 2 and I loved Batman. And after many, many years, I actually feel refreshed to see Comic Book flicks hitting a second wind. I was worried after Ironman, and the fact that The Incredible Hulk even exists, but the last three Comic book films have made me a very satisfied film-goer.

  14. hmmm Michael Pitt as the Riddler…

  15. Kurt Halfyard

    I loved the Fichtner cameo. Perfect!

  16. Kurt Halfyard

    @Henrik – "I miss Tim Burtons expressive horror-romance opus"

    Last week, I'd be 100% with you on this, but I loved the direction that TDK went with the film, it found a nice balance between the 'comic-book' the 'realistic aesthetic' and the themes of Batman mythology, all played against the modern (post 911) angst of a large American city. The balancing act here is as impressive as anything else. The Joker is a scarier dude precisely because he is less a comic book villain and more simply an unpredictable madman.

    To go back to the wire, the Joker is the flip-side of OMAR.

  17. "but the last three Comic book films have made me a very satisfied film-goer."

    I fear that you're including Hancock, which is as poor a film as I can think of in just about every category save Will Smith. That includes Bateman, who I usually love.

  18. "The Joker is a scarier dude precisely because he is less a comic book villain and more simply an unpredictable madman."

    Maybe if you read some of the comics you'd realize that there is hardly a difference at all. Definitely in the books that are consistently named as inspirations for the film, Long Halloween, The Man Who Laughs, The Killing Joke, the characters are pretty exact to what they are in the film.

    I liked the terrorism angle as well. But not as much as I would have liked some extreme hard lighting, shadows moving about, The Joker having more of a Black and White tone to him etc. I really think they could have made some iconic images with both Joker and Two-Face, but went for a more streamlined, solid, consistent approach. I liked it alot, but found myself wishing for alittle more ambition in the style, since there was ambition in the content (because of the perception of the subject matter – that is to say, for a summer PG-13 movie, the writing and acting as well was restrained and didn't sell out every 2 seconds for all the kids). I found the cinematography and mise-en-scene dull in this film, and there was alot of potential. Guess, as much as some people would like to think so and try and convince you otherwise, you can't have it all.

  19. I think the absence of Liam Neeson and Katie Holmes also added to the quality of this sequel. Kept the good stuff and built upon it.

  20. On The Wire, I just read an interview with Alan Moore where he says it's possibly the best TV show ever made. Kind of made me interested to check it out, even though what I've seen of it has been horrible.

  21. I can agree with you on that Henrik… I was getting frustrated in parts in how scenes were lighted, how great moments were obscured. a little more contrast to the images would have helped a lot.

  22. Kurt Halfyard

    The beauty of the HBO 'formula' is that the shows often start with the hoariest of cliche elements or concepts and then gradually pull back to reveal a richness that belies the initial episodes. The Wire requires at least half a dozen episodes to begin to gel (from the viewers point of view) in any sort of way. After that it just gets richer as the seasons go along. The beauty of it is the eco-system of Baltimore is revealed by the accumulation of detail and perspective.

    I certainly would not disagree with Moore on this one.

  23. Kurt Halfyard

    Can't top the absurd moment with The Joker and the hospital bridge-walkway. Pretty iconic, and in broad daylight no less.

    I do see where you guys are coming from on the cinematography though. The Prestige did the visual elements better than Batman. It wasn't a MAJOR complaint for me though, as I was already kind of used to the 'real/workman-like' look after the first one.

    I certainly agree that they looked long and hard at Batman Begins and tried to improve on every weakness they could find the first time around. And were pretty damn successful at this, all things considered.

  24. The moment was great, but the imagery was lacklustre at best.

  25. Loved HellBoy 2 , Liked Dark knight. The biggest reason being I lost myself in Hellboy, I didn't find myself as engrossed in Dark Knight.

    I know Marina and I talked about this but did anyone else notice the brutual editing in the film when Bruce and Alfred where down in the garage talking? Brutal

    Ledger was great though. First Batman Villian I would be really scared off.

  26. "…after many, many years, I actually feel refreshed to see Comic Book flicks hitting a second wind."

    I don't want comic book movies to get a second wind. For the first time I understand how you feel Kurt, when you're always saying that you don't want these great directors (Del Toro, Nolan, Raimi) to continue with these projects. Their original stuff (Pan's, Memento, Prestige, etc) is so much better.

    And for all the small flaws TDK has, it's way better than Hellboy II because it gives us something to chew on other than visual flair. It takes cool characters and keeps them cool. It doesn't resort to lame humor or armies of CGI characters for a closing sequence. Despite the horrible acting, I like the ferry-boat sequence in TDK. Very "Saw"-like and it was a much better climax than just having Batman fight 5000 robots or another super-villain. It had meaning. Makes a HUGE difference.

  27. "did anyone else notice the brutual editing in the film when Bruce and Alfred where down in the garage talking? Brutal"

    Yes Gamble and I mentioned that either in this thread or another. There were a lot of bad edits… another one that makes no sense, the batpod shoots a dumpster in front of it (one would think to clear the way) instead it falls over in what would be the path the batpod is going through… luckily by the miracles of editing we do not see any obstacle as the batpod continues on its way. Nolan needs to get rid of that editor.

  28. Kurt Halfyard

    All that being said about second winds, I do not want these directors to continue with the franchises. Now that it seems that they all peak at the second entry (Spiderman 2, X-Men 2, Hellboy 2, Batman Begins 2) I'd love to see these directors move on.

    it was mentioned before however that del Toro and Nolan manage to squeeze original movies in between the franchise entries, and that is all and good, but the franchise entries take so much time to complete with their ginormous budgets.

    Nice to see that Raimi's Drag me to Hell is moving along, I certainly wouldn't mind seeing something similar in tone to A Simple Plan from him some time soon as well…

  29. Kurt Halfyard

    @ Andrew – "I like the ferry-boat sequence in TDK"

    For fans of these types of 'games' I have 2 suggestions:

    1) Read William Poundstone's "The Prisoner's Dilemma" (http://www.amazon.com/Prisoners-Dilemma-William-P… )

    <img src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/71YG0NNPCML._SS500_.gif&quot; alt="" />

    2) Go rent "El Metodo" (http://www.amazon.com/Method-El-Metodo-Carmelo-G%… ) – And not just because my 'review quote' is on the DVD, Palm pictures never even sent me a copy, but because the movie is really, really good at getting at the ugliness of human competition around Prisoner's Dilemma type problems…

    <img src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51HHhiZhqXL._SS500_.jpg&quot; alt="" />

  30. I thought the games and the choice scene (there was one in Batman Forever as well) was reminiscent of the campy roots of Batman. I appreciated it very much. I definitely didn't notice any horrible acting. I think they did it a disservice by having the people on the boats reacting though, they didn't take it far enough. It can't just be a "accept-the-terms-and-act" situation, because in that case, it seems unrealistic that nobody acts, and simple-minded folks have complained about it, they can't really thinka about it for themselves it seems. They should at least have had the point of view represented, that The Joker isn't trustworthy and anybody willing to become a mass murderer because he told you something is an idiot. I'm not one for considering the idiots in your creative process, but if you're going to make a childrens movie, you should expect a certain lack of creative thought, and try and expand their thought-process.

    Now, if only there could be scenes of Bruce Wayne actually being a genius (although I guess in this version he's not, it's actually Lucius Fox who's the brains and Wayne is just the brawn), that would be good. There was something of an investigation but it was all done by a computerscreen.

  31. I would love a genuine puzzle story if they do go the Riddler route for part 3. Could have a good friction between a pairing of the chaos of the Joker with the calculation of the Riddler.

    When the Joker returns should they stay true to Ledgers or go in some new direction? I think Ledger was limited in just how crazy he could make the Joker, a different actor could broaden the scope, make a more screaming psychopath than Ledgers subdued one.

  32. Why don't we await any sort of announcement that there is going to be a Batman 3…

  33. Kurt Halfyard

    Something about Nolan being under contract for 3 of 'em. Although I only heard that recently, and generally don't follow this behind-the-scenes stuff for these blockbusters…

  34. Bale, Oldman, and Caine are all contractually obligated to do a third as well.

  35. swarez

    Just saw it last night. Loved it. Loved it as much as I hated Hellboy 2.

    I noticed how Gotham was much less stylized than in Begins, was basically just Chicago now instead of the multi cultural madness that it was in the first film. And I really liked how it was more grounded as well without resorting to some camera angle masturbation that is so common with these films. A great crime caper with a superhero thrown in the mix. But because the film was so grounded in reality there were a few things that felt out of place, like the cellphone thing in the end, a bit too convenient and looked very confusing on screen.

    It was also great that Batman didn't reveal himself to anyone, unlike every other Batman film before it.

    Did anyone notice the other two former superheroes in the film who were directly influenced by Batman? The Mayor was played by Nestor Carbonell who was Bat Manuel in the Tick TV series and Michael Jai White, the crime boss Gambol, was Spawn back in the day.

  36. Funny I didn't recognize Michael Jai White, that's pretty cool he is getting some higher profile work and not languishing in the DTV ghetto (See also: Eric Roberts).

    I'm quite looking forward to MJW's BLACK DYNAMITE re-creation of an blaxploitation flick a la "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid"

  37. If we are going to acknowledge nods in the film, let me say I enjoyed the one to Kubrick's The Killing… a film I happened to watch for the first time a couple days before. The joker's mask is a replica of the one Johnny uses in his robbery.

  38. And I really liked how it was more grounded as well without resorting to some camera angle masturbation that is so common with these films.

    Yeah, like how Batman wears makeup over his eyes so he can look scarier under the mask. And then the one time his penthouse is attacked by the Joker he goes into his Batcave and rather then rush out to save the woman of his dreams that the entire movie's premise is based on, he puts on his mascara first!!!

    Real people will totally make sure their makeup is properly on before putting on their cape and cowl and rushing out to fight crime. Totally. That's why I love this Batman franchise too, it's that grounded reality permeating everything in it.

    Ooooh, or how every bullet shatters in exactly the same way so you can reconstruct a bullet like a puzzle and magically find a finger print, or that The Joker would know you could do that and plan an entire sequence utterly depandant on the magical puzzle bullet machine.

    It is all so really real I can barely stand it.

  39. I agree with you Matt, but I definitely thought Dark Knight was more comfortable and accomplished in its universe, than Batman Begins ever was.

    I mean if were talking reality, I don't really think what happens to Harvey Dent would cause the result we see in the film, you know? I think with this, unlike Batman Begins, it's a moot point wether or not it's realistic, it succesfully works within itself.

  40. Kurt Halfyard

    Well, like most movies, if you are so inclined, you can nit-pick the details till the cows come home, and with its 152 minute run time and elaborate anarchy schemes, there are gajillions of details to laser-focus on.

    But that the film works in the broad sense. Gets the synapses and the adrenaline firing (sometimes simultaneously) makes a number of the idiotic plot-detail minutiae forgivable.

  41. swarez

    Oh that stupid bullet thing. That was too silly, it would be perfect in an episode of SCI though. But Matt if you are going to nitpick over black mascara then the whole movie would be just ludicrous. Men dressed as a bat, a criminal made up as a clown, cellphone sonar, bat bike, shooting glass doors in a crowded mall without hitting anyone. Or even falling from a skyscraper, landing on a car and walk away fine, talking about relationships. Bah Humbug. If that's your thought going in then skip seeing it all together.

  42. But that the film works in the broad sense.

    Except that it doesn't. There are major editing gaffs in almost every scene, and the plot holes you could drive semi-trucks through that the story is utterly dependent on to move forward resulting in an inconsistent narrative structure. It is clearly a poorly constructed movie, yet it is getting a massive pass by critics, fanboys and audiences by dismissing errors and inconsistencies as "minutiae". Which is bullshit.

    But to be fair I totally back you on I ♥ Huckabees. ;)

  43. But Matt if you are going to nitpick over black mascara then the whole movie would be just ludicrous.

    Oh the mascara is a nitpick, primarily because people are claiming the film is grounded in reality when it so clearly isn't. It's an utterly superfluous hyperbole for dramatic effect by the fevered masses. So if you are going to claim it, I'm sure as hell going to call you on it. Especially because I'm right. :)

  44. That was too silly, it would be perfect in an episode of SCI though.

    So wait, is The Dark Knight like The Wire or CSI, because you guys keep changing your comparisons on me? :D

  45. Matt, I'm with you. These movies are fun and everything, but I feel like they are being superficially elevated simply because of their supposed realistic, serious tone. It's still a superhero movie. There's a guy in a bat suit. Neither this nor Begins did a very good job of showing us why this character, someone who lives in the same kind of world we normal people live in, would decide to dress up in a bat-suit.

    The way Dark Knight dealt with the Joker, on the other hand, was right on – it did make sense. He's totally insane, and by leaving his past a mystery, and through Ledger's performance, which is really as awesome as everyone says it is, the Joker character works.

    But then we have TwoFace. Dent's character development was great, but then when it's time for him to turn into a villain, he becomes a cartoon, but a harsh, realistic one. Is it realistic that someone could lose one side of their face entirely and just go out and walk around not in debilitating agony, and not getting crazy infections that would just kill you within days?

    This movie was fun and there's some great performances in it, but it sets up a certain type of universe with certain types of rules and just ignores them when it needs to. That cell phone thing was ridiculously stupid.

    Oh, and it could have been edited down by a lot, just parts taken out here and there that didn't help move the story at all. The Hong Kong thing was totally unnecessary. When they went to people voting on the boats it really slowed things down.

    And Row Three writers, you appear ignorant when you repeatedly refer to superhero movies as comic book movies. There's a difference.

  46. Oh, how did Batman's weakness become dogs?

  47. Also, am I the only one who didn't really care about Batman in this? He was just kind of there, only as a way to tie together the way more interesting Dent and Joker.

  48. ok so finally some divergence, I was thinking Dark Knight was going to be the first group hug on this site.

    so Stump, Gamble are you on record as saying Dark Knight is a bad film?

  49. No, I didn't think it was bad. My biggest criticism is that a lot should have been trimmed. And not really caring about Batman is a little bit of a problem.

    But Ledger is amazing, and Eckhart is good and Dent's story is good. It felt like the movie was naturally focusing on Dent's story, but because it's a Batman movie they had to throw all that Batman stuff in there to give people what they want.

    The score is great. The problem of there being a man in a bat-suit is more to do with the first movie, so I'll ignore that in evaluating this one.

    It's a decent movie, but not great by any means. I'd have given it 3/5. I liked Marina's review. The others are a little far-fetched. People are getting caught up in buzz on this one.

  50. Kurt, I'm not trying to pick on you, but I can't get my head around this sentence:

    "A thinking fellows comic book film, that lives up to the “Dark” in its title, demonstrates with cynical glee that ugliness is a way of life, there isn’t likely is not any light at the end of the tunnel, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to find it to the point of exhaustion."

  51. Kurt Halfyard

    @ Stump: "And Row Three writers, you appear ignorant when you repeatedly refer to superhero movies as comic book movies. There’s a difference."

    Yea, we've never been able to come up with a good and consistent nomenclature, and everyone seems to have their own definitions of such thing. It does cause confusion.

  52. Kurt Halfyard

    @ Stump – wow, that sentence is crazy. (I suck at proofreading my own 'copy')….off to fix this…Done:

    "Pop The Dark Knight up in the company and class of Ang Lee’s Hulk. A thinking fellows comic book film. One that lives up to the “Dark” in its title and demonstrates with cynical glee that ugliness is a way of life and that a light at the end of the tunnel is unlikely; but that doesn’t mean we should stop groping for a solution. Yes, David Fincher has got to like this one."

  53. "And not really caring about Batman is a little bit of a problem."

    Well, Christian Bale is exposed when put up against Aaron Eckhart, Heath Ledger and Gary Oldman.

    I agree that the Dent storyline is the interesting one, and it's too bad that they had to have Batman jump on a plane from a rooftop in Hong Kong, but that's the nature of blockbusters. The fact that the Dent storyline is as interesting as it is, is what I would compliment the film for. I guess this is one case where I will give the film the benefit of the doubt and say that it is good for what it is, and trust that the filmmakers are aware of it themselves.

  54. Yea, we’ve never been able to come up with a good and consistent nomenclature, and everyone seems to have their own definitions of such thing. It does cause confusion.

    I certainly don't think Row Three is the only place with this problem. The definitions seems to change repeatedly, often times so the user can push forth their own bias. If only we had a hero that would save us from ourselves.

    so Stump, Gamble are you on record as saying Dark Knight is a bad film?

    Technically I think it is. The action sequences are a mess, the editing is pitiful and the general plot is riddled with holes. But the acting is great, the score is great and the film still finds a way to work even with its many flaws due in large part to solid pacing for most of the film. It's a flawed film but I still enjoyed it. I'll probably give it a 7/10, though even that seems a little high.

  55. Kurt Halfyard

    "Great films are rarely perfect films" – Paulene Kael

    As 'super-hero' films goes. The Dark Knight is a great film.

  56. @Henrick, Batman's weakness in the movie isn't just Bale. He is really stiff and uninteresting as an actor in this, but it's also in the way the story is written. All the interesting character development is given to other characters. Batman is just there to fight bad guys and jump off buildings.

  57. Kurt, that quote doesn't do much to defend Dark Knight as a great film. Again, there's so much hype around this movie right now. I'd wait a month or two, or a year or two, before saying this is great, or even the best, as Jonathan claims.

  58. “Great films are rarely perfect films” – Paulene Kael

    First of all I think her name is Pauline. My name is Henrik btw.

    Second of all, the quote seems to suggest that not only do a perfect film exist, but perfect FILMS exist. Ridiculous.

  59. Care to quote Mrs. Kael on the Auteur Theory you hold dear Kurt?

  60. Kurt Halfyard

    Heh. Touche.

  61. What's Kael's auteur theory? Do you guys consider Nolan an auteur? I don't.

  62. Kurt Halfyard

    Stump – Pauline Kael famously didn't buy the "Auteur" theory (meaning the director has the chief creative role in movie-making – conversely, the 'producer' has the auteur role in TV series) put forth by the French and brought to America by Andrew Sarris (usually using Orson Welles a the template).

    (http://tasutpen.net/kael63.mp3)

    Nolan is definitely building a career on films that analyze violence through the prism of past-guilt.

  63. Nolan is more distinguishable in his writing than his directing. I see nothing in his direction.

    This is backed up by Gary Oldman, saying in an interview that Nolan doesn't really like working, and makes it a priority to get home to his kids every day. Not exactly the attitude of somebody who is emotionally invested in his art.

    http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/article/gary_oldman_

  64. Kael also hated violence in film and wasn't a big fan of fantasy films either. Lucas named General Kael after her in Willow because she was a very vocal critic of his.

    While I admire Kurt's panache at using her as a quote to defend TDK, I think it's safe to say she probably wouldn't have been a fan though her review would have been wildly entertaining.

  65. Kurt Halfyard

    @Henrik – Meaning that one ceases to be an artist when they give a shit about their kids?

    /whatever.

  66. Kurt Halfyard

    @ Matt – agreed on that.

  67. When you prioritize your art below personal relationships, I think you sacrifice your integrity.

  68. When you prioritize your art below personal relationships, I think you sacrifice your integrity.

    *rimshot*

  69. Kurt Halfyard

    And when you cast off your personal relationships for artistic obsession you are less of a person.

    We are social animals.

    Get back to me when you are a parent.

  70. "And when you cast off your personal relationships for artistic obsession you are less of a person."

    I would not disagree. But since I don't have to deal with Christopher Nolan as a person, but as an artist, I would prefer him to be less of a person, and more of an artist.

    "Get back to me when you are a parent."

    Don't embarass yourself. Parents don't reach a higher level on consciousness.

  71. Kurt Halfyard

    @Henrik. I see your point on wanting more artist and less person, but they probably dove tail at some point, so don't let your casual selfishness squeeze the short-term at the threat of the long term. Or maybe I'm being too critical of your desires…

    I'm not calling it a higher level of consciousness.

    It's called perspective.

    Get Some.

  72. I don't judge people, I judge artists. I don't Christopher Nolan is an idiot for loving his kids, but since I think his direction is pretty dull and unambitious, I would attribute it to his level of commitment, which apparently has been confirmed as not being 100%. Makes sense to me.

  73. Kurt Halfyard

    Dull and unambitious in The Dark Knight or in general?

    I thought Memento and The Prestige were pretty solid in the 'direction' department. And Nolan and his Brother seem to know their way around writing a good screenplay too.

    On the 'commitment not being 100%' – A question for you. What about all those artists that have major league drug and/or alcohol problems. Does this not reduce their commitment to their art? (not that I'm comparing having children to nursing a substance abuse problem)….

  74. The Dark Knight in particular. I haven't seen any other of his films in so long… Memento was pretty good with the Black/White interludes, but didn't stand out to me much. I agree that their screenplays are quite ingenious and very good, for the most part.

    "What about all those artists that have major league drug and/or alcohol problems. Does this not reduce their commitment to their art?"

    I suppose it might. Then again it might not. If I see a film and felt it was unambitious, and found out that the director had to be home at 5pm every day to drink 8 bottles of whisky, I would say it reduced his commitment to the film.

  75. Kurt Halfyard

    But drinking 8 bottles of whisky on Set is OK? That's the great thing about substance addiction, you can bring it to the workplace. Kids, not so much.

    ;)

  76. If only someone told that to Will Smith.

  77. "But drinking 8 bottles of whisky on Set is OK?"

    Definitely. It's fine if you bring your kids as well. I don't have a problem with people drinking or doing drugs, anymore that I have a problem with people having kids. If it interferes with their work it's a shame for me because I have had to sit through it.

  78. I mean if it was revealed that Stanley Kubrick was on cocaine when he did A Clockwork Orange, that doesn't change my opinion on it. It's ambitious, groundbreaking filmmaking, and I would find it hard to believe that Kubrick wasn't dedicated to making the film everything he wanted it to be.

  79. Henrik, you do realize Stanley Kubrick had children right?

  80. I had no idea.

  81. There is the traditional rhetoric which was all the rage in the 20th century that supposed that artists must be married to their art, all about deifying the artist the way religion deified saints. artist bio-pics tends to stick to the old cliche because it makes for good though often wrought drama.

    I get what you are saying Henrik, its just I think it is a lie we tell ourselves to either deify the artists (perhaps as part of the aesthetic experience) or to give us some state of purity to aspire to as potential artists. Its a rhetorical idea that has utility but which you take far too seriously.

    I think we all need to prioritize to leave space to indulge in aesthetics, appreciating and creating, and someone who identifies as an artist does need to make that space to co-exist… but you need to co-exist… see Huysmans' Against Nature for a great moral tale about someone who tries to confine himself from the world and live purely in aesthetic indulgence, creating out of his house a deluge of artificial creations to stimulate his five senses, to live the dream completely… and in the end it exhausts him into a shell of a person numbed by his lack of moderation.

    An artist must straddle the glorious and the mundane, and live not just theorize.

  82. Peckinpah drank a bit and then some.

  83. Somehow me saying that prioritizing your children above your art turned into me saying that artists should be secluded from the world and only theorize?

    Artists feed off of the world. A true artist exposes everything he sees, at the expense of personal relationships if necessary.

  84. disposing of personal relationships = seclusion… maybe not in the literal sense but emotionally just the same.

    what can an artist tell me about love if he/she has never been in love? the important things are not necessarily things you can observe but things you embody through experience. To return this back to the Dark Knight, what I appreciate from the Nolan take is that it puts the notions of what it is to be a hero, to be just, to be good into a very real moral conundrum, and doesn't just rely on self-serving platitudes (secondhand observations borrowed from popular cliches) but gives Batman/Harvey Dent hard life lessons on what they aspire towards. The question of justice is no longer in the abstract it is about if there are two bombs in the city who do you save, if you can kill someone to save yourself would you do it. It deals in embedded moral questions, and an artist needs to be embedded too… its not right to deny being a parent or a husband out of some need to have perspective, to be properly selfish.

    time and again Henrik you come back to the safe confines of dogma, living by some idea… an artist should live in the world, the world of relationships, the world of messy emotions and mundane demands, and persevere and make something out of it. leave dogmas for the people who believe in invisible creatures in the sky.

  85. "an artist should live in the world, the world of relationships, the world of messy emotions and mundane demands, and persevere and make something out of it."

    And he should then expose his experiences on screen. No matter who it might hurt, even his own family. Honesty is the chief characteristic of the artist, and like George Carlin said, if you're going to tell somebody the truth, you better make them laugh otherwise they'll kill you. Well, some people don't find life as amusing as George Carlin.

  86. Carlin, another mutual friend.

    yeah honesty is important, but it shouldn't be so important that it supersedes your need to live a certain life that nurtures your very ability to be honest, to have that luxury. Its basic self-preservation… you want to be a star that implodes into a black hole just to be the brightest for that split second, when a smart way to approach 'honesty' is to cultivate a self-sustaining existence that affords you the luxury of contemplating what it means in your life, to not be overwhelmed by anxiety, poor health, neurosis, like poor Nietzsche, but rather to have all of those concerns met without sacrificing your ability to engage with the transcendental in life. It is a delicate balance, its not easy, but neither should it be.

    honesty is living in step with your instinct, de-cluttering all of the nonsense that people assume to be of great universal importance, de-cluttering the empty desires and ambitions of empty people, and meeting your base needs to have the time and opportunity to hear your inner 'truth' or whatever you want to call it. I agree an art connoisseur or an artist needs to prioritize, keeping the family life in check so that it does not swallow whole the contemplative life. It can be done I think, and I would think it would be from rotten foundations that you would have a situation like you mention Henrik where you have to choose between family or art… like you are living two separate lives. Ideally you should be making it possible from the beginning that the two can co-exist, that you can reconcile any problems that may arise.

  87. its like trying to be cool as opposed to being cool. Honesty comes of a way of being, it is nowhere present in the pursuit of it (except on a meta-level). Being a parent, being a citizen, being a person in an elevator, this is the source of honesty, and the artist is like that 1% processing, having come to understand oneself for a long enough time that you hear only your voice from the multitude telling you what is of value, so you may pluck it from the air.

  88. The life you are describing is probably very nice, very rewarding and very pleasant. But it's not very interesting to balance your way through life, constantly trying to judge what you should and should not do based on other peoples emotions. I see no problem with anxiety, poor health and neurosis. There are too many healthy liars in the world. Chameleons, able to exist in the world without having problems with it, able to conform without seeing the hazards.

    I would contend that there is not a choice to be made. An artist is an artist, wether he wants to be or not. If a family situation somehow gets tagged on, it can never take over the need to create or the need to exorcise your demons. And to truly exorcise anything, you have to confront it with the utmost honesty and the grandest lack of concern with your own existence, or the existence of anybody else.

    You seem very concerned with the preservation of life, at the expense of doing anything that may in fact, give that life any substantial value. Existence is not enough, in fact, people who think so (mainly due to a concernable lack of thinking) is probably what will kill us off in the end.

  89. imagine a script working from the premise that it is to capture some truth in contrast with one that engages in a dialogue with some unspecified yet impressionable occurrence that the writer feels to be of some importance without knowing why. The truth is not an ingredient, its a characteristic of the whole when the whole is working indifferent to ideas of 'truth'.

  90. you want to be born of an idea, its unfortunate you cannot shuffle off your biological disposition and exist only as thought.

    you think that gives life value, what life? life without life? life without blood circulating, lungs breathing oxygen, neurons firing? there is a bit of a flaw in your reasoning beyond the need of self-preservation. Your romantic ideas forget the significance of gravity, but walk over the cliff all the same. let me know how much value your life is then.

    preserve life first, fulfill base needs, indulge in transcendental experiences, die old and gray and fulfilled.

  91. Truth and honesty are not objectives, they are prerequisites for making anything that is worthwhile.

  92. and let me just say Henrik, to return this to the Dark Knight:

    you complete me.

  93. Maybe I'm spoiled, but I think that a person in my position is wasting their time concerning themselves with selfpreservation. There is enough preservation going on as it is, it's time for some fucking growth.

  94. "you complete me."

    That's what I do. Aren't you married though? Seems to me you've compromised for the sake of convenience if you need me to be complete.

    Let me wrap up by saying this: I could not begin to imagine how endless poorer my life would have been, had Mozart concerned himself with career and family and living a comfortable existence instead of writing music. If Ingmar Bergman had been concerned with being a good husbond and father. If Nietzsche had spent his time worrying about his coughing. I don't give a shit about preserving life, life for its own sake has no value. If shortened lifespans is the consequence of growth and insight, then I'll accept the tradeoff.

  95. Mozart was married and had 6 children. As was Bergman who had 9 children. Nietzsche also proposed to a few different women, all who rejected him. Probably because he was a bit of a prick.

    I do find it interesting that all three you cite as influences also had serious mental issues.

    BTW Henrik, Nietzsche didn't contract pneumonia until after he had already has his breakdown, suffered a stroke, and was incapacitated. And it wasn't what killed him.

  96. I'm not saying they were not married. Mental issues? Cite sources please.

    When I said worrying about his cough, I was in no way referring to anything in particular, rather using a cough as a way to represent illness.

  97. Both Bergman and Nietzsche had well publicized mental breakdowns. I believe Bergman's occurred after he was caught evading taxes (seems this artist really liked money).

    Nietzche had his before he suffered his first stroke and is often linked to him possibly having syphilis.

    Mozart suffered from depression and was probably bi-polar.

  98. I guess when I say cite sources, you don't understand what I mean. Suffering from depression you say? If you mean it's the clinical condition, I'd like proof.

    Bergman had a fragile body, and spent many weeks in hospitals. I don't believe anybody would argue that he was sane though. As for him liking money, not really the case… As soon as his financial situation became bigger than pocket cash he let other people take care of everything. A mix of bad decisions by his lawyer and poor judgement on the behalf of the swedish legal system led to his arrest, which later turned out to be completely unnecessary.

    Either way, none of it matters, nor does it discredit my position. I just got annoyed with you jumping in with your usual stirring.

  99. You guys should stop arguing about this thing about dedication or whatever it is – I'm sure it varies from artist to artist. Back to TDK/Nolan discussion. Aside from Nolan wanting to spend time with his family, cite specific examples from within his films to support your argument either for or against Nolan as a film auteur.

  100. I would say there's a David Mamet-esque fascination with cons and magic tricks that runs through his work.

  101. @ “you complete me.”

    Like I've said before: Rot is Luther to Henrik's John Calvin. I, of course, am Michael Cervatas.

    Kurt's the Pope.

  102. I guess when I say cite sources, you don’t understand what I mean. Suffering from depression you say? If you mean it’s the clinical condition, I’d like proof.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16247856

    Study on the myriad of psychological disorders Mozart suffered from.

    Nice to see you put the burden of proof on others to refute your ridiculous and false claims. It's truly charming.

  103. I claimed nothing. You were the one jumping claiming that they had serious mental issues.

  104. They did Henrik. No amount of your squawking will change that fact.

  105. Right… Even if you were right (it seems to me obvious that even the link you provide is unclear at best, which makes sense, since it's based on letters), it would not change my mind. If madness is the price of growth and insight, I will accept the tradeoff.

    You should read Laterna Magica Matt. Or watch this: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0469772/ . See for yourself if the man is mental.

  106. @Rusty: I'm the Pope?

    Does that mean I'm the inflexible boorish establishment around here? Or does that mean I'm adored by millions?

    Either way, I hope my picture is also ripped up by Sinead O'Connor some day.

    ;)

  107. Kurt…

    uh, I don't know how to answer that without going into a long history lesson on the protestant reformation. The short answer is I guess a little bit of both.

    If it makes you feel better Martin Luther was almost certaintly more boorish and dogmatic than the Pope.

  108. Well Luther was a fundamentalist, going back to the scriptures as being the ultimate authority, and not the institution of the church, which the catholics believe.

    I think Kurt is the pope in that he has trouble expressing his true opinion, due to a (self-imposed?) feeling of responsibility for society, and a need for people to get along.

    I don't care much for your choice of analogy Rusty.

  109. do you people know each other?

  110. "people are claiming the film is grounded in reality when it so clearly isn’t."

    do you understand what the phrase "grounded in reality" means, sir? obviously not. i doesn't mean it has to COMPLETELY adhere to the rules of the real world.

  111. I think Kurt is the pope in that he has trouble expressing his true opinion, due to a (self-imposed?) feeling of responsibility for society, and a need for people to get along.

    I think Henrik is dead on with this assessment.

  112. Kurt Halfyard

    @Murph: "do you people know each other?"

    Only thru the internets. Although Rot is local to me, and Gamble is local to Andrew.

    Otherwise, all the bonding and love is carried out via electrons.

    @Gamble: Can't we all just get along? How Canadian of me…And yea, it is my 'true' opinion, whatever that means.

  113. I don't really get this criticism of Kurt, what responsibility for society does he impose? If anything he is too radical, too against the grain, that he ends up relishing in things for their novelty that have no goodly reason to be enjoyed.

    Kurt is a closet Scientologist. :)

  114. I call dibs on Antichrist.

  115. Criticism? I never intended it as such. Like I said before, not everybody finds life as amusing as George Carlin.

  116. I'm pretty sure Kurt is a Fascist.

    He is a parent after all. :D

  117. If I get right down to it, I like a little fascism in three things: Cuisine (the cook usually knows best), Festival Programming, and Parenting.

    "Hey, this dictatorship thing ain't so bad…as long as I'm the dictor…"

  118. actually somewhat related to the thread:

    I saw the Gotham Knight animated thingamajigger tonight. It was alarmingly mediocre leaning towards bad. If you like choppy anime with sub par voice acting and little to no story, this one is for you.

    I mean, it sometimes looks pretty cool. The best thing I can say about it is that it's different. However its just plain not very interesting, and any originality points it wins are easily lost vs actual entertainment value, story, character, pretty much anything else you can measure. I don't even recommend it for a rental, you'd be better off saving your money for any Bruce Timm 90s series box set.

  119. Gotham Knight, while not particularly deep or nuanced, simply popped on the big screen. It was Stylized and Gorgeous.

  120. Sky Captain is a pretty good lookin' movie. Sometimes it just ain't enough.

  121. Kurt Halfyard

    So, anyone make it out to The Dark Knight a second time? As nothing interesting is coming out this weekend (Zero interest in X-Files2), unless some of the smaller releases like Encounters at the End of the World, Boy A, American Teen or The Wackness make it out to the 'Burbs, I'll be taking in a second helping of TDK in IMAX.

  122. I think I may actually see it a third time, this time on IMAX.

    You should check out Encounters, Kurt, entertaining film and an introduction to the Herzog-embedded approach to documentaries.

  123. Kurt Halfyard

    I need something to cleanse the palette after BORN INTO BROTHELS, a solid and warm documentary which is soiled by the filmmaker injecting herself(-righteously) into the 'narrative' and taking away from her more interesting story and subjects.

  124. yes but every film would be enhanced by a little injection of Herzog editorializing.

  125. Born into brothels isn't very good. I don't understand why it would be held in high regard as far as documentaries go, I found it quite boring and reaching. And yeah, the bitch who made it was annoying and self-righteous.

  126. Kurt Halfyard

    I never found it boring when going thru the Red-Light district of Calcutta or when focusing on the children. I wish there was more of that. Much of those parts reminded me of City of God, but more grounded. I liked that part.

    The filmmaker-injects-herself and takes over the documentary-narrative…yea, I didn't care for that either.

  127. So for the past few days at Letterboxd, there has been a discussion going on under a long and negative review of “The Dark Knight” by a user named Ryan. Currently at 165 comments, this could be the longest string of comments for a review in the young life of Letterboxd. You all may or may not feel compelled to comment there (perhaps bridging the intelligence of the above conversation into the present), but it’s worth checking out: http://letterboxd.com/followtheblind/film/the-dark-knight/

  128. Kurt Halfyard

    I’ve fallen off the LETTERBOX’D train at the moment, I’ll have to climb back on at some point.

  129. tl;dr

    But much of it is a good review and entertaining read. For the first and (probably) only time, Matt Gamble has convinced me of the ineptitude of TDK.

    I won’t go so far as to say I don’t like the movie because it’s still pretty damn entertaining; but it’s so full of holes and plot contradictions it’s almost laughable.

    • I think you all may be underestimating the complexity of TDK‘s screenplay. Screenwriter Todd Alcott has an excellent break-down in terms of plot: http://www.toddalcott.com/the-dark-knight-part-1.html, and it’s a great primer for game theory.

      • Kurt Halfyard

        I love all things related to game-theory (really good book on the subject is William Poundstone’s PRISONER’S DILEMMA, btw)

        I’ve only seen The Dark Knight in the cinema (once on 35mm, once on IMAX format, so I cannot comment. I guess with all the big blockbusters tying up IMAX screens up until the new Batman, I guess it is unlikely that we will get a rep-screening of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight prior to the new one…?

        • Kurt Halfyard

          Heh, looking back up at the review, I actually link to the PRISONERS DILEMMA book right in my review text, so obviously Game Theory was on my brain after watching the film….Screenwriting success, MR. Alcott!

          • Well, the game theory analysis was mine, but Alcott’s thoughts on the screenplay are, naturally, brilliant. His breakdown of Spielberg (as I’ve said before) is the best film criticism I’ve ever read, anywhere, particularly his analysis of Jaws, Close Encounters, Raiders, and Jurassic Park.

            But I never knew Poundstone wrote a book on game theory; I’ve read all his Big Secrets books, but that’s it — thanks for the recommendation. von Neumann’s text on games and their application is wonderful.

            While we’re on the subject of econ and movies, the best review is Bryan Caplan’s defense of the Star Wars prequels, regarding the Emperor and backwards induction: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2005/06/sithwards_induc.html

      • Jericho Slim

        Thanks, Nat. The Dark Knight read was more insightful than I expected.

    • I think that is all intentional. The movie is as much an unreliable narrator as the villain. I also don’t think it is any coincidence that Nolan made the Prestige in between the two Batman movies. Here is a lengthy post about the movie that goes into it:

      http://circumstantial.wordpress.com/2009/05/13/flashback-to-the-dark-knight/

      The writing style of the post takes a bit of getting used to. But you will NEVER watch The Dark Knight the same again.

      How I look at it is that Nolan is aware of how a Batman comic works to such an extent that he is pulling all the same panel transition techniques that the comics use to both align Batman to the best possible angle for a shot and to teleport him around the location.

      It is sublime to watch.

    • Jericho Slim

      The review is an okay read, but most of the so-called “plot holes” in the movie are just silly complaints about things the reviewer thought should be done differently. One person’s ellipsis is another person’s plot hole.

      Besides, even though it is a more serious superhero movie, it still is a man dressed up in a bat costume vs a clown – there will inherently be realism issues no matter what. Questioning how the joker wired the hospital or the boats for explosives or how everybody doesn’t know that Batman is Bruce Wayne is really beside the point.

      Besides, any movie is infinitely nitpickable – that goes with the territory. And pointing out plot holes doesn’t prove that a movie is bad. “2001″ could be nit-picked, does that mean it’s not a great movie?

      But we’re all hypocrites when it comes to this. I’ll point out plot holes if it’s a movie I don’t like, but forgive the same plot holes if its a movie I like.

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