"The Dark Knight"
Directed by Christopher Nolan.
Written by Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan.
Starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart and Maggie
Release Year: 2008
Review Date: 7/21/08
Last week, I pulled out my DVD copy of the
1989 "Batman" film directed by Tim Burton, starring Michael Keaton
as Batman/Bruce Wayne, and Jack Nicholson as the Joker. I
wanted to watch this film again, because 1) I love it, and 2) I
wanted to watch this to prep for the upcoming update, "The Dark
This is important, because I probably would
have thought that "The Dark Knight" was much, much better than it
really is had I not watched the '89 version so recently.
Granted, "The Dark Knight" is a good, solid action-adventure with
great acting all around (not just the ill-fated Heath Ledger in his
final film), but where it missed is as simple as 1, 2,...
"Where does he GET those wonderful toys?"
"Batman" (the '89 version) is still the best
comic-book adaptation I've ever seen, and the reasons for that are
plentiful but can be summarized this way:
Nicholson as the Joker? Still
can't be topped.
The set direction, costumes, soundtrack,
and support/extras direction are still second-to-none in the
The action scenes, even 20 years later,
The lead character, Bruce Wayne, is a
multi-layered, well-drawn profile that holds up well against the
scenery and makes the non-villain scenes interesting.
It's this last point that makes "Batman" so
different from most comic-book flicks these days; the bad guys are
so much more interesting than the good guys, that you almost wish
you could skip the good guy scenes. Michael Keaton, never
someone you would call a great actor but you might consider him a
great movie star, still seems perfect for the Wayne role: he
plays aloof well, he's good-looking, modest from a physical
perspective but someone you believe COULD NOT whoop your ass
normally, he appears to take himself not-so-seriously.
And, the best part? HE DOESN'T SOUND
LIKE AN IDIOT WHEN HE PUTS ON THE FUCKING SUIT.
I went to see where IMDB currently has "The
Dark Knight"; it's #1, as of today, anyway. It is a very good
movie. The drama behind Batman-as-public-nuisance begins to
get interesting here, the Commissioner Gordon role is expanded,
Ledger is great as a modern-day psychopath, and Aaron Eckhart plays
the young Harvey Dent well here. The action sequences are done
very well, the BatCycle or BatPod or whatever it is called is
cool, the film is appropriately violent, and funny, kitschy things
like casting low-budget, B-level action stars Michael Jai White and
Eric Roberts as low-budget crime bosses made me very happy
So, what was on my mind after sleeping on
this flick yesterday? These three problems take the whole
thing down a notch for me, even if I still strongly recommend the
movie (and why it's not Opening Weekend material):
Christian Bale is the worst thing
about the new Batman films. I now sit somewhere
between "he's too good an actor" and "his Wayne is written to be
a total cocksucker." The worst part about Bale?
Either his decision, or the producers' decision, to make his
voice sound like he's choking on a chicken bone whenever he has
the fucking suit on. Honestly, there's a scene at the end
of "The Dark Knight" where he says like three or four lines of
dialogue in a row with the BatVoice, and I don't think I
understood a single word that he said. I honestly can't
believe that no one is talking about this; this alone kills the
Batman character for me. Go ahead--sit at your
desk/kitchen table/living room couch and say "I'd like to order
the #6 and a Coke" in the lowest voice you can possibly muster.
See how funny that is? And, see what a bad fucking idea it
would be to have a superhero say anything in that same voice?
Harvey Dent and Two-Face...in the
same movie. I'm okay with 150 minutes for a movie of
this type if there is stuff going on. Still, I think it
was un-wise to introduce us to the Dent character (the DA from
the comics who locks up a ton of bad guys then has an accident
that turns him from good guy to bad guy overnight) and then give
us so much of Dent that he becomes the Two-Face character during
this film. As a result, we get a rise, fall, rise and fall
of this character during this one movie, when he could have
easily filled up a side plot of the third movie in this current
series. With all of the stuff we have going on here, I
felt we had room for 15 more minutes of Joker instead of too
much Dent in this movie.
I like Comic-Book-World Gotham City, not
Modern-Day-Chicago Ripoff Gotham City. Call me weird, but
I like comic movies that look like "Batman" or "Dick Tracy" or
The Gotham City of "The Dark Knight" looks like Chicago and NYC
mixed together, so its atmosphere is very well grounded in
reality...which I personally don't love with this type of movie.
This makes the Joker-as-modern-psychopath performance that much
better (which everyone can agree on), but the sets look like
real places in our modern world, which I don't like at all.
I still love the Axis Chemicals sets from "Batman"; to a degree,
they are corny, but I like the big vats of green stuff, or the
floats from "Batman" with the silly balloons...they look made
up, kind of like...I dunno, a multibillionaire who moonlights as a flying
bat crimefighter while driving a mobile tank. (That's just
me, though; you might know a guy like this, and if so, my bad.)
Overall, "The Dark Knight" continues the
strong work of Christopher Nolan, the director of my fave film from
The end of this film poses tricky issues for the next film in the
series, as well as openly wondering which villain the producers will
exploit in the next movie. Penguin? Catwoman?
Riddler? Freeze? (I would love to see anyone try to make
audiences forget about the Schwarzenegger performance in "Batman &
Rating: $9.50 Show
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard