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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Dark Knight: Review and Opinion

WARNING: This post contains spoilers, so if you haven't seen the movie and don't want it ruined then PLEASE do not read on.

I've always been a fan of the Batman franchises even going back to the days when I was ten years old; although admittedly I didn't subscribe to Batman or pick up the Batman comics as a collector. I liked his role in the Justice League of America (70s/80s) and his team ups with other DC (Detective Comics) stars over the years.

When contrasting the various iterations of Batman over the years, the Batman TV character of the 50s and 60s was silly and pathetic. That show was more a spoof on Batman then a show intended to portray good versus evil with all the complexities of crossing the moral lines of whether or not vigilantes are outlaws and whether taking the law into your own hands (or perhaps let's just say dishing out punishments) is ever justified. Both recent movie series' (Keaton and Bale) have tried to deal with the complexities of the man behind the mask, both men seem to stop short of directly inflicted murder. And the Joker and his villainous friends know Batman has his limits. And the villains use this to their advantage at every turn. But this is what separates Batman or The Dark Knight from becoming a vigilante villain.

Do people die as a result of Batman's speedy chases in the streets of Gotham? Or from his misfired guns that seem to often miss their target? We don't know, we probably don't need to know.

Going on record, I did enjoy the Keaton films. They were the closest thing to what the comics portrayed Batman to be. This is how we wanted Batman to be portrayed. And I admit that I like prefer Keaton as Batman over Bale, although I also like the more realistic approach of the latest series slightly better than the Keaton series. As the saying goes, "you never get everything you want."

The latest Batman series which starts with Batman Begins takes a very different view of how Batman came to be. For us traditionalists, we lose this one element we know to be true - Joker murdered Bruce Wayne's parents. That element seems to be lost, but it doesn't spiral the storyline, it was still a thug who murdered Wayne's parents, but the Joker doesn't get the credit this time.

But the trade off is that the latest installment series is somewhat more realistic (if realistic even applies here). We learn about who Batman confides in, we learn how his toys are financed and built, and we see iterations of costumes and toys that require perfection. We gain some satisfaction that its not necessarily Bruce Wayne how at night stitching up new costumes, but that even The Dark Knight requires a little help from his friends. And Batman is even challenged by his co-workers on his manner of ethics - in the latest case, our noble Wayne Enterprise Chairman, Lucius Fox, threatens to resign since Wayne has rigged every cell phone in the city into one network to act as sonar to find the villains. Fox declares it as unethical, but agrees to use the technology one time - and it saves thousands.

I like other elements of the movie that brought character definition to the land of Gotham. We see the rise of Lt. Gordon to Commissioner - and they had me going for a minute, I was temporarily perturbed about them killing off Gordon about midway through the movie. I did enjoy his wife's response to seeing Gordon alive.

I enjoyed the fact that it was never intended that Wayne was going get the girl (ref to Vicky Vale: Keaton series). And that she died loving Harvey Dent, and only Alfred the Butler knows the truth, and destroyed all evidence of that fact.

I liked that the Joker is alive and well, although very saddened to know that that performance will be singular to Keith Ledger who passed away earlier this year.

I enjoyed seeing The Scarecrow return for a brief cameo.

I like the reference to Catwoman, which sort of tells you that there is a lot that has been going on between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. That's the kind of stuff that allows your own mind to fill in the gaps. In the land of comics, writers and directors allow the readers and fans to have their own space for creativity - we can fill in the blanks with our own stories.

I liked the sub story of the annoying copycat Batmans. And how the serve as a detriment to Batman's reputation and often wind up as victims of their own stupidity.

What I didn't like...

The Death of Two Face. I thought this character could have had legs.

Wayne Manor is still being rebuilt.

The story line around employee Colman Reese. Hard to believe he didn't spill the bean about Bruce Wayne's identity to someone. This was a shady element of the storyline. Also, hard to really comprehend why Joker would try to stop Reese revealing Batman's identity.

The Death of Rachel. I liked the character.

The movie seemed to drag at times. Seemed a bit long.

Bale as Batman is OK. At times his portrayal of Bruce Wayne is a bit off. Some of this may have to do with the writing of the character, but all in all - at times the Wayne character comes off too aloof and rude. Bruce Wayne was never rude before this series.

All in all, I give it a B+. There is more hype around this movie than should be.

I'm sure there will be future installments to come.

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