Why did I give TDK an A-?

Cary Ashby
Mar 29, 2010

Here are some more random thoughts on “The Dark Knight.”

 

Be prepared for much more negativity than usual since I’ll be nitpicky in justifying taking a half of a letter grade off a very fine film.

 

BEWARE of storyline SPOILERS:

 

• Let’s start at the beginning. Like any good storyteller, director Christopher Nolan jumps straight into the action with the daytime bank heist. We quickly find out that even The Joker’s thugs have questions about the way he operates and he trusts no one, but having the first scene in a film titled “The Dark Knight” happen in broad daylight was jarring. Honestly, I was surprised at just how many daytime scenes TDK had overall.

 

• Also, the prologue missed That Certain Something. This is part of what led me to say in my review that the first 20 or so minutes after this sequence dragged. I was expecting more from seeing The Joker for the first time.

 

That’s probably the only time Heath Ledger’s Joker was disappointing. But I’m sure his close-up would be soooo much better in the IMAX version.

 

• Ever since its predecessor “Batman Begins” was released, I had been hoping for Batman to have a final confrontation with the Scarecrow.

 

And we got that in spades early in TDK – which I was glad to see from a continuity perspective – but we didn’t find out what Scarecrow had been doing in the interim. And didn’t it seem it was over too quickly? And is it me or was Cillian Murphy hard to ID as the Scarecrow?

 

• Speaking of that same scene, why exactly were there Batman look-a-likes? Bruce Wayne, later in the makeshift Batcave, mentions there was “another” Batman knock-off, but there was not much of an explanation for why they had cropped up. I think there was a lot more to explore there.

 

What would have been interesting is for the Scarecrow to use the Batman-phonies with his fear gas against the real thing in some fashion.

 

(Before I go to my next subject, do you remember when I took my Chicago Batman Vacation in late June 2007? Well, I got to see the segment where Batman hooked onto the side of the escaping white van being filmed as well as when the “foreign gang” threatened the Scarecrow’s gang by pulling out their semi-automatic weapons. I also now understand what caused the roofs and hoods of those cars to be smashed. Very cool to see the final product!)

 

• Back to the makeshift Batcave. I understand the Batcave proper wasn’t available since Wayne Manor is being rebuilt, but Batman’s headquarters was a bit sparse. Not to mention too bright for a creature of the night.

 

Seeing Bruce do his detective thing in a garage (presumably under Wayne Tower) under harsh fluorescent lights doesn’t mesh well with a hero nicknamed the Dark Knight.

 

Why couldn’t Nolan, the set designer and director of photography figure out a way to give us a dark Batcave that obviously is based in the Gotham City underground without trying to duplicate the original?

 

On the other hand, it was quite cool to see Bruce put the thinking man into the Darknight Detective by test-firing the weapons and analyzing each bullet to match the new one. “CSI: Gotham City,” anyone? I want see more – more, I say! – of Batman using his detective skills in a sequel.

 

• One more thing about the scenery: The TDK Gotham looked too much like Chicago compared to "Batman Begins." I truly missed The Narrows visual aspect to Gotham, with the crowded, dirty streets that twist and turn. Watch TDK again and you'll see what I mean by Gotham being a little too pristine this time around. Gotham is supposed to be a city where danger potentially lurks around every corner. (Partial credit goes to my buddy David Hudson for this idea.)

 

• Nolan introduced a cool concept of having Batman use sonar equipment to "see" the SWAT team, The Joker and his thugs in the final showdown.

 

And I have given a lot of thought to my best friend (and lifelong Batman fan) Mark Willis’ idea of giving Batman the “white eyes lens” look in live-action films, like has been done in the comics since 1939.

 

While it’s a nice “shout out” to comics continuity, overall it just doesn’t work onscreen. Bruce’s black eye make-up around the eyeholes of Batman's cowl looks a lot more menacing. The “white eyes lens” look honestly doesn’t mesh with Nolan’s realistic Batman universe. Regardless, I give Nolan and Co. a thumbs-up for giving it a try in an appropriate context.

 

• HERE’S, WITHOUT A DOUBT, THE BIGGEST SPOILER OF ALL IN THIS BLOG.

 

Again, you’ve been warned not to read any further if you haven’t seen TDK.

 

I was bummed they killed off Two-Face.

 

I would have liked to see him coordinate many crimes related to the number “2” in a sequel. (You know there’ll be one; after all, Christian Bale has signed a three-picture deal and consistently says he wants to know what happens next.)

 

Now, the fun part: Tell me what you think. Let’s get some debates rolling. Am I way off here? What got you geeked or miffed about TDK?

Comments

Cary

OK, I've taken a few days to sort through your comments and now I'm jumping back into this debate!

TDT, I completely disagree Bruce needs a new love interest. It gets old after a while. (See Julie Madison in B&R.) In fact, wouldn't it be great to see a Batman film without a love interest?

That being said, Catwoman would be a great possibility for the TDK sequel. Batman might find himself attracted to a woman who walks a fine line between doing the "right" thing and being a thief.

The seductive Selina Kyle also would be great for a "rebound relationship" for Bruce. Her character would fit into a possible theme of Batman now being on the run from police. Batman also no doubt will continue having a "dangerous" working relationship with Gordon, who publicly smashed the Batsignal.

Bane? No way. Schumacher completely ruined him as a possible movie villain. The public needs some more separation from B&R.

The Mad Hatter? I seriously doubt it. He's too gimmicky and silly for Nolan's sense of realism, Ed Nygma. But I could see ironically see The Riddler, someone looking to complicate, or make riddles out of, the chaos The Joker unleashed on Gotham.

Ed Nygma

Schumacher MURDERED five villains by over-casting them!!

Jose Canseco could be Bane in 2011 film.

TDT

Yes, a good point to remember is that plenty of the "League of Shadows" could be out there and bringing in his daughter is possible...

Mad-Hatter would be a very interesting one. Could Nolan save BANE'S character from that trainwreck called the Joel Schumacher films?

TDT

Cary,

I've had a few days to sit on it and while I UNDERSTAND the thinking behind it, I can't agree with the ending of Batman "owning up" to five murders, especially of cops...again, I see their point in terms of keeping the image positive and stuff, but as a kid reading Batman in the comic books, the Batman I grew up with would NEVER accept such a responsibility.

It would make him no better then that fool CHILL murdering his parents in cold blood.

Also, big AGREED on Two-Face....the movie ran a little long, and if you saved him mainly for the next movie, it cuts out a good 20 minutes or so. It just seemed like that character deserved more than the 30-40 minutes of shelf life it got.

So who's the next villain? We obviously have a Catwoman reference and Wayne does need a new "love interest"...

Ed Nygma

Cary - you make some good points. And it's clear you've paid close attention to detail to both the plot and physical elements of the film.

I actually - much as it PAINS me - have to agree with this chap TDT on his main point. Turning Dent's wrongdoings unto himself goes against a lot of the character's dynamics.

I hated to see Two-Face supposedly killed. The first time I watched, it did not appear to be a very large fall, but after watching a second time, its a fairly significant drop. With the way he landed, it's tough to say what may have been the fatal blow. And was his condition conducive to surviving such a fall? And of course he said moments earlier, "do you think I want to escape from this?" Regardless, I hope he's alive because Eckhart was sensational and the make-up was the best I've seen.

I wouldn't mind seeing Jervis Tetch (Mad-Hatter) or someone else with a psychological twist come in. I still refuse to believe we've seen the last of Ras al Guhl. Whether its he or his daughter...

TDT

Cary,

Your thoughts on the ending and the "character" that we have known to grow and love as Batman taking responsibility as a COP KILLER?

And why only 30-40 minutes of Two-Face...don't you think the character deserved just a BIT more screen time? I was under the impression we'd see Two-Face in like the last 10 minutes of the film to set up the third installment....

And did you get the vibe that Nolan kind of set up difinitive endings on some things just in case he doesn't come back to direct a third film?

Cary

TDT, I enjoyed the ending, especially Gordon's soliloquy about Batman. It's a nice homage to the end of "Batman: Year One" when Batman saves James Gordon Jr.

Like you, I wished Two-Face had gotten more screen time and I agree Nolan wrapped up a lot of TDK loose ends. The way TDK unfolded after Rachel's death, Dent's storyline is essentially done (except for the aftermath of him going bad). Seeing it again, I realized her death and her relationship with Bruce and Dent drives the story in some ways.

BUT at the same time, Nolan's left himself wide open to address: 1) if and how the "truth" about Dent as Two-Face will come to light, 2) how Gotham sees Batman, Dent and Gordon, 3) Gordon's relationship with Batman and 4) Batman being redeemed. Gordon calls Batman a dark knight because he does what's necessary, even when it means putting himself at odds with law enforcement (again). Batman does that so people will remember Dent as Gotham's White Knight, not Two-Face.