On Monday I saw the most hyped film of year: The Dark Knight. Unfortunately, as well as rather predictable, it didn't live up to the billing. That said it's a perfectly competent film, but nothing more. Everyone has been rightly raving about Heath Ledger. He puts in a fantastically disturbing performance as the nihilistic Joker. However, possibly the best performance comes from Gary Oldman as Lt James Gordon. He is just incredibly believable as the good cop stuck in an evil world.
The script is laced with black humour through out. The best line being delivered by Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman):
"Let me get this straight: You think that your client, one of the wealthiest, most powerful men ...view middle of the document...
To their credit, breaking down the ratings into these categories was a step forward.
Back to the film- The frequent action sequences are suitably spectacular though nothing out of the ordinary for a film with a huge budget. Hans Zimmer soundtrack lacks the sparkle of his best work, Gladiator and Pirates of the Caribbean for example, and just sounds as if he's going through the motions.
The main problem with the film is the crucial aspect of all narrative art: the writing. Contrary to most expectations it is not a Batman versus the Joker film. They merely provide the frame for the centrepiece- District Attorney (DA) Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). The major themes throughout the film are summed up with Dent's own line:
â€˜You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.â€
And the Joker's:
"I took Gotham's white knight, and brought him down to our level. It wasn't hard. Y'see, madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little...push."
Harvey Dent's character embodies these two lines. He is the clean cut DA determined to clean the filth from the streets by any means who then turns into an amoral two-faced individual after being pushed. Batman and the Joker provide the moral framework of the story. Batman is the principled (well, essentially) crime fighter. The Joker, the Devil. With these glasses we chart the demise of Dent.
There is nothing inherently wrong with this story structure but it doesn't pull it off. The main reason for this is that there are too many significant characters in the film. It is firstly cluttered by Lt Gordon and perversely, Batman himself. The only purpose Batman serves in the whole film is to prompt the escalation of violence from the Mafia. However, for whatever reason (probably to satisfy the producer), they give Batman a bit of a run around just to say- this is a BATMAN film and this is who you paid to see. Hence the entirely pointless escapade in Hong Kong. With the screen time divided up so much there is a lack of emotionally engagement with the characters; something which wasn't a problem in Batman Begins. If the Batman and Gordon would have been sufficiently sidelined to focus more on Dent the emotional impact of the death of Rachel Dawes, for example, would have been far greater. Apart from Dent, Dawes is just another in the long line of wet female characters who's sole purpose is window dressing.
This again demonstrates my contention that ensemble casts are in general a bad idea. The best example of them working is in Paul Thomas Anderson's excellent Magnolia. The reason this works is that you have characters with parallel experiences which compares and contrasts their reactions to them. It also helps that it is 3 hours long. This could have been possible with the Dark Knight but would have required the rewriting of the Joker. Instead of being an immutable pillar of evil, one would have had to flesh out his background, in particular his childhood,...