I often hear great things about a movie only to be disappointed. Sometimes I hear that a movie is not that good, have low expectations, and then I’m pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t as bad as I thought. In my opinion, The Dark Knight is as good as critics are saying. It comes in at around two and a half hours, but it doesn’t feel like it. There is very good pacing and editing. There is also a lot of good character development and it is very intense throughout, particularly the scenes with the Joker.
The villain in this one, the Joker, is more interesting on screen than is Batman. This has been true of every Batman movie I’ve seen, but in this case it was a much closer call. Heath Ledger played the Joker well, but Christian Bale played Batman well, too (with the exception of the growling ‘McGruff voice’ that was a bit overdone by the last third of the movie).
It is the first Batman movie that really gets at the complexities of the characters. Is Batman a good guy or a bad guy? Well… this movie at least looks into his motives – why he chooses to do some of the things he does. We don’t get as much insight into the motives of the Joker – he tries to tell people why he does some of what he does, but we get two different versions and a third is on the verge of being provided when he is ‘interrupted.’ We also get a good look at how Harvey Dent becomes Two Face. Nice. There is also a lot more appreciation in this move for the corruption in the police force in Gotham that leads to questions of loyalty and trust. Having this in the background of the rest of the exchanges and key decisions makes for a good story.
With the Batman movies you also get some ties to Arkan Asylum. I’ll make one comment on this. There is a scene in which one of Joker’s henchmen is said to be a paranoid schizophrenic from the Asylum. This plays into the stereotypes about mental health concerns and the supposed dangerousness of those with severe mental illnesses. This is unfortunate because it is not true (the strong association between mental illness and dangerousness), and there has been such progress made in reducing the stigma associated with serious mental health concerns. So this kind of off-hand remark – while brief – is unfortunate and unnecessary.
This is also not a movie for children. It is intense, as I mentioned. Nevertheless, we saw many children at our showing, some of whom were crying and wanted to leave. Of course, at $7.50 a ticket or more, few parents will make that decision once they are already inside.
Overall, it is a good movie. It is breaking all kinds of box office records and it deserves to do so. It is complex in character development and plot. There is enough action and romantic ties for everyone, so few will go home disappointed. Maybe just the young children who should have been home to begin with.