So Sue Me is a new feature where our writers get to tackle a hot button movie topic. Whether it’s a universally loved film that they wish to tear down a notch or an overly trashed one that they want to defend, this is their forum and their chance to play devil’s advocate. Let the debate commence!
Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy has been universally acclaimed for its storytelling and cinematography. We got given a grounded Batman tale that set the bar for modern superhero movies. Well at least that’s what a lot of people say. The Nolanverse trilogy is definitely unique, albeit definitely not the best Batman films. I draw specific attention to The Dark Knight, which is the most successful and critically acclaimed of the trilogy, mostly thanks to Heath Ledger’s Joker. But, here goes… I don’t like The Dark Knight, So Sue Me.
Let me start off by saying the visuals and cinematography in this film are excellent. Nolan certainly knows how to bring scope to the big screen, but that’s pretty much the only thing memorable about the film. We get another terrible Bruce Wayne and Batman, in the form of Christian Bale. Bale’s presence on the screen is lacklustre and bland. He brings no charm or charisma to Bruce Wayne in the film, seeming like he is just showing up for the truckloads of cash he no doubt got paid for appearing on screen. He does come off as an arrogant asshole in every scene that he is in, even when talking to his close friends.Then we get Batman, aside from Bale’s small frame barely filling the suit, every time he opens his mouth it is a cringe fest. Sounding like he has throat cancer, Bale screams, spits and shouts his way through his dialogue, continuing to show the limited versatility he brought to the role. Try saying “I’m not wearing hockey pads” with a mouth full of Marshmallows and you could be Batman.It’s not all Bale’s fault though, it is the way the character is written. This isn’t a Bruce Wayne who is an independent playboy socialite, and he certainly isn’t the detective like Batman. In fact there is very little evidence that Bruce is smart at all, relying on Morgan Freeman‘s Lucius Fox to provide many of the gadgets and weapons used in the film. The only problem solving Bruce does regarding Sonar comes from an idea that Lucius provided earlier in the film.I really found the characterisation to be way off for many of the characters in the film. Which brings me to Heath Ledger. Ledger’s Joker is fine, not good, not great. It is a unique take on the character which is always welcome, but I would argue that it’s definitely not true to the character. Many of the plans and plots felt much more Riddler like, particularly the big climax with the two different boatloads of people. Many think that Ledger’s Joker represents chaos. Well, is it really chaos if he has a predetermined plan? Joker shouldn’t care who lives or who dies. He was far too calculating. Joker is a trickster who is unpredictable and obsessed with Batman. He doesn’t want to rule a criminal empire and puts his own needs ahead of everyone else’s.
There are some great elements to the character that were in the film, such as the ever changing backstory of how he got his smile, taken from The Killing Joke. Also the overall look was good, but the performance just didn’t do it for me like Romero and Nicholson. There was no real humour, no sense of uncertainty and unknown with the character. Nothing Ledger’s character did had a punchline, an overall sick joke that only he would find funny. He made all of his plans known, leaving clues and giving directions, again ala Riddler. Joker has a certain charm about him, which can lead people to doing his bidding and serving his purpose. This Joker is driven by a motive, to try and teach us a lesson. Ledger played a great character and nutjob, but it certainly was not the Joker. “Why so serious?”, why so crappy?The secondary characters were equally lacklustre. Two Face felt out of place in the film and seemed to waste the third act for the purpose of extending the length of the film. Further, Rachel Dawes dying didn’t have the emotional resonance it should have had. Everything felt rushed and circumstantial to try and link all of the characters to Joker. A lot of things occurred in the movie for the sake of simply occurring. The subplots, rather than adding to the overall story detracted from the narrative by focusing too long on the developing thread. Two Face would have been better being hospitalised in this film and being saved for the third film to really allow him to wreak havoc on those who wronged him. I personally would’ve preferred to see a lot more of Michael Caine’s Alfred in the movie as he stole every scene he was in.As far as The Dark Knight is concerned it is an okay film, but definitely not a great film. It just kind of exists, much like the others in the trilogy, without leaving any real mark. The only reason this movie is regarded as highly as it is simply because Heath died. If Heath had lived I don’t think it would have achieved any of the accolades it did. The only reason anyone remembers this film is because of his death, just like the only reason anyone talks about The Dark Knight Rises is because of Tom Hardy’s ridiculous Bane voice. Can anyone remember anything relevant to do with Scarecrow or Ra’s Al Ghul in Batman Begins?
The Batman movies by Nolan are pretentious and smarmy, putting a polish on the production while the overall story and characters suffered. I still think the gold standard for Batman films are Tim Burton’s films. He really nailed the aesthetics of Gotham, inspiring the classic animated series and, even though liberties were taken with the characters, still had the best interpretations of the characters. It felt like we were living in the comic book world.
What do you think? Am I way off base, or have you been harbouring a deep sense of “meh” about The Dark Knight as well? Sound off in the comments or on Facebook!