July 17, 2008, - 2:25 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
Tonight at 12:01 a.m., “The Dark Knight,” the latest Batman movie and 2nd installment featuring Christian Bale as the Caped Crusader, debuts at theaters.
It’s a great movie, with a terrific–if gritty and graphic–message of good versus evil. Batman refuses to kill anyone, and he insists that his non-superhuman counterpart, District Attorney Harvey Dent (the talented Aaron Eckhart), abide by his standards. And to hold up Gotham and justice Batman even takes the blame for bad things he didn’t do. Batman never stoops to the level of his enemies.
The mob is still controlling Gotham through five banks that it runs. While Dent has put half the mob away, a Chinese money-launderer with a corporation that does the laundering, is helping the organized crime syndicate evade justice.
But the Joker steps in. He wants a piece of the action–half of it–from the mob. And he shows them–brutally–that he means business. Soon he’s working with them–or they’re working for him. Everyone’s scared of the Joker, because he cannot be reasoned with. He’s insane.
The Joker realizes that he must take Batman down to keep the order in the chaos he’s created. So he takes hostages, kills people, and blows things up, until he gets Batman to appear and play his game. To make matters worse, there’s the burgeoning problem of mere mortal Batman copycats, who don the cape and try to play the hero, all over Gotham. I don’t want to say too much more about the plot, as it would spoil the movie for you.
At 2.5 hours, the movie goes quickly and doesn’t seem that long, though there are several stories going on, and we meet an interesting looking new villain, other than the Joker. There is a lot of action, a lot of explosions and things on fire. Interesting terrorist plots–some a little too interesting and real. But definitely creative and believable. Your heart is definitely pumping seeing this. It’s fun, exciting, and has everything you’d expect from a superhero movie (except a little too much violence). And the use of technology in the plot of this film is very cool. The movie is partially shot in IMAX (with the very heavy IMAX cameras).
Michael Caine, as Bruce Wayne’s Butler, and Morgan Freeman as his gadget-guru and CEO of his company, is also back. Caine warns Batman that fighting for good and winning against the most evil people always has its very high costs. But in the end, it is worth it.
Katie Holmes as prosecutor Rachel Dawes is replaced by the homely Maggie Gyllenhaal (who famously said America deserved 9/11), who is annoying in her wispy, babytalk voice. It stretches belief that playboy Bruce Wayne–whom we see with lots of beautiful airhead models–would go for this woman, who doesn’t add much to the movie. Not believable when the Joker repeatedly tells her how “beautiful” she is. She’s now dating Harvey Dent, the D.A., though Bruce is still hopelessly in love with her.
There was one weird inconsistency I noticed. The Joker’s hair is black and greasy for most of the movie, but in some scenes toward the end, it’s suddenly dark green. Perhaps a mistake in makeup with the actors that played the Joker after Heath Ledger’s death?
The always great Christian Bale is fine here, too. But there isn’t a lot of Bruce Wayne onscreen (and you know that Batman doesn’t talk a lot with his husky voice), and Heath Ledger’s Joker–Ledger is thoroughly convincing and does a great job of portraying the vicious, sinister, unbalanced-but-calculating villain–gets more screentime than anyone, including Batman. Ledger is clearly the movie’s star, and that’s the scary part. In a way, it’s as if Hollywood is choosing this evil, vicious, sick villain over the hero.
And, as I wrote earlier this week, I’m troubled that this movie–which kids will want to see and which features a comic book superhero marketed to young kids–is very violent, though bloodless. By my count, upwards of 50 and maybe almost 100 people–all of them killed by the bad guys and most of them innocent people–are killed by gunshot at close range or stabbing. And all of them are killed by the bad guys. That’s not to mention the hideous disfiguring scars on the Joker’s (Heath Ledger) face, “extending” his smile. There are several graphic descriptions given by the Joker regarding how his face was carved up. It is gruesome for young people to see.
Some people are excusing this by saying that this Batman movie isn’t being marketed toward kids. But that’s like saying a particular genre of Lucky Charms isn’t being marketed toward kids. We know Batman as a superhero and icon of childhood hero-worship and delight. To make such a violent Batman film isn’t fair to the few responsible parents who will have to struggle to say “no” to their kids’ request to see a Batman movie. It’s rated PG-13, and I suspect it missed an R rating because it doesn’t show much of the blood that results from so many killings (which is a bad thing–it somewhat makes killing look painless and consequence-less).
The title isn’t a lie–this movie is far darker than “Batman Begins.”
And while I recommend you go see it–again the message is GREAT, I also recommend you leave the kids at home.
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