July 17, 2008, - 2:25 pm

Review: “The Dark Knight”–Great Movie, But NOT For Your Kids

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.

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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.
THREE REAGANS (One Reagan Deducted Because of Too Much Violence in Movie Kids Will See)
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10 Responses

Debbie, what about the poster? Isn’t it a little too 9/11? I was freaked out by it!

RememberPimFortuyn on July 17, 2008 at 3:31 pm

How does Ledger perform as the Joker? Im still waiting for tomorrow. I hear he really portrays the Joker as the psycho he is.

savage supporter on July 17, 2008 at 6:33 pm

“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?”
It’s intentional. Ledger’s make up is intended to become worse and worse, like an ‘infection’ growing.

Hector on July 17, 2008 at 8:09 pm

i always considered Battymon, Uberman and the rest of the DC crowd a bunch of dweebs, so i’ll wait for it to come on cable…and probably won’t even watch it then.
Hope there’s a Slut Barbie movie coming out soon though:)

EminemsRevenge on July 17, 2008 at 8:46 pm

I have no doubt that after Leger’s death they recut this movie to feature him.
No doubt there is much of him in the Joker, or vice versa.
Lego, seems to have the Bat-man down cold:
http://batman.lego.com/en-US/story/default.aspx
*lol*

Mark L. Jackson on July 18, 2008 at 4:09 am

What’s wrong with killing evil people?
I think this anti capital punishment slant is more of the weak Liberal agenda to be soft on criminals and tough on the public at large by not protecting them adequately due to weak punishment standards.
[FOL: THE KILLING IS NOT OF EVIL PEOPLE. THAT'S THE PROBLEM. IT'S THE EVIL PEOPLE DOING THE KILLING. DS]

Facts of Life on July 18, 2008 at 11:41 am

As for why the movie is not rated R, my guess is they didn’t want to rate it R in fear parents won’t bring their kids. Of course, after the tickets are sold it’s too late.
Pro wrestling has been using the lie about not marketing to kids for years, too.

Jeff_W on July 18, 2008 at 3:28 pm

Great review–thanks for not posting any spoilers!

JoeChill on July 21, 2008 at 6:23 pm

I think ledger had finished the movie before he died. He did a good job in it, everyone did. I did not like gynellhaal, loved morgan freeman and caine. I agree, too violent for kids.

mindy1 on July 23, 2008 at 9:22 pm

Hello Debbie, it’s me again, Bex. The girl who so gallently defended Watchmen just a few minutes ago. Just to point a few things out – Dark Knight was not intended for children, as I’m sure you know, but the whole ‘superhero’ franchise hasn’t been intended for children after the ban on violence was lifted. By the 1980s, Batman was back to what he once was in the 40s – cruel, tormented, and mentally unstable. Th Joker was back to being a sociopathic anarchist, much like his original 1940s portrayal. Have a little look at Arkham Asylum, The Killing Joke, and The Dark Knight Returns – all of these were written during the 80s, and were aimed towards adults. Just google them, you’ll know what I mean. Peadophilia, for instance, was a blatent theme in Arkham Asylum, in which the Mad Hatter called little girls ‘little bitches’ and… well, you get the picture.
It’s not the producers fault that parents have fallen out of touch with modern comics. After all, what would a ‘grown-up’ have to do with comics? Well, if they had paidd any attention to the comic revoltuion that happened in the 80s, then they ould know that to take a child to a film based on any modern comic would be stupid, if not abusive.
Lastly, where did you hear that Legder was replaced during TDK? He died during the production of Parnassuss, well after Dark Knight was shot.

Bex on March 21, 2009 at 8:20 pm

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