“The Dark Knight (2008)”

The Dark Knight. That’s a better title, if not a better film.

Why did I watch it?

Same reasons for watching Batman Begins, really. Nolan. And hoping it would be better.

Did it meet expectations?

Expectations were not high. But it’s even more humourless than its predecessor. It’s perhaps a more evenly paced film, with some well-constructed but forgettable set-pieces. But where the first film had a fleeting interest in exploring both the economic and social consequences of the crime-wave in Gotham, and the terrorist threat, this film’s pure concern with the despicable and inexplicable crimes of the joker is even less involving. We’re given very little insight into the character and motives of the key players while the film agonises over teleological vs deontological ethics in criminal justice, taking a somewhat Hobbesian view of life in Gotham. Try as they might to ascribe some higher moral purpose to Batman’s crusade, he is not only executing a violent and illegal campaign of revenge but also advocates an undemocratic cover-up. The Batman story proposes that society cannot resolve its own problems through collective action and must rely on a super-rich benefactor, and that’s never sat well with me. Nolan doesn’t seem comfortable with it either, but, unable to resolve it, he tries to make Gotham darker to justify it – yet he ducks the chance to pursue any of the ethical dilemmas he sets out here.

I’ve noted before that I dislike recasting, and prefer a character doesn’t return if the actor is unavailable. Maggie Gyllenhaal takes over the role of Rachel here, and while I’m not saying her performance isn’t at least as good, I can see why Katie Holmes didn’t return to the role for this. It’s an unnecessary piece of discontinuity.

Michael Caine does his best to make sense of things.

You should watch it if…

  • You’re a Batman completist.

You shouldn’t watch it if…

  • You don’t have the stamina for two and a half hours of (almost exclusively) men fighting over whether life should be slightly more or less nasty, brutish and short.

Next up: Salting the Battlefield (2014)

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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