Heh, actually, one of the reasons why I really like Batman Returns is because it practically doesn’t have Batman in it at all.
Batman tends to be overshadowed by his villians because there’s a running theme in the darker, newer Batman narratives of Batman being cause of the villians. I forget which comic book it is, I believe it’s either Arkham Asylum or The Long Halloween, but the Joker says to Batman, “Arkham is full. You’ve filled it. Isn’t it interesting how you appeared and then all these mad people followed?”
This is, actually, one of key reasons I really like the Batman franchise.
But why does Batman have to be overshadowed by his villains in order to explore such a concept? It’s like he is this unchanging, inorganic caricature that’s more robot than human. There are deeper aspects of his character that can be explored. I like the quote you referred to, but it’s not exactly an original concept, so if there was some other aspect to compliment that it could make the franchise much richer.
Just my opinion anyway.
^^Batman Returns actually felt like chaos, where TDK just talked a whole lot about it! big difference ;-)
As for your comment about Depp Polaris, i’m not sure i agree that he was ‘intense’ in Donnie Brasco. I’ve always felt that Depp’s biggest limitation as a dramatic actor is that he cannot ‘internalise the conflict’, so to speak. He doesn’t make you believe that a mental war is raging on in the protagonist’s mind. he just shifts his eyes around a whole lot, or gives a few blank stares, but that’s the extent of his dramatic range. Without the bells and whistles i think he is a pretty piss poor actor, and i used to be a huge fan of his back in the day. The only reason he works in Dead Man is because the direction is great and he doesn’t have to do much.
Joks that was excellent,: ^^Batman Returns actually felt like chaos, where TDK just talked a whole lot about it! big difference ;-) Batman Returns is scary and has more choas in in then TDK.
Was it chaos, or just a shitty screenplay?
Polaris, damn, I don’t know if I really want to get into this argument, but I’ve got to say that my problem with the Dark Knight is that it follows a neo-conservative understanding of the idea of terrorism and attacks. You say Batman is the cause of the villainous actors that come after him, I would say that in The Dark Knight that is only true indirectly. It would be more correct to say he is the inspiration for them, or they come into existence as a reaction to him, which is a slightly different thing. It is, I think explicitly, referencing the idea that terrorist groups like Al Queida hate us for our freedoms. That is they form because they resent the world we have or are a part of, we don’t create them per se, but they hate who we and what we stand for so they form to thwart our ideals.
If you look at Spiderman 3, there is a film that takes a more traditionally liberal approach to its larger subtext. (And here I am only going to talk about themes, and not film craft so I want to leave the enjoyment factor or like dislike part aside for the moment.) In Spiderman 3 the villains come to be through direct cause of negligence on the part of the hero. Spiderman actually has a hand in making each of the three villains, his own little axis of evil, that he must later face. His abuse or misuse of power is what pushes each into becoming a supervillain.The Sandman starts off committing a small crime, for a decent cause, but ends up becoming superpowered after a fight with Spiderman that has its origins in Spidermans neglect to use his powers for good, Venom becomes a villain after Spiderman dumps his costume/evil entity off irresponsibly allowing it to fall into the hands of a would be competitor and not particualrly bad guy who is weak willed enough to be controlled by it, and the Green Goblin II takes up the arch villain mantle after Spiderman kills his dad, thus fueling a need for revenge. Peter parker doesn’t mean to do any of this necessarily, although he doesn’t necessarily care enough to think about preventing it, he merely is concerned with his own world. The crux of the movie is the coming to terms with his own responsibility in the actions that follow as opposed to Batman’s continuing fight for an ideal no matter what it takes.
I don’t know how Nolan will address this issue in the third movie, perhaps he is setting up a realization on Batman part about his role and the failings of his ideals, but at the end of The Dark Knight, Nolan left us a Batman that serves very well as a stand in for the Bush era war on terrorism which left me a little queasy about the whole film.
As to the question of upcoming films, I think Matt may have a point, and you might be right about the Catwoman/Harley Quinn thing since the follower idea would fit the arc, but Catwoman and Harley Quinn don’t have the same sort of powerful visual/abstract qualities as the Joker, and they aren’t as likely to provide the action requirements of the genre given the need for more ambiguity, and thus less direct oppositional violence that Joker provided. If the film is more of a mindfuck than an actioner on the threat level than that might be fine, entertainmentwise, understanding that Catwoman and Harley Quinn can bring some kinetic excitement, but less of a direct palpable physical threat to the screen. The real star of the Batman films though is the Joker and his opposition to Batman, at least until they find a way to represent an interesting innerlife for Wayne/Batman. If they would, for instance give us the idea that Batman needs the Joker, or other villains, in the same way they need him, that Batman actively enjoys what he’s doing, that might help, but as it is, the dour mostly humorless Frank Miller style Batman is pretty dull and mostly obvious unless he gets to go full fascist. The Joker balances that out with his anarchism and dark humor to the point where the movies are really about enjoying The Joker until the end of the film when Batman hauls him away.
Some have argued that the film actually celebrates The Joker’s vision. If that were the case I would find it more interesting than I do. I think it merely uses our own desire for destruction for its box office appeal but doesn’t really go into, or make the audience face, the implications of that urge. If it did it would be a better film, but it only toys with the concept a little before giving in to more overt moralism.
I think if you’re into the superhero mythos and followed how it’s developed from way back in the 1930s to now (in both comics and film), and in relation also to how it’s matured within the last 30-40yrs, then you can appreciate how Nolan has taken the character of Batman, and superheroes in general, to new heights, and how everyone else has begun to follow his lead. Darker, more intense, different, serious and slightly epic…everything that was needed to engage us with that type of character, and with the idea of heroes (super or not), in general.
One also has to remember David Goyer’s part in this…he started with the Blade series, which was taking a minor Marvel comic character in the Tomb of Dracula series, and making it into something better, cooler and even darker than its original concept.
“but at the end of The Dark Knight, Nolan left us a Batman that serves very well as a stand in for the Bush era war on terrorism”
I’ve heard this perspective from a plethora of individuals since TDK’s release, but my question is: Is this enough of a reason to dislike the film? I mean, are we to erase from our minds the “Bush era war on terrorism?” I think that we should keep this era very much in mind so as to avoid repeating or agreeing to repeat such actions and a film that is considered a ‘stand-in’ for such an era really emphasizes the negative aspects of emulating this era. I think it’s narrow-minded to view the film as some kind of promotion of this era, if anything it shows how misguided such a perspective really is because this doesn’t work out for anyone. No one is victorious in the end, not even the Joker and especially not Batman. If anything its a promotion of enmity.
Batman, as portrayed in the Nolan universe (so to speak), is not so much a hero as a man with an overinflated sense of justice (not to mention naive as hell). Batman has always been a kind of antihero, but Nolan takes it to another level and almost celebrates the flaws of this character. I don’t see anything wrong with this portrayal, but in order for one to grasp what he’s doing with this character one has to realize that Batman is not supposed to be a flawless hero. It’s surprising how so many people overlook or are ignorant of this because it’s not exactly communicated subtly.
And I disagree with the line about TDK merely ‘talking about chaos’ (though catchy). You didn’t notice any chaotic elements in the film? Bank robberies and multiple gang deaths, kidnapping, hospitals exploding, and mountains of cash set afire … yeah, I know, a promotion of order surely.
I mean, how can a film be criticized for being unrealistic and then a film like Batman Returns is praised in the same breath? I don’t regard TDK as a masterpiece, but I’ve always felt that the criticisms railed against it are merely proposed out of some kind of anti-commercial sentiment. You can go on all day equating the film to the Bush era, but tossing in these keywords as if the negativity associated with them will somehow rub off on the film such a comparison is being forced upon is pretty transparent whether its intentional or no.
You touched on something about the film that’s always bothered me (well, one thing that I haven’t heard discussed elsewhere—you bring up many troublesome issues), namely the fact that
“it merely uses our own desire for destruction for its box office appeal but doesn’t really go into, or make the audience face, the implications of that urge”
When the two ferries are pitted against one another at the end, both armed with the capacity to destroy the other or be destroyed themselves, I was shocked that the film didn’t have the “innocent civillian” ferry decide to blow up the convicts, only to have it blow up their own ship.
That would have been a much more thematically honest through-line and would have addressed the concern you just raised—confronting the audience (through the death of the “innocent” ferriers) with the consequences of that destruction.
What a missed opportunity. I remember thinking this the very first time I saw the film.
Deckard, first off, I don’t exactly dislike the film, I am deeply ambivalent about it since it does deliver on the basic entertainment level with Ledger’s Joker and Eckhart’s DA doing all the heavy lifting. Secondly, and more to the point, yes, I think if one accepts that there is a subtextual sort of allegory referencing “our” universe, than the arguments, so to speak, put forward by the film deserve the same consideration, and in my case, disapproval as they would receive if anyone else had made them, heck, more so given the status of the film and the attention it received.
I fully believe that Nolan was using his film, as Raimi did his, to comment on larger social issues of the time, and in the case of The Dark Knight, I find his attitude unpalatable. There is room for argument over what the film is saying, and as I think we are all aware that argument has been going on since it came out with people taking many different approaches to The Dark Knight’s “message”. If one can make a clear and coherent argument for another approach that covers many of the problems I find, I would certainly listen, and if someone wants to ignore any possible subtext that is their prerogative, although on that I would not agree personally since I find it important to try and wrangle out what a films moral code or meaning is if I want to really appreciate it or disappreciate it. There is a difference between something like The Dark Knight and something like Die Hard, which also has a conservative core, or Shoot "Em Up which is mostly an intentionally anti-PC in your face kind of flick in that by linking the film to real world political events The Dark Knight is, in essence, asking to be taken more seriously than the other two, and is more dangerous, or laudatory depending on your political bent, for doing so. I don’t think there is a one to one reaction to films or video games or what have you, where impressionable youth watch them and immediately become converted to some sort of dark and alien sets of beliefs, but I do think that films and games have some effect on the direction of the discourse or the way we understand events by providing frameworks for understanding, or reinforcing ideologies and that has a real impact on what happens. How much of an impact or how big of a force I don’t know, but like advertising, it does have some effect, and so I think it is important to, at least discuss what is being said and try to untangle what it means.
@Leaves: That was the worst scene in the entire film in my opinion. I mean, as soon as that scenario was introduced I was literally groaning in the theatre because, first of all, it’s such a heavy-handed approach that aesthetically it makes me sick to my stomach (violence and consequential implications aside) and second, it reeks of the writer. It’s the writer half-turning, half-smirking to the audience saying, “Aren’t I clever?” But it isn’t clever and it isn’t insightful because, as you say, it never goes anywhere. Why it wasn’t cut in the editting room I can’t imagine. It didn’t add anything at all to the story, would’ve shaved off a good 10 minutes or so from an already overlong film, and it drags the film down with its ineffectiveness and utter lack of “balls.” There’s a lot of valid criticisms like this one that can be railed against TDK, it’s just that people seem to get hung up on the trendy ones.
“I’ve heard this perspective from a plethora of individuals since TDK’s release, but my question is: Is this enough of a reason to dislike the film? I mean, are we to erase from our minds the “Bush era war on terrorism?” I think that we should keep this era very much in mind so as to avoid repeating or agreeing to repeat such actions and a film that is considered a ‘stand-in’ for such an era really emphasizes the negative aspects of emulating this era. I think it’s narrow-minded to view the film as some kind of promotion of this era, if anything it shows how misguided such a perspective really is because this doesn’t work out for anyone. No one is victorious in the end, not even the Joker and especially not Batman. If anything its a promotion of enmity.”
or trend moral relativism, depending on how you look at it. I think the ending is more on the ‘tragic heroic’ side personally.
“Batman, as portrayed in the Nolan universe (so to speak), is not so much a hero as a man with an overinflated sense of justice (not to mention naive as hell).”
How does this overinflated sense of justice come into play when the man he is after is a psychopathic murderer? how that does work exactly? and what does it mean to have an overinflated sense of justice anyway? If they wanted to demonstrate his ‘overinflated sense of justice’, maybe they could have made a film about Batman stalking ambulance chasing lawyers or something. that might have been interesting.
“And I disagree with the line about TDK merely ‘talking about chaos’ (though catchy). You didn’t notice any chaotic elements in the film? Bank robberies and multiple gang deaths, kidnapping, hospitals exploding, and mountains of cash set afire … yeah, I know, a promotion of order surely.”
Nolan’s film making style is quite rigid and mechanical imo, so no i didn’t feel chaos. i saw chaotic bits though, but that is all ;-)
“I mean, how can a film be criticized for being unrealistic and then a film like Batman Returns is praised in the same breath?”
who said anything about realism? Burton wasn’t even going for realism with B.Returns.
Greg you make some fantastic points and the funny thing is that I basically agree with what you have to say, just with a different sort of… weight. Center of balance? Weight. Well on to the point….
Okay, so when I was a gothy teenager of angsty adolescence and shit, I loved The Crow. Because I loved The Crow and it talks about “vigilantes”, I decided to research vigilantes. When I was researching vigilantes I found this fascinating article (since lost to time and my memory, so no reference tonight guys, sorry), that drew a sort of vigilantism/due process dichotomy that parallels conservative/liberal dichotomy as it approaches justice. The article stated that vigilantism puts the power of justice onto the average citizen and people and takes it away from the state, whereas due process takes it away from the state by giving it to an elected judge and a chosen jury. It points out that whereas vigilantism is rife with abuse, due process is rife with bureaucracy, and it then goes on to mention that the basic face of the American vigilante is the lynch mob (obviously not something desirous).
Another concept about vigilantism that spans much studies of it are its relationship to crime as a criminal act in and of itself. Vigilantism requires going outside the law to pursue “justice”, and thus in its own way cannot really be considered “just”. Also, vigilantes in most popular texts (comic book heroes, movies, etc. etc) are typically individualistic heroes that see an ill in society that they go on to resolve on their own hands—an inaccurate portrayal in general because of the lynch mob status above, but also because most vigilantes are sociopaths. This latter point is very interesting, because it means that many vigilantes are psychologically comparable to most serial killers—and in the case of vigilantes that kill, are pretty much indistinguishable.
Now read Watchmen. Alan Moore, whose control over the comic book form is astounding and knowledge of damn near everything dark and insane is awesome-to-the-point-of-repellant, “gets” masked heroes probably better than any other comic book writer in the history of the medium. Positing that masked heroes appeared in real life the same time and place they appeared in comics—i.e., America, in the 50s, after it had taken a war onto its own hands and won, and was feeling very, shall we say, internationally vigilantily heroic—creates an alternative American landscape that is rife with…. you guessed it…. deepened conservative influence. The most successful masked heroes are the Comedian (Moore’s Captain America twist), a horrifically right-wing (fascist) brute; and Rorschach, an outright sociopath. One works very closely with the law, the other works very outside the law, and both of them are severely rightist and downright dangerous. The rest of the superheroes are gradiants of that dichotomy, with levels like Dr. Manhattan as a particularly politically disinterested character, and ending with Ozymandias’ (the hyper-intelligent industrialist, sort of a combined Batman/Iron Man detail) so desensitized big picture view that he actually instigates Apocalypse to bring upon a politicized form of Rapture. This is, I feel Alan Moore is saying, what comic book heroes mean, ultimately.
Alan Moore also made a Batman comic called The Man Who Laughs that detailed an understanding of the Joker’s genesis, which was essentially very sympathetic to The Joker—that his madness was induced by a past he was trying to submerge mentally, making him contrast Batman as one whose madness is induced by a past he’s trying to project mentally. Ultimately Batman becomes the villian in search of justice, the Joker the hero in search of self-destruction, making Batman the sociological hero but the personal villian.
Alan Moore’s recognition of this mode is not, really, all that removed from the more adult conceits of comic books during the era when they were becoming “graphic novels” and superheroes in general were getting darker. Also note that the straight-up Godhead symbol Superman had no room to become a dark and dreary character, so he was killed. Later, he became alienated in Superman Returns. To put it modern speak, superheroes are emo now, where they aren’t straight-up insane. Spiderman 3?
Anyway, now getting onto Bush. Yes, the Iraq War was a vigilante war. Bush took it upon himself and operated outside “the law” (international concerns) to attack in what he personally felt, but largely the rest of the world population including many Americans did not feel, justified in.
Enter Christopher Nolan. Originally talking about Batman, he made very clear he was going for the Frank Miller, dark gritty realism approach. He amped up the testosterone and he amped up the insanity. And Batman Begins was an absolute mess. Nevertheless, it set up The Dark Knight, in which, my opinion, he knowingly or unknowingly made a very powerful essay on the concept of vigilantism that matches my reading of that phenomenon. The problem is that he’s still operated in cinematic mode of vigilantes—cinematic vigilantes are almost de rigueur beset by a banal “Is what they do justified?” subplot in any spectrum, from Taxi Driver to mothafuckin’ The Brave One, but nevertheless rarely do they actually have such a diverse array of opinions on the matter. Elsewhere on this board people have complained that The Dark Knight has characters spouting out their opinions, and I understand the complaint, but it seems to me one of the great things about that use of the characters is that they all are standing up for what they believe in, and in the process are stepping on each others toes. As a result, it’s NOT all “Yeah Batman, you go save the countryside, America, Fuck Yeah!”, it’s quite, “Thanks Batman. Thanks for fucking everything up. We appreciate it. Goddamn it, if we didn’t need you too fix it…. uuuurrrggghhh!”
So in other words, when you state that Batman represents Bush fighting the evil terrorists, I don’t really disagree in general, but in specific Bush and the conflict of vigilantism is spread amongst all of the characters as each and every one of them have their own interests and are struggling towards the same end. It’s not just Batman who is the main character. It’s Harvey, Gordon, Rachel, et al. The movie is literally packed with subplots and subsubplots of characters just trying to make do with what they have and ending up either getting fucked or fucking over someone else. Pay attention to Ramirez. Entire character arch in what, three scenes? Gordon’s wife. The dying commissioner. The judge. And especially, the old-school mobsters who are all being deposed and replaced… by The Joker. All that Batman has tried to do to defeat the mob, and instead he’s just invited worse.
I think it fits Batman’s contemporary character and I think where he is still a hero is simply that, that at the very least dude is trying to help people and refuses to kill. Otherwise he’s no better or worse, no more or less powerful than all of the other of Gotham’s populace searching for justice. Where the approval of vigilantism comes in is that Batman actually tries to help himself and become a symbol for progress and good, and thus inspires copycats, but note that he can’t sustain it and that eventually the symbol HAS TO transcribe to Harvey, the literally due process inside-the-law “white knight” that is the only real thing the public can and should stand for—Batman himself has to sacrifice his own image in the maintenance of that other one, because due process is still, at the end of the movie, the greater good.
House, I think it is a serious problem with most of the comic book hero movies I’ve seen, and the ones where it isn’t tend not to do well, and it could be addressed more complexly in almost all of them, but in The Dark Knight it is particularly disturbing given how close it comes to the issue and which side it seems to come down on. In the end, I can’t help but find The Dark Knight celebrates vigilantism by a sort of slight of had technique where it becomes linked to keeping people free from terror rather than even leaving it an ambiguity. Batman’s supposed sacrifice at the end of the film where he takes on the weight of the DA/Two-Face’s crimes feels very much to me like a justification of the worst excesses of the US during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by suggesting that the world needs someone to exist outside the law at times in order to keep the rest of the world/Gotham safe. Connected to the risible scenes with the eavesdropping device, its destruction, and Morgan Freeman’s “wise” response it takes on a meaning that I just can’t abide. The sole superpower sometimes must do what the rest of Gotham can’t and won’t in order to keep it safe from forces that want to destroy it and itself. Yugh.
If there is any way to get around this, it would be in the relationship of Eckhart’s character to Batman and the Joker, or if it was planned as a trilogy and The Dark Knight is merely a set up for a denuncitory third act, which might be the case. I will take a wait and see approach to the latter, but I can’t find enough in the film itself to escape my feelings on it so far other than some possible/maybe sort of ideas surrounding how one could interpret Batman that don’t feel accurate to the film or the experience of it, but are slightly plausible given some of the comic stuff surrounding the character and intentional reading against the grain of other superhero flicks.
As an aside, there was a thread not to long ago about Roger Ebert and judging films that mentioned he occasionally downgrades a film because of its morality, the thing is, he rarely ever looks at the films that way. I mean it’s one thing to say Triumph of the Will has a dubious moral purpose given that I think we are all aware of who the Nazis are and what they’ve done, there is nothing particularly admirable or even notable about holding that into account, but in films like The Dark Knight, Spiderman 3, or Iron Man 2 and its crazy gung ho libertarianism, he doesn’t even mention any notion of morality, implications, possible meaning or really anything beyond whether they were enjoyable or not and how the actors did. As I mentioned, I think it wouldn’t hurt any of us to look a little more closely at what the films we watch are saying and debate it if necessary, or ignore it if we choose, but being blind to it doesn’t do anyone any good, nor does it make the films better.
Okay, enough for now, sleep beckons…
Edit: Oh, sure, now you show up Polaris, I’ll have to get back to you after my nap, but I don’t disagree entirely with what you say vis-a-vis the movei and it’s possible relation to the comic books themselves which is why I’m still slightly ambivalent about the film.
Yeah, we’ve covered this in other threads, but my take on the film is similar to Greg’s and HoL’s.
To me, the ferry scene + Alfred’s explanation of the Joker’s motives: “some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn” = reactionary politics. And if we’re reading the film as an analog of the post-9/11, the “some men just want to watch the world burn” is reducing the “enemy” to, as Coleridge called it, “motiveless malignity,” it’s essentially de-humanizing whomever we want to label as “the enemy” and offering the beginnings of a rationalization for waterboarding, rendition, Abu Ghraib, and all.
That said, I do admire some of the things that Nolan does structurally—the use of cross-cutting is impressive, for example.
I also agree with some of what Polaris has said (The Man Who Laughs was actually written by Ed Brubaker, but no matter). For me the flaw with Nolan’s version of the the Alan Moore/Frank Miller/Ed Brubaker take on Batman is that Nolan isn’t willing to be as upfront with ambivalence about Batman’s relative sanity in his pursuit of vigilantism.
^^the technical aspects of the film are hard to fault in general i think. there are scenes are almost reminded me of Mann’s best work, except on a ‘bigger’ scale.
“and what does it mean to have an overinflated sense of justice anyway?”
Joks, that means that Batman believes that justice (which he regards himself as an embodiment of) can be “maintained” and that since he is striving to maintain it, nothing can result from his actions other than ‘justice.’
Sounds overinflated to me at least. The concept of justice is not something which is ‘obtainable’, but merely ‘occurs’. For example, we have a police force enforcing order, but that does not mean order is always enforced. It is something that one strives towards, but it’s not like there will always be a resolution and less likely that their will be a favourable one. As recent films such as TDK or, as Greg mentioned, Spider-Man 3, are starting to emphasize, often negative effects can result from blindly pursuing justice.
Batman finally realizes the futility of merely blindly pursuing ‘justice’ by the end of the film, but this is after 2 1/2 hours of utter mayhem. So yeah, Nolan’s Batman is naive and has an overinflated sense of justice.
“who said anything about realism?”
Well, I don’t know, check the first post and go from there I suppose. There are many instances were realism is mentioned.
@Vigilantism: This isn’t a Nolan-introduced concept, it has been a part of the Batman mythos ever since the beginning. Nolan isn’t really even promoting vigilantism, but rather, the adverse effects of it.
“Connected to the risible scenes with the eavesdropping device, its destruction, and Morgan Freeman’s “wise” response it takes on a meaning that I just can’t abide.” – Greg
But why does this have to be something the film is promoting? Simply because Batman is commonly regarded as a hero in our society doesn’t make him so. His actions are suspect even though his motives are “pure” (see above, overinflated sense of justice, heh). Batman isn’t a hero, but a vigilante and the film doesn’t hide this. I mean, is Charles Bronson’s character in Death Wish any more admirable? Yet, there has never (hopefully there never will be or my head will just explode) been any comparison of linking Death Wish to the Bush era even though the subject of vigilantism and ‘justified violence’ is treated in a less balanced way, purely in black and white terms. TDK, despite its many flaws, at least hints at the possibly of “gray.”
“’. For example, we have a police force enforcing order, but that does not mean order is always enforced. It is something that one strives towards, but it’s not like there will always be a resolution and less likely that their will be a favourable one.”
ok, i agree with that. i thought you meant it in a different sense.
Yes, Alan Moore wrote The Killing Joke.
Combination of realism and caricaturization of comic book protagonists is the ultimate potion of adaptions. Look at Superman…in spite of all the macho testosterone, I didn’t see Donner “attempting” any real-life character tricks, so imagine what would happen with a Mafalda transliteration on screen! I’m not saying Donner is the god of superhero films or anything, just that much like with Sin City, several comic book adaptions, superhero or not (Garfield, ahem ahem) suffer from the constant references of real-life events e.g. the Bush connections of TDK as he recent discussion on this thread shows or the commercial distinction of their comic persona, hence why Garfield was raped by executives.
Poor output but it was mainly an introduction so that I’d throw in favorite imaginary versions of Batman: a transcript of Frank Miller’s Dark Night Returns (yeah, with the “Cold War” manipulative Superman) combined with Batman: Knightfall (I mean…who doesn’t like the Azrael league? Bane is included there too!!!) and I wouldn’t mind seeing a carbon-copy adaptation of Batman: The Long Halloween, where multiple characters like Riddler and Catwoman make their appearance besides the haunting duality of Harvey Dent / Two-Face (and not Two-Face deaths this time around!) plus, I really like Jeph Loeb as a comic writer more than a screenwriter.
P.S.: I may not like the Nolan visions as the Tim Burton ones but at least they’re an improvement considering the vision of Darren Aronofsky / Frank Miller which was probably shelved for good.
I think another thing that I like about the characters, even when they are all outspoken about their beliefs, is that when they say some statement about their opinion on justice or whatever, for me it just feels like they are coming from a certain history, a perspective, of their own lives. I mean, we’ve had political discussions on this board that are just as didactic, but they bely personal values and a life full of experiences where we glean our values—we are not just our political statements, and as a movie about the issue of vigilantism (especially one of this tightness and length) it’s not like Nolan really has time to show all of their childhoods or shit, even get a chance to show Rachel and Harvey on a non-Wayne-crashed date. It’s not like they’re all sitting around waiting for the chance to say, “I THINK THIS!” but that the movie revolves around them having little or not time to do otherwise.
Also, people have a tendency to assume that what a character states stands in for what a writer believes. I do not think this is always the case, and in The Dark Knight I think the ambiguity is not between what the characters believe but the conflict of interests behind those beliefs. On that observation, “Nolan delights in Batman’s weaknesses,” I would say it’s more like Nolan delights in the various characters’ disagreements. It may not be subtle but it’s still well done.
As for the ferry scene, I agree that was one sore thumb in an already crowded movie of raised hands. I too assumed that whoever pressed the button would only have their own ferry explode, but instead it was an ill-fitted (ironically) hopeful message of the power of people to do right (which sort of is meant to support the martyrism of Harvey Dent, but it just doesn’t fit as well ). I agree, editing room floor for that.
Otherwise I find the movie to be surprisingly tightly structured, considering a) Batman Begins is about the best definition of a structural mess I can think of, and b) The Dark Knight has a five act structure of act 1, act 2, act 3, act 2, act 3 instead of a three act structure or a five act structure of 1,2,3,4,5. Nolan covers a lot of ground, and as long as it is it still amazes me that he managed to keep it so short. I mean, not only is Batman not really in there all that often, but neither are any of the other characters! It’s an ensemble cast movie!
“Also, people have a tendency to assume that what a character states stands in for what a writer believes.”
YES! So many people assume this it just drives me insane. Make me want to get all ‘vigilante’ on their ass, heh.
Sorry guys, you are correct. I did not mean to cite The Man Who Laughs as I have not read it, but The Killing Joke as I have. So my reference is still based around Moore’s perspective.
The Man Who Laughs is good, though.
“And if we’re reading the film as an analog of the post-9/11, the “some men just want to watch the world burn” is reducing the “enemy” to, as Coleridge called it, “motiveless malignity,” it’s essentially de-humanizing whomever we want to label as “the enemy” and offering the beginnings of a rationalization for waterboarding, rendition, Abu Ghraib, and all.”
If you listen to the director’s commentary of 28 Days Later… , Danny Boyle explains how much of the imagery that inspired his vision was from real-life mass destruction, Sierra Leone and cult suicides and such (also the movie was in production when 9/11 happened, which influenced its mood quite a bit). Boyle isn’t really saying that his movie is “about” those things, but nevertheless that the visual language of the movie is steeped in our recognition of these events.
The Dark Knight is also steeped in the visual language of the 9/11 world, I completely agree, and like before, though I agree, I do not think that Nolan intends for it to be a simple, “This is how we should react” sentiment. Though The Joker is a terrorist, he’s not Osama bin Laden… his beliefs in fact are so far removed from the war in terrorism that his whole “this is the only sensible way to be” speech indicates a causal relationship to the war on terror (Batman’s fight?) itself, meaning that Batman caused more terrorists than the otherwise organized crime that he was fighting. In other words, The Joker is a product of Batman, not vice versa. This is very significant and fits criticism of Bush’s tactics. Has the war on terror actually helped, or have we just created more, and angrier/more dangerous, terrorists?
Also keep in mind the Joker’s stories about his past. Then look at No Country for Old Men. Where did Anton Chigurh come from? What’s his deal? Why does he do what he does?
Contemporary American cinema has developed a sort of villian-as-force-of-nature. One thing that 9/11 has caused for the so-called “national awareness” is the fact that our safety is not to be taken for granted, and that shit can just happen and kill us. As a result, recent American cinema has villians appearing from nowhere, with no cause, causing damage. That does not make the villians Osama bin Laden, or capable of being defeated. It’s the slowly burgeoning recognition that there are elements outside of our power, that we’re not some supergiant that cannot get damaged or even killed, that our ability to survive is not to be taken for granted.
When the towers fell, several other nations sorta shrugged and said, “Welcome to the world, America.” That is what is underlying our subconscious right now and why movies like The Dark Knight are coming out the way they are. Things like Morgan Freeman’s “this is wrong” and the ferries sequence are grasps of hope in an otherwise “gritty realism” that is in fact dark and cynical about our ability to fix anything, and in that mode I do understand that many people on this board are tired and critical about dark and cynical movies and I would agree that it’s too one-dimensional to focus on that. However, as The Joker is product, not cause, of the fight against injustice, Nolan’s use of The Joker is product, not defense, of a deeply seeded insecurity about our safety and understanding of the world.
-I do not think that Nolan intends for it to be a simple, “This is how we should react” sentiment.-
No, I don’t think it’s that simple either, or that the politics in the film are necesarily Nolan’s or intentional . . . which is why I said it offers the “beginning of” rationalizations that have dangerous implications when they’re worked out in real life. “Some men just want to watch the world burn” is presented in the film as if it were somehow an insight. Unless we’re talking Shakespeare . . . it isn’t. It’s a weakness in the film because it’s the point where the film can’t decide if it’s doing 21st century political realism or classical drama. Real people (even Burmese ones) have motivations, even if they’re not readily apparent to us. How did you come to be in Burma again, Alfred? Or are there world burners on both sides?
-Then look at No Country for Old Men. Where did Anton Chigurh come from? What’s his deal? Why does he do what he does?-
To me No Country is different in that Chigurh is clearly not a realistic character (though even so he does have some degree of backstory, which we get second hand)—he’s not a world-burner either, “you could even say that he has principles”—and the political allegory, if there is one, is really quite different:
Ed Tom at the beginning of the film:
“I always knew you had to be willing to die to even do this job. But, I don’t want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don’t understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He’d have to say, ‘O.K., I’ll be part of this world.’”
^well said matt, i was going to argue earlier that it doesn’t matter whether Nolan intended it to be read that way or not, but that it’s an important point in the film, and it’s the overall impression that counts in a film such as this.
I’m not sure it’s even possible to be all that realistic with a Batman film. i think part of the tensions in these new films occur from this very fact. The idea of a man dressing up as a bat with almost super human strength going around solving crimes is not very realistic, and i think trying to make it so is a mistake. just my opinion, and i know most disagree.
i guess i’ll always prefer the burton films for this reason, especially Returns.
I guess the thing is, Nolan may not intend to draw the audience into that sort of thinking, and I was not drawn into that type of thinking, I can agree that audience members can get drawn into that type of thinking, but really the audience can get drawn into thinking Alex from A Clockwork Orange is a good role model for how to act.
Yes, realism is part of the problem. The Joker is not a realistic character—so in the fantasy landscape that generates The Joker, “sometimes people just want to see the world burn.” That fantasy can be read as a statement on the human condition, especially because of the realism, and indeed there are sociopaths out there. I don’t think it’s a blanket statement. The reason why Alfred is saying all that, afterall, is because The Joker represents something that “rational” people don’t understand—going back to that fear of destruction from nowhere, the world outside hegemonic control.
And the Joker’s speech to Two-Face matches the “you could even say that he has principles” quote. It’s one of my absolute favorite scenes—how is The Joker going to convince Dent? The way it’s performed, it’s actually believable.
Polaris and Greg X, have either of you read The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller? I think it follows a more surreal perspective yet, to me, its fanatically more engaging and challenging in its depiction of vigilantism. It’s psychological depth towers over Nolan’s film.
also, and I’m sure you know this, but No Country For Old Men was written prior to 9/11. I’m not sure if I completely agree with you, maybe partially, that, as a whole, American cinema and its visually pronounced “villian-as-force-of-nature” perspective is a recent cinematic development. What other films did you have in mind regarding this theory?
also, do either of you two have jobs? :P
I have read Miller’s Batman: Year One. Been wanting to get around to The Dark Knight Returns for ages.
Yes, I know No Country for Old Men was written prior to 9/11, and so how about another Coen force of nature? A literal tornado at the end of A Serious Man. Sure, the Coen’s are dealing with a severely different range of concerns, but nevertheless No Country for Old Men sort of marks a line in the Coen’s latest oeuvre where they’re more concerned about fatalistic stuff beyond interpretation. Maybe it’s just them.
I also sort of get the same “feeling” out of the burning oil field and Plainview’s reaction in There Will Be Blood , and the ever more increased levels of sporadic violence in torture porn. A society under anxiety, looking more outwards like a cornered, desperate rat. That’s what American cinema feels like a lot lately, in ways I do not believe it felt like before 2001.
I think it’s actually increased lately. We’ve gotten past the “too soon” and the two wars are boiling down, and we’re left mostly with our own self-consciousness. However, on the flip side, a “new escapism” is developing in response, just look at all the fantasy CG movies coming out.
“also, do either of you two have jobs?”
Haha, I know right? Yes, Fridays are holy days in the UAE and so not only is there no work, but most things are shut down unless I want to go to Dubai. I don’t mind going to Dubai but it costs a bit and I’m saving up for my trip home. What I really SHOULD be doing is using this time to write something useful, like my script or another 30 Minute Film School. Instead I’m wasting it with you assholes. I love ya guys. “I wish I could quit you.”