Review: The Dark Knight movie

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hardly do I have to say it to confirm what you've already heard just about everywhere else: The Dark Knight is a good movie.

Generally I weigh comic book movies on one big criteria: is there anything in it that would make me embarrassed to be a comic book fan? Is there anything in it -- as with Catwoman, for instance -- that reinforces the negative stereotypes of comic books and comic book reading, rather than displaying the value of comic books to potential new readers? Well, let me tell you, if Hollywood didn't already know the sheer power that comic books have to translate to the big screen as thoughtful, action-packed blockbusters, The Dark Knight demonstrates this in spades.

And The Dark Knight does all this by being moody and smart and emotional and -- above all the others -- being true to the source material. The idea of the "surprise ending" in The Dark Knight -- that is, Harvey Dent becomes you-know-who -- is laughably amazing; comics fans have known for over fifty years that Harvey Dent is Two-Face, and yet I was with audience members who were shocked when Harvey went bad. It's like half the world's population knowing that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father going in to Empire Strikes Back and half of them not.

But it works, even if you already know the story, and I'd like to think it works because the story itself is just so good -- the hope for Gotham; the vigilante, the policeman, and the district attorney; and the tragedy you dare think might be avoided, even as the movie moves to its inevitable conclusion. With shades of both The Long Halloween and Batman: Year One, the story of the year that the freaks came to Gotham isn't a story that needed re-imagining, just telling well, and The Dark Knight delivers.

Collected Editions commenter Lord Worthington asks, after my review of the Watchmen motion comics, whether The Dark Knight has allayed my fears of the downfall of DC Comics' media division in the face of Marvel's recent successes. My answer: yes and no.

Yes, Dark Knight is fantastic, and the buzz for Watchmen equally so -- but Dark Knight and Watchmen still feel like "event" movies instead of commercial franchises, and for every one Dark Knight there's three X-Men, three Spider-Men, two Fantastic Fours, and assorted Hulks, Iron Men, Daredevils and so on. And it remains to be seen if audiences will get Watchmen when it turns out not to be just another superhero movie Babies - like Tim O'Shea at Newsarama, I can't help but fear "Watchmen Babies" cartoons and the like.

But lest you be distracted by all my fretting and thinking, let me be clear: The Dark Knight is a good movie, and something to be proud of. If you haven't seen it, all three of you, go. (And support your local X-Files sequel while you're there.)

More reviews coming soon. Thanks for listening.
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2 comments:

  1. I went to see the film with a mixed group -- probably about half of us knew Harvey Dent's destiny, and half of us didn't. One of the latter actually recognized his name, but didn't connect him with Two-Face!

    I was surprised to see the transformation as early as we did. I figured they were setting him up to be the villain in the next movie, and that if we saw him as Two-Face at all, it would be at the very end.

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  2. Two-Face's early transformation surprised me, too! That and the fact that he seemingly died, though now I've read online that it was meant to be "ambiguous" -- my idea beforehand was that Dark Knight would end on a Two-Face cliffhanger like Empire Strikes Back, if you will, and then the third movie would be Batman vs. Two-Face.

    It'll be interesting to see what they do on the third movie if not Two-Face ... surely not Penguin and Catwoman again! And I can't think of anyone who'd be climactic enough ... not Riddler ... not Ra's al Ghul again ... who else?

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