Monday, July 21, 2008

No Nipples On This Batsuit

For my money, "The Dark Knight" is easily the best superhero film till date.

It's only too easy to come out of "The Dark Knight" and wonder if the film should really have been titled "The Joker". But that is stating the obvious. Drama is conflict and an extraordinary conflict requires an extraordinary antagonist. All great "action" films have memorable villains. It's the rule.

One of the reviewers got it right - I believe it is Ebert - when he called Batman merely one of the ensemble players, not the lead in the traditional sense. When reading the comic-books, it was easier to appreciate this fact: those books were as much about the villains as they were about Batman. In fact, the decision to buy a Batman comic-book was often dependent on which villain got the "top billing" on the front cover.

I disagree with Falstaff when he describes Nicholson's Joker as "a bizarre, larger-than-life arch-fiend, who seemed to have stepped straight out of an animation. He was psychotic and scary, but in a way that conformed to the boundaries of the genre."

IMO, Nicholson tried too hard to be scary-funny and was neither scary nor funny. It took me completely out of story-universe. But Ledger's character elicited laughter, sympathy (when he first starts talking about those scars), fear and revulsion. This is what the Joker's character is all about. Here's a sick, crazy villain doing all those crazy things and what you want most, at that point in the story, is for Batman to show up and straighten up things. Totally unlike Burton's Batman, in which I just wanted to watch Nicholson do his shtick.

What Christopher Nolan's film manages to convey at the end is a (temporary) sense of security: yes, villains like the Joker are out there, but Gotham has Batman. He may be the Hamlet of superheros, but at the end of this adventure, Batman's voice has certainty and confidence. The Joker may have had the most interesting lines in the film, but it is Batman's conviction about his actions that will bring me back to the next episode.

P.S.: For the first time on screen, Batman has that glowing, "white-eyed" look. Need I say more why I think this is the best Batman film ever?


??! said...


(I can't believe they're releasing it a WEEK later here!)

Space Bar said...

??!: mean even we get to see it before?

(not that's I'm watching anything just yet...just saying.)

??! said...


Well, they have one special screening every night, but since I didn't know the general releast was going to be so late, those tickets are already gone.

Falstaff said...

"What Christopher Nolan's film manages to convey at the end is a (temporary) sense of security: yes, villains like the Joker are out there, but Gotham has Batman"

See, I totally didn't get that. To me it just felt like the Joker won right down the line. But then, unlike you, I didn't much want Batman to show up and straighten things either. I wanted Batman to show up and get the ass-kicking he deserved because he was so clearly outclassed.

The white eye look was cool though. Although I'm still not sure why he needed Fox giving him a running commentary on what was going on if he could see it all himself. I see why the audience needed it, but not Batman.

km said...

Falstaff: Fox's running commentary was a letdown. Exposition is lazy screenwriting. (But almost every SF film - other than "2001" and Tarkovsky's "Solaris" - depends on exposition.)

space bar: your son will probably be *very* scared of the Joker.

??!: A fanboy will love it :)

anurag said...

Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to see it and its becoming difficult to show face in office where everyone is discussing it. I try to sneak out of such discussions pretenting stomach ache... Its unbearble how low ppl think of you if you havent seen it. All I need is some time, till I be one of us! Gooble Gobble! :D

Did you like "Batman Begins" ?