I really, really liked the beginning, but the gay ending kinda ruined it.
I don't mean homosexual gay.
Do you remember what gay meant in the 1980's? It meant weak, lame, idiotic.
Overall I give the movie a B+|
Before the movie even starts, Hollywood is making mistakes. Anyone that knows anything about comic books knows that "Batman the Dark Knight Returns" is sacred text in comics history. Dark Knight Returns came out in the late 1980's and was written and drawn by Frank Miller, of Sin City and 300 fame. Naming the movie "Dark Knight" gives everyone very high expectations. I'd rather call the movie "Batman 2 (2008)"
The opening image has hazy bright sunlight zooming in on a clown's mask. A really cool cinematic image. Then I realize the bad guys are going to rob a bank. I could not believe it. Bad guys robbing a bank. Like they have done in comic books for decades. But this is Hollywood. Hollywood's bad guys are usually going to destroy an entire city (Spiderman 2), or destroy North America (Superman Returns), or kill every human on Earth (Xmen 2), or destroy the world (FF2, Hellboy 1 and 2). The simple bank heist was nice, unfortunately this bank job turned ugly and set a bad tone. The Joker kills too many people.
Another early part that was true to comics is the Joker's meeting with the mob/gang leaders. A super villain offering to local crime thugs to kill the town's superhero for a huge dollar price is a classic comic book story line. Altho the meeting was stereotypical/racist Hollywood. The meeting consisted of an Italian mobster, a black gangsta, and a hispanic dog-owning gang leader.
The Batmobile and Batcycle were pretty cool. There is a scene where a Joker henchman in a big semi-trailer is racing/crashing with a police van. The Batmobile went head-on with the semi and took it out. There is another good scene where Joker is playing chicken with the Batcycle and he is whispering "Come on, hit me, hit me." Like many serial killers, the Joker wants to be stopped / caught / killed.
Two parts I wanted more of, involved making the Joker closer to his comic persona. There was only 1-2 scenes that had Joker playing cards. Come on, that's his calling card. It should be left at nearly every crime scene. Also, Heath Ledger had a very good Joker laugh. Jack Nicholson's was too gruff. Ceasar Romaro was pretty good, but a little cooky. Ledger's was the best, but it was only heard one clear time. It was heard when the Joker left a video tape, but that's not good enough. Comics often had Batman dwarfed by huge "Ha ha ha ha" splashed on the pages. I thought having the Joker wear his trademark purple suit and green vest would be too much. But the movie pulled it off.
There was another Joker part that I thought was bad, then good, then bad again. The Joker explains that he got his facial scars from an abusive father. Bad. Another reluctant villain (ie. the Joker's not really bad, he's just a victim of abuse). Later, he tells a different story of how he got his scars. Good. The Joker is a crazy asshole that tends to lie alot. But then I thought they were mimicking the Jack Nicholson's Joker who repeated, "Ever dance with the devil in the cool moon light? I say that to all my prey." Bad.
Believe it or not, I don't mind a little bit of a love story in some comic book movies. In the comics, Peter Parker was always getting his heart broken. Superman had Lois. Daredevil had Karen and Natasha and Typhoid Mary. And there was Betty Ross defending the Hulk. However, traditionally, Batman had no time for love. Other than than boinking Catwoman. Noone can resist a shapely woman in leather, heals, and carrying a whip. Unfortunately, Hollywood has to add love triangles to its comic movies. Like it did horribly so in FF, Spiderman, Superman, Xmen. Having our hero go after another man's girlfriend is, and always will be, a lousy plot line. And the actress playing Rachel is alright looking but she is no gorgeous Katie Holmes.
The triangle I did like was Batman, Capt Gordon, and Harvey Dent coming together to fight organized crime. I liked how the three worked off each other to get the job done. Of course, it all comes apart in the end when they all blame themselves and each other for Rachel's death. But, hey, the story of Harvey Two-Face Dent is supposed to be a tragedy. I do wish they had not killed off Two-Face. He is a deep character and his special relationship with Batman makes it all the better. And unlike the Joker's senseless killing, Two-Face's victims always have a 50-50 chance. One of the best scenes was the Joker convincing Two-Face to "introduce some anarchy". The consumate-criminal Joker and former-prosecutor Two-Face have always had an uneasy working relationship.
Near the end of the movie Batman is looking for the Joker. Again, the Hollywood does not understand the Batman. Batman is supposed to be, foremost, a detective. He has no powers like Superman, Wonderwoman, or Green Lantern. But it's Batman that plans and figures out a way to win. Not a Adam West or Michael Keeton gadget-Batman, relying on his utility belt. In this movie Batman relies on technology to find the Joker, when he should have used his wits. The Joker outsmarted Batman the entire movie. The Joker had an alterior motive to every stunt and Batman never figured that out. Batman and Gordon "fell for it" or "took the bait" everytime. It was getting old by the end.
The end is where Batman throws the Joker off a building, but then saves him. The Joker has a very foretelling line, "We should do this forever." That's because for decades it was a vicious cycle: 1. Joker commits various crimes, 2. Batman catches Joker, 3. Joker goes to prison (or Arkham Asylum), 4. Joker escapes, 5. repeat steps 1-5. However, in recent comics the Joker has killed so many people that Batman is ready to break his vow and kill the Joker the next time Batman has the chance. It felt like it reached beyond that point in the movie. In the beginning, the viewer can tollerate Joker killing other criminals. But killing cops and gasoline-bombing people and hospitals in the end leaves us shaking our heads after the Joker's non-lethal final capture.
Many people have commented on the large amount of violence in this movie. I don't think the violence was all that necessary either, except for this: this Batman movie is not a kid's movie. It's for adults. And I like that. I hate movies that try to cater to adults and children. PG-13 means only a crappy parent would take their 8-year-old. People also didn't like Batman's voice. Hey, they were trying to be realistic. Batman and Bruce Wayne can't have the same voice.
In the very end Hollywood throws in a second dose of stupid unnecessary martyrdom. Earlier, Batman shows Morgan Freeman's character this software he pieced together that allows him to see everyone using their cellphone in a radar-type image. Freeman spouts out some BS like, "This technology is too powerful for any one person and I must resign my position at Wayne Industries." It was like Freeman suddenly got a heart transplant from the ACLU. Batman's software used technology that Freeman created and that Freeman used the day before to spy on an entire building full of people in Hong Kong. And Batman has never been a champion of the Bill of Rights. Batman is always violating: right to counsel, right to fair trial, innocent until proven guilty, right to be free of unwarranted searches, right not to bear false witness against thyself. In the Dark Knight Returns Batman says to a criminal: "Yeah, you've got rights. Lots of rights. Sometimes I say them to myself just to make myself feel crazy." Noone working for Batman even thinks about unwarranted search and seizure. I think this was Hollywood taking a shot at Pres Bush's wiretapping scandal. But it missed, and was just too gay. However, the movie has nearly everyone in Gotham City giving in to the terrorism of the Joker. Which we all know is the wrong thing to do, so maybe the movie is pro-Bush. I can't tell.
Finally, the other lame-o martyrdom was Batman taking the blame for killing Harvey Dent and the 1-2 people Harvey (Two-Face) shot. Why didn't they blame it on the Joker? The Joker already killed 100+ people. What's 2-3 more? During the whole movie Bruce Wayne had said Gotham City needs a hero. Now he is gonna tarnish Batman's image for no good reason. Stupid!
Earlier Harvey plays the martyr by admitting that he is the Batman. It was like the end of Spartacus from 1960. But we soon learn this is just a ruse to catch the Joker. Gordon faking his death was kinda tricky but unnecessary. I liked Batman diving off a ledge to save Gordon's son. Ala Batman Year One, another Frank Miller masterpiece.
Where the hell was the Batcave? Did they leave it out because this movie takes place within a few weeks of the first. Or for the sake of realism, ie. Wayne Manor is too far for Batman to commute. Or did the director think a big room with lots of lights is really cool. Doesn't matter. There is no reason to dis the cave. Click on the Wayne Manor pic to the left and you'll see what I mean.
My favorite part in the whole movie was a great line from Capt Gordon. He is in a police car racing across town. Traffic is conjested. Gordon turns to the driver and says, "Mount the curb!" I can't count how many times I've wanted to do that.
My second favorite scene had Batman roughing up the Joker in a police interrogation room. Batman is shoving the Joker around. Then Joker tells Batman that he's had Harvey and Rachel kidnapped. Hearing this Batman grabs a metal chair. On the other side of the one-way mirror, Gordon sees this and starts running, because he knows what Batman is gonna do with it. Batman slides over and crams the chair underneath the doorknob.
Some great scenes and lines make it one of the best comic book movies I've seen. The flaws above keep me from giving it an A. And it was too long. My $4.50 Pepsi went right through me and I was dying. I limped to the bathroom where I had a hard time peeing because my bladder had cramped shut. Sheer agony. Still, I think a posthumously oscar for Heath Ledger is a good bet. A sympathy vote is still a vote.
I see Catwoman and the Riddler in the next movie. Poison Ivy has a chance. Or maybe a freakish Penguin or Clayface or Bain. Mr. Freeze is too outlandish.