Reflections on The Dark Knight

I had an opportunity to see the most popular film of the summer movie season last night with a few friends, The Dark Knight.  Here are a few of my reflections, none earth-shattering.  There aren’t any real spoilers here, but feel free to come back after you’ve seen the movie.  Also, a reminder:  I do not make movie recommendations, only reflections (use your own discernment in consumption of media).

  • The movie is long and intense, though not long-feeling.  Without looking at the time, at one point I thought we were at the end, when in reality there was another hour or so.
  • The special effects and action sequences were very good and served the story-telling, rather than being the whole of the story (like so many movies this day).  We often marvel at special effects, when really we are being short-changed on so many other cinematic fronts.  Less is more (this applies to gore and suspense, as well).
  • The movie was not very comic-book esque, though based on comic books.  In some ways, this makes the movie feel more real and thus effective in drawing us into the movie.
  • The Dark Knight is, well, dark.  Yet, the feel of darkness is not artificially achieved by cinematic techniques.  I think about Batman (1989) and how everything takes place at night and the city is always dark and dingy.  In this version, I appreciated that there was a lot of daylight and many scenes that took place during the day.  This made the real darkness, that which resides in the heart of man, more real and more effective.  Another comparison here might be No Country for Old Men with its almost sepia tone.
  • Though the movie was dark, I did not walk away feeling hollow like I did after watching No Country for Old Me or There Will Be Blood.  There are similarities here for sure, but there was something else at work (heroism? – even if it is conflicted)
  • The dialogue was extremely tight and well written/performed.  I can’t think of any seriously cheesy lines!
  • There were a few places where the dialogue was hard to hear over the score.  I don’t know if this is an individual theater issue or a sound editing issue (No Oscar for you!).
  • I can understand why much has been made about Heath Ledger and his performance – it is hard not seeing him win the Oscar posthumously.  All of the acting performances were well done, but his stands out.
  • More specifically on the Joker, I thought there was something interesting that happened with his character.  Spoiler Alert:  In two different scenes he tells how he got his scars, but the story was different each time.  After hearing the first, it is possible to have some sympathy for the Joker, but after the second, any sympathy is removed and it is hard to know the truth (it may be neither, I don’t know if this is explained in the comic books or not).  The point is:  that is incredibly effective movie-making.  I felt something and then had that yanked away.  Also, it possibly points us to the debate between nature & nurture.
  • A few reflections from a Christian worldview:
    • The movie is accurate: darkness and evil are real and it resides in the hearts of men.
    • A hero is needed in this world, but one that incorruptible (Dent/Two-Face illustrates this).  In this way, we can see Jesus as the ultimate hero.  Jesus also stands in contrast because he is “the light of the world”.
    • Character, integrity, honor all matter and we celebrate these things when we see them.
    • I appreciated the current of hope, even in bleak times, that runs through the movie.  This theme is even the ending point of the movie.  This is a biblical current.
    • Negatively, there possibly a worldview of humanism present – that man is good and can do the right thing (e.g. the ferry dilemna).  While man can do good and the right thing, the God of all grace and good can easily be removed from the picture.  This may be unfair criticism – I will have to think some more on this.

What did you think of this movie?

You might also read this review of the movie from Christianity Today.

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Helen Lee on August 6, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    Hi Adam. Thanks for alerting me to this post. I regret that I check blogs infrequently, so the heads-up is always appreciated. I think you hit on some great issues above–things I hadn’t thought of before, such as having any possible sympathy for the Joker removed midstream, and the nature vs. nurture questions it raises. Interesting . . .

    Though I agree with your points about the heroism evident in The Dark Knight being absent from No Country and There Will Be Blood, I still prefer those movies to this one. Personally, I found the Dark Knight to be a little long and labored. I thought that Batman’s character was not developed as fully as it could have been and therefore I didn’t feel much connection with the “good” influence that he represented in the movie. I felt that some of the action sequences were unnecessary–especially the one in the building with the SWAT team. I also thought the movie had a couple of false finishes before it actually ended (probably intentional, but to me a little off-putting), and even looked at my watch a few times–a bad sign for me when a movie is long. Never once did I check my watch during No Country or There Will be Blood–the stories were so compelling and the characters so rich, I could have watched longer. I don’t know if this says something worrying about my soul, that I don’t much care whether good triumphs over evil in a movie. Something else to think about . . .

    Reply

  2. Adam, great observations here, and I would agree with most, if not all of them. Though I have a hard time agreeing that an Oscar can be given to an actor in a comic book film…

    I would also point out one other worldview element – the scene with the Joker in the holding cell talking with the cop resonated with humanism as well – doing good or evil is a choice, blah blah blah. I don’t remember the exact dialogue, but I remember rolling my eyes.

    Reply

  3. Posted by adamtisdale on August 7, 2008 at 9:47 am

    Helen: I can see and agree with your criticisms of the movie, they just didn’t stand out to me. On the other films, it may just be preference but I will keep praying for you anyway 8).

    Joel: Though it is a comic book film, very little of the movie felt that way. Ledger was one big reason.

    Reply

  4. Adam:I found the movie troubling. It probably didn’t help that all of the trailers but one before the movie portrayed similar themes. While overall it sought to portray the battle between good and evil, at times it carried things a bit too far. I am surprised that the graphic nature of the film earned a PG-13. The main problem I had was the feeling that the underlying message being present was, “to do right, sometimes you have to do wrong.” Like, Helen, Batman’s character was not developed enough in the movie to see him realize the foolishness of this view. This was brought home even clearer after the movie. One movie goer exlaimed, rather loudly, “I was rooting for the Joker.” My point, I guess, is that the movie blurred the line between good and evil so that in the end, even Batman fulfilled, in a sense, the oft quoted phrase, “You Either Die a Hero, or Live to Become the Villain.”

    That is my 2 cents worth.

    Reply

  5. Posted by adamtisdale on August 17, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    David,

    I think those are really good thoughts. I do remembering thinking about how all of the previews were awful – there was maybe one movie worth seeing. I can definitely see the validity of what you are saying here. Sad that someone would root for the Joker. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Reply

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