Pharyngula

A little preliminary heresy

You know nothing is sacred around here. Well, I saw The Dark Knight last night and … didn’t care for it. It was OK as an action movie, but the story was a mess. The plot wandered all over, and the movie seemed less interested in telling a story well than in throwing up moral ambiguity and ethical dilemmas which, instead of actually pursuing with any depth, it would resolve with a punch from Batman’s fist or an explosion. As a plot mover, the Joker was less an agent of chaos and more like the TA for a freshman philosophy course, leading everyone through twisty little exercises in artificial circumstances that present the poor student with difficult choices. The answers in the movie were about the level of superficiality I’d expect from naive freshmen: he’s not a hero, he’s more than a hero, he’s a guardian, or something. Unbelievably, the dialog actually spelled out such empty nonsense.

Although, it might make such courses much more interesting if, instead of writing papers, the students had to make their arguments in fistfights and pyrotechnics.

On the good side, though, the portrayal of the Joker by Heath Ledger has to be one of the best movie villains ever. That guy was scary — you wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley, and Ledger made you believe that you just might find someone like him in a dark alley somewhere. He set the screen on fire, and made the guy in the batman suit recede into irrelevance. If only he’d been given a screenplay that was less stagey pinball machine, and more focused.

Comments

  1. #1 David Lee
    July 24, 2008

    Well, I read one review that suggested it was deliberately chaotic. Now I’ll have to see it.

  2. #2 Michelle
    July 24, 2008

    I totally have to see that movie. But I have two choices: hitching a ride on three buses for about 2 hours to get to the theater that shows it in english, or just go see it in french

    …which would suck. Dammit!

  3. #3 No One Of Consequence
    July 24, 2008

    Dis’n a cracker and Batman in the same day. Now I am offended.

    And to think I was looking forward to seeing the movie.
    …someday…eventually…when it makes it to video…if the kids want to see it.

  4. #4 KCProgramr
    July 24, 2008

    That was about my take on it. There were some holes in the plot, it was dark and gritty and, in places, unbearably pretentious as it beat you over the head with its Serious Message. In short, it was a Batman comic, as a movie. On those terms, it was very good. Ledger did an excellent job; you saw the madness, and the anguish behind the madness, and the abyss beneath both.

    But I don’t see any point in pretending it was great art. It was much better done than most movies in the genre. Isn’t that enough?

  5. #5 Julian
    July 24, 2008

    This is pretty much the opinion I’ve heard of it all over the Interwebs Critic Matrix. Once I found out that the director wanted to shoot the movie in IMAX, I kinda figured the production team would be jumping the shark in other ways as well. What’d you think of Bale’s performance?

  6. #6 Jason Failes
    July 24, 2008

    Let’s see how many threats roll in from Batman fans… Wait, you mean they understand the difference between fantasy and reality and accept that different people have different tastes? Blasphemy!

    PS I liked it better than the first. It moved along faster, and there was no credibility-destroying microwave cannon or similar hokey sci-fi device.

  7. #7 Ric
    July 24, 2008

    SPOILER ALERT!

    It was imperfect, no doubt. I thought it had two major flaws: 1) it stumbled about three quarters of the way through, having one pseudo-ending, whereupon the plot got loose and unfocused. It was about 45 minutes too long. 2) the so-called resolution of Batman as guardian thingie was particularly unsatisfying, not to mention contrived. Why not just blame the murders on the Joker?

    Oh, and couldn’t the director have told Bale to back-off on the raspy, spit-filled Batman voice. He way overdid it.

    That being said, I thought over-all it succeeded, and I enjoyed it a great deal. Heath Ledger has not been over-rated in this movie. He was superb, and all in all I think it was a good movie.

  8. #8 Cliff Hendroval
    July 24, 2008

    Oh, man…you thought the crazy Catholics were bad? Just wait until the fanboys hear about this!

    Both of Salon’s critics had roughly the same opinion as you, and they ended up with hundreds of letters telling them how horrible they were (an average movie review usually generates ~5-20 letters).

  9. #9 Eric
    July 24, 2008

    I agree. While I didn’t think the movie itself deserved all the hubbub, Heath Ledger did an excellent job. I’m still glad I saw it in the theater though, and I’d recommend everyone do the same. Enjoyable overall.

  10. #10 SM
    July 24, 2008

    Global aging: the demographic winter is coming.

    Aging workforce in the USA.
    geocities(dot)com/demographic_crash

    Louis XIV : Après moi le déluge.

    Also new website prowomanprolife(dot)org

  11. #11 John S. Wilkins
    July 24, 2008

    That’s just terrible. Hand back your nerd credentials immediately or I’ll declare a fat-war on you. Expect several hundred thousand Comic Book Guys at your door waving fire brands.

    [Hint: It's a superhero movie. Dialogue is supposed to be cheesy. But the fact that none of the so-called good guy bad guy principles applied in this film took it to another level. And they resolved the Prisoner's Dilemma in a novel way, which makes the freshman philosophy OK.]

  12. #12 Rob
    July 24, 2008

    I’m with PZ on this one. For a movie that got such good reviews and opening box office, it sure stank. I can’t remember a movie I disliked so much since “Dune”.

    Mind you, I saw TDK at a drive-in, right after “Get Smart”, which I found hilarious. The contrast may have hurt TDK. And the noisy environment marred some of the softer dialogue. To be sure, I was grateful for that, after a while, because the noise also hid some of the pretentiousness.

    Once you think of the word “pretentious” in regard to this movie, your enjoyment is doomed. But it seems to have occurred independently to both PZ and to me; perhaps it’s there for all to see…

  13. #13 wazza
    July 24, 2008

    I’m DOING one of those courses!

    And, since it’s in international relations and we’re covering Kosovo…

    EXPLOSIONS!

    Plus, I called Milosevic a “complete and utter bastard” answering a question, and the lecturer later quoted me.

  14. #14 Paholaisen Asianajaja
    July 24, 2008

    Damn. Six hours until I see Dark Knight. Since it is such an occasion, I’ll dress up as Joker (makeup included).

  15. #15 JoJo
    July 24, 2008

    I had problems with The Joker.

    While Heath Ledger is was a talented actor, not for one moment did I find his performance remotely scary. I saw more Heath and less Joker and Heath was not scary.

    The Joker’s character came across as very contrived. On the one hand, he says that he follows no plans, simply is an agent of chaos. And on the other hand, he micro-manages his plans and manipulates people in the most premeditated and scheming manner. This was most clear in the final scene where the Joker is hanging up side down and he tells Batman that he always had a masterplan, “an ace up his sleeve”. C’mon, Mr. Agent of Chaos, how come you come off as so damn scheming?

  16. #16 Kcanadensis
    July 24, 2008

    SM @ #10
    (and I hope that comment is deleted as it is spam)
    Your stupid website is actually implying that the world is in a crisis because of UNDER-POPULATION? You are out of your mind. Humans are overpopulating the earth, destroying it, starving to death, unable to find jobs, on and on and you have the audacity to say we should breed more?
    Facepalm.

  17. #17 KCProgramr
    July 24, 2008

    #6: and there was no credibility-destroying microwave cannon or similar hokey sci-fi device.

    I respectfully disagree, re: the scanner network. But everyone has their own threshold. And as I said, it was a comic book movie, so I just went with it.

    #11: they resolved the Prisoner’s Dilemma in a novel way, which makes the freshman philosophy OK.

    Technically it wasn’t the Prisoner’s Dilemma, since if no one pressed the button, the Joker would destroy both. It worked out as the classic PD because he was stopped from doing so. I thought it was more interesting how the passengers resolved it–who was most aware of the difference between murder and slaughter.

    (trying to avoid tossing in any spoilers, hopefully I succeeded)

  18. #18 barnetto
    July 24, 2008

    I don’t know about the cops that Dent killed, but Dent himself you can’t blame on the Joker. The Joker had already been caught and Gordan had set up the perimeter around the building. Presented with a dead Harvey Dent, do you just say my family and Batman were all up there for no real reason and Dent tripped and fell to his death? I guess while you’re at it you can go ahead and blame Batman for cop deaths too, otherwise you’ve got a live Joker on trial saying yep, I killed this one and this one, oh but not those two.

  19. #19 Brian W.
    July 24, 2008

    Jojo, could it be that the Joker was lying to get people to under estimate him? That’s what i got out of it.

  20. #20 HumanisticJones
    July 24, 2008

    Dear University of Minnesota, Morris,

    An associate professor in your employ, PZ Meyers, has been posting hurtful, hate filled bigotry on his blog that can be reached from a link on his university faculty page. Dr. Meyers has stated with out any hint of humor or apology that the Christopher Nolan rendition of Batman: The Dark Knight was in fact, less than a perfect movie. His statement that the plot was not well constructed causes deep hurt to the community of Batman fans everywhere. His blatant comparison of The Joker to a TA in a freshmen philosophy class is so hate filled that I cannot think of worse bigotry in the history of this country!

    One can assume from Meyer’s lack of reasoned commentary on such matters that he has not read the many deconstructions of heroes and villains in the DC Universe, from the moral ambiguity of Batman’s role in society, the self perpetuating hero-villain relationship between Batman and the Joker, or the marvelous graphic novel The Killing Joke (from which most of the characterization of the Joker in this movie was taken). For a man with such sparse knowledge of the DC literature, Meyers presumes to tell us that the depth of the moral and philosophical dilemmas of our great heroes are only superficial!

    I hope that you take appropriate action against Dr. Meyers soon! I don’t think that you want your university associated with such anti-cape bigotry and hatred.

    Yours in Superman,
    Humanistic Jones

  21. #21 Morse
    July 24, 2008

    I think it may be a mistake to go to a superhero movie and expect a good plot. In relation to other superhero movies, I think this was one of the best, but still not a great plot if we’re looking at all movies.

    But yes, Heath Ledger was insanely good as the Joker. (Pun intended.)

  22. #22 Fred Mounts
    July 24, 2008

    Heresy indeed! Ah, it’s all good. I come here for the science and the crackers, and I go elsewhere for my passion for films.

    I loved the movie, and plan on seeing it a second time as soon as possible.

  23. #23 Kristin
    July 24, 2008

    oh, PZ (and several other commenters), can’t you let those brains rest for once and enjoy a truly thrilling masterpiece? you are all too smart and analytical for your own good.

    this movie is my god. i respectfully disagree with you (and i promise not to threaten your life).

    perhaps you simply enjoy being in the minority? :-)

  24. #24 Benjamin Franklin
    July 24, 2008

    Haven’t seen Batman yet, but it’s on the list.

    Saw Wall-E yesterday with the kids, enjoyed it. That’s what I go to movies for, cheap escapism & an occassional chuckle.

    Any good laughs in Batman?

  25. #25 Brian W.
    July 24, 2008

    “Any good laughs in Batman?”

    Quite a few actually.

  26. #26 Mozglubov
    July 24, 2008

    @ #6

    As pointed out in #17, I don’t think that they were entirely clear on what sonar actually means… yes, the microwave machine in the first one was a little ridiculous (especially since it left people – predominantly full of water – miraculously unhurt), but this one had many smaller techno-gaffs rather than the one big one. Also, the fingerprint reconstruction was absolutely ridiculous.

  27. #27 barnetto
    July 24, 2008

    Sorry for not writing SPOILERS on my previous post in response to #7…

    @Jojo
    Yep, you clearly saw that Joker had all these plans. So when he says that he doesn’t plan thats still perfectly in character because the character of the Joker can’t be trusted; he’s a liar. That should have come across previously when he tells two different stories about how he got his facial scars and certainly by the time he switched those addresses.

  28. #28 mezzobuff
    July 24, 2008

    Humanistic Jones, you are my new hero.

  29. #29 apy
    July 24, 2008

    They killed off the wrong villain to, oh sweet foresight!

    I for the most part really liked the movie, but I do agree it was a little long. I did not like what they did with dent though. It reminded me of Spiderman 3, where you have this really amazing character that deserves their own movie and you introduce AND destroy them in a half hour. I felt they should have created the two face and left it as a lead in for the third movie. That would have also cut down the time.

  30. #30 jp
    July 24, 2008

    Thank you, PZ! You summed up precisely my reaction to the film. Since everyone else I know is raving about it…I feel validated.

  31. #31 techskeptic
    July 24, 2008

    Humanistic Jones #20,

    Thanks, that really made my day. That was very funny.

    I truly enjoyed the movie. I don’t know what PZ was taking that day. If you can’t enjoy this superhero movie, then I think you are pretty much done with superhero movies. There simply has not been a better one. Perhaps you should rent The Hours or 28 dresses.

  32. #32 FishyFred
    July 24, 2008

    Finally! I’m not the only one!

    PZ, I just invited you to my Facebook group on the subject.

  33. #33 Brian W.
    July 24, 2008

    I was disappointed that Scarecrow wasn’t in the movie more. I think a teaming up of him and the Joker would’ve been great. Scarecrow would’ve had the know-how to make the Joker’s laughing gas. Oh well.

  34. #34 SteveL
    July 24, 2008

    The main message of the movie at the end is that government officials need to lie to the people for their own good. Great movie! Yup, we sure need more of that.

    And before anyone says “it was just a movie of a comic book – the moral isn’t important”” I say that they went out of their way to make the statement. If all they wanted was a fantasy/action movie they could have stuck to simple bad guys lose, good guys win.

  35. #35 Louis
    July 24, 2008

    One wonders if more True Batman Fans (TM Patent Pending) will invoke their own version of the Courtier’s reply (as has been done in beautiful satire with post #20) i.e. the Cartoonist’s Reply.

    “You haven’t read enough comics, ergo you cannot comment on the holes in a movie-adaptation-of-a-comic’s plot.”

    I think at the very least PZ should get some emails threatening him with having his brains beaten in with a rolled up copy of the issue of SUperman which introduces Red Kryptonite. Followed of course by lots of emails and posts decrying PZ for not criticising the recent Hulk movie (‘cos we all know Hulk movie fans are fanatics who kill people).

    Most of all however, I look forward to the endless concern trolling of people claiming to realise that Batman is fiction but who cry that criticism of the plot of Batman is bigotry. And of course that desecreting a free flyer from a Batman convention (that someone has obtained for PZ) is tantamount to his inciting theft and then killing black people/Jews/women/whatever suitably hyperbolic analogy is useful at the time.

    May there be many comments!

    Louis

  36. #36 Gerhard
    July 24, 2008

    I wonder whether dissing Batman will cause a bigger wave than crackergate …
    Now that you’re done with the holy wafer, do you want us to send you pencils to show us tricks with? ;)

  37. #37 AJ Milne
    July 24, 2008

    Oh man. Here goes. Justice League’s gonna issue a press release for sure.

  38. #38 Ollie
    July 24, 2008

    I dunno, I felt pretty gripped by the whole “pretentious” freshman philosophy aspect. All of a sudden, these “hypothetical” cases become real — at least in context of the movie. It’s like playing poker for chips versus playing poker for chips when the chips have monetary value. The game really starts to change.

    Then again, I’ve probably watched too many superhero movies to even pick up on such flaws.

  39. #39 Confuseddave
    July 24, 2008

    Thanks. No really. I’m going to see it tomorrow, and have heard only good things so far. In my experience that bodes really badly for my enjoyment of the film. IMHO, you need low expectations to be really properly impressed.

  40. #40 Ric
    July 24, 2008

    barnetto @18:

    I see what you mean, but I don’t buy it. The Joker is a known liar. Why should he be believed. Gordon can just deny it and blame him, and there you go. Or they could just obscure and stonewall the murders in general. After all, the Bush administration had great success with these tactics.

  41. #41 RedMan
    July 24, 2008

    Sounds like you went to see a SuperHero movie and expected to see something else.

    If you wanted Hamlet, you should have gone to a theater.

  42. #42 Brian W.
    July 24, 2008

    “you need low expectations to be really properly impressed.”

    Maybe that’s why i loved it so much. My expectations were pretty low. Before this Batman Begins was the best Batman movie and face it, it was pretty boring. I didn’t expect much more out of The Dark Knight but was very pleasantly surprised.

  43. #43 Optimus Primate
    July 24, 2008

    I’ve heard similar complaints about the plot wandering and the story going nowhere. I have to say, that’s actually one of the things I loved about the film (although I of course would have worded my case differently).

    There’s a lot to be said for the three-act narrative form, but said structure has ruined many a film for me. It’s never very difficult to tell the direction in which most films are headed as a result.

    With The Dark Knight, I’ll admit I didn’t always know where it was going. I found that quite refreshing.

  44. #44 Quiet Desperation
    July 24, 2008

    I liked the film, but there *was* something off with the whole shebang. One thing that bothered me that I haven’t seen mentioned is Batman’s complete disregard for property. There were a lot of places where he destroys cars and parts of buildings when he’s miles away from the villains and merely in pursuit mode.

    I still think the best Batmans were done by the Warner’s animated unit. They put together a tight, 30 minute superhero story every week. Kevin Conroy did the same voice for Batman as he did for Bruce Wayne. It’s like Clark Kent and his glasses fooling everyone. You just go with it.

    They recently went anime with the whole thing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batman:_Gotham_Knight

    I thought Christian Bale would be a good choice long before he actually got the part. I think it was after Equilibrium came out and there was talk of restarting the Batman films. The key to casting a superhero is this: you cast the *alter ego* role, not the superhero. You cast Bruce Wayne, not Batman.

  45. #45 TSC
    July 24, 2008

    Yes, but Heath Ledger is in hell with George Carlin…according to reputable sources of undisputed veracity.

  46. #46 Brian W.
    July 24, 2008

    Oh! speaking of that anime Batman has anyone seen it yet? I’m very curious. There are so many ways to interpret the Batman character that i think having 6 short stories would be a great way to show a bunch of them. Some emphasizing his technology and gadgets, some emphasizing the darker sides.

  47. #47 Ranson
    July 24, 2008

    Anyone else pick up on the subtle hint about the next movie’s antagonist?

    “Will it work against dogs?”

    “Maybe large cats.”

    At least, that’s how I parsed it.

  48. #48 TSC
    July 24, 2008

    Humanistic Jokes: It’s “Myers”.

  49. #49 Arno
    July 24, 2008

    Don’t forget to mention that all people who were against Batman were some of the most evil people in the world!
    Hitler killed millions, because he hated Batman!
    Mao and Stalin were anti-Batman as well, as was Pol Pot.
    And hey, how about the Joker! Mass murderer and stuff.

    Seriously, anyone who is against Batman, is amoral.

  50. #50 BruceH
    July 24, 2008

    I saw the movie last night as well. I liked it, with reservations. It did get a bit hard to suspend disbelief a few times. For instance, exactly how did the Joker manage to rig Gotham Hospital to explode with nobody being the wiser? Particularly in view of his stated predilection for standard explosives? I mean, it takes quite a bit of explosives, not to mention effort in placing them, to cause a large building to explode like that. Wouldn’t somebody have noticed the preparations?

    And that’s just one example.

    But still, it was a fun, fast paced action flick. There is much to like about it on that level.

  51. #51 Brian W.
    July 24, 2008

    “Humanistic Jokes: It’s “Myers”.”

    That’s part of the joke…i think

  52. #52 lostinasia
    July 24, 2008

    ***SPOILERS***

    On the fingerprint-off-the-bullet scene: what was the point? It seemed like quite the 24-style red herring… somehow it seemed to lead Batman to the apartment building above the funeral, but I didn’t quite get how it got him there. The tenant of that apartment was a Joker crony? And they’d used the apartment to tie up (and, oddly/ uncharacteristcally, not kill) the police officers?

    Plus it really annoyed me that after Batman rescued the guest falling out of the penthouse party, the Joker side of the story was left hanging. Weren’t they looking for Harvey Dent? And wasn’t he cleverly concealed in the bedroom or something?

    Note that the movie didn’t make it 100% clear that Two-Face was gone. He certainly wasn’t as conclusively dead as other characters who turned out to be, um, not dead.

    I enjoyed the double boat scene, because the movie had already been dark enough that you genuinely weren’t sure which way it would go. OK, the big burly prisoner was obvious, but I wasn’t too sure about the other side.

    I did thoroughly enjoy it, except for wishing that we still had intermissions in long movies. Stupid bladder.

  53. #53 Tom
    July 24, 2008

    <JOKE>
    Oh no you did not! How DARE you criticize Batman movies! You are a evil, evil man. Being a godless heathen is one thing… being mean to a cracker is another thing… but saying a batman movie isn’t the most awesome thing you have ever seen is going TOO far, PZ!

    I will now have to report you to Frank Miller and we will both come over there and do unspeakable things to you… I can’t tell you what, because they are UNSPEAKABLE!
    </JOKE>

  54. #54 Brian W.
    July 24, 2008

    **SPOILER**

    Was anyone else really glad to see the death of that Batmobile? I hated that thing. I thought it looked cool and all, but for a guy that focuses so much on stealth it just wasn’t fitting.

  55. #55 Steve_C
    July 24, 2008

    I’ll go see any batman flick as long as there’s no nipples on the rubber suit. I’m a sucker for good Art Direction and Photography.

    I loved the Tumbler!

  56. #56 HumanisticJones
    July 24, 2008

    @ #48 and #51
    Yes, the chronic misspelling of his name is part of the joke. A minor Poe’s Law scenario I think.

  57. #57 LisaJ
    July 24, 2008

    I guess I pretty much agree with your stance on the movie, however I came out of the theatre having really enjoyed the movie – I think it was so obvious early on that this was the Joker’s movie. He really stole the screen, and I pretty much tuned any of the other crap out and was just wowed by Heath Ledger’s performance. I’m sure without such a strong character as the Joker in this movie I would have felt it was crap.

  58. #58 Jeremy
    July 24, 2008

    I used to think you were perfect, PZ, but now you’ve gone and shown your true colors. Everything you said has been a lie and I refuse to read another post on this blog.

    The Dark Knight was the second coming for we geeks and you’ve blasphemed all over it.

    In all seriousness, WTF, it was an amazing movie. You’ve seen other comic book movies right? This is like Shakespeare compared to them.

  59. #59 Ranson
    July 24, 2008

    RE: Joker and explosive planting

    Maybe he got the experiences placing shaped horizontal thermite charges for the 9/11 false-flag operation?

  60. #60 Gareth
    July 24, 2008

    Not seen the film yet, but isn’t it funny how the Joker always manages to rescue the film? Jack Nicholson’s Joker in the first Michael Keaton Batman was also the highlight of the film!

  61. #61 Bjorn Watland
    July 24, 2008

    Does anyone, for a second, believe the boat scene would end up like it did? 30 million cell phones all monitoring the city with fancy sonar and real time voice recognition are more realistic then the boat scene.

  62. #62 Ranson
    July 24, 2008

    Ack. My last post there should have a “[/nutjob]” at the end. I put it in real html, and the system ate it. D’oh.

  63. #63 Jeremy
    July 24, 2008

    It at my sarcasm tags too.

  64. #64 Dan B.
    July 24, 2008

    Haha – PZ, are there any movies you DO like? No wonder people think atheists are grumpy and mean. =P

  65. #65 Mango
    July 24, 2008

    The movie was horrible and interminable. No character development at all. Christian Bale is out of the costume for a total of 10 minutes, so his talent is wasted. Save your money and time.

  66. #66 Big City
    July 24, 2008

    Peezy!
    I totally agree with you. Great as an action movie, not as a Batman movie. I don’t like Christian Bale as Batman or Bruce Wayne, and, while I did like the character that Heath Ledger played, it wasn’t the Joker, it was just some crazy guy.
    Plus, I kept waiting for something awesome to happen, and it never did.

  67. #67 Brian W.
    July 24, 2008

    “No character development at all.”

    That’s like complaining about there not being character development in Bugs Bunny cartoons.

  68. #68 Vanessa
    July 24, 2008

    They smushed a Lamborghini! I mean, I don’t go into movies expecting much or I’ll be disappointed. I enjoyed it even though it was a bit long and part with the flipping semi was fun. But really. A Lamborghini? It’s like when Bond’s Aston Martin got sliced in half. I think I died a little inside. At least my local theater lets DePauw students in free on weekdays.

  69. #69 Mango
    July 24, 2008

    Brian, a 2.5 hour movie not a 4 minute cartoon.

  70. #70 Chris Nowak
    July 24, 2008

    Good movie, not great though. The sonar and the fingerprint thing were totally groan-worthy. The bat-motorcycle thing coming out of the tumbler was pretty ridiculous too. These were all more ridiculous to me than the microwave emitter from begins.

    I still like the overall mood of the thing. They captured the sense of complete chaos pretty well – how everything was falling apart completely because of the joker and they were always one step behind. The only problem was that the conclusion was a little bit of a let-down in regards to this…it was just too quick for what should have been a more epic showdown since the entire movie was building the Joker up as such an epic villain and such a complete contrast to batman. The joker was so completely prepared for everything batman had to throw at him – and then in the final scene, it seemed like he just wasn’t…it’s not like batman somehow really outsmarted him. Same with two-face – batman just tackles him.

    Heath was amazing and completely unrecognizable – I liked every scene of his except for the one where he first talks to the mob guys. Definitely a great performance.

    I normally actually like Maggie Gyllenhal but didn’t like her in this. Katie holmes was actually better in my opinion.

    Bale was just kind of…there. There weren’t many scenes of how he has any sort of inner conflict, and those inner conflicts he does have are kind of disjointed and mostly unresolved. Bale did a good job but didn’t have many acting scenes to shine with. I agree with everyone who said the raspy voice was overkill sometimes.

    I like how this is almost a complete contrast to the spiderman movies – which seem so completely “emo” in comparison since they spend so much time on introspection, especially the third one which obviously was terrible in this regard. This film and batman begins were much more about external conflicts.

  71. #71 Josh West
    July 24, 2008

    #66 Big City

    I can take or leave Bale as BatBruce, but Ledger was as true to the dark comic Joker as you can get. He’s no Ceaser Romero or Jack Nicholson, but I wouldn’t want him to be.

  72. #72 gdlchmst
    July 24, 2008

    Oh come on, people. It is a quality movie. Well made and great acting. I really didn’t expect it to turn out so well. As to the claim that it wasn’t profound enough, that’s just rubbish. If I wanted Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal,” I would have watched that. For a blockbuster movie made from comic books, it is amazingly coherent and just dark enough to keep it from being boring. And did someone back there say that there was no character development? What movie were you watching?

  73. #73 Brian W.
    July 24, 2008

    And that’s irrelevant. The point is no one watches it expecting there to be any. Pick up a Batman comic and do you think you’ll see pages and pages of Bruce Wayne? That works for some characters, but this isn’t one of them. That’s why the last movie was so dull.

    So you can complain that there was no character development. Just like i could complain that there were no pie fights.

  74. #74 Mango
    July 24, 2008

    Brian, we like what we like. I like to have characters who interest me, and *developing* them is key to that.

  75. Well, I certainly agree with you…mostly, at least. I enjoyed the movie. I kept my attention. However, the plot was pretty shitty and had too much going on…the dialogue sucked, Batman looked like a pansy (and this coming from a gay man!), and the character of The Joker didn’t make much sense.

    But, the movie was still entertaining. It’ll make millions, too.

  76. #76 The skepTick
    July 24, 2008

    Only 2 complaints from me:
    1) Using Michael Caine to explain every single moral conflict is a little disrespectful to the audience, as if we’re not smart enough to figure out a few things for ourselves.
    2) The voice of Batman….here’s a nice parody illustrating the point.

    Overall, I loved the movie.

  77. #77 No One Of Consequence
    July 24, 2008

    Maybe PZ could dis’ a cracker, Batman, and Scott Adams/Dilbert all in one post. That would bring the Science Blogs servers to their knees.

  78. #78 Blake Stacey
    July 24, 2008

    The answers in the movie were about the level of superficiality I’d expect from naive freshmen: he’s not a hero, he’s more than a hero, he’s a guardian, or something. Unbelievably, the dialog actually spelled out such empty nonsense.

    PZ’s complaints about this movie sound rather like mine about Batman Begins.

  79. #79 Felicia
    July 24, 2008

    Although, it might make such courses much more interesting if, instead of writing papers, the students had to make their arguments in fistfights and pyrotechnics.

    Now that’s a philosophy class worth taking! Then again, I have this weird love/hate relationship with the subject.

  80. #80 gdlchmst
    July 24, 2008

    Okay, to the character development people, batman/Bruce is not *supposed* to change, his character development was done in the first movie, in which he became batman. Once he is batman, he is meant to be the embodiment of stability, reliability, and constancy. Gotham may fall, but batman never will. That is the point of his character. But you can’t honestly say that the characters surrounding him do not “develop.” Just look at Rachel Dawes and Harvey Dent.

    To the plot and dialog people, plot was the way it was because of the story it was telling. It was about the downfall of a city and one man’s fight against it (and the Joker as the most badass villain ever). I don’t think there could be much more improvements to the plot. The dialog consisted of a lot of one-liners, but that’s because the average American has a short attention span. Some one-liners did truly suck, but you can’t denounce the entire movie because of a few lines.

  81. #81 Mooser, Bummertown
    July 24, 2008

    If my son wanted to see a Batman movie on his birthday, and expressed such a wish to me, I would give a him a moderately intense beating and send him to bed without any supper.
    But you took your’s yourself? Some parent you are! Watching movies is one step from conversion experience. Maybe two. Anyway, you’ll be sorry. No good can come of watching movies.

  82. #82 Steve
    July 24, 2008

    If the philosophy of this movie set PZ on edge, I can’t wait to see his review of Watchmen.

  83. #83 rob
    July 24, 2008

    Damn you GOYERRRRRR!

  84. #84 Goldfishflakes
    July 24, 2008

    I would normally agree with your review on lack of story…or rather a chaotic story line. But, hey…Batman isn’t supposed to be deep and philosophical. It’s BATMAN! :)

    I absolutely LOVED the movie because I wasn’t expecting anything more than what it was. Yes, Ledger’s performance was awesome and blew out all of the past Joker’s out of the water! Yep, Ledger was scary and convincing!

    Sigh, I hate that that will be the one and only Batman he will grace. :( He was meant for that role.

    Anyways, I loved the movie and the soundtrack is wonderful too.

  85. #85 Brian
    July 24, 2008

    In re: Bale’s “raspy” Batman voice.

    Ironically, that was a move meant to enhance credibility. His suit includes a voice distorter. After all, if these folks know Bruce Wayne, when they hear his normal, un-distorted voice, they would say “That you, Bruce?” and the jig would be up.

  86. #86 Blondin
    July 24, 2008

    I felt they should have created the two face and left it as a lead in for the third movie.

    Since when did killing somebody in one movie prevent them from appearing in a sequel?

  87. #87 Nerdette
    July 24, 2008

    As a Chicago student and stuck in the city over the summer, I had difficulty detaching the scenery as places I knew. Hey, he’s under the El, wow they made it longer… It made the whole rush to leave Gotham a little less anxious. So what, they are blocking the bridges across the river. Where were they going to go, the South Side? And the boat scene against Navy Pier caused myself and a couple of friends to giggle uncontrollably.

    As a movie, I enjoyed the action and I was happy there was a ton of it (the truck scene anyone?). I found Bale’s performance lack luster, the Bat suit appeared swollen, and the role of Two-Face too brief.

    As a huge Tim Burton fan, I tell myself and others that the new Batmans cannot be compared to the original two by Burton, as they are simply to different of a vision. However, watching this, I did find myself wishing for the Gothic, mysterious Batman over this modern version. Suppose I’m too much of a romantic.

  88. #88 Fr. J
    July 24, 2008

    PZ, how could you be scared by the Joker? You both share a similar philosophy. He would have applauded your recent actions.

  89. #89 Tim Drake
    July 24, 2008

    I respectfully disagree, PZ.

    While I do see where you’re coming from and believe your stance has merit (I too would love to see philosophy classes resolved in fisticuffs and explosions), I felt The Dark Knight was an amazing thrill ride and followed a typical Joker plan to the letter.

    Also, I loved seeing an incredibly good representation of Two Face.

  90. #90 spurge
    July 24, 2008

    Fr. J

    Troll elsewhere.

  91. #91 spurge
    July 24, 2008

    I forgot to add.

    I liked the movie allot and I am not easy to please.

    It was a bit long but I am not sure what they could have cut.

  92. #92 dave UH
    July 24, 2008

    Disliking Batman, Blasphemy. Nah, your right, the movie did have a few plot holes. I didn’t understand how or why certain policemen “police officers” were so corrupt. But I did enjoy the action, buildings blowing up, and the Joker.

  93. #93 DLC
    July 24, 2008

    Obviously PZ Myers is not qualified to critique Batman movies, as he has never read any of the classic batman comics, or seen the 1930s movie serial. This total lack of batman knowledge leaves me to conclude that only a qualified expert in Bat Man trivia should be allowed to critique any Batman, Bat-Man or Bat Man products, movies, television programmes or radio productions. [/Courtier's Reply]

    On a lighter note, this is the first movie in quite some time I may actually go see in the theater, funds permitting.
    Poorly thought-out sophomoric moral dilemmas and all.
    (the latter just make me laugh.)

  94. #94 Feynmaniac
    July 24, 2008

    Ric said #7,
    “Oh, and couldn’t the director have told Bale to back-off on the raspy, spit-filled Batman voice. He way overdid it.”

    Thank you. I’m glad somebody said this. I couldn’t think of anything else when Batman was speaking.

    Bjorn Watland #61,
    “Does anyone, for a second, believe the boat scene would end up like it did?”

    Agreed as well. The humans in that situation do not bear a resemblence to human beings I’ve come to know.

    Oh, and why did they keep referring to him as “the Batman”? Sounded awkward to me.

  95. #95 skyotter
    July 24, 2008

    haven’t seen TDK, but Gotham Knight was rather unimpressive (and this is coming from someone who loved Animatrix)

  96. #96 stogoe
    July 24, 2008

    Haha – PZ, are there any movies you DO like? No wonder people think atheists are grumpy and mean. =P

    PZ’s tase in movies is nearly diametrically opposed to mine. I actually kind of pity those like him – they can’t just sit back and enjoy something, they have to pick at it until they tear it down. To them I say feh.

    Anyone who’s thinking about skipping it because PZ didn’t care for it, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

  97. #97 Ranson
    July 24, 2008

    RE: “THE Batman”

    Aside from this being the way that Bats was originally referred to in the comics, I think it was used as a dehumanizing agent. “Batman” is a person. “The Batman” is an institution or entity separate from any humanity that it might posess. I think the film worked to emphasize this throughout, treating “the Batman” as a thing, a vision, a separate entity, rather than a person. This is especially evident in the symbolism between the White/Dark knight imagery. The clash is one of style, inspiration, and differing means to the same end. Dent was a symbol, as was the Bat. This is why the end goes down like it does — a person might find the outcome devastating to one’s self-image, but an institution can adapt and move on.

  98. #98 wildcardjack
    July 24, 2008

    I have a three word review that sprung to mind while watching.

    “Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!”

  99. #99 erik542
    July 24, 2008

    The movie was pretty good. I got overhyped about it though. From what I heard, it was going to be an absolutely super-awesome movie, it was merely quite good. I think showing more of Two-Face would have improved the movie. As the movie stands, Two-Face was just some two bit thug who killed off a few people; he needed to something major that would have gotten the public’s attention. Perhaps he could’ve been involved in the boat scene.

  100. #100 LisaJ
    July 24, 2008

    Fr. J – You’re a loser.

  101. #101 Satan
    July 24, 2008

    I saw it last night. I thought it was hilarious, but I was the only one in the crowd of at least a hundred people laughing. Once I realized Heath Ledger was doing Jerry Lewis’ “the nutty professor” I couldn’t not laugh every time he spoke.

  102. #102 Strakh
    July 24, 2008

    Thank goodness.
    I thought I was getting so old and grumpy that I just couldn’t have fun at the movies…
    Hell Boy II was the same way: Let’s introduce some moral problems and then say “Fuck it, I’ll just quit!”
    I have no problems with action pictures or with pictures that attempt to address important issues, but these disgustingly childish and idiotic mixings of the two genres just shits on both and leaves a terrible after taste…
    And the fat little ‘Comic Book Guys’ in training leave the theater thinking they’re delving into some ‘really deep philosophy, dude.’
    When in fact, they’ve just been shit on with a level of sophistry even Dubya would be embarrassed over…
    My kingdom for an adult movie!

  103. #103 freelunch
    July 24, 2008

    Nerdette’s comments in #87 were so true. Chicago’s geography is a bit well-known for anyone to be worried about the tunnels or the ferries. Lower Wacker is another problem. Were those outtakes from The Blues Brothers.

    I enjoyed the movie a lot when I wasn’t paying attention to things like that.

  104. #104 Ken Cope
    July 24, 2008

    I usually wait until the DVD since my home audio is always better than the theater’s, and I don’t have to be subjected to other people treating the theater like it’s their living room. I will go and see this so I can read what other people say about it, but I just got out this week to take the 6 yr. old and his little sister, who’s not quite yet 3, to see Wall-E. She behaved well at her first movie and loved the Wobots. Come to think of it, I think Zack’s first movie was Robots.

    I agree with what’s been said about Batman getting all his character development out of the way by the end of the origin story. If you want character development, and you miss Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, you’ll enjoy this guy and his performance of the Batman Theme Sing-Along.

  105. #105 freelunch
    July 24, 2008

    Technically it wasn’t the Prisoner’s Dilemma, since if no one pressed the button, the Joker would destroy both. It worked out as the classic PD because he was stopped from doing so. I thought it was more interesting how the passengers resolved it–who was most aware of the difference between murder and slaughter.

    If I were rewriting it, I would have had that smug suburbanite lady who was telling us how much better she was than the prisoners on the other ship grab the triggering device and turn the key, blowing her own ship up because there is no reason to believe anything the Joker said.

  106. #106 Longtime Lurker
    July 24, 2008

    Oh, PZ, can’t you see that you’ve been punished by God because of yer desecrating ways? If you hadn’t nailed that wafer, this movie would have been “teh awesum”.

  107. #107 bullet
    July 24, 2008

    I, too, saw problems in the film, but it was engaging enough that I could say, “Fuck it,” and move on.

    My wife was describing Heath Ledger’s Joker as “someone you hope is crazy.” I thought that was a good description.

  108. #108 william e emba
    July 24, 2008

    Actually, rabid fans have been known to be psychotic regarding their favorites, essentially indistinguishable from the Catholic League nutcases. Harlan Ellison wrote a notorious essay “Xenogenesis” (IASFM, July 1990), reprinted in his EDGEWORKS, volume 1, documenting some of the extremely vile and usually cowardly behavior of fanboy whackjobs. He begins with petty stuff, like the vandalism done to his house in response to his negative review of the first Star Trek movie, and works his way up to seriously sick people.

    For a remarkable fictional treatment of this phenomenon, check out Stephen King MISERY. The 100% realistic plot concerns a popular genre writer who finds himself at the mercy of his number one fan. Part of the remarkability is the way you keep wondering just what kind of message King is presumably sending to his readership. As a non-fan, I simply enjoyed the novel as is.

  109. #109 Jason W
    July 24, 2008

    I loved the movie while I was watching it, but I have to say I can’t disagree with many of the complaints I’ve read here after the fact.

    I was completely dazzled by Heath Ledger and Aaron Eckhart’s performances, though. They completely overshadowed pretty much everything else in the movie, including the script issues you could drive the Batmobile through. And Michael Caine, of course, although Alfred’s always been a favorite character, and I *love* how Caine plays the part.

    The three things that bothered me while I was watching it were the complete futz of the scene with Joker invading the charity ball (seriously, did he just leave?), how amazingly incompetent everyone else in Gotham other than the main characters must be in order for the Joker to be able to pull off a few of his schemes. And the end. The decision Batman and Gordon reach MAKES NO SENSE.

    Loved the stuff with the boats, but, yeah, was a little sad no one thought to ask “Hey, what if Joker’s, you know, not telling us the truth because he thought it’d be funnier that way?”

    I do disagree with one of the commenters above about Hellboy II. It was exactly the sort of movie I was wanting. But then, I didn’t think of it attempting any particularly deep philosophical points, either, for what that’s worth.

  110. #110 mb
    July 24, 2008

    Did anyone else think Batman sounds like Jim Carrey in the Cable Guy? all lispy?

  111. #111 Jesse
    July 24, 2008

    I think the point of Batman isn’t that he’s some awesome guardian, but he recognizes that he is not any kind of ideal. Vigilante justice is no way to run a society and the Dark Knight showed that what with the violent escalation, the gun toting imitators, and of course, the Joker.

    Batman’s goal is to restore democracy by backing Harvey Dent, the man who stops criminals the legitimate way.

    Batman realizes that he often goes over important limits, such as torture [portrayed as failing to work], cell phone spying etc. When Dent intimidates a Joker henchman, Batman is infuriated because Dent is representative of the democratic civil liberty respecting lawman.

    In a city filled with corrupt cops and a broken legal system, Batman believes that he must exist as a vigilante, but his ultimate goal is the restoration of democracy and due process.

    Also, the philosophical problems may have been elementary, but I applauded the secular tone of the movie. Christians need to be shown that no one has to invoke the imaginary sky god in refuting Joker’s nihilism.

  112. #112 Nick L.
    July 24, 2008

    I haven’t seen the movie yet, but are its ethics oriented philosophical intrusions comparable to those of the Matrix (with its brief glimpse into metaphysics)?

    Comment 102′s mention of “really deep philosophy” reminded me of that, and of the many moviegoers who thought that the movie was quite the mind****.

  113. #113 Clayton
    July 24, 2008

    How was the stunt with the Eucharist different from something the Joker would do?

  114. #114 Kel
    July 24, 2008

    The first truly heretical thing you’ve said or done this month! ;)

  115. #115 Robert
    July 24, 2008

    I saw the movie last week and thought it was the best comic book rendering in movies since Batman Begins. I loved the movie, and I don’t fret over a comic book adaptation being too philosophical no matter how trite. The entire cast was great, incredible action set pieces, and, yes, Ledger was the best of the Jokers. Great performance. It was a long film, but I have patience. It’s one of the best movies this year.

  116. #116 Optimus Primate
    July 24, 2008

    How was the stunt with the Eucharist different from something the Joker would do?

    Posted by: Clayton | July 24, 2008 7:26 PM

    Umm… how about the fact that what PZ did actually hurt absolutely no one? I mean, come on. I figure even a Catholic would have been able to suss that one out.

  117. #117 John
    July 24, 2008

    PZ man,

    First you diss the magic cracker, now you’re dissin’ The Batman. I think that clinches your seat in a fiery Hell.

    I’d pray for your soul but you clearly don’t have one…

    …dissin’ The Batman…

    You’re toast, man. Toast..

  118. #118 Arnosium Upinarum
    July 24, 2008

    Well, what else could one possibly expect from a Hollywood take of a superhero comic?

    They do a repulsive enough job on science fiction. (“Sci-fi”, in the Hollywood vernacular, a term which turned the stomachs of the master authors of the field when it first appeared in the early 70′s; alas, the potential cinematic standard set by Kubrick/Clarke in the mid-60′s was almost entirely ignored). Everybody excuses dumb sci-fi flicks on the basis that scientific accuracy or natural reality is tough and/or expensive to portray. (Baloney). But give them juvenile fantasies to work with, and…presto – you get precisely the same sort of garbage.

    They’re into making big money fast (minimum investment, maximum profits), not to hold to any standard of artistic or literary excellence.

    The irony is that if any real story-telling depth or excellence was pursued, producers would make oh so much MORE MONEY. Over a much longer period. And be able to bask in the glory of distinction, honor, esteem, respect and sundry accolades by having produced an enduring classic. For the rest of their lives. With which to garner even MORE investment funding for MORE good movies. For MORE profit.

    Na-ah. They just want the bucks fast. That’s what counts. Gimme gimme now! Waaah, i want my maltomeal!!!

    BTW: it isn’t at all callous or cynical to think that a good deal of the profit-making energy exhibited by this movie over it’s opening weekend was fueled by the circumstance of the death of one of its cast. And it isn’t inaccurate to suppose that the producers were secretly licking their chops and drooling over the prospect of the enhanced profit that tragedy would supply to them.

    What a marvelous artform that industry – our primary source of entertainment – vomits out.

  119. #119 Dana Hunter
    July 24, 2008

    Ah, PZ, one thing we absolutely disagree on. I thought this movie was absolutely brilliant, and I’m usually extremely hard on shallow plots.

    I keep seeing more and more depth the more times I see it. It’s not giving anyone the answers – it’s giving hints that force us to consider the answers for ourselves.

    Or at least it did for me. It’s made me think harder than any movie so far this year. And I love that.

    Your heresy is forgiven, even though Batman is sacred to me. ;-) And might I say, excellent job with the trinity of the cracker, the Koran and the God Delusion! Bravo, my good man.

  120. #120 Fully Awake
    July 25, 2008

    I never seen a movie where the protagonist was thrown up into a tree so hard and rocks and boulders thrown at him, and barely limping down and surviving. And he still didn’t solve all the problems squeaky clean. What a fresh way to make a story so against the grain of perfect happy endings!

    I seen the movie three times.

  121. #121 Brandon P.
    July 25, 2008

    Am I the only person in existence who was unimpressed with Heath Ledger as the Joker? His Joker seemed way too mellow and calm to me. I always thought the Joker was supposed to be a zany, mischievous prankster who was constantly cackling—you know, kind of like Jim Carrey’s interpretation of the Mask, only more evil. Of course, when Heath did laugh, he was decent, but in general he seemed too serious.

    Other than that, I agree with many previous commentators here. The movie was vastly overrated. The plot was boring and difficult to follow, and I am fucking sick of Batman lisping. I am at a loss as to why so many people loved it.

  122. #122 crypticlife
    July 26, 2008

    My son (who is 8 and saw the movie on a camp trip — I knew they were going to see a movie, but not which) had an interesting observation. They essentially made Batman into a brawler, and didn’t focus on his brains at all. That Batman uses his intelligence effectively is one of the things he likes about him.

    Ledger was terrific, and I thought the actor playing Dent was very good as well.

    I had problems with the ludicrous tech and the loose plot also, as well as the sudden non-Gothamish setting and the heights of efficiency the ;oker

  123. #123 Silverloc
    July 28, 2008

    *** SPOILER ALERT ***
    I carefully avoided every review of TDK before seeing it Friday evening – except PZ’s. PZ’s negative review left me pretty discouraged, so I was very happily surprised when I ended up loving the movie. My wife reluctantly agreed to see TDK with me and she also left the theater saying how good she thought it was. TDK joins Spiderman 2 and X-Men 2 in my top three superhero movies, with Iron Man garnering an Honorable Mention.
    Yes, it had a few issues, some of which I didn’t even think about until I read this thread (e.g. just what did the Joker do after Batman jumped out the penthouse window? how did that fingerprint reconstruction gizmo work again? did Wayne Wireless charge their customers for the new “sonar-map-of-your-house” calling feature?). Overall, however, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I didn’t miss character development that some reviewers found lacking – the Batman comics that I’ve read (such as Killing Joke & Year One) filled all of that in nicely. Would I have enjoyed the movie less if I hadn’t read those first? Maybe, but probably not.
    The first thing my wife & I discussed after leaving the theater was how hard it would be to recast Joker because we liked Ledger’s performance so well. In fact, I almost hope that they don’t try. The Nolans avoided the biggest mistake that most superhero movies make when they didn’t kill the Joker outright, but they might make a larger one if they recast the role and the new Joker isn’t as good.

    (OK – they halfway avoided it; I, too, was really hoping that Harvey would be the focus of the next movie so I was sad that he didn’t survive. I don’t think he’ll be back.)
    To respond briefly to #118:

    … the potential cinematic standard set by Kubrick/Clarke in the mid-60′s was almost entirely ignored …

    Kubrick’s & Clarke’s example was followed in at least one case. Star Trek: The Motion Picture was almost as slow-moving and fraught with vague meaning as 2001. :-)

    They’re into making big money fast (minimum investment, maximum profits), not to hold to any standard of artistic or literary excellence. The irony is that if any real story-telling depth or excellence was pursued, producers would make oh so much MORE MONEY.

    While I agree that profit is a huge motivator for Hollywood I don’t think that it can be viewed as the main cause of bad science fiction/fantasy films. Finding the balance between story & character development in any 2-3 hour movie is tricky – there’s barely enough time to do both before the movie is over. Hence the typical weakness of the superhero ‘origin’ movie.

    The added challenge of doing sci-fi (I know – I just turned some masters’ stomachs, but they’ll have to get over it) or fantasy is the additional story-telling infrastructure that needs time devoted to it – describing the setting, explaining the rules of technology or magic in the fictional world, etc. I love Niven/Pournelle novels – especially The Mote in God’s Eye – but I’m not sure that any one of them could ever be made into a 2.5 hour movie without significant cuts or simplification.
    That’s my $0.02.

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