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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Very Late on The Dark Knight

So, as I mentioned in my last post, I had a summer that was crazy busy. Not sure if I mentioned it then or not, but I did not see a single movie in the theaters the entire time I was back East. It simply was not possible. So I missed out on some major films that I wanted to see. So now that I'm back in town, I'm seeing movies with a vengeance. I've seen three in the last week, and I'm sure there's more to come soon!

I may discuss those others soon enough, but I've wanted to see The Dark Knight all summer, and finally got the chance to see it tonight. On IMAX, of course. Because as a friend of mine said, it is the only way to see it. Well, not so sure about that, but it was damn cool.

So anyway, I have not read any of the scuttlebutt floating about the Scribosphere or elsewhere regarding this film. So if I repeat anything that others have said, you can feel free to ignore it. But anyway, I definitely liked it a lot. Not sure whether I liked it more or less than Batman Begins. This was simultaneously more focused, and more disjointed, with a relatively singular storyline, but plenty of mindfucks along the way. And I think that is a big part of building the film around the theme (which I will get to in a minute).

It definitely seemed like a lighter (visually speaking) film, with much more taking place during the daytime, and a grounding in more familiar territory (hard to mistake the Chicago settings for anything else). And these changes, among others, are what made this a vastly distinct film than its predecessor, and yet at the same time, the characters were strong enough to ground us in the world of the previous film. For this the filmmakers are to be highly commended. Unlike many other sequels, particularly in the superhero genre, I felt as if this film moved significantly further from the first film than most, while still feeling like a part of the franchise.

To me, the big thing about this film is its exploration of theme. I saw it as making a big political statement about the war on terror. To me this was a relatively blatant point, but my friend who I saw it with (not in the film world, so not necessarily thinking about films as actively and critically as I do -- probably a good thing, by the way) said she didn't even notice any of that. Of course, once I mentioned it, she totally saw it too. But to her it wasn't as in your face.

So that being said, I'm not so sure how much I like the placement of this theme in this film. I like the Batman films for what they are -- good adventures with a major exploration of character. I'm not so sure I like it when they move from that into a critique of national politics. Just not sure I feel it is the "appropriate space" for it. I'm sure many would disagree and say that just the opposite is true -- there may be no better place. But that's just my opinion as a fan alone.

So what did y'all think? Firstly, was I alone in seeing that message in there? And secondly, did you guys mind it?

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Anonymous Samantha K. said...

The messages were more philosophical and broad than a simple on-the-nose look at the war on terror. It explored archetypes and explained why they are they way they are deep down, along with human beings in general.

Saying the theme was simply 'the war on terror' is being a little too narrow minded.

9:10 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Hey Samantha! I hear you. Mind you, I just saw this movie a couple of hours ago, so I haven't fully processed it all (as may be obvious from my post). But I think you make a valid point, and I'll have to think it over a bit more.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Hugo Fuchs said...

(hard to mistake the Chicago settings for anything else)
Had a good laugh at that, since they filmed it in Hong Kong. Just like Daredevil was filmed in L.A. rather than N.Y.C. It all goes to show what an illusion film really is when done right.

Haven't seen it, will probably catch it on DVD.

9:35 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Actually no, many of the scenes were shot in Chocago as well, particularly some of the exteriors which were unmistakable, even to me, who has only been in Chicago one day in his life:


9:39 AM  
Blogger Emily Blake said...

Welcome back!

9:54 AM  
Blogger James said...

I had this exact same argument about IRON MAN.

The girl I saw it with was convinced it was a statement about the Military Industrial complex. I didn't see it as so in-your-face. Afterall, the movie is really about a guy building a mechanical suit and flying around in it. That's the appeal.

That's how I feel about THE DARK KNIGHT. The Joker is a force of chaos. Batman is a force of law and order. Both are vigilantes. The question is -- how far does one go in the pursuit of justice.

That's inherent to the Joker/Batman relationship. That's also the nature of terrorism.

I don't think it is as heavy-handed and deliberate as people seem to believe.

However, I do think that the stories that resonate with us, do so because they have a certain universality.

The themes of THE DARK KNIGHT apply to terrorism of today, but they also apply to the organized crime of the 30s that Batman was birthed from.

12:41 PM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Emily -- thanks
James -- I hear what you're saying except I believe the parallels were more consciously and blatantly drawn. For example, they refer to The Joker as "a terrorist" more than once in the film. I don't recall ever hearing him referred to as such in a previous Batman incarnation (though I'm certainly no expert on the comic). I think the long discussions about what it means for the Joker to "win" or the proper method of response to his actions play into this as well. Issues of weighing certain victims against others, few against many, criminals against free people, etc.

So I do believe that it is more than just the themes being able to apply to today. And I do think it was deliberate, though the manner in which it is "inherent to the Joker/Batman relationship" is probably the reason they went there.

Finally, I'd also add how interesting it was to bring Two-Face into this specific scenario. Chaos, "order" of a sort, on opposite sides, but then "fate" or "chance" in the middle.

5:32 PM  
Anonymous Needtobewowed said...

I'll confess to being in the minority, but, outside of Heath Ledger's Joker performance (which was in the A to B+ range and not Oscar worthy--despite the likely fact that he'll be so honored) I was bored by Batman.

Yeah, for what it was (a CGI spectacular) it was a visual dream. But nothing more. I was hoping to be wowed. I wasn't.

8:40 PM  
Blogger Ralphie said...

I love Batman, and I loved Batman Begins. But I'm not so sure how I felt about Dark Knight. I can see how the war-on-terror message might be seen here, but I agree with Samantha that the theme was larger - about the nature of civilization, what humanity will do when it's pinned against the wall. And I felt hammered over the head with that theme. In Batman Begins, the theme was prevalent, too - every character spouted their beliefs on what fear can do to a man, pro and con. But for some reason it didn't feel as in-your-face (maybe because it wasn't on an IMAX?).

Another thing was the Bat-voice. Much more emphasized than in Batman Begins. Very annoying - it was like listening to Claw from Inspector Gadget.

Finally, with its dark-ness (not counting the visual light-ness that you mentioned), I thought it was too long. The length itself I could handle, but it was just too much intensity for me.

Then again, I might need to see it again.

2:44 AM  
Blogger screenwriterwannabe said...

I agree that the terrorist message was in there, but I didn't find it in my face. I feel that throughout history there are always individuals that pursue violence for the sake of it, and I"m not sure that was a message about today's terrorists, or that mentality in general.
My question is: did Johnny Depp fill in for Heath Ledger and if so, which scenes? I was racking my brain trying to discern during the movie to no avail.

8:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the political theme was actually what bored me about batman. I've noticed GWB type characters all over the place in movies these days and now that he's gone - or going - I hope the stranglehold of the gut instinctive unreflective man who has Daddy problems and failed to protect his mother and who - in the Batman words - does the wrong things for the right reasons - well I hope he flies off to Paraguay is all. A new day is dawning and new heroes will arise thank god.

8:00 PM  

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