Reel To Reel: A critical look at “The Dark Knight”

I’ve seen “The Dark Knight” twice now but I’m not here to heap tons of praise on it.

I’m going to show where, as a fanboy (a badge I wear proudly), it was lacking. And it all falls to one character:

Harvey Dent.

For the five people who haven’t seen it: I will warn you now – there be spoilers ahead. So, out of deference to you, I will cut the post here and you can choose to read the rest after the jump.

I will first concede the obvious: “The Dark Knight” is, without a doubt, the best comic book adapted for Hollywood motion picture ever. Heck, it won’t be but should be, at least, considered for an Academy Award. The cast was superb and there are at least four and maybe even five roles that could be considered for Oscar nominations.

But, there is always room for improvement and there are always missed opportunities. In this case, there is one glaring missed opportunity: Harvey Dent.

Aaron Eckhart did a phenominal job. His portrayal of Harvey Dent should get him equal consideration with Heath Ledger’s brilliant portrayal of The Joker. But, the problem was not Aaron. It was with the plot. And the simple question?

Why kill Two-Face?

For all you non-comic fans, I hear you already.
“Did you not get the symbolism or White Knight and Dark Knight?”
“Were you not listening to Gordon explain to his son, to save Gotham, what Batman is taking on his shoulders and is now going to be it’s savior by having the city hunt him while he protects it?”
“The movie was great!!”
“How can you say it was lacking with killing a character who’s death will be clearly felt in the next arc?”
“How Batman refused to let the Joker win even though he clearly had?”

Yeah, I got all that. Here’s what you didn’t get.

Two-Face didn’t have to die. You see, being a hero doesn’t mean you “win” every time. What would’ve been truly great is that ultimately Batman lost and what he would do then. To not give up the fight. To power thru it and continue and be better. Heck, let’s go further. Batman did lose. The Joker won. And what did “Hollywood” do? The usual. Let’s put it all on the tortured hero and make him the ultimate outcast. Wow, what an original idea! For those who didn’t get that last statement, look up the word “sarcasm”.

I doubt there will be a “Robin” for year three. But, if they do look to bring Robin in the fold, who is the villain that will bring about the tragedy? Riddler? Catwoman? Penguin? Who? Obviously there will be no Joker and now no Two-Face. Of all the villains in Batman’s impressive rogues gallery, there aren’t many that will go as dark and as murderous as Joker and Two-Face. Killer Croc, maybe. KGB-Beast, Hugo Strange and Hush, most definitely but we’re a long way off from them. With Mr. Freeze there’s a channce but he’s a tortured soul as is Man-Bat. Ras has been used. Scarecrow is dark but Batman owns him. Poison Ivy is also tortured, so she’s out. Let’s look at the more famous villains in the rogues gallery, shall we?

Catwoman is basically a thief. Penguin is more a mob boss. Riddler is somewhat twisted but when he’s murderous, it’s personal. Without Two-Face, “The Long Halloween” and “Dark Victory” are basically out, so they won’t play. Who’s left? Oh wait, let’s make somebody up! Why? One thing about Hollywood, they have this knack for trying to re-invent the wheel. And now, with original ideas at a low, they’ve taken to trying to re-invent characters with history to suit their “artistic vision”. What a load of crap. I like Christopher Nolan but he’s no different than Tim Burton or even (God help me) Joel Schumacher because each wanted to put their stamp on a character and make it their own. Sad thing is, Batman already has a long and illustrious history and it’s worked pretty good for him A main part of that history is that early in Batman’s career, he had one glaring misstep and it has haunted him ever since.

Two-Face is Batman’s ultimate defeat.

He’s the one Batman couldn’t save. He couldn’t save Gotham City’s “White Knight” and probably savior. The one man who would’ve bought the light to the city. And in not saving Harvey, he failed to save Gotham. Batman failed Harvey Dent and in doing that, he failed Gotham City.

Let that sink in.

But, he endures. And he although he failed, he has not fallen. He rises to protect Gotham until another steps up to bring Gotham to the light. And every time Bruce has to go up against Harvey, he carries that guilt and burden with him. Still, he does what needs to be done. Imagine what it would be like to be constantly reminded of your greatest failure because you have to deal with what he has become. A murdering psychopath with “issues” and he blames you for his plight. Plus, he knows you so he knows how to get into your head. Still, Batman takes the fight to Two-Face everytime and carries it for Gotham because that is what he does.

That is why Batman is “The Dark Knight”.

Yeah, you can call it nitpicking but still, a golden opportunity lost. Aaron Eckhart as “Two-Face” for part three would have solidified himself in Hollywood’s history books with a career defining turn as one of the greatest tragic villians ever to grace the screen. Plus, he could have carried on the tradition – you see it has been documented in DC Comics history now that Two-Face was directly responsible for deaths of Dick Grayson’s parents, sending him into the world of Bruce Wayne and ultimately having him take on the role of Batman’s side kick, the boy wonder himself, Robin.

After Nolan, a few years will probably pass before another Batman movie is made. And then another director will think their vision of the Dark Knight is the “definitive” one. It is the Hollywood circle.

As for the rest of the movie, damn near perfect. Heath Ledger was dead on, Christian Bale was once again brilliant and will probably be overlooked for his portrayal but it was perfect, Gary Oldman was excellent as was Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Maggie Gyllenhaal, who had to follow Katie Holmes in the plot device role of Rachel Dawes. Yeah, I said plot device. Totally made up for the movie. Let’s see if Nolan has the guts to cast for Vicki Vale or Silver St. Cloud. But, I digress. As it stands now, “The Dark Knight” is surely a tour de force, but it is not without its flaws or missteps.

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~ by sladewilson on August 2, 2008.

5 Responses to “Reel To Reel: A critical look at “The Dark Knight””

  1. Great review I haven’t seen it, but I know I’ll dig it, simply because I love heath Ledger. That and I’m not so critical.

    I enjoyed reading your review, every other one I’ve read, always talks about how sad it was to see heath on the screen, and boobing over it, I mean sure it’s sad, but take the movie at face value.

  2. Good point. I was also very surprised that they killed Two Face so easily. In fact, I was expecting him to mysteriously resurrect in the final scene or something, but it never happened. Pity. What they could do is to pit Batman against Superman, but I doubt that even Christopher Nolan could pull it off.

  3. Who says they killed Two-Face?
    Sure he falls and just sort of lies there on the ground while NO ONE goes to check on him or confirm the kill verbally. Sure they have a funeral, but that’s for Harvey Dent. They’ll say he died tragically in the bomb blast at the hospital. They’ll peel that broken man off the ground and keep him at Arkham, locked away, Batman’s greatest defeat preserved. I wouldn’t write Two-face off so quickly. =)

  4. I don’t think so, Carla. I did at first, but upon viewing the movie for the second time and being able to hear better (the crowd was a tad rowdy the first time), it all points to Harvey being deader than a doornail.

    Plus Bale, Caine, Freeman and Nolan all signed for just three. While it would be cool for Eckhart to be able to return and introduce Robin, It looks like they’re either leaning to a more obscure villain (Mr. Zsaraz, Hugo Strange, etc) or another of the mains (Catwoman, Riddler, Penguin, etc) or a combo of both.

  5. i still wish Katie Holmes had stayed on board as Rachel Dawes for the Dark Knight; it was like the time spent getting familiar with her character in Batman Begins was wasted…

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