The Dark Knight: It’s a real movie

Like There Will Be Blood! Or The Departed! Or The Firm! Or anything with Tom Hanks!

I so want to talk about Style Weekly’s Most Powerful People list,* but since Christian Bale is loads more interesting than the Ukrop family (that’s just a fact), I will do what I am paid to do here, and gush sickeningly about The Dark Knight.

Guys, I want to cry when I think about how much Christopher Nolan is giving me hope for the future of filmmaking. No, seriously. The Dark Knight is a real movie! With real editing and acting and a neat score and everything! It’s like Michael Clayton if George Clooney were replaced by Batman!** Yeah, THAT real! Michael Clayton real! I think I’m not exaggerating when I say that this film effectively alters the way of the superhero movie forever. Neither camp nor irony have a place in this film. Where Batman Begins extended what in retrospect seems to be timid feelers, The Dark Knight embraces reality full force.

A few hours before I saw this film, I happened to catch the beginning of the 1995 Joel Schumacher neon extravaganza (aka Batman Forever), in which Chris O’Donnell and Val Kilmer wisecracked their way through a cartoonish, blacklit landscape of surreally costumed thugs. Somebody enjoyed that film enough to hire Schumacher to craft what is surely the laughing stock of the entire film industry, Batman and Robin — you know, the one with George Clooney and Alicia Silverstone and Arnold Schwarzenegger….and more neon. But ven Tim Burton‘s first two Batman incarnations, both classic in their own ways, seem trifling and childish compared with this film.

Actually, a whole hell of a lot of other movies seem childish now, also. Including Iron Man, Spider-Man, and even, I have to admit, X-Men. A large part of it is because none of the above movies, or any movie like them, has really had a villain quite like Heath Ledger‘s Joker. There’s a posthumous Best Supporting Actor award in this for him in 2009, certainly, and the role deserves it. But it’s not just Ledger’s phenomenal performance (a friend of mine wrote to me that the audience pines for him when he’s not onscreen, and I think that’s an excellent way to put it) that creates this truly mesmerizing villain. Nolan has stripped The Joker of his backstory. A man who has no origins, no agenda, and no grudge against anyone in particular also has no weaknesses. It was a brilliant screenwriting move and not the only one in the film. There are other things going on here. Unexpected relationships, gritty cinematography, top-quality acting, and a setting and pace reminiscent of The Departed — these things inform us that big budget superhero flicks can (and should) deliver a product worth every dollar that was put into it.

Is Christopher Nolan the dark knight of twenty-first century cinema? Between him and Andrew Stanton (director/writer of Wall-E), I feel that at last, someone in Hollywood is paying attention. And the bar has been raised so high that filmgoers will demand the same level of quality from their blockbusters, be they about robots, giant bats, or anything in between.

*Tomorrow I would have my car covered in mashed potatoes and White House rolls (one hopes). Update: you can join the discussion about this article and what it means about our city over in Op/Ed!
**I know George Clooney was Batman, but it makes things too confusing to bring that up. It’s like the time travel paradox. Kinda like it, anyway.

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Susan Howson

Susan Howson is managing editor for this very website. She writes THE BEST bios.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. White House Rolls! Yeah!

    Also, this movie terrified me so much that I was grinding my teeth during it, which I never do.

  2. I loved this movie. And the pining for the joker thing. 100 percent true. I idolized him in this movie. he was perfect. I was le sad afterwards that heath is dead.

  3. the George Clooney Batman was beyond awful…

  4. Immy on said:

    I feel asleep during the michael keaton batman

  5. i think that was the real intention…

  6. Kurtz on said:

    You must be joking. Yet another movie made by/for the minds of 13-year-old boys. Not only was this stinker incredibly long, it was incredibly boring. Yes, Heath Ledger was good. He was a good actor in a decent role. So what. He couldn’t save this turkey. You could have taken off an HOUR of footage and lost nothing. This bad popcorn-movie belongs in the dustbin with the unbearable Spiderman, Ironman, et al, not with The Departed. You are officially not to be trusted.

  7. Ooooooo, I’ll meet you by the train tracks and let’s have this out. Warning, though, I’m bringing Roger Ebert!

  8. I have already seen Batman twice. Even knowing what was going to happen, the movie did not disappoint. As for the guy who didnt agree with the review here and thus will write off anything else Susan says – I am glad you have an opinion and that you are sharing it. But considering that the movie has made $313,781,677 so far, i think The Dark Night reputation will remain in tact.

  9. BK on said:

    This was a great film! It was much more complex than I expected, and I am still discovering things that evoke scenes in my mind. Something recently made me think back to how the Joker would compulsively lick his lips when he talked to feel the scars on his permasmile. These little touches in the acting helped make fantastically unrealistic superheroes and villains seem more lifelike than ever before.

  10. Immy on said:

    does being wacked out of your mind on a cocktail of pills make you a good actor?

  11. if you are playing the Joker…Yes.

  12. lindsey on said:

    it’s been two weeks…i’m desperate for a new review. should i spend the money on step brothers? or do i go check out brideshead revisited at the westhampton? and is american teen even playing in richmond? help us susan, you’re our only hope.

  13. I am working on something TRULY AMAZING yet unrelated to movies. Also, there has been nothing good, so I just haven’t bothered. Pineapple Express on Friday, y’all!

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