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Dark Knight
© Van Plexico
July 20, 2008

One reviewer said of The Dark Knight that it is not a superhero/comics movie, it is a horror movie. They meant that as a compliment, but despite that (or because of it) I take great offense. That comment shows just how little many non-comics readers understand about modern comic books.

Because this looked a lot more like a modern comic book than most superhero movies do. It had the right look, the right feel, the right texture. And no, I am not suddenly reviewing the fabric of the Bat-costume.

It came across like a contemporary comic book superhero story; a particularly moody, brooding, an overly dark one. I cannot fault it there.

But I can fault it in a number of other places. After reading the overwhelmingly gushy praise the movie is receiving even from traditionally dour, conservative critics at the big media outlets, I feel it is my duty to point a few of those faults out; faults that may be overlooked by the non-comics-reading public and reviewers, but which stand strongly out to a comics fan.

In short, the Batman in this movie is not Batman. I explain:

This is not Batman, part 1: Who\'s the badass here?

When I think of Batman, I think of a typical scene in the comics where Batman and Superman are having a conversation in the Batcave.

Superman is, of course, this near-godlike being, while Batman is "just a man." Yet while they talk, both of them know under the surface just who the real badass in the room is. I like Christian Bale and feel he brings seriousness to the role, can you imagine Bale's Batman intimidating Superman by sitting there, uttering a few dry words?

This is not Batman, part 2: Bond-man Begins.

What was with all the gadgets in this movie? Batman should be just as effective a crime-fighter if he were dirt poor and making minimum wage as he is with all his wealth. The first movie understood this, to some degree, by focusing so much on his martial arts training, the bare-knuckle aspect of the character.

The Dark Knight conveys the sense that if Bruce Wayne didn't have a billion-dollar R&D operation going on behind him, he wouldn\'t be able to do squat. In fact, he leans so heavily on his gadgets in this movie (from blob-with-detonator-firing-guns to a massive, government-tied-in eavesdropping operation). Without all the high tech, one wonders how he would have made it beyond the first reel. No wonder the Joker is so compelling by comparison. He accomplishes a lot more in this movie than Batman does, and with a lot less.

This is not Batman, part 3: X-Bat, or Bat-Spider.

Batman: Sworn to protect a city that hates and fears him! Batman: Threat or menace? Come on. Do we need Batman turned into the X-Men in a mutant-hating world, or into Spider-Man with Commissioner Gordon (unwillingly) as J. Jonah Jameson? This twist is almost as bad as Superman having a son he stalks.

Overall, The Dark Knight is an exeedingly mediocre movie which happens to contain a nice, sub-textual send-up of post-9/11 Bush America (complete with illegal wire-tapping), a few very compelling set-piece scenes, and one amazingly captivating performance by an actor.

When the Joker is on screen, it's one of the best comics movies ever. When he's not, it sinks back down into "average" land at best.

The other big superhero movie of the summer, Iron Man featured a compelling and entertaining hero and an exceptionally uninspiring villain. Combine the two best parts of those films and it's the most entertaining superhero movie ever.

The Dark Knight gives us thirty minutes of "Wow!!" and two hours of "Bleaahhh."


Van Plexico knows all about the dirt poor and minimum wage part of his review.

 
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