“If you’re good at something, never do it for free.”
The Dark Knight
Look, I just don’t like superhero films. I know The Dark Knight has a good reputation because of, I don’t know, all the soul-searching or whatever. But as far as I was concerned it might as well have been Smallville without the advantage of Tom Welling: a sequence of increasingly unlikely fight scenes only occasionally enlivened by the amusingly ridiculous figure of a man dressed as an actual bat. I mean, a BAT. Not even a hawk or a wolf. A bat. With an obviously fake voice which, amusingly, kept reminding me of Superhero Cafe on Youtube: “I’m Batman.” How anyone ever manages to take this guy seriously is beyond me.
The film’s good moments are generated exclusively by the presence of the Joker, played manically but compulsively by the late Heath Ledger, who far outshines the dully stereotypical goodness of BATMAN. Ledger manages to pack more complexity and charisma into sixty seconds of the Joker than BATMAN does in three interminable hours of soul-searching. And the film does tap into, and acknowledge, something vital about the relationship between villain and superhero: “What would I be without you?” asks the Joker at one point, adding, terrifyingly, “You…complete…me.“
It’s a pity that this theme isn’t followed up, because it’s undoubtedly the most interesting place the film could have gone. Nothing that BATMAN or his goody-two-shoes compatriots can dream up is anywhere as compelling as the Joker’s insights into the good/evil dynamic; certainly not the ridiculously hyperbolic court cases, the poison which smokes improbably, or the deeply irritating treatment of the film’s single female character, who, despite being a policewoman capable of interviewing suspects, nevertheless needs to be protected from potentially predatory boyfriends by her hunky billionaire best friend (who also happens to be secretly BATMAN). I may be expecting too much from the superhero genre – which is, after all, one of exaggeration and hyperrealism – but I find it all a bit tedious, a bit unimaginative.
Ultimately, despite the compulsive brilliance of the Joker, and a few intriguing moments of Moral Dilemma (uncoincidentally engineered by said villain), The Dark Knight is too long, monotonous and essentially plotless. I’m not holding my breath for the next one.