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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The Dark Knight (review)

Dim Hope

Everything about this is wrong.

It’s wrong that Heath Ledger is dead, that he’s gone and will give us no more like this, a performance that is so heartstoppingly, terrifyingly authentic that it barely seems like performance. It’s wrong that we’ve lost his promise, that we’ve lost what he might have given us a decade from now, two decades from now. I cried for him, watching this, and for us.
It’s wrong that Ledger’s death lends this even more significance than we might have seen otherwise, or at least that his death makes it impossible to separate that terrible fact from the terror-full character he plays here. Because this Joker, in Ledger’s hands, is like a monster sprung full-grown from our collective id, a beast easy to despise because he is so recognizably us, the awful side of us, not necessarily as individuals but as a puppet of all of us, fueled by the mutual societal self-destructiveness — as evidenced by the ongoing collapse of our economies, of our environment, of our inability to stop ourselves going over a cultural cliff — that some of us rage against it to seemingly no effect.

I hate that I have to think that Ledger’s own, in retrospective, clear urge to self-destruct had anything to do with how powerfully he brings to life this gollum of our apparent urge for species-cide. But the possibility seems inescapable. And yet, if it’s true, then the Joker is even more damning an indictment of us all than anyone could have planned for.

This is the kind of shit that The Dark Knight has me thinking. Miserable, depressing shit that makes me want to crawl into bed for a week and not even peek out from beneath the covers. But, of course, I’m a miserable, depressed creature of our modern cultural environment, so I cannot help but see Dark Knight as brilliant, genius even, a wonderful, wretched encapsulation of everything that’s fucked up about the world, and a few very tiny things that might be hopeful about it.

Ledger’s (I’m Not There, Candy) Joker — in Christopher Nolan’s followup to 2005’s zeitgeist-wise Batman Begins — springs from nowhere, here, and everywhere. The Joker just turns up to terrorize Gotham City: he is no one, an always-anonymous man — and a man he is, however psychotic — and he is everyone. He’s that impossibility that we, in the outside-of-the-movies world, have been “trained” to see everywhere, even though they don’t exist, at least not on any meaningful scale: the terrorist with no cause, no politics, who’s just an inexplicable madman unmotivated by anything other than insanity. And yet, how could he be anything other than inevitable in the cesspit that is Gotham City (that is, in other words, perhaps the whole word), where wannabe Batmans dress up in capes and hoods and spray machine gun fire into mobs of bad guys? Where the rules are that there are no rules?

That’s the catch, the out that saves Nolan’s (The Prestige, Insomnia) Batman from accusations of glorifying vigilantism or extralegal adventures in the name of truth and justice and peace. I mean, you can say that, if you want, and I’m sure people will, but they’d be wrong, because Batman here is all about adhering to rules higher than those that are written down, whose spirit and letter can be ignored. That’s explicit here: Batman may be extralegal and without jurisdiction, and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale: I’m Not There, 3:10 to Yuma) may be as psychotic and as much a showman, in his own way, as the Joker, but he knows which rules cannot be broken, cannot be winked at and ignored, and the Joker doesn’t. There is, with true justice, only the spirit of the rules, and contravening them is where evil comes in.

And that is here, too, in Gotham district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart: No Reservations, The Wicker Man), who is on a campaign to wipe out organized crime in the city and is every bit the upstanding boy scout he appears to be… until it all touches him personally. His philosophy — which is about the Batman, but which also hits disturbingly close to home in other ways — is: “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” That is bitter, and misanthropic, and cruel, and entirely justified as a way to explain Batman, Gotham, humanity… at least as seen through this dark lens. It’s not a pleasant view of… anything, but it’s hard at this moment in time to see it as other than accurate.

Christian Bale will inevitably get short shrift in all the (justifiable) lamenting over Ledger, which is too bad, because he continues to be breathtaking as Batman. It’s one thrilling thing to see him in the batsuit leaping off a skyscraper, and yet another entirely to see how Bale lends Bruce Wayne the weariness that makes him so poignant: stripping off the batsuit to reveal how bruised and scarred he is… well, as insane as he is, Bruce becomes the lens through which we see the hope. What is worth sacrificing in the name of the greater good. What decency people can muster in indecent times. What it takes for people with principles to make a stand when principles seem unvalued.

If Dark Knight is a nightmare of particularly modern neuroses, then Batman/Bruce Wayne are a tiny ray of hope upon awakening.

Or would be, if he weren’t fictional.


Watch The Dark Knight online using LOVEFiLM‘s streaming service.


MPAA: rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and some menace

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
  • Going to buy my ticket tonight for Friday night… should be awesome.

  • Sara

    I would like to see this movie, too, but knowing that Ledger (or a part of him) may, in fact, not have been “acting” (as MaryAnn eludes to) is so sad, so heart-breaking, so horrific that I don’t know if I can watch it. As a psychotherapist, I don’t know that it’s possible for me.
    I can imagine what MaryAnn writes of in terms of our entire cultural sickness will be so depressing that I will want to vomit.
    I haven’t seen the movie, yet, I already say, what MaryAnn begins this review with…

  • Jeremy

    Cannot wait! Going in a large group, and I loved your Batman Begins review too! Gave me insight I never saw into it at first.

  • Well, it isn’t really any more comforting, but the Medical Examiner ruled Heath Ledger’s death was accidental, not a suicide — so I’m not sure how accurate it is that he had an “urge to self-destruct” … seems like an unwarranted assumption. Dunno; the whole thing is a shame, regardless.

  • Sara

    Yes, but Ledger was clearly aggitated, asking for meds, having high anxiety, couldn’t sleep, all the signs that we know point directly to the need for psychiatric intervention, not just prescriptions from various physicians. Ledger told others that this role was doing a number on him (or him in this role–what it was bringing him in touch with.) What seems saddest to me is that no one gave him any help or insisted on it even–simply thought perhaps (as many will do–he’ll be OK) and hey, whatever, the angst, it’s really driving an amazing performance. I’ve had patients that if they’d been filmed in a movie would win Oscars. Not to compare them to Ledgers true acting talent at all. It’s that when one has gone over the edge, put that with acting talent and… Ugh. I don’t think I can see this.
    Actually, I wonder about the ethics of it even being released. It will surely make tons of money and money seems to be valued above all. My guess is that MaryAnn is totally on target in this review. And in a way that many people just won’t “get.” Which is even more painful.

  • Mathias

    Saying Heath’s Joker had a hand in his death devalues Heath’s talent and abilities as an actor. His friends and cast members all said he was fully capable of distinguishing between reality and fantasy. It’s a dramatic story that plays well in newspapers and tv reports but it ignores all testimonies of those closest to him.

    Anyway, i can’t wait to see this film 3 times on Friday.

    I just know i’m gonna love it ‘cuz Nolan can do no wrong.

  • Sara

    MaryAnn says you should see it. So you should go if you want to. Re: friends and cast members comments now (as the movie is coming out) are very different than what they said at his death…and what Ledger himself had said…even on video. My opinion…someone should have intervened and they didn’t. Then when Ledger was clearly deperate, it seems he didn’t get the right kind of help. Only prescription drugs.
    The whole thing is very sad but yes it will be a phenomenal performance…I certainly don’t take one thing away from his acting talent. That’s not even the point. Nor is it MaryAnn’s.

  • Jeremy

    The angle that this role aided to the demise of Ledger, in any manner, is simply false in all respects. Ledger’s work here was completed four months before his passing, and he had already moved onto another project. The wet, rainy shoots in London on Dr. Parnassus made him come down with illness, and while back in New York, he accidentally mixed too many prescriptions drugs together. He was actually heard snoring an hour before his time of death.

    Every actor on the set of Parnassus said he looked fine on the outside, but knew he was coming down with an illness due to the rainy shoot. That was the only glimmer of warning. On The Dark Knight, Ledger wasn’t jumping around in character once the cameras stopped, but instead would sit down and talk with cast and crew of his daughter and the filming techniques on the shoot.

    This is not some grisly case of the man dying on screen due to a mistake. This was entirely outside of the film itself.

  • Sara

    Jeremy,
    You sound like a personal friend of Ledger’s. Wish your take was the whole deal. Somehow I don’t think it is since he himself said what the role of the Joker did to him…and yeah, it can be three months prior…that’s not long…and then come down with pneumonia (which I think would make things horrible) especially if you’re already possibly depressed. All I know is what I heard Ledger say himself on a video. And it was about the Joker role. The other that you describe heaped on top of Batman would be the icing on the cake.
    Anyway, knowing this tragedy, I’m not going to this movie. We do know that it did a number on Ledger and knowing that and with the questions that linger I’m not going to see it. If you can compartmentalize so well, then the issues re: Ledger (even as MaryAnn describes) won’t bother you because you’ll set them aside. I can’t do that.

  • MaryAnn

    Heath Ledger’s death was accidental, not a suicide

    We’ve been over this before. As I said then, I’m not sure I believe there’s such a thing as an “accidental” overdose.

  • Sara

    Agree completely, MaryAnn. I’ve sat beside many a patient in intensive care on consultations, hoping they’d pull through. Some made it, others didn’t. They just wanted to get some sleep, get rid of pain, whatever. They wouldn’t have said, I am intentionally trying to kill myself. Something(s) in life became too overwhelming and symptoms became too difficult…”accidental overdoses” happen more often than people seem to realize.

  • Jeremy

    Accidental perscription drug overdoses do indeed happen, and unfortunately are on the rise. Not to say there wasn’t abuse involved here, which is why a DEA investigation is still underway into who was prescribing. However, Ledger had actually only taken two prescriptions before heading to bed. Unfortunately, this was still too soon to the previous medications he had taken hours before, and his body toxicity became overwhelming. The best we can take away from this incident is the awareness of the growing problem, and learn form it.

    Anywho, I leave you now with a recent story about Ledger and his time in Chicago:

    http://tinyurl.com/59xz7b

  • Sara

    Jeremy,
    I agree with much you say. Also, though, the interview in the UK (during The Dark Knight)Ledger says he can’t sleep, is exhausted, and has gone for nights and nights with only two hours of sleep, his mind wouldn’t stop, couldn’t stop thinking. Not a good picture. And one that could lead a person (when this stuff just continued and continued) to try to quiet the thoughts, get some sleep, relax, just sleep–anyway possible. The Joker was a role that would freak any actor out if they played it to the hilt in the way Ledger did on two hours of sleep, mind racing, always in character, anxious, observably jittery, etc. The warnings were there in the UK interview. There were other issues–his family life (Michelle and his child), the pneumonia (which can exacerbate any obsessive thoughts and depression.) I also think Ledger was the kind of guy (well, it’s pretty obvious) that hid his feelings well. He would try to act upbeat even if he wasn’t, that kind of thing. But jittery, couldn’t sit still, couldn’t sleep, mind racing, exhausted… Sad, sad, sad. And preventable with correct intervention. That’s what bothers me so much. As MaryAnn said, a story for our times…so much preventable with proper attention and intervention. But if the problems aren’t seen, or are ignored, or are brushed off, crashes inevitably occur.

  • Chris

    You should stop with all the assumptions and what ifs. What use does it have? You simply don’t know if it was suicide and any thinking about it will do you no good (which is apparent when I read your comments). I know that some of you won’t be able to switch those thoughts off at will but perhaps you should try to focus on the positive things instead. For one: He gave a wonderful performance and will be loved for it by Batman-Fans and Non-Fans alike for a long time to come.

  • Sara

    It was NOT suicide (as you argue above–I didn’t say it was.) That’s not the point. If you can’t see the events (not event) that led up to his demise, then there’s nothing to say. His death could have been prevented. Knowing that…and knowing what he himself said, I won’t see the film. But you will. Fine for you. My experiences and what I know and see are different than yours. I’ve talked to many Batman fans (and Joker fans for that matter) that said they weren’t going. So, hey, it isn’t just me.)There are those who recognize a psychological train wreck (even if highly talented) in action over a period of time–and one that is alone in the midst of it–alone and miserable and can’t even sleep. KNOWING that in advance, I won’t go. I’d thought I might, but I won’t.

  • Chris

    I’m not Jeremy.
    Of course there were events that led to his death. Otherwise he wouldn’t be dead. Would you say that there would be a 100% guarantee that he would live now if he hadn’t played the Joker? Of course, you wouldn’t say that. 50% perhaps? Who knows? He said that he never slept well if he invested as much thought in a character (it was the same with previous films). Perhaps he shouldn’t have made films at all.
    You claim to be one of those who recognizes a psychological train wreck? And you can recognize him as such after some video interviews without actually seeing im in person? Or did you know him?

  • Sara

    I’d say yeah, from watching the UK interview, I could see things fraying apart for Ledger. I know the signs…seen them for years. But that’s not really the point. MaryAnn addressed the issues of our entire culture in her review and that seems to go completely unaddressed with no concern of what she is pointing to. What this movie symbolizes. It’s not for those that are simply going for an action picture as MaryAnn makes clear. And, I think, many will miss what she is saying in this excellent review. It’s strange to me and I could be very wrong about this, but it seems that I am overwhemingly outnumbered by males on these posts. Not sure what that says. And byt, I hated Sex and the City movie. Loved In Bruges.
    This movie has more dynamics that I think I’d clearly get and would make me feel as MaryAnn (horribly depressed myself) and then add the loss of Ledger to it. But everyone must make up his/her mind whether to go or not.

  • PaulW

    Can we focus on the movie and not on the conspiracy theories?

  • JoshDM

    I do believe there’s a sort of thing as an accidental overdose.

    Look, when you suicidally overdose, it’s generally the same pill. Heath died from a bad combination of pills.

  • D

    Changing the subject a little, do you think he hgas a chance of getting an oscar nomination for best supporting actor (and if he does, do you think that would be apropriate, like, should some family member go get it)?

  • Jeremy

    If it so happens that way, I’d love to see Daniel Day Lewis accept the award on Ledger’s behalf to give to his family. Lewis’ tribute to Ledger at the award ceremonies was quite moving, even though he had never known the man.

  • Sara

    Daniel Day Lewis is one to throw himself completely into a role and says it’s a very dark place (if the character is)…can be very disconcerting or worse. Combined with all the things Heath had going on, Lewis was concerned evidently–or either afterward could see why events spiraled downward. Lewis would be a good one to accept any award if the family didn’t want to. Why not Michele Williams (if she wanted to)?

  • http://fataculture.wordpress.com/2008/07/16/review-the-dark-knight/

    Just reviewed it myself, and I concur with you indeed.

  • We’ve been over this before. As I said then, I’m not sure I believe there’s such a thing as an “accidental” overdose.

    Maybe you’re right, but I’ve been a lot more conscious of how many sleeping pills I take since then, just the same… it’s weird how something like that can become a part of your own life in such a tiny way. For some goddamn reason I think of Heath Ledger ever time I can’t sleep.

    Regardless, I agree with the above poster who said this speculation might “devalue” his performance. Then again, I haven’t seen the film yet. Maybe I’ll hate it. Maybe I’ll think Jack’s Joker was better. Either way, I’m going to have a hard time separating the performance from the life, but it seems important to try.

  • Sara

    Nick,
    What in particular do you concur with MaryAnn about? How did the Ledger issues (whatever they may be, however you might feel or not about them) affect you? Did you feel horribly saddened as MA discusses. Did you see the movie as a mirror held up to our culture? I had planned to see this movie, but the Ledger piece of it (in all it’s confusion and ambiguity) makes me turn away. I don’t want to remember Ledger this way. Even if he is dynamic–I suppose I’d prefer to remember him as the confused and profoundly sad, but very dear cowboy in Brokeback Mountain, than the manaically pathological, lonely, sick Joker. Sure, I’d like to see Bale et al, but I don’t think that Ledger’s performance will do anything but depress and as I said, make me feel really ill. Such a waste, as MA begins her review (or gets to that point–the sadness, the loss.)
    For those who can comparmentalize, push aside such things, view the film as film only, forgetting the real lives of the characters, I say go, but otherwise, I think it would haunt in a awful way.

  • Sara

    Newbs,
    If you think of Ledger every time you can’t sleep…seems that this movie will haunt. I can’t separate the actor from what happened to him not long after the making of this film, and knowing what he said about his mental state during the making of the film. And for those who would jump on me for saying this, I am clearly aware of the pneumonia he had and that would play a key (bacterial/viral illnesses can make one even more depressed, anxious, etc., if the problem is there to begin with.) Why should we separate the characters from the real people when something is involved like this (Ledgers’ death)? Why should we not think of it? And in thinking of it, how can it not get in the way? Unless as I said, one has the capacity (and I don’t think of this as a positive characteristic) of being able to compartmentalize feelings. Instead of integrating them. Bomber pilots compartmentalize all the time. Lots of people do in situations where if there was integration there would be a different outcome.
    There is also the saying in psychiatry that’s used all the time…”accidentally on purpose”…sometimes we aren’t so aware of our unconscious issues as we’d like to think we are.

  • MaryAnn

    I agree with the above poster who said this speculation might “devalue” his performance.

    Another thing that is wrong about this movie, that I hate, is that Ledger’s performance will, inevitably, be “devalued” because of his death, but I don’t see that there’s any way around that. I don’t see how we can separate the actor from his work, particularly in this case. I think that that’s probably always true, in a lot of ways, except that we don’t always know so much about the actor as we do in this case — we were witness, in a small way, to how this role affected him, in a way that we’re usually not. We don’t usually know if an actor can’t sleep or beats his wife or kicks his dog or goes on a binge or whatever after a tough part. This time, we do.

    I also hate that we won’t be able to separate any Oscar buzz from the sentiment factor. If Ledger wins an Oscar, or even gets a nomination, will it be because he genuinely deserves it (so far, this certainly is one of the most powerful performances of the year), or because everyone is sad that he died? This will spoil his legacy, either way, whether he wins or not, whether he’s nominated or not.

  • Sara

    Yes, precisely MaryAnn…you wrote: Ledger’s performance will, inevitably, be “devalued” because of his death but I don’t see that there’s any way around it.
    I don’t see any way around it either. And, yes, how, in this case, do you separate the actor from the role he played in this film, knowing what we know? I suppose, many will (the compartmentalization thing) but that’s a huge part of what I do see as being wrong with “us” or “our culture.” If we have that ability and use it blithely then what does that say about our humanity? And we can’t just say, “it’s only a movie.” That’s trite and insensitive, and not in touch with our own feelings (really scary) besides.

  • Odee

    I’m certainly looking forward to seeing Ledger’s last performance, although it may be a couple of weeks, since word is, all of the theatres that are playing is are sold out! This may end up being the hit of the summer.

    I remember when they were filming here in Chicago last summer. I still have pictures that I took of the police cars and paddy wagons with the “Gothom City” Logos and license plates. I’m sure that Ledger probably gave a great performance. He certainly gave the performance of the ages in “Brokeback Mountain” and that showed just how special, and gifted an actor he is, as that was a tricky role and Ledger’s take on it should have been a shoo-in for the Best Actor Oscar. Only the subject matter scared most of the voters away. What a loss…..

  • Jay

    Heath Ledger was a great actor. However, let’s be honest, people would not have realized that had it not been for his towering, immortal performance in Brokeback Mountain. As the NY Times said, it was as good as anything ever even by Brando (and Sean Penn). Thanks to his Ennis del Mar, people started looking back at his ultra-fine work in films like Candy and Lords of Dogtown and heck, everything he did. It was his performance in Brokeback that made his tragic, untimely death the stuff of front page news, otherwise I fear his awful loss would have gone the way of say, Brad Renfro, another fine actor whose untimely death barely made the papers. So, when Heath wins that overdue Oscar for Dark Knight, it will be just as much for Brokeback Mountain. Alas I will not be watching, as the Academy Awards are (and always have been) a meaningless popularity contest. It became obscene (as Dustin Hoffman accused them of being back in 1974 before he sold out in 1979) when they denied Brokeback Mountain and Heath Best Picture and Actor of 2005. Brokeback was the most honored pre-Oscars film EVER, nothing with a fraction of its awards had ever lost, yet older Academy members were vocally, publically, proudly saying they wouldn’t even watch the “gay movie”, they weren’t interested. Right-wingers protested, got behind Crash as a politically correct alternative, and they denied Brokeback its due (and, for the record, no film with as few pre-Oscars honors had ever won, it wasn’t even nominated for the Golden Globe!). Whichever film you prefer, for 80 years the Oscars have been determined by precedent, except that year, with Academy members admitting they would not go gay. If they said they wouldn’t go black or hispanic or Jewish or whatever, just imagine the outcry. No excuse. So may Heath win the prize he deserves, for The Dark Knight, and especially for the beautiful Brokeback Mountain.

  • Sara

    I don’t know if Ledger should have gotten best actor for Brokeback, but I definitely think the movie should have won best film. Way over Crash–at least to me.
    I think if Ledger wins an Oscar is will be for The Dark Knight (and that alone) and as MA says, the questions will loom as to whether he deserved it for the role or whether it will be given to him out of sadness that he is gone.

  • MaryAnn

    Thanks to his Ennis del Mar

    Yes, this is true. I think his performance in that one should be seen among the very best film performances of all time.

    I remember when they were filming here in Chicago last summer.

    Last summer I met Christian Bale at the junket for *Rescue Dawn,* which he had flown to NYC for during a break in the filming of *Dark Knight.* While I and the other few journalists were waiting for Bale, we ran roughshod over one guy who was determined to ask Bale about Batman: we were all, “He’s not here to talk about Batman, he doesn’t want to talk about Batman, shut the fuck up about Batman.” And the guy agreed, and then the first thing he asked Bale was about Batman. Which Bale clearly did not want to talk about — and rightly so, we were there to talk about *Rescue Dawn*… but now I wish we’d all talked about Ledger. Except, of course, why would we have?

    That all makes me sad, too.

  • Sara

    Wish you’d talked about Ledger too. You’d have heard, I think, different things than you’re hearing from Bale et al now, as the movie opens.
    Michelle Williams will not attend. The one Ledger was closest to and had a child with won’t be seeing this movie.

  • Peter

    I will see this movie and it WILL haunt me in some way no doubt, but that is LIFE.

    Sara, I understand why you don’t want to go, as there seems to be a professional conflict occurring in your mind, but re-infocing the idea to others is possibly stopping them from having a learning experience.

    There is a lot to take away from the movie and everything that has happened with Heath.

    I can understand Michelle Williams and co not going, because the pain is too close.

  • Sara

    Peter,
    I certainly ddon’t mean to stop anyone from seeing the movie, nor is that something I could even do nor want to do. People will flock to this movie in droves. I’ve said MA in the review above said, “See it” and I think she’s right on about most reviews. What else she says (and I’m glad) helps me personally know I won’t go. Her review is the best and most insightful one I’ve read. My husband (who likes Batman movies and action movies) said under the circumstances that he won’t go. I have friends who aren’t going. That’s just life too. We all make our own decisions. MaryAnn does a fabulous job of making connections re: this movie and our culture that I do fear others won’t make and that bothers me–but nothing I can do about it.
    The sadness for me is too close but not just for me, or because of my profession, it’s because as MA says we know much about the Ledger who played the character, much of what was going on with him and I really don’t want to see him in this character as his last performance. That’s my opinion/feeling/decision. I know this sounds dumb but my mom’s favorite character (comic) is Batman and she says she can’t see this movie and my father said he won’t either. My son who is in his 20s is conflicted about it but he will get what MA says and has read her review. If he wants to see it, that’s his decision. As it is anyone’s. The movie will haunt him and I don’t want to hear his angst over it for he will have it. This movie is unique in the ways we’ve all discussed. I had planned to go but decided against it. I never said for any one else to not go. In fact, I said that MA gave it her highest rating, but with warning both re: the whole situation with Ledger (being astute to your own feelings) and how this movie is dark in terms of our culture right now. That’s all. Sorry if I gave another impression; I didn’t mean to. I’m very tired of people in this country (and the world) compartmentalizing (which makes chaos easy) and I fear this move will only feed in to that. But lots of movies do. They just aren’t as well done and seductive. At least you read the top review before you see the movie.

  • maybe i’m missing something here, but how will *not* seeing this movie in any way honor or respect heath ledger and his career? if he gave a great performance, does it really matter what his personal demons were? it’s what he chose to do as his profession and seeing the movie — if one claims to be a “fan” — would be respecting his performance and choices that he made in life.

  • Sara

    Bonxbee,
    MaryAnn expresses answers to your questions in an incredibly insightful way in this review. To me, it does matter, knowing what we know of this situation and this person and what he said about this character (again, UK interview)…he was tormented. And then he died. Many factors played into this, I realize but I don’t want to see a movie that will make me cry in sadness (because of the Ledger situation) and because of how it mirrors our culture (and I doubt many of the teeming moviegoers will get that which is depressing to me.) MaryAnn addresses this in the review and also again on a post of hers on July 16.
    I think Heath would say, as was pretty much his philosophy, do what you feel/think is right for you. And that’s what I’m doing. I know enough about the movie to know that I don’t want to see it under the circumstances that have been discussed in this column. If I were a reviewer, yes, I’d force myself to go, but I’m not a reviewer. It would not be entertainment or “learning” for me. I fear it will be entertainment for many people and very little “learning.” But, c’est la vie.

  • MaryAnn

    I didn’t have to force myself to see this — I was genuinely intrigued to see all of it, not just Ledger’s last performance.

    if he gave a great performance, does it really matter what his personal demons were?

    That’s an interesting point. I think it does matter, because those demons fueled this performance. But from the perspective of letting his death keep you away from this movie? We can’t change that he died and we can’t change whatever terrible things about him became part of this performance. I respect anyone who makes the decision to avoid the movie because they might find it personally too upsetting, but anyone avoiding the movie out of a sense of “respect” for Ledger would, I think, be misguided. Respecting him would be embracing this performance.

  • Sara

    Understood. And, I agree, it does matter–the “demons” (as you put it) that fueled this performance. For me, yes, personally too upsetting and horrible. I’ve talked with others (who I know personally) who feel similarly. Many don’t, obviously. I certainly have utmost respect for Ledger’s work–tremendous, in fact– but do not want to see this film at all. I have no desire to cry the whole way through and possibly throw up on the floor and both are highly likely. MA’s review was insightful and important, I think–extremely so and I think she has hit upon profound issues that many will miss about this movie. So, those who have read her review and do see the film, I’d say you are lucky indeed to have her review in your head as you watch the film. It can only make the film richer for you, plus you are fully prepared for what you will see. Hopefully, this will bring about discussions among those you see it with who didn’t have the opportunity to read MAs review. I sure as heck made sure my son had her review (he plans to go to the movie tomorrow night.) His response to her review (and he’s 22) was: Wow…she points to the main message and isn’t afraid to deal with the issue of Ledger either. He made copies of my email to him (with her review) to share with his friends prior to going to the movie.

  • i guess i just am not as distraught about HL’s death as some are. i thought he did great work and some not-so-great work, but while i can regret whatever led to his death at such a young age (carelessness, suicide or accident, whatever), i cannot think of myself as throwing up at viewing his performance. all actors of whatever level — if they are true to their craft — bring out something of themselves in every performance. whatever HL brought out in this performance, i don’t understand why it would be more upsetting than watching him in Brokeback Mtn and thinking it must have brought out some side of him that was homosexual, or watching him in Ned Kelly and thinking some part of him must be a criminal.

    certainly, if you’re the kind of person who will be upset by thinking the last performance he gave was this kind of wild, raw, emotional one, then by all means stay away — i guess i’m having trouble understanding why people are finding that watching this performance would be thought to expose more of his inner workings than any of his others.

  • Sara

    There is a difference here. There is a difference in watching Ledger in this movie as opposed to Brokeback Mt. (Help me here maybe MA as I’m obviously not getting my thought/feelings/point across)–Ledger was at a very very different place emotionally when he made Brokeback and when he played the Joker. And the outcomes are vastly different in terms of what it did to him, what he said it did to him. If you can’t see the sadness and the horror (not in the movie, that’s not what I’m talking about)…in the real person who is playing the character (or maybe not so playing the character) then what can I say? I’ve said all I can. I certainly can deal with difficult movies but this one falls into it’s own category that is not like other “wild, raw, emotional” movies. If that isn’t understood…

  • MaryAnn

    i dunno if we can say that the Joker or Ennis “made” him commit suicide or turn to drugs in an attempt to cope and led to an “accidental” death — I think it’s more likely that it’s the other way around: that he always was a sad and tortured soul and these few characters happened to coincidentally touch on something real in him in some way. (I can’t imagine that merely playing a crazy character, no matter how insane, could be the *only* thing that might potentially drive an otherwise heathly and well-adjusted actor to suicide. But it *is* easy to see that only a torn-up soul might be able to bring genuine gravitas to an insane character, like we see in Ledger’s Joker.)

    watching him in Brokeback Mtn and thinking it must have brought out some side of him that was homosexual

    I’m not sure anyone is saying that. The beauty of *Brokeback* is that it’s about love than transcends orientation, in a lot of ways. It’s easy to look at that movie and wonder not about whom Ledger secretly found sexually attractive but whether he was drawing on some part of his life experience that deeply understood pain and loneliness.

  • Mathias

    I’ve read many reviews saying that you don’t really think about Heath in this movie because he’s almost not there. He disappears entirely into the Joker and doesn’t remind you of, in any way, the actor.

    “we were witness, in a small way, to how this role affected him, in a way that we’re usually not….”

    No were not. We have no idea if this role had anything to do with his death at all. It’s sad that we’re speculating about Heath’s personal demons and death. I said it before and i’ll say it again. It devaules Heath’s talent as a actor. And i’m not gonna do that based on gossip.

  • Shadowen

    Your review reminds me why I love Batman. He’s not some self-indulgent psychopath like the Punisher, or a would-be god-emperor like Superman always seems a hair away from becoming. He’s insane, certainly, but he’s still sane enough to know it. He knows that in order to avoid hypocrisy in his vigilantism, he must do everything he can to avoid being judge, jury, or executioner. Since he doesn’t even have the legal footing of the police, he can’t allow himself to kill even in self-defense. He manages to walk that a razor-wire tightrope–physically, mentally, emotionally, and morally.

  • Bill

    Hats off to whoever designed the sound of this movie. There are some absolutely striking silences peppered with only the faintest environmental noise that bring serious intensity to already gripping scenes. Even most of the action sequences manage to maintain the same starkness and it works perfectly throughout. Also, regardless of how high your expectations are for Ledger’s Joker, he will not disappoint. He is very simply hair-raising.

  • Erik Goodwyn

    Sara, I too have sat with patients who have ‘overdosed’ and have had deep discussions with them about whether or not it was accidental (I’m a psychiatrist). It is frequently a very hazy area, as you know, with many conscious and unconscious motivations driving such behavior. That said, avoiding TDK is a mistake. HL was an actor, and a damn good one, and we don’t know if it was the craziness of the Joker or simply the intensity he poured into the performance (independent of the role) that may have fed into his anxiety and depression. He was obviously a very intense artist, but it is possible that playing such a loose cannon was liberating or cathartic for him, it isn’t as if he got off the set on his final day as the Joker and overdosed.

    Since he was so good at portraying himself as different from how he really felt (i.e. he was an incredible *actor*), it makes it very difficult to make a judgment here without actually sitting down with him and talking with him–obviously impossible.

    That said, the movie is awesome, and draws into sharp relief the deepest moral questions, and spotlights the darkest pits of human nature. It is not, as MJ said “a nightmare of modern neurosis”–this is ancient mythology as it was originally intended: an in depth look at ourselves as humans. Batman is a modern Osirus–lord of the underworld, a kind of god-man in the ancient mystery tradition, and the Joker a modern Mephistopholes, who shakes our conscious “sensibilities” to the core with unconflicted destructive force. HL nails this perfectly, as if he knows the Joker lives deep within everyone, just as Batman (and even Bruce Wayne) does. I don’t think HL would want anyone to miss this performance on account of his death–he poured too much of his soul into it.

  • MaryAnn

    “a nightmare of modern neurosis”

    I’d say all the exploration of how the fear of terrorism turns us into cowering infants peeing our own pants qualifies as a “modern neurosis.”

    Not that you’re wrong about how ancient much of what’s here is.

  • Sara

    Erik,
    Thanks for your comments. Your description of the ancient themes (same as MaryAnn goes into) is the only reason I would see the movie (perhaps on DVD at some point.) It does bother me (as MaryAnn has pointed out) that we DO know that Heath was disturbed and did not get the help he needed. He was advised during the filming of The Dark Knight to get psychiatric help but did not and no one insisted on it. For me, this brings up questions such as: why would the studio not insist on it? Was his performance so good that perhaps it was in the best interest of the money-making machine to use Ledger (even though this might have been bad for him? Dangerous for him?) Ledger’s drug use is well-known and started before The Dark Knight. How does that fit in? I realize this is speculation but it is what concerns me…was he on strong uppers (cocaine, etc.) during his performances, then afterward would have trouble sleeping at night and a terrible cycle began of addiction that, yes, could lead to a “great” performance of a good actor (similar to steroid use in athletes but worse) but could explain why a person was sleeping for only two hours a night for a lengthy time, perhaps was taking something during the day for shoots. Then add in the exhaustion, aggitation, inability to sleep, anxiety, depression, etc. I don’t really want to watch Heath self-destructing in this movie (even if it makes for a “great performance”) and he WAS on a downward spiral at that time and it continued. I realize we don’t know but bits and pieces–someone does the whole story, though, something was very wrong and his acting may have been mixed in with strong drug use. Does that take away from the “acting”? Well, yeah, it would to me. Was he a good actor? Yes. Was hs good in Brokeback? Yes, but I thought Gyllenhaal was actually better. So, the known drug use (and other problems) and the downward spiral that began before The Dark Knight but then worsened makes it seem (whatever was going on with Heath) that he was almost taken advantage of–as if you were filming someone who was manic but not yet overty psychotic (but getting there fast)…it would be abusive (my opinion). With all those questions floating around…and they are and will always be…I really don’t want to see him like this in his last role. I don’t know that it IS attributable to only great acting or something else combined. That bothers me. I also think if it’s clear (for whatever reason) that if an actor needs to seek psychiatric help (and is told this) during a shoot and the studio knows this, that it should be insisted on no matter how “great” the performance they are getting out of an actor. Otherwise, it bumps up against abuse of the actor to me and I don’t want to be party to that myself. The whole thing is sullied for me. But I realize that others feel very different. May they deal with it as they wish.

  • This review is different from others.It’s very personal and appears to be a memoirs for Ledger. I didn’t like him as an actor,but upon seeing him in The Dark Knight this afternoon, I felt sadness. He was brilliant all throughout the movie. In fact, I couldn;t see Heath Ledger until the last scene whereas, he was hanging,smiling ans stating his philosophy.

  • MaryAnn

    was he on strong uppers (cocaine, etc.) during his performances,

    I’m not sure this level of extreme speculation is helpful.

  • Sara

    ProudPinoy,
    You are right on that MA’s reviews are “different from others.” They’re better, they see what others can’t see or don’t want to see or feel. Yet she remains analytical at the same time.
    Why did you feel sadness when you say Ledger in The Dark Knight? Because he is now dead or because of something else (or both)? I’d be interested in knowing.
    Another disturbing comment that Mathias made: “you don’t really think about Heath that much because he’s almost not there. He disappears into the Joker…” This says a lot on many levels. What we do know is that something was very wrong and that Heath did end up “disappearing” and for good.

  • Sara

    MA,
    I realize that’s it’s speculation (extent of drug issues)–I said that– but it’s known that there were drug issues before, during and after–that part’s not speculation. What kind, what type, how much, how often…I have no idea, but it is something I think about. And it’s something that can cause a person to crash and burn, even a young person. And again, when during a film an actor is advised to seek psychiatric help…and they don’t…and they play an insane role, well, it bothers me. That’s all.

  • Erik Goodwyn

    MJ–point taken, though the twisted choices the Joker makes the populace go through are guided by the principle that humans tend to throw out all the rules when it comes to self preservation. The Joker then says–“ahh, so the rules are just bs, aren’t they?” He has a point! Terrorism is just mankind’s most recent paranoia that summons forth this otherwise ancient ugliness.

    As for HL’s drug use and the studio’s treatment of him, you pose an ethical problem, how forceful should we be in our insistence? Should someone have pink-slipped him and forced him to go to a hospital? Hindsight leaves us with an outraged ‘yes!’, but that’s too easy. In my job, I can only force hospitalization if there is good evidence at the time that a person is a danger to themselves or others, otherwise I am unethically abusing my power to curtail someone’s autonomy. It’s always a tough call, and suicide is very difficult to predict anyway. Sure we have ‘risk factors’, but they’re not that predictive. Fact is, though, HL refused treatment–was that unwise? Clearly! Trajic? Certainly, the world will miss him. But at what point to we force people to make ‘wise’ choices against their will? I don’t have all the answers, and I do this for a living!

    Also, in the movie, the Joker is not a psychotic character in that he doesn’t hear voices, ramble, bounce off the walls or have delusional thoughts; he is clear thinking, articulate, calculating and very menacing. He is quite controlled–they weren’t filming a manic man on the verge of insanity, but a fiercely measured and well-concieved characterization. In other words, a well acted role. But that’s just my opinion, you’d have to see it to judge yourself :)

  • Sara

    Erik,
    I completely understand the points re: “making a person” get treatment or the inability to predict suicide. People, even mental health professionals of the highest caliber, can’t read minds. If though (sorry, speculation but from one mental health professional to another) if someone is working for you and you are aware that something is very amiss (and perhaps you even know what it is), know enough that you recommend psychiatric treatment at least, then you most certainly do (as an employer) have the ability to fire the person if they don’t get help. That happens a lot. Forcing them to treatment. No. Firing them. Yes. But who would fire such a person when such a performance was being gotten from him and money to be made? Even if it is on the brink of some sort of significant problem? It would be all too easy to brush it off.

  • The Joker

    The people here trying to do posthumous psychoanalysis of Heath Ledger need to stop.

    IMHO, you’re honouring his death far less by refusing to see this movie than you would be if you did go and see it. His portrayal talks about important things; the importance of self-responsibility; why society going too far in the direction of anarchy *or* fascism are both bad.

    The single most important thing his role here will force you to look at, though, is the truth that there is evil within every single person, as well as good. Batman explained to him, and he should have seen, that good is there as well, but in the story he proves with Harvey that even within the supposedly best person, evil still exists. Harvey was referred to as Two Face while he was training, before Rachel’s death or him ever experiencing the truth of that.

    If you do not go and see this film because you’re worried that maybe his performance is a little too real for you, then you are a coward, and you have no place to claim to be lamenting his death. You claim to mourn him, and then refuse to view what may well have been his greatest accomplishment, simply because it might make you uncomfortable?

    Understand this, MaryAnne; modern psychotherapy is a big part of the whole damn problem. They try and create a picture of what is defined as baseline “normal,” and then pathologise anything that is outside of that definition. It makes me sick.

    I’m sick of you damned normals; I’m sick of your fear. I’m sick of you trying to claim that you have any idea what the words pain or fear mean. You label anyone who doesn’t fit into the eight hour a day mould, that is killing this entire planet, as autistic or God only knows what else, and then you make it even worse by calling us “rainbow/Indigo children,” and go on about how being different is such a wonderful thing.

    It’s garbage from beginning to end, and we know it even if you don’t.

    We know about your fear of us.

    We know we are considered freaks.

    We know that when either the current or a future government re-enacts Auschwitz in America, those of us living in that country will be among the first to be killed, as we were during the time of Hitler.

    We know that living alone day after day, and that having people recoil from us in horror when we’re just trying to do something such as food shopping, and lying in bed at night in an empty house at 4 in the morning, rigid with fear ourselves of things that empirical Science has no room for, and so denies the existence of, isn’t glamorous, or sexy, or fun, or special. It is a state of biting cold, terror, and relentless, gnawing agony on a level that you, in your sheltered, mundane, utterly pointless lives cannot even begin to remotely comprehend.

    Mary Anne is right about one thing. The Joker is out there. Oh, I promise you he is. Maybe his spirit was present within Heath before he died; maybe it wasn’t. If you refuse to see this film purely out of fear of that possibility however, then you have nothing but my contempt.

    You do not know what fear really means.

    Have fun when fascism truly comes to your country, as it is all but there now. You’ll get to learn all about fear then, I promise you. Maybe if you actually watched more things like Heath’s performance, and didn’t spend quite so much time hiding under your bed, you’d actually be able to avoid what’s coming.

    If Heath died as a result of making this movie, then that is what he died for. He died in order to give us an opportunity, even if only in allegory, to look at some things which some of us are very uncomfortable about facing, but which the cost of ignoring for too much longer might very well be our lives. Yes, it’s getting that serious.

    If you really care about his death, honour it. Go and see this film, and be willing to learn the lessons it teaches.

  • Erik Goodwyn

    (yawn)

  • MaryAnn

    the Joker is not a psychotic character

    No, he isn’t, at least not that we see. He is a sociopath, though.

    They try and create a picture of what is defined as baseline “normal,” and then pathologise anything that is outside of that definition. It makes me sick.

    I agree with this, to a point. I also find it very disturbing when people talk about “forcing” someone into treatment.

    Ledger was an adult. He was not a child. He was capable of making his own decisions… even if — *if* — that decision was to self-destruct. There’s only so much babysitting and nannying we can do to grownups. Which isn’t to suggest, either, that we shouldn’t try to help those who seem to be crying out for help. It’s a tough balance to find, between helping those willing to take help and letting go of those who don’t seem to want it when it’s offered. I’m NOT saying we can tell where Ledger fell in this spectrum. I’m saying our speculation is probably pointless.

    Have fun when fascism truly comes to your country, as it is all but there now. You’ll get to learn all about fear then, I promise you. Maybe if you actually watched more things like Heath’s performance, and didn’t spend quite so much time hiding under your bed, you’d actually be able to avoid what’s coming.

    This is, I fear, a big part of what *Dark Knight* — and, in fact, a good measure of our pop culture at the moment — is trying to say, and it’s being missed.

  • Sara

    Of course there is good and evil and in-between in every person. Fear of that isn’t what would keep me from going to this film. The self-righteous leader and the terrorist surely are brothers and feed on each other for various reason. They would not exist without the other. I get that. I get that we should ask questions like…why do they (whoever they are) hate us? Some of the question/answers that are denied, I certainly see. I’m not skipping over it. It’s not the message of the film that scares me–the message of the film is important, clearly. It’s the process of what happened to Ledger. And wondering what exactly that was because we really don’t know. It’s hidden. Clues, yeah. But it’s been hidden.
    I understand much of what you’re saying, I think, regarding the movie. As does MaryAnn in her review. Her review is one that does touch on the issues you bring up. She didn’t say she hid under her bed. Nor does it mean I’m hiding under mine if I choose not to see this movie (not because of it’s message–I get the ideas of what the message are about.)
    As far as analyzing, speculating, thinking about what happened to Ledger, feeling sad about it–that’s going to happen and I don’t see it as a negative thing. Haven’t movies been made about JFK, etc., etc.? There’s analysis and speculation. And usually there is cover-up somewhere too. So those of us who analyze might think more deeply than you realize and have seen things you don’t realize. Are there worse things to see/experience? Always. I understand that.

  • Sara

    MA,
    You can’t “force” someone into treatment and I don’t think that’s been said. Well, you can force it if an individual that is under your care is of immediate harm to themselves or to others. And a whole other argument could be held, but mental health clinicians work with individuals, families and small groups, not corporations or governments. There is such a thing as “intervention” that can be effective with individuals. It might have the feel of forcing but it’s more confrontation in a caring way. That’s what it appears that Ledger missed out on. Enabling occurs a heck of a lot and for many reasons.

  • The Joker

    So, Erik…I’m just a ranting nut case, eh?

    The sky is blue, the birds are singing, the children are safely playing in the park…everything’s just fine, right?

  • Sara

    For Erik, too…
    Did you see V for Vendetta? To me, that film was one that I’d say everyone should see and I get the sense that The Dark Knight has similar themes. Wondering if “the people” fit in as the ones who must do what needs to be done as opposed to the Batman/Two Face/Joker in The Dark Knight (as it was the people who made the difference in V.) In V, neither V nor the cops (et al) were anything to emulate (complex characters for sure, but you’d not pick one over the other compared to the people.) It was the people that made the difference. Somehow I’m not hearing much about the people in The Dark Knight. Seems like all is saved by a hair by Batman (and barely at that.) If that’s the case, V would seem to have the deeper message.

  • Ryan H

    On a completely different direction of thought, and one particularly appropriate to this site, if there should be a sequel, David Tennant has expressed interest in playing the Riddler. I realize the link itself is a little old, but it’s new to me. Just ran across it looking up Dark Knight stuff.

  • David

    Anyone who thinks the United States is closer to fascism than France or any number of other European countries may be in the middle of an accidental overdose of something.

  • MaryAnn

    I don’t know about France, but Britain is edging closer to fascism every day, too.

    No one compared what’s happening in the U.S. to what’s happening anywhere else, though. It’s happening everywhere.

  • soroso

    I saw this last night. Unlike some I didn’t see it as Ledger playing as his demons, but rather as him channeling all of societies demons. That it what I found so very disturbing and sad here. It was a very real depiction of the sickness it our society, the world’s society, and having that move through you could produce extreme amounts of anxiety and stress.

    People overlook the importance of sleep all the time, but every little bit you miss you are pulling yourself apart at the seams; it’s extremely damaging to every part of you, especially mentally. Added pressures and stress from a negative work environment (even though working on a movie might not be negative, playing a role such as this, however, would be) can make sleep impossible and the need for sleep is essential. I can understand the need for escape from all of that, I’ve been there myself.

    Also, the problem with reliance on Rx drugs is very dangerous to all of us. Anyone taking any meds is walking a razors edge. The industry is very frightening and the FDA is paid by the companies (more or less) who make the drugs. It’s meant to make money, not help people, not really (though meds do help save lives, I’m not saying they don’t. but they are very powerful and people overlook that and treat them on the level with candy). Our society is one of treat the symptom, ignore the cause and that is what brings tragedy about.

    This is rambling now, but I wanted to throw my hat into the ring as I don’t see this the exact same way. It made me sad for our society and doubly so for a man who had to see, and be, the worst of it. How sick we have all become.

  • Sara

    Soroso,
    I haven’t seen the movie, but have relatives who saw it last night and I’ve heard a lot about it. It sounds like a many scenes were edited out (and kind of choppily and perhaps,confusingly in places); perhaps, also much of Ledger’s acting–that took energy on his part–was edited out. In that case, he would have spent much more energy on the film than we see.

    Re: the drugs, alcohol, etc., especially with teens and twenties is not in a good place right now. Our college campuses are awful in terms of dominant campus culture (social life). When we’re read books like “Drinking to Die” and ambulances are going back and forth from freshman dorms to ERs on a routine basis, there’s a problem. I don’t know how many people are really aware of how it is now and I don’t think the college admins are telling parents and students this either. It’s way over the top. Dangerous.
    Among the young men (20’s) who saw the movie last night that I talked with…they see the cultural implications, etc. but are saavy enough to know that even if we might wish for a hero to save us, it ain’t gonna happen. It takes everyone doing their part.

    That’s why I think V for Vendetta would take my vote over this movie. If you haven’t seen V, then rent it. It didn’t have near the publicity, etc., but goes (to me) beyond where The Dark Knight went and empowers the people to action as opposed to creating a dependence on a hero. (I know that we’re supposed to take from The Dark Knight the idea that we ALL are to struggle with our own inner demons and then,act for the betterment of our world.)– but that’s not how it often comes across. People, more often than not, want a hero that will do it “for them.” Critical thinking is lacking all the way around and is badly needed.

  • I read quickly, so excuse me if I misterpreted anyone.

    I think people read too much into people’s acting and what’s going on in their real lives. During Brokeback Mountain, HL was playing a quiet man struggling with his sexuality; in real life, he was having an affair with Michelle Williams and having a daughter with her. In real life, it was a relatively happy time for him. On screen, one didn’t get that impression.

    Acting.

    I liked but did not love HL’s performance as the Joker. The person who blew me away was Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent. And I’ve seen him in a number of movies before (notably the wonderfully twisted satire Thank You for Smoking). He brought a certain subtly and soul to a very tricky role. Late in the movie, when his character lost it, he was outrageous but in a completely different way from HL. While the Joker was all about anarchy, Two-Face was all about vengence.

    I hope Eckhart comes back (hell, comic characters always rise from the dead), and I do love the notion of David Tennant as the Riddler.

  • qner

    You probably ought to watch a movie before evaluating it.

  • qner

    Laurie, I think that Eckhart had perhaps the trickiest role of the film — certainly the biggest dramatic arc.

    But I can’t agree that it was the best performance. Eckhart exhuds affability and a sense of fair play. I didn’t quite buy his decent in to homicidal madness. He looked at any moment as if the right word would get him to rethink his whole vengeance thing.

    Heath on the other hand. It wasn’t a performance. It was the perfect animation of archetype.

  • Whew, MaryAnn, glum review … how about the resounding decency of the people of Gotham – isn’t that cause for optimism? The Dark Knight Transcends

  • Newbia

    I don’t agree that this movie is an indictment of the current state of world affairs (if that’s not what you meant, then forgive me for misinterpreting you). The movie takes no sides; it merely presents the moral conundrum of how to stay honorable when fighting a pure force of chaos, and when to stop playing by the rules. That is what made the movie truly fascinating.

  • Newbia

    PS: Darn, I should have began that post with, “Why so serious, MaryAnn?”

  • Qner, but even before Dent’s…um…transformation, there’s a scene that shows that for all his surface affability, he was dangerous underneath. However, he showed that, aside from his obsession with the silver dollar, he was ultimately extremely reasonable. Until he went beyond reason.

    I think one of the points the screenwriter/director was making was to say that, while the Joker was the most extreme case of someone losing it, that anyone can become a villain given the right circumstances.

  • Phil

    Yes, its too bad he is dead. But the pseudo-philosophical viewpoint that the guy that he played(the Joker) is collectively every person in the country is retarded.

    It was a decent movie, but seemed alot like an eye-seizure inducing nonstop blur of explosions and bullets that got old after awhile. Personally, Batman Begins was way more enjoyable.

    Anyone who doesn’t come away from this film absolutely loving it and it tying it philosophically to Bush, global warming, and how evil the Iraq war is..is going to be crucified by your rage obviously. Sorry to dissapoint

  • MaryAnn

    It sounds like a many scenes were edited out (and kind of choppily and perhaps,confusingly in places); perhaps, also much of Ledger’s acting–that took energy on his part–was edited out.

    Sara, if you have any basis whatsoever for offering such wild speculation, let’s here it. Because I see absolutely nothing to justify such a claim.

    the pseudo-philosophical viewpoint that the guy that he played(the Joker) is collectively every person in the country is retarded.

    Ah, well, that’s settled then. I’m retarded. We’ll just have to take Phil’s word on it.

    The movie takes no sides; it merely presents the moral conundrum of how to stay honorable when fighting a pure force of chaos, and when to stop playing by the rules.

    I didn’t suggest that the movie “takes sides,” or that there is any one-to-one correspondence between events and characters in Gotham City and events and people in the real world. Obviously, there is not. (Or perhaps it’s not so obvious, if I have to say as much.)

    But if you don’t think moral conundrums about honor and decency don’t have urgent applications in the real world, then I would respectively suggest that you are not seeing the real world. I don’t see how anyone could NOT see this movie as a clear product of the world we’re living in today.

  • Sara

    MaryAnn,
    I wrote:
    It sounds like many scenes were edited out (and kind of choppily and perhaps,confusingly in places); perhaps, also much of Ledger’s acting–that took energy on his part–was edited out.
    And you responded:

    Sara, if you have any basis whatsoever for offering such wild speculation, let’s here it. Because I see absolutely nothing to justify such a claim.

    I said my basis was that close family members and friends that have seen the movie reported this as THEIR reaction. That this was a weakness of the film to them–it appeared to them to be choppy in places, and somewhat as Phil says above (eye-seizure inducing eye candy of explosions and bulletsand so on that was overdone.)

    My comment was simply that if lots of editing is done (or over-editing, even) in a movie, then, for instance, the Joker’s roles may have been more difficult than it even appeared because of extra scenes that were deleted. But, no, I have no idea how many scenes from the Joker’s part was deleted. We’ll see some of that when the DVD comes out. As I’ve thought about it, look at all the movies that people have made that placed them in “disturbing” roles. Re: Ledger, IMHO, other issues were in the pot along with the role. But if it’s suggested that the person get care during a role and they don’t and they end up dying, then, yeah, for me, that’s awful.
    I WILL see the movie, but will wait for the DVD. There was tremendous discussion on this post prior to the release of the movie and you didn’t HAVE to see the movie to make a comment. It’s all over the internet, in the news, etc.

  • Sara

    MaryAnn,
    Also on your site, you mention the massive billboards looming all over NYC of Ledger’s Joker and how they are haunting.
    Under the circumstances (with his death) that to me, PERSONALLY, seems like a tacky marketing tool. Which has obviously worked.

  • PaulW

    Finally saw the movie last night.

    *major plot spoilers*

    I just wanna say up front: Tiny Lister is my hero.

    There is so much to discuss about it, part of which I barely even discussed with my friend Tony, that I might even start up a new blog dissecting superhero movies starting with this one.

    I’ve heard comparisons of this movie from Tony and a few other friends to oddly enough Godfather Part II (and not Empire Strikes Back), suggesting we might finally be seeing superhero movies as Oscar-caliber epics rather than big blockbusters. And I can see it. This is a movie that’s more than just about blowing things up (although they do), or beating up criminals, or big exciting chase scenes through narrow city streets. This is a movie about ethics, about right and wrong, and not on a pop psychology level but reaching the deeper Jungian/Campbellian stuff. This is a post-9/11 film about terror, about chaos, about how far do we go when villains themselves go too far. Which is why the movie is more than just what happens to Bruce or Harvey or Gordon or Rachel or Lucius, it’s about the consequences of their actions, about the decisions made that go wrong or break the law. Which is why for me the best things about the movie were how Lucius Fox reacts to finding out how far Batman went to hunt down the Joker using illegal/unethical surveillance (paying attention, Yoo and Addington?). It was about the meager little accountant in Wayne Enterprises who figures out where all the R&D stuff is going and tries to commit a little blackmail, only to have the whole thing threaten his life and where he witnesses Wayne himself risking his life for him. It’s about the final confrontation between Batman and Joker, with thousands of lives on the line, and the Joker waiting for the people he’s threatening to prove himself right, waiting for two more bombs to go off, waiting for two men (a tattooed career criminal and a middle-aged office manager) to make the final decision. It’s about Harvey’s coin flips, about how absolutely right AND wrong he is about how chance and fate work. It’s about the last decision made at the end of the film, a willing step into darkness, because it’s the only way to win.

    It’s a pity Heath died. At the end, still talking with and taunting Batman, giggling that he sees them ‘playing this game forever’, I believed him saying it. And then I realized that in the real world he’s gone now.

    This could not only be the first year we FINALLY get one superhero movie up for Best Picture, we might actually get two (Iron Man and Dark Knight).

  • Sara

    PaulW,
    For your blog, you’ll be able to add the one below. Might be more complex than all others put together, especially with Crudup. Of course, apocalyptic and heavily male-dominated. As these movies tend to be, as most of the world is (not all) but most, certainly our country.

    http://watchmen–trailer.blogspot.com/

  • darryl

    second great movie of the year..the antithesis of wall-e, but its equal.

    do the two movies “complete” eachother? i think so.

    only chaos can give birth to a dancing star. f.n.

  • I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. I see it as maybe an exaggerated warning of sorts that if we allow morality to crumble this is what will happen. If we as a civilization allow ourselves to disregard the common good and welfare of our world, then surely we will crumble. We must tame our violent tendencies and prejudices.

  • Except that Heath wasn’t talking about The Dark Knight during the itnerview when he said the role really knocked him around and he was having trouble sleeping, he was talking about I’m Not There. Heck he’d only just started working on the Dark Knight when that interview was done.

    Just like Jack Nicholson quote about `I did warn him’ Jack wasnt talking about playing the Joker, he was talking about taking Xanax.

    Don’t listen to sound bytes. Read full articles, the media like to grab little teasers and use them to sell papers.

  • soroso

    To Sara,

    Thanks for your comments. I disagree that there are choppy scenes. If there were I missed them (and that I find unlikely as that sort of thing bothers me). Perhaps they did not like the film’s style of shooting scenes and took it as bad editing. I would say see it for yourself before believing such things, but you’ve stated already that you have no interest in doing so, and that’s fine. But, again, I strongly disagree.

    As per drugs, I’m not really sure what you’re getting at. I wasn’t trying to tackle the whole drugs and alcohol insanity, I was just meaning to highlight an oft forgotten problem; the perceived safety of prescription drugs that are anything but. Some are dangerous but the benefit outweighs the danger. Others are dangerous because companies are.. lazy? liars? unethical? I’m not sure which to pick. And the public is unawares.

    But both what I was talking about an what you were talking about goes in with what I said about society treating the symptom (half heartedly at best) and ignoring the cause. You can substitute anything, drugs, drinking, violent video games, cell phones, whatever and get the same result. People should be looking at why such things are needed and desired in the first place. What in our society is demanding this self destruction? The ill of society is a byproduct of whatever that is.

    As for V, I like it very much, but it is asking different questions than this film. As such I wouldn’t call it a replacement for this film as both offer interesting looks into society. But given what you say about drugs… the original source material for V is quite different from the movie as there is more about creating anarchy and there is much drug use. The movie took that out and made it less about the complete anarchy. I still enjoy it though.

    And I enjoyed The Dark Night as well.

    To MaryAnn,

    I didn’t type this before, but thank you for an interesting review as it is inspired some interesting comments here. I like that very much bout your reviews.

  • Sara

    soroso,
    I’ll watch TDK when it comes out on DVD. I’ve talked to quite a few people who have seen it (in my family) and also friends, one who is chair of a university political science dept. All around suggested (interestly) wait until the DVD but I didn’t see V until DVD either. Saw Batman Begins on DVD and all the crashes, crashes, crashes, really put me off. V was violent, yes, but the story, quite compelling and I was not put off by that movie. Interesting, too, that it didn’t have near the marketing (at least I don’t think it did) that the Batman movies have. The upcoming Watchmen movie (same writers who wrote V) caught my attention mostly because of Crudup (great actor, I think and usually chooses good roles–or rather unusual ones.) I put the link to the trailer above. The turnoff is, again, all the explosions, glass shattering everywhere, hyperviolence. Very male-dominated stories; or rather completely so. For an aware female, it can become tiresome, discouraging, even if relevant. Actually, it starts to make one angry. It seems that the androcentric viewpoint is enjoyed by our culture, celebrated, and not much is learned by simply repeating the violence/power games, over and over and over. In the real world and in the movies,repetition compulsion. I do see our world as being psychologically in the Iron Age with high tech weaponry. Better wake up and it doesn’t take a movie that I we’re to “enjoy” for me to get that. I see it all too well. I’d rather spend my money on a movie like The Visitor which I’d highly recommend. It’s not action-packed but it’s great acting, story, message. MaryAnn has given it a “go see it” sign but hasn’t reviewed it yet.

  • soroso

    I would say that Dark Knight is above and beyond Batman Begins. I saw that on video and I liked it, but I think this is really much better. Still many explosions, but it’s being billed as a blockbuster action flick regardless of what it actually is.

    Don’t know what you’re meaning with the “aware female”, but, for the record, I’m not a dude. And I’m not oblivious to my surroundings either.

  • soroso

    ” It sounds like a many scenes were edited out (and kind of choppily and perhaps,confusingly in places); perhaps, also much of Ledger’s acting–that took energy on his part–was edited out.

    Sara, if you have any basis whatsoever for offering such wild speculation, let’s here it. Because I see absolutely nothing to justify such a claim.”

    I thought of one scene where the camera cut away from and action part a bit too quickly I felt, but it as just the one time and it was obviously done to make sure the movie didn’t show any gore on screen so it wouldn’t be rated R (though it should have been. My saying so ensured my nephew won’t be seeing it. He’s probably upset about that, but he’s still to young to see it I think even if he is 14.. he’s a bit sheltered).

    Again though, not choppy. And sorry for the multiple posts today.

  • Sara

    By “aware female” I that I don’t have to see androcentric movies that get the message across that I already know painfully of…the hyperviolence is a turnoff to me at this point. I think many females don’t see the androcentric part or think it’s just the way things are “supposed” to be. Obviously that’s not you. Good. I’ve just become very disgusted (it’s not too strong a word, really) by the hypermasculine violent stuff in my face, whether in reality or in the movies. And with women having little part in the story (or a side story connected to some male.) That doesn’t appeal to me; in fact, it leaves me out of the story, really. Unless I want to contort myself into an androcentric mindset which I’m working myself out of. Doesn’t mean I think movies like SATC are an alternative. No, not at all. Couldn’t stand that movie. It was, in effect, androcentric too, yet, parading as not being. For me, I wouldn’t have given Batman Begins a thumbs up. I went to sleep in it…all the violence actually became boring to me. But, hey, that’s me. I’m not the average person in this country. I should probably find another one to live in.

  • Mark

    Wow, this response thread has sure gone in a different direction, huh?
    I just wanted to say how freakin’ awesome this movie was.
    Definitely better than Batman begins, which I thought was just “good”.
    The Joker was amazing. You just didn’t know what he was going to do. Kept me on the edge the whole time.
    As MA has already explained, there is SO much more to this move than the explosions and chases.
    I sincerely hope that all the people that powered this movie to such lofty box office #’s understand this.
    My only minor quibble:
    *SPOILERS*
    .
    .
    .
    .
    is the transformation of Harvey Dent. I just didn’t buy that this one time herald of justice could turn so quickly to the dark side. I understand the need for vengeance on his part, but to start killing people not involved in that(the driver? the kid-almost?) seems a stretch.
    .
    .
    .
    .

    Regardless, it was a great movie. I can’t stop thinking about it. Go see it.

  • Erik Goodwyn

    Sara: yes I did see V, which is sort of like the inverse of this movie. Both show the necessity of what we call ‘Evil’. The Joker is an archetypal evil character, but notice the way in which he forces people to examine their so-called beloved convictions. Characters like the Joker are necessary to force us to make those tough decisions and make us ask ‘what exactly is the right thing to do?’. V is in the Joker role in that movie–he is a terrorist, and forces everyone in the established “order” which has everything figured out and leaves no questioning the authority of “society”. He makes them re-evaluate themselves in an act of destruction, which always leads to rebirth and creation in mythology. The message (and it is an old one) is that good cannot exist without evil, because evil forces us to make a conscious decision–in TDK it is the decision of the people in the ferry boat not to blow each other up and save themselves, on the sheer basis that it is *wrong*.

    Batman, who is a composite of the light and dark aspects of morality, always knows where the line must be drawn between following the established order and obeying your darker instincts. And he learns in this movie that its not pleasant, nor politically correct, nor fun to walk that line, but he is inspiring because he does it anyway. But it is the uncompromising, utterly evil Joker that is the one who raises him to a new level–ironic isn’t it? So, when the Joker tells Batman, “you complete me!”, he isn’t kidding. He’s right, and Batman is the one who has to learn from him. Dent is destroyed by it, Batman is transformed into something greater. *That* is the point of the story.

  • Sara

    Erik…
    I understand all the mythology/psychology you write of.
    Check out MaryAnn’s review of V. No, V is “not” comparable to the Joker. V is like Batman AND the Joker in the same person. Perhaps why I heard some people say, “I didn’t get that movie.”

  • MaryAnn

    V is a terrorist like, oh, George Washington was a terrorist.

    The Joker is a terrorist like Ted Bundy was a terrorist. Or the freeway snipers in Washington a few years ago.

    That word gets used a lot these days in ways that it perhaps should not.

    is the transformation of Harvey Dent.

    Losing someone you love can be a powerfully transformative experience. And no necessarily in a positive way.

  • Bryan

    Absolutely amazing movie.

    As someone wrote earlier, the movie strikes me as a lot more hopeful than depressing. I thought the prisoner’s dilemma scene was great. Boats filled with people who all do the right thing( or maybe they lack whatever someone must possess to do the wrong thing).

    Then there is Batman who is such the true hero that he is willing to sacrifice and bear the burdens for the greater good. And he himself is a criminal, doing alot of illegal things, but we trust that he does the right thing and doesn’t cross that line. The scene where Batman saves the little accounting guy with his lamborghini, this guy is who going to expose him. It reminded me of people who are protected everyday by various measures that our government takes yet they are doing their best to put a stop to certain “illegal” acts.

    Then there is the very scary Joker. As someone said, very much a sociopath. A pure terrorist who cares nothing of money or ideals or anything. Pure evil. And I strongly disagree that he is us, even our awful sides. Because we would not burn our pile of money. We would not set up an exercise in game theory for no purpose other than to see people get blown up.

    Harvey Dent’s evil is alot more like us. Batman is able to endure Rachel’s death, course he has had practice, as opposed to Harvey Dent. As Mary Ann said, losing someone you love can be a powerfully transformative experience. Which is why I buy Harvey Dent’s transformation alot more than I could ever buy into Anakin’s in ROTS.

    And of course the acting, effects, score are all amazing. The disappearing pencil trick was so funny and scary at the same time.

  • MaryAnn

    Because we would not burn our pile of money. We would not set up an exercise in game theory for no purpose other than to see people get blown up.

    But we are, and we do! Just look at what we’ve done to our economy, and to our environment. We’ve engineered ourselves into imminent disaster, and none of it was unpredictable.

  • Erik Goodwyn

    With respect to V and George Washington (and the Joker), the moral differentiation is the ends for which the means are used. But the ultimate question TDK raises is when do the ends justify the means? The answer the movie gives is “sometimes, but you better be damn sure you know what you’re doing”. It’s the best, and most honest answer, I think, and the Joker proves to be necessary because his twisted scenarios force us to look at this question. No easy answers here.

    The Joker does live in everyone, but it is usually kept well in check. He is pure calculated rage. He’s talking when we get that fleeting thought in the back of our head when we are at our wits end that says “Fuck this, I’m sick of caring!”, then we immediately say to ourselves, “no wait, I still care, lets work on this”. But he also shakes us out of indifference and complacency.

    The Joker simply doesn’t care, like he says, he’s just a dog chasing cars. It really is not personal, and he doesn’t care about individual gain. He doesn’t plan, he just does–pure aggression. As the director stated, they wanted the Joker to be “an absolute”, and they succeeded.

  • MaryAnn

    No, I think the difference is between men who want to watch the world burn, and men who want to change the world and get labeled “terrorist” because they’re not on the winning side.

  • Erik Goodwyn

    True, that does happen, but that is a false application of the term ‘terrorist’. That’s just political rhetoric, I was talking about the deeper moral question. Just because the established order calls someone terrorist or “genocidal” (another abused term) doesn’t make it so, and you of course know that. But that is why being precise in the terminology is so important isn’t it?

    So, then, are radical muslims who blow up towers terrorists in your sense of merely wanting to watch the world burn? Or are they trying to change the world? In their own warped view, they are trying to change the world–bin Laden’s followers have convinced themselves that thier ends have justified their horrible means. We as Americans have made similar calculations, say the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombing, for example. Was that justified? I don’t have an easy answer, nor do I suggest that they are the ‘same thing’ (whatever that means), just similar. I’m glad I don’t have the final decision on these matters except indirectly through my vote, though that is more than enought to take my vote seriously.

  • darryl

    morality has nothing to do with whats right or just..the greeks knew that chance and chaos are what drives creation– not order. i think that was clearly spoken in this movie.
    morality is the end of creation. it wishes things to be the same forever, and this is what goes against the only law there is in the universe..change.

    we are creating the worste changes immaginable by our desire to keep things the same.

    the joker didnt want to watch the world burn, he was born into a world where his only choice was to do what he is doing. we are creating the greatest chaos ever with attempting to rule over things in our “just” ways. the joker was our creation and he was just being what he had to be and he embraced it.

  • darryl

    the idealist: he/she who believes that because the rose smells better, it will make better soup than cabbage.

  • bitchen frizzy

    So a dozen cabbages would go over better on Valentine’s Day than a dozen roses? Never occurred to me to try that…

  • MaryAnn

    In their own warped view, they are trying to change the world–bin Laden’s followers have convinced themselves that thier ends have justified their horrible means.

    We haven’t gotten to the end yet, so we don’t know who will or will not justify the means. It’s a matter of history being written by the winner, and it’s not history yet..

    the idealist: he/she who believes that because the rose smells better, it will make better soup than cabbage.

    I am not an idealist, but I suspect that any idealist would decry that as a wild misrepresentation of idealism.

  • darryl

    well, frizzy..

    one can either understand, or mock.

    the point being..the idealist thinks peace or morality is the answer in every situation. the rose has its place, the cabbage has its place. everything has its place. that which claims one thing is good for all because that one thing appeals to one of their senses, is an idiot.

  • bitchen frizzy

    “one can either understand, or mock.”

    False dichotomy. >:}

    Your definitions of “morality” and “idealism” are seriously out of whack.

  • Erik Goodwyn

    MJ: but the question is not who will justify it in the future, but is it right or wrong? I realize in the future the winner, whoever it is, will justify and rationalize everything he or she has done, but that don’t make it right! Are you a post-modernist or something, and believe there is no right or wrong? Or are you just being cynical? All due respect, your snarkiness.

    As for the other question, the problem of evil and chaos is not whether or not we should eradicate it, which is impossible, but what do we do with it. Joseph Campbell said “follow your bliss in chasing wild gander”, but the rest of the quote is that you can only find it in the heart of your deepest wound (I love that quote). Chaos (the Joker) destroys, as it must, but what we consciously do with it determines the end result–will we let it destroy us (Two-face) or transform us into something greater (Batman)? A change one way or another is inevitable.

  • MaryAnn

    MJ: but the question is not who will justify it in the future, but is it right or wrong? I realize in the future the winner, whoever it is, will justify and rationalize everything he or she has done, but that don’t make it right! Are you a post-modernist or something, and believe there is no right or wrong?

    I think that fact that people of conscience disagree over the rightness and wrongess of many things — not to mention that different cultures and different times have disagreed over them — proves that there’s no definitive “right” or “wrong.”

  • Sara

    I think it’s a sad commentary on our culture that this is the highest grossing box office movie in history (my opinion.) Also sad to me, that we live in a world where hyperviolence (as Carl Sagan said) isn’t an option anymore. And this movie does glorify it regardless of the themes. Note I wrote hyperviolence and I’d add hypermasculinity along with it (with an absense of females–or if the females are present they are fairly ignored, or irrelevant, or there mostly to be rescued.) Our culture keeps pegging women into these roles (in blockbuster movies, anyway and it’s not a helpful mirror for us or the world.) There are other ways that women can be of tremendous help to the world… it’s certainly not as rescuees in hypermasculine, violent movies.) I’m glad this movie didn’t get my money and it won’t either. I know many of you liked this movie, “enjoyed” this movie, saw depth in this movie. I understand that, but it comes at a cost and I don’t think it’s worth the cost, in any way(again, my opinion.)

  • Sara

    Also interesting to me that in this mega blockbuster money making movie, the “hero” is named (in real life) “Christian” and that the villian is dead before the movie was even shown, as we all well know. The whole superhero as disconnected from women (superheroes gotta run, you know–revenge, protection, whatever–not time for real relationships with females; very avoidant; as in fear or hostility toward, probably, mothers.) Again, my thoughts, opinion.

  • darryl

    so if i were to mock your foolishness, it would be the same as understanding it?

  • ashok

    Sara, you haven’t seen this movie and you’re lamenting the fact that it made money? How do you know that this movie glorifies violence if you haven’t seen it? Because your head of the Pol Sci dept friend says so? If anything films like this are needed even more given how messed up the world is. It’s an adult, complex movie about anarchy and chaos and just how hopeless the world is getting and that people need to stand up and do something about it (as opposed to sit around on websites all day talking about how everything in the world is misogynist/chauvinist). I am truly glad that for once a good movie is making money. Hell, a great movie. Usually its crap ruling the box office and I am happy that TDK is rolling it in since it may mean that the studios will grow some courage and let intelligent filmmakers like Nolan go out there and make good art. You’re moralizing (in a rather puerile and generalized fashion) about a movie you haven’t even SEEN for god’s sake!

    And you know, I’m a feminist too (and I know I’m going to be the target of a lot of reflexive abuse from some people here being a man calling myself a feminist) and I think it only gives feminism a bad name when people go around inserting the phrase ‘male dominated’ into almost literally every sentence they speak/write.

    In its own dark way, this movie is fighting the good fight and empty, naive moralizing doesn’t help things very much. You seem to have pretty much made up your mind in advance that EVerything is male dominated and chauvinist etc etc and just keep repeating that tagline over and over. Like that little caveat you slipped in when you pointed Watchmen out to a previous poster. “Male dominated and apocalyptic”??? Have you even read Watchmen? Did you really pay attention to it if you did. Believe me, if there was ever a comics writer on this planet who believes in equality for the sexes, it’s Alan Moore. One of the themes of the graphic novel is the way in which women are given short shrift in comics.

    I’m aware my comments are a bit confrontational but I hope MaryAnn will leave them on. You’re certainly entitled to your opinion (frustratingly uninformed as they are in case of TDK) but I hope I’m entitled to mine. I just could not respond to some of the frankly rather stupendous claims you make without being a little bit tee’d off. God forbid us unenlightened, amoral, male dominated individuals like this unfairly high grossing piece of trash, huh? It’s condescension of the highest order which, IMO, is as insulting as open confrontation. You know, I love movies like The Visitor too and I loathe the anti-intellectual types that moan endlessly about how boring ‘art films’ are but a movie with a lot of violence in it is not automatically condoning that violence. A very large proportion of the greatest films ever made are ‘hyperviolent’.

  • Sara

    I didn’t say it was a piece of trash. I think the Batman movies do glorify violence. I saw Batman Begins and also I’ve heard about this movie is minute detail (from my son, his friends, and others.) I get the pictures. I’ve seen the trailers and read reviews. I saw the promos on HBO that included a lot of the material. I’m aware of the mess the U.S. is in–I know that, I’m not unaware of it. I think it’s healthy that a person can make an informed decision whether to see a movie or not–but still knowing the plotline and events (even lines that are said by the characters, and so on)…I don’t think it needs to be held against me that I don’t care to see this movie. I don’t. But I understand why others would–for a number of reasons.
    Ask MaryAnn about her guess about the Watchmen (if it stays true to the original story)…it will be hyperviolent and male-dominated. What is wrong with saying that if that’s the case? If it is, it is.

  • MaryAnn

    I’m aware my comments are a bit confrontational but I hope MaryAnn will leave them on.

    I have no reason to delete them. And not just because I agree with them.

    I’ve heard about this movie is minute detail

    That is not at all the same as seeing a film. I’m frankly astonished that anyone would make such sweeping generalizations on such a basis.

    it will be hyperviolent and male-dominated

    Saying a movie is one thing and automatically condemning it for being so is not at all the same thing.

  • Sara

    MaryAnn,
    You did say to me in writing that if the Watchmen stays true to the original story that it will be hyperviolent and male-dominated. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you saying that. But don’t (please) hammer me for doing the same thing that you did in writing to me. Please clarify because I don’t think that’s really fair…to say that to me in writing but when I say the same thing to put me down about it.
    Thanks,
    Sara

  • Sara

    I’m not condemning the movie. I’m saying I think (my opinion–and yes, one can form an opinon on reviews and movie clips, etc., etc. as to whether one choses to go to a movie or not and sit through it.) I said it is SAD to me that this movie has made more money than any movie in our history…that is not condemning it. It can be sad to me, can it not? I’ve seen Batman movies, I saw Batman Begins, the one prior to this, I’ve seen V for Vendetta, etc…and yes, to me, they do have a message (some better than others for sure) but they also do glorify violence on some level (I think)–especially for teenagers and younger (who do go to see these movies.)

  • Sara

    Perhaps, too, the money issue (box office weekend) is about how many screens TDK opened on at one time in so many cities, and how much extensive the marketing was that went into this film. Also, I think the fact that it’s Ledger’s last film drew many. I think of MaryAnn saying on this site (and she had a picture) that Ledger’s face (as the Joker)is on man billboards in NYC.

  • Erik Goodwyn

    1) If there is no absolute right or wrong, then there is no point in discussing morality. I, however, like Dawkins, think that we are hard wired with a sense of right and wrong (like any trait, some get more of it than others). Its built into our genes to worry and agonize over the right thing to do. Guilt is a universal human emotion that starts around age 15 months–that ain’t cultural. Understanding this deep feeling is an important human endeavor and aligns us all on the same moral compass.

    2) Violence (and “hyperviolence”) is also part of human nature. Rage is an ancient emotion with a long evolutionary success whether we like it or not. Does a movie “glorify violence” if it depicts it as it is, with consequences, then analyzes them and asks us to make a moral choice about them? Do you think that if all movies were devoid of violence we would somehow magically eradicate it from the earth? Interesting theory–wrong species.

    3) Women are treated poorly in comics, but that is because we don’t value femininity. Most comics dress women up in titillating costumes and have them behave like men (and ill-behaved men at that); i.e. beating up bad guys and acting like competitive bad-asses. Or they are milquetoasts who call “save me!” and look pretty doing it. This is a general problem in our society, in that masculine values such as courage, endurance, strength, competition, etc are valued as “better” than traditionally feminine values such as generativity, emotional connection, intuition, care-giving, etc. Why, for example, are men who dress like women “transvestites”, but women who dress like men we don’t even have a word for? Is there even a such thing as a “female transvestite”? Its because a man who takes a feminine guise is seen as “aberrant”.

    The ancients had goddesses with great power and wisdom–we have “Kill Bill”; i.e. slinky bimbos with katanas slicing everybody (and each other) into mincemeat. Feminism should not mean pressuring women into behaving like men toward the end of “equality”; it should be about valuing femininity, while providing equal opportunity. Batman is male focused, but Rachel is his moral compass–he needs her, which is why (spoiler alert) her death makes his sacrifice that much more tragic and meaningful.

  • Sara

    Erik,
    I agree with you re: an internal “moral sense”–there an excellent book on this but can’t think of the name of it right now (has moral sense in the title.) So, I’m on the same page with you re: that.

    Re: glorifying violence. Yes, I think we do that. We do that via war (sending 19 year olds to fight wars that don’t necessarily need to be fought for “defense” purposes) but these males’ deaths are raised up, glorified as somehow redemptive (I see no redemption in this lunacy. Also, the number of kids I’ve seen in therapy and that I know in general who go to violent movies, etc., is high and no, it doesn’t MAKE them act-out, but for those with less ego-strength, it is not good for them at all. And can send the wrong messages to them. This is frustrating to me. Especially when their parents can’t see it, leave them alone in their rooms with tv’s and plenty of violent DVDs.

    Re: #3 above, I don’t think you could have said it better. I’m with you. Excellent examples, I think. Men are valued over females in our culture.

    I will add, (in comment to your example of any woman having to be any male’s moral compass)…no–at least I speak for myself and others I know–we are tired of that. We don’t like living in a male-dominant society and having to be moral compasses for said culture or for our husbands, “love interests”, etc. Men can grow up–if they are dominant then they need to have their own strong moral compasses and this is lacking. They aren’t so “dominant” in a mature way and it’s wrecking too many things in the world. A balance of male and female leadership and worldview is so badly needed. A true balance. Makes all the difference in countries that do have this and there are some. The differences are staggering.
    Thanks.

  • MaryAnn

    Please clarify because I don’t think that’s really fair…to say that to me in writing but when I say the same thing to put me down about it.

    Where did I put you down, Sara?

    If there is no absolute right or wrong, then there is no point in discussing morality.

    Of course there is! Especially if there is no absolute right and wrong, because then we have to figure out what is right and what is wrong. If there were anything absolute about it, there’d be nothing to debate: we’d all just know.

  • Sara

    Erik,
    I add this: I don’t think Batman needs (or thinks he needs, or for that matter, wants, truly wants) any female. That idea has been rejected…for Batman to be Batman there is to be no female in terms of commitment. Batman has no intention of not being Batman. He is tied to Gotham city which his parents basically built (and were killed in connection with/to.)

    So, any particular female is dispensible really. Above you described Rachel as his moral compass and that doesn’t make sense to me as no one female is a moral compass to Batman–in the Batman ethos in general; he’s unavailable because he has other things he deems much more important.) Re: his decision between Harvey/Gotham or Rachel, I don’t see that as a decision of any import…I see it as a plot device to lead to Harvey’s disfigurement and the development of Two-Face. Rachel was a plot device in that scene. It happens to females all the time in movies and in real life.

    Any particular female…any one female…is going to be dispensible to Batman when put next to his true love–Gotham City, himself and his memory of his parents. He can’t get over that. He needs therapy, Erik. Intensive. No, he needs analysis. But he wouldn’t sit still for it. I don’t think he has the ego-strength for that (and that’s a major weakness that isn’t brought up about Batman and superheroes in general.) I don’t think any of them have the ego-strength required for something like analysis. That much grandiosity is not conducive to analysis.
    P.S. To others: I’m writing this to a psychiatrist and both he and I work in the mental health field so I’m speaking to him.

  • Sara

    MaryAnn,
    I understood (and might have misunderstood) you to say that my saying a movie (in particular Batman ethos movies, the Watchmen) are hyperviolent and male-dominated is a sweeping generalization. How is that a sweeping generalization when you wrote to me that if the Watchmen is true to its original text that it will be hyperviolent and male-dominated. You said the same thing I’m saying. It’s just what it is. Why can we not just see it for what it is and say it outright? That’s not condemning the movie.

  • Erik Goodwyn

    MJ: we *do* all know, but we just have a hard time defining it–that’s what all the debate is about. We all clearly know that love exists, but I can’t describe it or define it very well. Electrons exist, but physicists still don’t entirely understand what they are.

    If, however, there is no point of reference, and we can just make it whatever we want, what is there to debate about? My point is that “right” and “wrong” are not arbitrarily defined by culture, which is what I think you are saying. It is something deeper to which we all refer. Is violently raping a 4 year old wrong? Or is calling it wrong just a cultural more that has no referent, and it should be acceptable to construct a society in which it is deemed “good”? Good luck with that. Obviously it’s wrong, and everyone knows it. The gray areas are where the debates rage, but I contend that there is an answer and (someday) we may find it.

    Sara: I was referring to Batman Begins. Rachel is a key element in his transformation from angry vengeful youth to a more principled Batman and finding a way to channel and sublimate his rage. As for him needing therapy, thinking in this way about such a symbolic character might be too concretistic. He represents an integration of the light and dark parts of the personality, personified in a colorful fantasy, but with human frailties. Can we, or should we try to “therapize” that away? Tough call.

  • Sara

    Erik,
    I agree with you re: sort of a list of good things/bad things. Some of these are clear. Do they happen? Of course. One would be, for example, divorce. Would we put “divorce” on a list of “good things?”
    As in, “Gee, I certainly hope when I grown up and get married that I get a divorce.” Does that mean divorce is “wrong?” No. It’s difficult and creates many problems but the absence of it might create worse problems. Still, you wouldn’t put it in your list of things I want to “experience in the ‘good life.’ ”
    Re: Superheroes…most of the classic ones are people who lost their parents at an eary age and often in violent ways. Come on, we know what this does to people. It’s the worst thing that can happen to a child, really–have your parents die on you. It (of all things) has the power to totally mess up a human life. So, we have these “saviors” who are horribly horribly damaged. Yes, in real life, those are precisely the type of people who need treatment desperately. And should get it after the event occurs, actually. ASAP. That was my point re: superheroes and therapy. I think you’ll probably get my point. They become narcissistic in their own ways, they become islands unto themselves, etc., etc.
    When kids are little they often where the superheroes capes…around the age of 4 or 5.
    Not saying adults shouldn’t watch superhero movies, but it’s helpful to understand the dynamics, I think. And why those dynamics would/or would not connect with us as adults.

  • Sara

    Erik,
    Re: Rachel…your take is that she taught Batman how to be principled and moral (as you mention in Batman Begins when she was Katie Holmes) then it didn’t take too well as his choice was to have Rachel blown up (or that’s what one is led to believe happens) in TDK. It’s her or Harvey (and Harvey, at least at that time for Batman is symbolic of Gotham.) Of course, he picks Harvey, (Gotham and himself–his true loves) over Rachel as I expressed above. She is dispensible. Batman has no need of any woman really. Choice was so good? Look what happens to Harvey. And Rachel is dead. Hmm…
    The book I recommended above is The Moral Sense by James Q. Wilson and it’s excellent. The psychiatrist I was in private practice with recommended it to me about 8 years ago when we discussed had a similar discussion.

  • ashok

    @sara:

    See, this is why you shouldn’t go around making lofty pronouncements about films without seeing them.

    SPOILERS:

    Batman DID go to save Rachel and not Harvey. The Joker lied and swapped the addresses so Batman ended up where Harvey was even though his intention was to get Rachel. But when he’s leaving the interrogation room after talking to The Joker, Gordon asks him which one he’s going for and he says something along the lines of “Rachel. You get Harvey”.

  • MaryAnn

    Sara said:

    I understood (and might have misunderstood) you to say that my saying a movie (in particular Batman ethos movies, the Watchmen) are hyperviolent and male-dominated is a sweeping generalization.

    I don’t believe I did say that. Someone else may have.

    Why can we not just see it for what it is and say it outright? That’s not condemning the movie.

    The gist of everything you’ve written is about condemning our culture for being hyperviolent and male-dominated. I don’t see how your applying that to a particular film suddenly makes that NOT a condemnation.

    Erik wrote:

    My point is that “right” and “wrong” are not arbitrarily defined by culture, which is what I think you are saying.

    No, that’s NOT what I’m saying. I’m saying right and wrong ARE defined by culture, but there’s nothing arbitrary about it.

    Is violently raping a 4 year old wrong? Or is calling it wrong just a cultural more that has no referent, and it should be acceptable to construct a society in which it is deemed “good”?

    If a culture could be constructed in which violently raping a 4-year-old was considered right, then it would be. It’s hard to imagine such a culture managing to get itself together, never mind surviving, and it’s hard for *us* to imagine being able to think of such a thing as “right,” but that doesn’t change the matter. It’s also hard for many people to think of living in a culture in which slavery is “right,” but that doesn’t mean those cultures have not existed. Similarly, it’s hard to some people today to think of living in a culture in which it is not wrong for men are free to marry men and women are free to marry women… but it IS easy to imagine a culture in which that is considered right.

  • Sara

    MA,
    I did send the Watchmen trailer link to you to your “email-me” site on this site and said I really like Crudup a lot, had seen him in The Pillowman on Broadway, etc., and that his being in the Watchmen was interesting (and to me) a good thing, and I added it looked hyperviolent and male-dominated. (If it is, it is)…and you responded back to my private email that yes, indeed, the Watchmen looked of interest (you’d seen the preview prior to Batman), that Crudup was a plus and that, yes, if it stuck to the text it would be hyperviolent and male-dominated. YOu wrote that to me MaryAnn and I don’t understand why you’d say you didn’t and that someone else wrote it. They didn’t.
    I see what you’re saying, MaryAnn, about the cultural differences above, but have to agree with Erik re: an innate “moral sense”…can it be overridden or not acknowledged, or skewed, etc. Sure. But, I do think that psychological, biologically that there is an innate moral sense among human beings.

  • Sara

    The gist of what I’ve said is that I think the Batman ethos (and many superheroes stories) is hyperviolent and male-dominated. How is that condemning it when I’ve said even in this post that I’d recommend V for Vendetta for adults to see?
    The other gist is that there is a huge imbalance in our culture and much of the world between male and female leadership positions (esp. places like gov’t) and you yourself have two posts on here re: How Hollywood treats women (and that’s not meant to be in a positive way particularly, I don’t think) and you also have a post re: why aren’t there more female film critics. Good. I agree. These questions need to be asked.

    I do think our culture is too violent (ex: the whole Iraq situation, Vietnam, many of our inner cities, etc.) and it’s on a patriarchal model. Who would disagree with that? I don’t understand. Is there a problem with arguing for balance between male and female in the hopes that this would lead to more fairness and focus on other issues (like healthcare, childcare, less warring, etc.)? In countries where this does exist, no they aren’t violent as the U.S. by far, and they aren’t nearly as patriarchal as we are. We could maybe learn from these others–that’s what I’ve said. There are things that are very positive about this country, things very negative and things in-between. You yourself, in the Batman review termed our culture as “Dim Hope”…are you then condemning it? I can’t have my opinion which I then also explain?

  • Sara

    MA,
    I did not mean to refer above that your review of The Dark Knight meant you were viewing our culture as “Dim Hope” (although that is alluded to in your concerns.)…I wanted to carify that…that Dim Hope was about the movie. Does it connect to our culture, yes, but I understand you meant it in reference to the movie.
    Thanks.

  • MaryAnn

    yes, if it stuck to the text it would be hyperviolent and male-dominated. YOu wrote that to me MaryAnn and I don’t understand why you’d say you didn’t and that someone else wrote it. They didn’t.

    Yes, I said that if *Watchmen* stuck to the comic, it would he hyperviolent and male-dominated. I don’t think I said anything about you making sweeping generalizations.

  • Sara

    MaryAnn, thanks for the above post re: The Watchmen (which might turn out to be a better movie than TDK–I have no idea.) But, same ole, same ole on many levels that have been in discussion on much of this site…Watchmen will be (and I recall now, we didn’t say hyperviolent, we said apocalyptic, which to me, takes the violence, the storyline, up a notch)…but, yes, it was apocalyptic and male-dominated (is what we’d both said to each other re: the Watchmen if the movie stays true to the comic.)
    And I simply have been suggesting why this might possibly be the case re: the norm for so many Hollywood movies (as discussed on this site.)

  • Ashok is correct. Joker told Batman that Rachel was at address A and Harvey was at address B. Batman told Gordon he was going after Rachel at address A, and Gordon set out to rescue Harvey at address B. But Joker lied (and it was foolish of Batman not to realize this), and so Batman ended up rescuing Harvey instead, at address A. (Side note: I realize it would take the air somewhat out of the story, but isn’t it possible they could have gotten on the radio and ordered a nearby police unit to rush to each scene and try to rescue Rachel and Harvey? The way it played out was like a Star Trek movie, where the Enterprise is the only ship around when the crisis occurs. For all they knew, there might have been a patrol car driving past one or both of the locations when they got the two addresses.)

    At this point, we’re far enough down in the thread that I feel safe posting a spoiler question: Did anyone else think that the detonators on the two ferries were not wired to blow up the other ferry, as Joker said, but to blow themselves up? It certainly would be a Jokeresque lesson if, in the process of trying to save themselves by condemning the others, one ship blew themselves up.

  • Sara

    Yes, ashok is correct about Joker giving location A and B–my error previously–sorry– (btw, the complete summary, storyline is on the internet now in various sites as well as video after video of scenes, some up to 10 minutes and longer. No, not the same as viewing the movie, I understand that)

    I do question why Batman would have taken the Joker at his word and gone to said sites (he to Rachel’s; Gordon to Harvey) as they did. As Clayj writes: it was foolish of Batman not to realize this. It seems that it would be assumed that the Joker would lie, wouldn’t it?

    Maybe shows that torture doesn’t produce what is wanted. And when you do get the answers after beating someone up, is it worth incorrect information? And yeah, why not more police back-up? (This is why I wrote earlier that it appeared that Rachel is used by the plot as dispensible–to me–for the development of Two-Face.

  • Here’s where I flip things around on you, Sara.

    Although it’s true that Batman should have realized that Joker might be the sort of person who would lie about Harvey and Rachel’s locations, you then run into this classic conundrum: If Joker knew that Batman would assume that he was lying, he might tell him the correct locations of Harvey and Rachel:

    Joker: “Rachel is at A, and Harvey is at B.”
    Batman: “Ah, but I know you are a sneaky SOB, so I am going to assume that you are lying to me and that Rachel is at B, while Harvey is at A.”
    Joker: “Ah, but I know that you think I am a sneaky SOB, so I have actually told you the truth in the hopes that you will go to the wrong place based on your assumption that I am lying to you.”

    So while it was foolish of Batman to take Joker at his word, there’s still a fifty-fifty chance that Joker was telling the truth… a flip of the coin. And of course, he had to make the decision quickly. And let’s not forget that Joker is just the sort of person who might also leave the decision of who to take where (Harvey to one place, Rachel to the other) up to the people who actually did it, in order to prevent Batman from beating the correct location out of him: I can’t tell you where Rachel is because I honestly don’t know. But I can tell you it’s here, or it’s here. You figure out which. And hurry!

    Basically, what Two-Face says later on about the only morality in a cruel world being chance applies, even before Harvey becomes Two-Face. Since Batman could not know for sure in advance whether Joker was lying to him, the prudent thing to do was just to “flip a coin” and choose one address to go to and leave the other address to Gordon. What damned Harvey and Rachel was pure bad luck: Harvey, because he got covered in gasoline and then caught on fire, and Rachel, because Batman went to the wrong place.

  • Sara

    Clayj,
    I agree with you completely. I don’t think Batman should have automatically assumed that anything the Joker said (under duress or otherwise) was correct, or incorrect for that matter. One wouldn’t know–that’s what I was getting at. I think your point about back-up (which usually occurs in cities with coordinated police departments would have been called in immediately.)
    But if they had (as I think you said), then Rachel wouldn’t have been killed, the Two-Face scenario won’t have developed.
    Re: flipping a coin…I don’t think Batman should have flipped a coin for any decision. Should have done what he did, but not assumed the Joker was telling the truth under torturous circumstances, and should have called in back-up first thing (he had the capacity to do that as did Gordon)…feels contrived to me re: plot alone leading how the process played out, and, of course, the damsel in distress (you know the line) either gets rescued or she dies. (To me, that kind of goes right over to MaryAnn’s blog…”What Hollywood Does to Women.”
    Rachel’s there not so much for her own character but (at that point) as a plot device, it seems (to me.)
    Compare to Evey in V…Evey wasn’t a plot device in the way Rachel was. Yes, she was V’s “pupil” whether she wanted to be or not, but in the end she leads, he doesn’t. She chooses. V dies because he realizes that what Evey says is true (ie, “You’re a monster”…even though as MaryAnn writes so well, V is the hero/antihero. V is not a movie about good and bad in the sense of supposed good struggling with pure “no conscience Joker character” beside him.
    When MaryAnn writes the Joker is like Ted Bundy…well, Bundy had no conscience–he was mean, twisted in his meanness. And there was no changing that either.

  • I’m not saying that Batman should have flipped a coin under any circumstance. But the choice he made (to go to A, and not B, because of what he believed to be true) is just as arbitrary as if he had flipped a coin: Either take the Joker at his word, even knowing that he is deceitful, or assume that he is lying and go to the other address.

    Rachel as a character had to go. Bruce Wayne is by his very nature a tortured soul, and it’s really not realistic for there to be even a glimmer of a chance of a truly “happy” ending for him. As long as Rachel lived, there was always a small chance he’d give up on being Batman and run away with her. With Rachel dead and Harvey dead and no one else to take his place in the fight to clean up Gotham, he now has nothing to fight for but Gotham itself.

    If you’ve ever read The Dark Knight Returns, the classic graphic novel, you’ll know how Bruce Wayne ends up: Alone, in a big empty manor, with the death of Robin hanging over his head. It’s really the only way his story can end.

  • Sara

    ClayJ
    I agree with you. They couldn’t NOT check out the sites–that would have been stupid. But as you said, you’d not assume the Joker was telling the truth just because you beat the crap out of him. I still think your point is well-taken a few posts back–why wasn’t back-up called? That’s just logical. As you said, there could have been patrol cars closer to either place (or closer than the others were.) Were there only two possible vehicles in Gotham on the way to try to save these folks? There’s a whole police force. Call them maybe?
    I realize that in most superhero stories the males can’t be “with” their love interests because then the men can’t achieve their supposed destiny. I do see a lot of psychological issues, though (sorry, but that’s how I think)–when you have as damaged a childhood (losing both parents, usually) then you are going to have a harder time (typically) in relationships. So the superheroes tend to go it alone with a loneliness deep inside them. I think, too, they are driven strongly by revenge, hurt, anger, and sadness, loss. If you check it out, with the superheroes most of them had parents who died (or were murdered, often in front of them) right after the time that a child develops (or has the makings of) a conscience.
    With the villians, I don’t know how much we know of them. You might know more re: comics. I think the superheroes are really pretty tragic figures but they don’t tend to be viewed that way.
    In the book, War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning (good book)…the author (war journalist) writes that the only way out of this mindset (that he’s aware of) is via genuinely loving relationships between people who are together.

  • MaryAnn

    I think in re: why does Batman believe/not believe the Joker… I think it’s safe to assume that, on top of everything everyone has said here, Bruce is not thinking particularly clearly at this moment. He probably could not have made a truly rational decision anyway, on top of all the Joker’s untrustworthiness.

    Did anyone else think that the detonators on the two ferries were not wired to blow up the other ferry, as Joker said, but to blow themselves up?

    Yes, I too thought this might be the case.

  • misterb

    This whole thread demonstrates the problem with taking film too seriously. Heath Ledger’s tragedy was real life; “The Dark Knight” is just a movie. Posters mentioned that any police department since 1950 would have patrol cars in most areas to save Rachel and Harvey. Also, the Joker is able to move literally tons of high-explosives aboard several public vessels – and nobody notices! Oh – and if that’s not bad enough – he’s able to spread around enough explosives to thoroughly demolish an *occupied* hospital – and they don’t know which hospital he’s loaded!
    The film is clearly inspired by today’s attitudes towards terrorism, and it’s adult enough that it doesn’t answer the questions it poses simplistically. Nevertheless, it takes huge liberties with believability.
    If Heath Ledger was still alive, would we be taking this all quite so hard?

  • Sara

    Yeah, I know what you mean. It does take some suspension of belief. If the audience buys it, then it works, if not, then it doesn’t. Seems clear that the audience bought TDK so it was successful in how the film was made and hooking the audience.

    Still, I can’t help but think of MaryAnn’s comments (it was in her V for Vendetta review) She wrote:

    “Movies are where we — the big cultural we — bare our fears and desires, and that’s not always pretty but it is always true. And superheroes are our mythology, the Stuff That Matters that we ourselves made today, not the hand-me-downs (though some of the hand-me-downs still fit pretty good), and it’s too damn bad if the geeks are the only ones who realize that. Movies are religion and superheroes are our pantheon of bickering demigods who toy with us or champion us, and Vendetta is important not for its powerful political statements but because it can be powerful in its politics, because what is powerful and what is political about it is primal: it strikes us in a way that feels deep-down right.”

    That’s pretty heavy and I have to agree with her. Whether movies, books, art in general…the potential there to hold enormous power over and in our imaginations is tremendous (or not.) There are movies that I will never ever forget (even if they crossed the “believability limit”–such as The Princess Bride–but that movie struck such a cord in terms of the psyche that it is an important movie of our time and to be taken seriously…and not. For even though it is not “true”, it is.) The key is if it connects to the audience in a meaningful way somehow–if so, the movie won’t be forgotten.

    What would Heath think? I don’t know. I think,though, his death adds to the fervor over the film.

    :

  • David C

    I just saw the movie last night at the IMAX theater. Liked it, but thought there were a few too many plot holes and sloppy bits of direction (e.g., *how* does the Joker overcome the cop in his holding cell? For that matter, how and when are Harvey Dent and Rachel kidnapped?) to make it “great.” On the other side of the coin, so to speak, it’s also overlong and could’ve used some more rigorous editing.

    But I liked it overall, great performances all around….

    “Did anyone else think that the detonators on the two ferries were not wired to blow up the other ferry, as Joker said, but to blow themselves up? It certainly would be a Jokeresque lesson if, in the process of trying to save themselves by condemning the others, one ship blew themselves up.”

    I also thought this would be the Joker’s punchline – it’s the perfect ending for the “gag” he set up!

    Then I realized, that’s what the comic book Joker would have done. A lot of *that* character’s motivation is that he does things he thinks are funny (trouble is, he’s VERY insane and has an extremely twisted sense of humor.) But *this* Joker is different – he really isn’t about the jokes, he’s much more of a nihilist and a conscious “corruptor.”

  • Allen Darrah

    David C, I’m guessing you weren’t paying close attention regarding your “loopholes.” Look again. ;)

  • David C

    Hmm, quite possibly… IMAX does make for a bit of sensory overload, so maybe I missed some stuff. :)

  • Hdj

    I thought for sure the wires were connected to its own boat so who ever pulled the trigger pretty much killed themselfs. But we never got to find out =( damn it Batman

  • D

    I kinda agree with Sara. There’s too much Ares and not enough Athena in our culture. That said, I loved the movie. I was sure that Heath Ledger would blew me away, but Aaron Eckhart was a real surprise for me (can a movie get 2 best supporting actor nominations?) As soon as the Joker started talking, I totally forgot I was watching Heath. It’s funny, he reminded me Kevin Spacey in Se7en(“hit me” reminded me of “submitt to wrath”, which is what he acomplished with Harvey) while Aaron reminded me Javier Bardem(all about the imparciality and implications of chance and randomness). Simplesmente brilhante. But I understand what pissed Sara off about Rachel, just like the girl in Dr Horrible(which I also loved and find worthy of debate), Dean’s mother and wife in the “Supernatural” pilot and a whole lot of cases in our popular culture where a woman is sacrificed to promote a male character’s development. Nothing particulary wrong with this stories, but the cultural background and lack of variety in which they are set in. It didn’t upset me in this particular case, at least, as opposed to (BUFFY SPOILLER!!!) Renne in Buffy season 8(you’re a one trick poney, Joss…) , but I understand the people(mostly women) who are( just to clarify, I believe men can be as upset as women in sittuations like this). And please, do tell me a dominant culture where violence and power isn’t or hasn’t always been gloryfied ever since the primordial Matriachal societies. Ps: Sorry about my occasionaly incorrect english.

  • MaryAnn

    There’s too much Ares and not enough Athena in our culture.

    I agree too. But Rachel is what she is, in this story. I’d prefer not to condemn every individual instance of storytelling that is male-dominated and violent — because some of them *are* good stories, and are not automatically *bad* stories because they don’t feature lots of women or are very violent. We just need to balance out these kinds of stories with other kinds of stories.

  • Allen Darrah

    I’m going for my third viewing tonight at the IMAX theatre. I keep taking different things away from the film but the dominating sense of it is that we all get what we deserve in terms of Batman, The Joker, Gotham, Gordon, Dent, and on and on. So true in our real lives as well that even when we see people getting what we don’t think they deserve, they do, if not for different reasons than our own.

  • Sara

    I agree with MaryAnn here too. It does come down to balance in terms of kinds of stories and plenty of good roles for the talent that is in Hollywood, NYC, etc. My complaint is if films becomes overwhelmingly violent and male-dominated and there’s not much else to see. This type of movie (and I’d say In Bruges would fit the bill, can be a good movie, good writing, good acting, etc.) is not the problem in and of itself. That said, for me, personally (and this is not the case re: In Bruges) I am more interested (usually) in character driven movies (and books) than plot-driven. I’d say In Bruges was very character driven.
    The other options it seems that offer more variety and stories, characters are indie films and there is one little theatre in our city (good-sized city) that shows indie films(and those films are here and gone in a heartbeat, it seems–you have to race to get to them.)

  • Sara

    Some of you might be interested (or not) in this book: (just came out in 2008), titled, The Psychology of Superheroes: An Unauthorized Exploration, edited by Robin S. Rosenberg, PhD. It’s pretty fascinating. Some of the essays are: Is There A Superhero in All of Us?, Mind-Reading Superheroes, Superman’s Personality,The Incredible Hulk, Gender Typicality and Extremity in Popular Culture, Coming to Terms with Bizarro, and there’s one on Batman: An Appetite for Destruction: Aggression and the Batman.

    I didn’t realize that in the comics in general that there was lack of trust between Superman and Batman. Or that Batman trusts none of the Justice League members. Knows the weakness of every member and “stocks his utility belt accordingly.” Always has a piece of Kryptonite, for example, in case he needs to “weaken the Man of Steel.”

  • D

    “I’d prefer not to condemn every individual instance of storytelling that is male-dominated and violent — because some of them *are* good stories, and are not automatically *bad* stories because they don’t feature lots of women or are very violent.” I agree with you, MaryAnn. That’s I was just saying when I commented the lack of variety, that the solution is not to show disdain for this stories, like Sara(no intentional ofense directed at you at all, Sara), but to offer good alternatives, like, mainstream “chick flicks” or superheroine movies (Neil Gaiman’s Black Orchid would be perfect, specially for it’s anti-violence message). But more than anything, we need real women at the movies, not fantasies, not plot devices, but real women in all their complexity, where they are the driving element of the story and we get to see their different layers, instead of the usual bitch, damsel in distress or love(or sex) interest. But to stay on the topic of the film, do you think that it coulfd also win best chareterization(if Norbit was nominated, why can’t this be?)

  • Sara

    But more than anything, we need real women at the movies, not
    fantasies, not plot devices, but real women in all their complexity, where they
    are the driving element of the story and we get to see their different layers,
    instead of the usual bitch, damsel in distress or love(or sex) interest.

    D, The above part that you wrote is what I’ve referred to all along. It gets very frustrating (to me) and depressing to go to movies and see time and time and time again females used as plot devices as damsels in distress, etc. I’ve gotten so (since I’m not a film critic) that I go to very few movies. Carefully chosen ones. As I would choose what food I eat, etc.

  • D

    http://womenincomics.blogspot.com/ I don’t know if you read comics (I don’t; mainstream ones, anyway), but I think you should find this site interesting. Everything you said here, I heard it several times on some of its posts. It’s made by several marvel and dc fangirls who comment on the prejudice and discrimination that women in comics (and our culture) are subjected to. I’m sure you’ll find people who agree with you on the dark knight, and other subjects. Personaly, I don’t share their vies sometimes, but I find it refreshing to hear the female point of view once in a while, and they make several good points.

  • Sara

    D,
    Will check it out. I don’t care for it either, thought if the approach becomes chauvinist toward males. Either way isn’t helpful. Unless, of course, a movie, etc., has a chauvinist character (of either sex) in it. Which many do.
    The book I described above about Superheroes is good…it’s on Amazon and is an good read…short essays. The one on Wonder Woman is a different take and interesting and the one on the Batman is, also (and discusses Batman Begins and dynamics there) as well as the comics of “The Dark Knight.” Knowing this information it comes as no surprise that the Batman and Joker are struggling with each other…not so much that they “need” each other–it’s more (I think) the Joker (could be saying) you “see” yourself in me. For that is true from the comic texts. Both Batman and Joker are draw to destruction for its own sake (instrumental aggression vs hostile aggresion) Yeah, for Batman, people get helped in the process, but does he really care? In Batman Begins, not so much (note the beginning when he’s in jail, just beating the hell out of the criminals there. For what? They’re picking on him?) The Joker, obviously sociopathic.

    I’d never realized that in the Justice League ventures that Batman is kind of odd man out and for understandable reasons that I see now. Reasons that are apparent in the beginning of Batman Begins, for example, but that could be developed more so (that would demonstrate why perhaps the other superheroes are wary of Batman, ie, they realize he’s closer to the villians–but not there, I’m not saying that– but much closer than they are. If true to the text, Batman has more of a sense of revenge that goes on in him than say, Superman, WonderWoman, Spiderman and some others.

  • Sara

    Also, in some empathy for the Batman, he does not have the superpowers that the others have. He is vulnerable (except for his gadgets, his strength–but it’s not superhuman, his money) and he probably hates that. Vulnerability can get you killed. He saw that with his parents. Which would fuel his rage and give him problems in keeping it in check (yet not wanting to become like those who did kill his parents.)

  • D

    Amazon is usualy a bit more expensive for me, since I’m portugese and I have to pay for the overseas delivery, but I’ll give it a try.
    Oh, Batman? He’s a total psycho with serious issues(duh, I guess…). In the Frank Miller comics, he laughs like a madman as he sadistically scares and tortures his enemies. It’s all part of the fear atmosphere he intends to create, using his own fear to fuel it. A hero is defined by it’s villans(The x-men fight other mutants, Spider-man fights other people with animal names, like Rhino or Octupus).But unlike Spider-man or Superman, whose enemies usualy go to jail, all his nemesis go to an asylum. Like him, they usually don’t have super-powers, but only a high level of intellegence and a partucular psychosis which makes them very dangerous not just for innocent people but for society itself. The “line that cannot be crossed” is the one thing that keeps batman on this side of the edge. Which makes the “I will not become an executioner” line in Begins even more important. Also, it is very common in comic books the villains being attracted or created in some way by the hero’s mere existence. I would like to point out that the movie drew some elements from “The killing joke”, “The long Halloween” and “Arkham Asylum”.

  • Sara

    D,
    Oh, the overseas delivery. Ugh. Maybe try to find a copy at a store there. It’s not a long book; the essays are written by about 10 or so different psychologists who also happen to know/like the superhero stories. I’ll finish this book tonight.
    Tell me if you think this is far-out or not. From what we know of Batman’s early trauma, from what he experienced in terms of training that we saw in Batman Begins, we still know (as you state above) that he can be (even in the cause for “justice” and protection of Gotham)–he can take it over-the-top. In a sadistic way. Tremendous amount of rage that can come across as self-indulgent aggression.
    OK, so he sees Joe Chill murder his parents when he’s 6 (which would do a child in) then travels the world to learn escape-arts, martial arts, etc., with the plan to return to Gotham and avenge his parents’ deaths by killing Chill. He returns and Chill is already dead, but the rage in the Batman is tremendous. So he tranfers it to any and all criminals within Gotham City, but maintains control (probably with the help of Alfred’s balance.)
    It seems that if his dear childhood friend and really, his love-interest, Rachel, is killed (which she is in TDK and killed and Batman and Gordon were rushing to the sites) that THAT event would put Batman over the edge more than it would Harvey (although yes, Harvey becomes burned/damaged and becomes Two-Face)–still seems that the effect of Rachel’s death (knowing Batman’s history built from past movies, including Batman Begins) would do it for Batman. That his character would go more in the direction of “The Punisher”…that he would lose it. That he would outright kill the Joker out of complete revenge/rage over what happened to Rachel. It’s too close to the same thing that happened with his parents only he didn’t get to kill Joe Chill, but he can kill the Joker. Seems that he would. Yes, I realize that would change a lot re: the plotline, but in terms of characterization, it seems like Batman’s rage would not be able to be contained after Rachel is killed. (Because Batman is at the other end of the continuum of aggression, from say, Superman.)
    Wonder what your thoughts are on this.

  • Jim Green

    I suppose this is a late review, but felt it necessary since I obviously have one of the only opposing viewpoints to the movie.

    The sound track was great and I appreciated a few of the well placed laughs, but this is definitely not in keeping with William “Bill” Finger’s original Bat-Man of 1939. Bill never pointed guns to the heads of ten year olds in his comic strip, and for the life of me I can’t see how it added anything to a fictional character that many of us grew up reading.

    Some have said it added to the realism, but anyone thinking that a man flying around in a cape is realism to begin with is just plain silly, so why add such personal evil to women and children to the plot? I thought Keith Ledger definitely had the best performance, but it took me a while before I could erase the image of him playing with that cowboy’s hiney in the movie Humpback Mountain.

    As for Batman, played by Christian Bale, certainly they could have come up with a more muscular man, and that silly voice of his under his face mask sounded like he had cotton stuffed in his nose.

    I like a good shoot-em up movie just like the next guy, but violence toward women and children just doesn’t do it for me. If you haven’t seen it, don’t take the kids.

  • Paul

    Actually, I thought Bale was the right balance between muscular and agile. A guy built like a body builder is spending too much time lifting weights and not enough time learning the mydriad skills needed to be Batman.

    I thought it was the most psychologically challenging superhero movie I’ve ever seen. What Spiderman II and III touched on or played for laughs (Peter Parker doesn’t have time to do his homework and lets popularity go to his head) “The Dark Knight” takes to a very dark place indeed.

    I also think the movie is about Chaos and Order, but even more so. Before Batman, there was a system of Order that was really the chaos of criminal desires organized. Batman shattered the fragile “order” and Chaos ensued (the Joker). The Joker challenged both forces of “Order”: the mob and the government. Corruption was so widespread that the kind of Order that is beneficial to humanity existed only in the hearts of idealists among the ranks of lawyers and cops (but the potential for a better world was illustrated by the boat situation).

    The greatest irony of the movie is that the trust fund babies of Gotham probably donated money to Bush so they wouldn’t have to pay taxes.

  • D

    Sara: In Begins, when she found out young Bruce’s gun, Rachel slapped him. He has evolved a lot since then(ex: he hates guns). I think he knows she wouldn’t have liked him crossing the line for her. Also, through Dent, he saw how revenge can turn the best of us into a monster. Batman never, ever kills, not even on Frank Miller’s watch, although there are times(like the “hit me” part) where he comes this close to loosing control of himself. But how to control his fear and fury is the best thing he learned during his training. “Justice, not revenge” is deep within his psyche. Should he and the punisher meet, we would have a very interesting conflict.
    Jim Green:”certainly they could have come up with a more muscular man” Are you kiding me? He had to lose muscles during Begins shooting because he couldn’t fit in the batsuit.”why add such personal evil to women and children to the plot?” Maybe it doesn’t make it more realistic, but it certainly makes it more powerfull and ressonant, besides ading more suspense. The escapism of the superhero genre makes it easier to deal with.

  • D

    Oh, and Mary Ann: You rock. Just wanted to state that.

  • Sara

    D,
    Yes, I remember what you describe from Batman Begins. There are many other ways, though, as we know to kill other than guns–especially with the superheroes.
    Re: Batman and The Punisher, why would it be interesting to see them in conflict? I think it would be interesting to see Batman verbally defend his actions against what The Punisher challenge him with (verbal debate).

    I really do think that from a psychological point of view (and psychology plays into the superheroes a plenty and those who read their stories)–from that point of view, knowing more in general about the Batman now (I always knew a fair amount, but knowing much more of his barely staying on the ethical side of the line, etc.), I think the blowing up of Rachel Dawes in TDK would have pushed him over that line and into becoming like The Punisher. I don’t think his training would have held up to that. UNLESS, he really cared less for her than one would think. UNLESS clearly in his mind he had written her off in a way because she didn’t accept the Batman part of him very well. Perhaps he really didn’t care so much for her at that point, as a friend, etc. Perhaps he was that cut off from himself at that point. You’re not led to believe that, though, and the writers can’t have it both ways, really. A bothersome thing is to have (really any character) but a higher proportion of females killed (and in violent ways) and some have been superheroes themselves–either because the writer isn’t sure what to do with them (I’m seeing that now) or even more so as simply a plot device. Seems the case with Rachel Dawes…a way for Two-Face to develop. Otherwise, as I said, I think it would have taken the Batman over the top (where he normally doesn’t go.)

    Also, you might know of this site but it is of interest (and some of the comic book writers’ responses are of interest too; some avoid the questions and some directly do answer them. The list of female superheroes, etc. and their ends is of interest, too. And how they meet their ends.
    http://www.unheardtaunts.com/wir/index.html

  • Sara

    Jim Greene,
    I grew up with admiration for the superheroes just as the next kid did, even being a female. With all brothers, too. The one I liked best (and not in the Justice League, etc.) but the one I was drawn to most was Zorro. I probably watched Batman on TV though as much as I did Zorro, so Batman was held in high esteem–both dark knights (but very different characters, actually.) The more I’ve learned about the comics themselves, and some of the plotlines that we’re seeing in the movies of the superheroes now is a put-off to me. Check out the site above that I sent to D. It’s worthy of a look and a thought.

  • MaryAnn

    Jim Green wrote:

    this is definitely not in keeping with William “Bill” Finger’s original Bat-Man of 1939.

    And? The world has changed since 1939, and you certainly cannot blame this movie for altering Batman — I’m sure *Arkham Asylum* is not totally in keeping with 1939, either.

    it took me a while before I could erase the image of him playing with that cowboy’s hiney in the movie Humpback Mountain.

    Ah, now we see that you are still living in 1939. Homophobia is not welcome here. Please don’t bring it back with you again.

  • D

    Sara: Ah, the woman in the refrigerator.Sister of the damsel in distress. Also quite common in mithology(see: Orpheus and Hercules) and our entertainment in general(even “The godfather” has an example of this, in Al Pacino’s character first wife, whose sole purpose was to foward Michael in the way of becoming the godfather). Yeah, I had come across that website before. Like I said before, it didn’t upset me in “The dark knight”,or “The Godfather” for that matter, because those were well written stories who were meant from the very beginning to focus on the male characters(Batman and the villains, the Corleone family), but the lack of originality in our culture can make this films look flawed and put off people when seen in this context. And one of the reasons I haven’t touched mainstream superhero comics in ages is because of their lack of innovation when it comes to their female characters roles(the borderline hentai depication of their bodies was also a factor).
    About Heath Ledger in Brockeback Mountain: Aw, come on, Mary Ann. You can’t deny that two human beings showing genuine love, atraction and heartbreak for each other in a world full of people who would beat them up to death for it is a little icky. Right?

  • Sara

    D,
    Yep, the women as plot devices–at least to me, gets very old. I really don’t tolerate it well at all anymore. It can ruin a good story when one becomes aware of it. Of what the writers are doing. At least it can for me.
    Brokeback Mountain will be a classic. Heck yeah it’s awful to realize the prejudice out there–prejudice enough to cause harm, but that doesn’t mean one should put the movie down in a prejudiced manner. (At least as MaryAnn said, not on her site) I can understand why the movie was disturbing to some people, but that was one good movie. Did you read Annie Proulx’s story, Brokeback Mountain? It’s absolutely fabulous. The movie followed pretty well. The story is really a tragedy. So very sad. (As is what happened to Ledger himself.)

  • Sara

    Well, I saw this movie, one of the reasons being that I have said much on this post and hadn’t seen the movie itself and had caught grief for it. However, I had heard so much about it, seen clips and so on. So I saw it.

    I think it is a travesty that this movie was rated PG-13. For all you folks who don’t have kids, nor care about them, that might be fine. For those of us who do, the rating was absurd.

    And, yes, I think the violence was WAY over the top in terms of the excessive explosions, wrecks, explosions, wrecks, explosions, people shot, people shot, people shot. I do think that the violence was sensationalistic and ridiculous much of the time. It certainly wasn’t what I’d call a kids’ movie, but it’s not what I’d call an adults’ movie either.

    MaryAnn, perhaps you can start a new thread…What Hollywood Does to Men…because it’s doing really sick things. And not remotely “manly.” (my opinion)

  • Sara

    By the way, my husband and I saw the movie together. He said the movie was “OK.” Agreed, too many gratuitous explosions, too too long, didn’t follow a lot of the time, voices started sounding the same…Batman’s, Two-Face’s, Gordon’s (especially toward the end.) Also said…PG13–ridiculous.

  • Paul

    Their voices sounded the same? I’ll have to listen for that if I watch the movie again. I’ll bet they did that on purpose.

    Men do take a beating in a lot of these movies. Villains die in so many grusome ways, heroes get the tar beat out of them, both keep losing the women they love (in some movies the bad guy does, and in some movies the good guy does).

    And Hollywood “teaches” us to get arrested for stalking because it always gets the girl in the movies, to beat up people in our way, that lone heroism is more important than community effort (there are exceptions of course). That last is mostly just a side effect of drama’s requirement to focus on one person. Drama also pushes for giving the hero as many barriers as possible, which leads to movies like Lethal Weapon where policemen violate the law and risk arrest themselves to catch the bad guy.

    Of course, what is Manly is defined by the culture and varies as narrowly as what is Womanly. I say narrowly because the general definitions of Manly and Womanly are remarkably cross cultural, with exceptions noteable because they are so rare.

  • Sara

    Well, all this “catching the bad guy” is a sort of (to me) “ruse”…an excuse for poor plotlines and for male violence (against themselves and against females too.) Must just be a damn lot of fun.

    There was no reason (IMHO) after, yes, seeing the movie for Rachel to be blown up. In fact, had she NOT been the set-up for the next movie would have been more interesting and THIS movie might have been more interesting.

    Why is it that every time (in this and other movies, I know) that when someone hits someone else in the face, it sounds like a large piece of furniture being dropped onto a hardwood floor? Remember the old Westerns…the fistfights? That was the real sound. If they want to amplify the real sound, then fine, but this other sound is nuts to me. It IS glorifying violence, I think, no doubt about it. This whole movie (to me…and to my husband)was definitely about glorifying violence on some level. How could anyone think differently if honest? There were people in the theatre laughing at parts that weren’t funny parts at all…they were sadistic parts. But that’s become comedy of sorts, I guess.

    Also, I thought Ledger was good, but both my husband and I said the “unsayable”…that we even got tired of his character in this movie.

    Again, PG13 for this movie is crazy as the Joker. Just what America needs. Lots of little kids seeing this (and they will.) They would if it were R but now many many more will see it.

    And the “blow-ups” in this movie and others like it are very similar in looks to “Shock and Awe” (yeah, the real one) and has the effect of desensitizing people to the “real thing.” And yes, it does, with no doubt in my mind…and my husband’s…demonstrates the glorification of violence in America. Confirms it to us…for we did not find the movie to be that good. I think it’s Ledger’s death in part that is responsible for the numbers seeing TDK.

    At times I felt as if I were watching Keystone Cops with explosions every other second. And guns pointed at people and shot (and no, it didn’t show the people shot in the face) but you got the picture.

    And, no, Rachel didn’t need to get blown up. It was a way to get her out of the picture. That’s it. My opinion. My husband was even surprised by that.

    And most definitely this movie was hyperactive, explosive and male-dominated to the hilt. And I got slammed above for saying that. I needed to see this movie to say that? No.

  • pedro

    oh man.

    ohmanohmanohman.

    heath. ledger. is. AWESOME.

    nobody would have said it from his early films (10 things i hate about you and knight’s tale) but he was an actor that, later on, would have surpassed de niro and hoffmann and, heck, even brando and pacino.

    his joker, while much darker than the explicitly cartoony comic-book character, is also much more joker-ish, in phisique and mannerisms, than nicholson’s over-the-top caricature. and boy, that monologue sitting in the interview room with batman…it made the hairs in my body tingle. it’s just powerful, powerful acting, and it’s a shame ledger cannot live to see (and profit from) his career-defining performance.

    that having been said, kudos to christian bale, which is the best bruce wayne (in relation to the comic-book) so far. he looks and acts bruce wayne, which is more than we can say for val kilmer or even michael keaton. and morgan freeman is just “wow” every time.

    this is also the batman that hits closer to home. it’s not cartoony like batman and robin, there are no distracting villains like riddler, it’s just dark and gritty and violent…just like the Batman comic books always were.

    there are also some cool revelations. for instance, we KNEW harvey dent had been deformed in an explosion which also killed his girlfriend…but we never knew that girlfriend was connected to bruce wayne, to the point of KNOWING HIS FRIGGIN’ SECRET!! that also shines a light on exactly what two-face’s beef with batman is – i bet harvey knows wayne is the dark knight. i also bet we’ll see two-face (the aaron eckhart version) in the third movie of this trilogy.

    i also like the fact that people add up two and two, like that attorney for wayne enterprises does, forcing morgan freeman to defuse the situation quickly. and i like how batman uses a vocoder to hide his voice so nobody links him to himself – it’s a real-life touch none of the other movies had, and IT MAKES SENSE! any real-life vigilante (if there were any) would have done precisely that to hide his identity.

    however, not everything is perfect. the story has some small, yet irksome, inconsistencies and deux exes, and it’s not as cohesive a narrative as batman begins. but that’s just me nit-picking. plus, ledger will make it all better.

    RIP Heath Ledger. you will be missed.

    and Mr. Nolan, we want part III!

    My rating: 92/100

  • Sara

    Comparing Ledger in this role to De Niro, Hoffman, Brando and Pacino is a major stretch to me…
    I wonder if Ledger had not died if there would be as much fervor over his role in this film and also this film in general. It’s almost as if (because Ledger is dead) that this film is untouchable in terms of criticism. Which is a shame, actually.

  • MaryAnn

    I wonder if Ledger had not died if there would be as much fervor over his role in this film and also this film in general.

    I think there would be. Whatever Ledger’s fate, all that really matters is what’s on the screen. That would still be the same if he were still alive.

  • Sara

    True, exactly true. What’s on the screen would be the same. The desire to pay tribute to an actor who has died, to see him in his last film, the interest there certainly has some effect as even you acknowledged in your review.
    It’s my opinion that it does add to the interest, the fervor over the film, over many people going to the film in the first place. I’d say it for myself and I’ve heard others say the same thing and while all the critics have given the film dazzling reviews (and the one who hasn’t got slammed) it isn’t that way in “ordinary world” where people are saying what they think of the film itself. Many are raving over it; some are saying it was merely OK, and some are saying they were disappointed in it.
    So, yes, what’s on the screen would be there regardless, but when an actor dies as Ledger did, that can’t help but figure into his last performance and attention surrounding it. And there is always (if an actor is loved, as Ledger was) the hope that the last performance be the very best of all. Whether it was or not.
    The film was so long (to me) that I found it tedious and the lack of character development (to me) was a major drawback. I found even Ledger’s performance tiresome by the end. As some others did, too. As many others did not. And I thought Bale was wooden as I find him in many of his films (didn’t find him that way in 3:10 to Yuma)…
    I didn’t care for TDK and wished I hadn’t gone. Everyone is surely entitled to his/her own thoughts/feelings/opinions.
    It’s also odd that if anything negative is said “publicly” about this film, there is basically hell to pay. That says something.
    This thread seems clearly one that’s meant to say only positive things about the movie, unlike other threads re: other movies on this site (again, my opinion.)

  • Sara

    MaryAnn,
    Another thing I thought of…especially re: your review and the cultural collapse that you see (that seems to me to be particularly American on many levels) but I know you see otherwise. I do think that TDK shows the hysteria of America, the whole movie took a veer toward hysteria to me–and I found that bothersome and strange. That embracing and excitement over hysteria. The whole city was a screaming chaotic mess. And “for our entertainment.”
    What I was reminded of was of being in France in 1995 during the beginning of the Algerian terrorism hold on the city of Paris. My brother and sister lived there then.
    It began with the blowing up of part of the metro system (while the subway was at a station in the city–nearest subway to my brother’s apartment) and they heard/felt the impact.
    People were killed and it was horrible, especially as so many rely on public transportation entirely. Then bombs were set in public trashcans (and exploded) to the point the authorities in Paris sealed all public trashcans immediately and what did one do with one’s trash? Well, you kept it stored until it was safe to thrown out. Schools were quietly barricaded as were embassies, etc. All with efficiency and excellent communication. The gov’t did not declare war on anyone, on anything.
    There were bombs that went off at the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomph, Notre Dame, at many of the neighborhood markets. This went on for months. Yet, interestingly the French people (and French police, etc.) were not in for panic or hysteria. At all. They pulled in re: their daily activities, stayed close to their own neighborhoods as much as possible, stayed away from tourist sites, the media did not play this up, yes, reported it but never sensationalized it.
    The people truly did “endure” as did the gov’t. After over six months or so, the French intelligence (they are superb and were in part the ones who warned us of bin Laden which was ignored by the US)…they did their intelligence well, knew who the men were responsible for the carnage, found their hideout, and went in and took them out. I know this is very different from our system but I was struck by the lack of hysteria of the people and the competence of the authorities in this situation. Contrast it to say, Katrina, which was a natural disaster, not a terrorist attack and you see vast differences.
    So, yes, perhaps TDK is particularly American in a very unflattering way in terms of the total hysteria portrayed throughout the movie. And sadly, it seems that the public likes this…likes this hysteria and in a real setting gives into the hysteria and fear (and a lack of competence which was certainly a major issue with the authorities in TDK.)

  • MaryAnn

    This thread seems clearly one that’s meant to say only positive things about the movie,

    No, it isn’t. You can say whatever you like. But you cannot expect people not to defend something they feel passionately about.

    That said, if you don’t feel like your comments are being embraced as part of the conversation, you don’t have to contribute anything at all.

    If you do wish to contribute, Sara, please stop trying to hijack threads with your overly long and not entirely on topic comments. We don’t need every detail of your experiences in Paris — you could have gotten the same idea across in a lot less verbiage. If you want to be posting essays on this level, you should start your own blog.

  • Sara

    Pardon me. I’ve noticed many long responses on your site as long or longer than mine. I hijack nothing.
    I thought the example re: the terrorism in Paris in 1995 (and the response to that threat) was appropriate. I am sorry that it was not.

  • Paul

    I thought Sara’s posting was interesting. It shows an alternative reaction to terrorism. In Batman, you have the American reaction. Batman beats up the Joker to get information (only to be deceived), Batman snoops on everyone’s cell phones to find the badguy, and Batman kidnaps a criminal from another country. And Bruce knows what Batman is and is afraid of it.

    An example of artistic differences would be Well’s book “War of the Worlds” vs. Spielberg’s movie version. In the book, it seemed like the characters were all keeping a stiff upper lip against the idea of alien invasion. In Spielberg’s, there was fear, panic, people turning on each other to try and survive . . . I thought it was more realistic.

  • ‘I thought the example re: the terrorism in Paris in 1995 (and the response to that threat) was appropriate. I am sorry that it was not.’

    you were using a true life situation to compare to a fictional one. and it didn’t work. comparing Gotham City’s “reaction” to a real life situation in a real life city isn’t exactly on point.

  • Sara

    Thanks, Paul. I felt the difference, not only saw it as I watched the movie and remembered back to the terrorism in France. Of course, I’ve thought of it during the reaction to terrorism in this country (both twin towers and other events).
    The politics of “fear” ruled, coupled with incompetence, and have for seven years now. (Which did not happen in Paris that time–not that people were not afraid but the authorities had things under control, were so competent, even though it took a while to find the terrorists (they were there, in the city, thinking they wouldn’t be found.)
    The people understood this wasn’t a “solve it overnight thing.” But they didn’t panic either. For example, during that time, they would never have had an official “anything” out in the midst of the city as occurred in Batman (which led to only more chaos–seemed to spur it on even.) TDK seemed to be a definite brand of action and reaction–American style.
    The French do use their oil, I know but still not like we do and they are much more economical on a daily basis–much less waste. (Things Mary Ann was concerned about in her TDK review–cultural issues, environmental, etc., as we go over the cliff of extinction.) I don’t think the French would say that right now. The Euro is super strong and it’s not France (and some other countries) that are fraying. And have declared wars that (my opinion) are not in the best interest of anyone.

  • Sara

    But, Bronxbee, in MAJ’s review she took the movie very much as symbolic of what is happening culturally (in the “real world.”) She wrote that very clearly. Fiction speaks to the real world often more clearly than any other type of writing. Go back and look at MAJ’s review for the connections she draws about the movie to our cultural mess. It’s all there. (byw, I agree with her.)

  • Sara

    I meant to say above…that the French (using that example) did not declare war on anyone or anything even though their city was under seige. This is very unlike our country’s reaction. I meant, “They have NOT declared wars (m opinion) that are not in the best interest of anyone.” (save a few who are making a lot of money right now.)

  • Chris mankey

    So why the fuck does everybody like this piece of shit movie? It’s just not very good!

  • amanohyo

    Would you care to elaborate Mr. mankey? If you seriously expect people to defend their opinions, you’ll have to give them a little more to chew on than a piece of shit.

    What in particular rubbed you the wrong way? If you were to remake the movie, how would you improve it? It may sometimes be painful to think about a movie you dislike, but it’s a sacrifice you must make for the good of the poor misguided souls who enjoyed the movie.

    Tell us why it’s not very good. If you want our gravy, pepper our ragout.

  • Sara

    Chris M,
    I think the movie is awful. Toxic stuff. PG13…who the hell is thinking of anything except money? Almost every boy in America over the age of 6 will see this movie. And think the sick stuff is “awesome” and “cool.” America needs that. Yeah, this Batman movie…PG13. Absurd and irresponsible.
    Batman meets Hannibal Lecter. Great stuff for kids. Then for adults, none of it makes sense anyway (ie, the Joker is killing everyone he gets to help him and somehow zillions of drumfuls of oil or gasoline get delivered to warehouses and the the hospital and no one can see or stop this? OK. Don’t buy it.
    Some slick visuals of Batman swooping down from the heights of the city buildings, etc. that make this (to me) empty film look like it might be something. Re: characterization. I didn’t care for one character in this film nor would I want to know any of them. Yet America’s elementary and middle school boys are flocking to this movie. Where is the outrage from the public? Pitiful.

  • MaryAnn

    If America cannot get outraged over illegal war, torture being done in their name, and the shredding of the Constitution, they certainly are not going to get outraged over little kids seeing a movie that they shouldn’t be seeing.

  • Sara

    Yes, but if what little kids see desensitizes them to illegal war, torture, orgies of explosions remniscient of “shock and awe” (via movies and tv news, run ad nauseum in a “movie-format,” then the movies (and the tv news) aren’t helping and in my opinion, professional and personal, those movies (TDK being one)are toxic and don’t help the situation. It’s easy for kids to see “blow-ups on tv” and “blow-ups” in movies and process them as the same. Kids aren’t mini-adults, nor should they be, and ratings should reflect that we know this and that we care. Batman Begins was rated PG13. Fine. Big difference between that movie and TDK. The ratings should reflect that. But PG13 ratings mean more people get in, means more money made at the box office. The public is basically lied to as a result. In this case, I think deception did occur.
    Chris M., what are your issues with TDK? Would be interested to know.

  • Sara

    Also, I think much of America has been outraged over all you describe, MaryAnn. Have you been unaware of the marches, the demonstrations, etc. (in all areas of this country–certainly including DC as well as all over the world?!)
    Batman is still Batman regardless of what is happening in the world. When Batman Begins is PG13 and is marketed to kids as well as adults, then the same will be done re: its sequel, TDK. Only TDK is not remotely close to the rating or tone or anything of Batman Begins. And the studio, the ratings board etc., should have been honest about this and the rating should have been R. It’s fair for people to have a clear idea of what they and their children are seeing before going to a movie. PG13 signifies one thing; R signifies another. My opinion is that TDK had many other flaws but deception is untenable. And, yes, there are people who are upset over this.

  • MaryAnn

    Yes, but if what little kids see desensitizes them to illegal war, torture, orgies of explosions remniscient of “shock and awe” (via movies and tv news, run ad nauseum in a “movie-format,” then the movies (and the tv news) aren’t helping and in my opinion, professional and personal, those movies (TDK being one)are toxic and don’t help the situation.

    As I’ve said before, this movie should be rated R. That said, it is up to parents to police what their children watch, and children should not be watching this movie. I’m an adult, and I want to see movies for adults. I do not want to see our culture dumbed down any more, to the point where *everything* absolutely *must* be appropriate even for the smallest children. I am appalled that people are letting their children see this movie, but that makes their parenting toxic, not the movie.

    Have you been unaware of the marches, the demonstrations, etc. (in all areas of this country–certainly including DC as well as all over the world?!)

    I am not unaware of them. Protests overseas are hardly representative of American culture, and even the largest of the demonstrations in the U.S. have been comparatively small, and clearly have had little to no impact on the electorate or on our leaders.

    Clearly, many people do not care if their own small children see this violent movie. No wonder so few of them seem to care what happens to total strangers in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere.

  • Accounting Ninja

    Mary Ann is right. As a parent, it is MY responsibility to make sure my son sees appropriate movies. Frankly, I really don’t care what Jimmy’s mom lets him see. I wouldn’t let a little kid see TDK.
    As far as effects on kids, I think the environment in which they are raised is far more important. If you have an environment of general neglect where the parents really don’t give a shit what they eat or watch or who they hang out with, that is when kids start to go astray. It’s a family culture, not what the kid sees, that impacts the end result of who he grows up to be. I saw all kinds of movies as a child that today’s parents would be aghast at: Aliens, Terminator, etc. Even ET had “penis-breath” and the Goonies had violence and sexual innuendo. My parents cared about me, though, so whatever disturbing images I saw were always couterbalanced by sane parenting.
    I actually think entertainment for kids today is so scrubbed and sanitized that it lacks any emotional resonance and it doesn’t ever make a kid think (ideas are spoon-fed: thinking is dangerous!) I feel bad for today’s kids, although gems like Wall-E and the Incredibles make me feel better.

  • Sara

    It seems my points were missed for whatever reasons.
    1) Batman Begins was fine for most kids and TDK veers very very far from Batman Begins, yet is rated the same. My question to the industry would be…why set up a situation that is unfair to families to begin with?

    2) I don’t know if either MaryAnn or ANinja have kids or not, but when you do, it makes a difference. You realize that you, as a parent, only have so much control. It is not difficult for a kid to get into a PG13 movie without the parents knowing about it. Plus, Batman Begins was marketed to everyone, basically, setting it up for everyone to want to see the sequels.

    3) I (as an adult) think TDK was poor (I’d rate it as “sick”) except in a few slick spots (and a few scenes.) For the most part, to ME, I didn’t care about the characters, I didn’t feel connected to them, nor would I want to know even one of them. This is not related to issues of “dumbing-down” the movie.
    I DID care about the characters in Ironman, for example, in a way that just didn’t happen for me (and others I know) in TDK.

    4) There are movies for kids. But Hollywood is marketing movies to adolescent boys (at least the Blockbusters) and then in the case of TDK, rating them incorrectly. I understand, MaryAnn, that you think this movie should have been R. Yes, it should have. Perhaps the next one should be NR-17, or more–who knows? This seems strange to me for a trilogy. If it begins at PG13, then follow through with a trilogy of truly PG13 movies. Does PG13 mean a movie is “dumb-downed”? Batman Begins was dumb-downed? Ironman was “dumb-downed”? (Seems to me both were truly PG13.)

    5) There has been outrage in this country over the present leadership. Ex: ratings for the president. Very many in the GOP are disgusted with this administration and have spoken publicly in strong terms. Not sure why information like the following is being bypassed: (We’ve SEEN it, HEARD it, READ it)…
    JAN. 18 PROTEST TELLS BUSH: NO WAR, NO WAY
    D.C.: Largest U.S. protest yet against Iraq war
    By Leslie Feinberg

    The power of the people. You could see it, filling the broad avenues in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 18, stretching for miles. You could hear its thunder: “No war on Iraq!” And as marchers reached the crest of Capitol Hill, looked back and roared in reaction to their own sheer strength, a mass of half a million, you could even taste it.

    What a spectrum: all ages and nationalities, ethnicities, religious beliefs or lack of them, sexes, abilities, genders, sexualities, political viewpoints, occupations and walks of life. They came from diverse regions–from inner city neighborhoods to dairy farms; towns, campuses and reservations. Etc., etc., etc.

  • Sara

    Bottom line for me (and surely it’s ok for me to have my opinion)… I think that TDK for ANYONE is a toxic. I think it’s a toxic movie I don’t care what age the viewer.
    Just as Sex and the City movie was insipid, vapid (my opinion also, which surely I’m allowed to have, even if in the minority.) Sometimes the minority voice has things of importance for consideration.

  • John Cornell

    “None” of the film makes sense Sara? That’s a pretty ridiculous, not to mention overly exaggerated statement, in my humble opinion. I’d be more inclined to agree with your point here if you had suggested that some of the plotlines don’t quite add up (at least during a first viewing anyway).

    For the record, Joker didn’t kill “everyone he gets to help him” carry out his sadistic plans. The clown mask wearing robbers murdered in the opening scene were actually goons – hired on the spot – manipulated by The Joker into thinking they would eventually get their individual cut of the loot.
    More useful allies, such as Maroni, were not so easily discarded.

    With that stated, the drumfuls of gasoline were delivered by Maroni’s crew, some of which were rogue cops. It was Martinez and the chubby old guy (whose name I fail to recall at the moment) who literally drove Rachel and Dent to meet their fates at the abandoned warehouses. Dent initially warns Gordon about rotten apples in his force early on in the film, but the Commissioner fails to heed those warnings, all the more tragic for them both.

    And I could be wrong on this, but I’d be surprised if a poster as.. umm eloquent as Chris M actually offered something worthy of discussion/debate. If you’re looking to find common ground with some guy who blurts out obscenities on a blog and takes off like a spoiled brat, good luck to you! “Pitiful” is right.

  • Sara

    John C,
    Some of the plotlines don’t add up and to me, I think the movie itself is toxic and the very fact that it doesn’t have an R rating ( for at least warning and for information’s sake and not “censorship”) should (I think) have most everyone on this site up in arms, not just calming saying, “it should be R”.

    Otherwise, it seems that those who aren’t upset by this do not understand the whole Batman phenomenon for America’s kids and families.

    Also MaryAnn keeps alluding to what is going on culturally/politically in this country and connecting that to why people can’t keep their kids from the movie (saying that if people don’t care about what’s happening culturally/politically then they will “let” their kids go, etc., etc.)

    My brother is a psychiatrist and well-respected. He and his son saw the first movie (Batman Begins) together. They were looking forward to the 2nd movie. Of course, it’s rated PG13. My brother has has a thriving practice of very mentally ill patients. The only negatives he has heard about the movie (other than from me, my husband and son) is from his patients. The patients see it as very sick. I won’t go into specifics re: the sickest parts but you can probably figure it out. The patients are puzzled as to the American fervor (which would include the fervor on this post) over this “fantastic” movie. My brother was appalled and further checked this out and said none of his kids will see the movie but wondered what the heck the writers/directors were thinking and are doing. BTW, his patients weren’t upset for themselves but for reasons I’ve stated too.

    So, those are the negative reviews that alerted my brother to not go walking into the PG13 movie with his son. I have talked to other friends who HAVE walked in with their sons or daughters and then walked out.
    People will either get what I’m saying or not. Seems not. I was very very disappointed in the movie, the industry and the support that America (anyone in America) is giving this movie. Where is the outcry over the rating and the turning of Batman into something that it hasn’t been before…it need not be “sick” to be “adult.” A Batman movie needs not be “R” to be “adult.” How many movies on this site have gotten an adult “see it” stamp and are rated PG13? (many) When I go to Batman, I’m not interested in seeing Hannibal Lecter stuff.
    That’s it for me.
    I outlined my major concerns above right before your post. Perhaps most everyone on this post is looking forward to the next Batman (and perhaps the ante will be upped and the PG13 will remain.) Personally, I think it’s wrong and I will not see the next movie no matter how “good” it is.

  • MaryAnn

    I don’t know if either MaryAnn or ANinja have kids or not, but when you do, it makes a difference. You realize that you, as a parent, only have so much control.

    I don’t have kids. And I do think that society owes it to itself to protect children, to a certain degree. A movie ratings system is a good idea, for all the flaws ours has, but it cannot be the end of parental responsibility. I don’t care how hard parenting is: it is ultimately a parent’s job to parent.

    It is not difficult for a kid to get into a PG13 movie without the parents knowing about it.

    The same is true of R-rated movies, too.

    Plus, Batman Begins was marketed to everyone, basically, setting it up for everyone to want to see the sequels.

    If there’s anything toxic about this movie, it’s in the marketing — I’ll agree to that. I’m not sure that you can blame the marketing of the *previous* movie, though! A series can never get darker than it had been before?

  • Sara

    Much much much more difficult to get into an R rated movie than a PG13 one. Anyone can get into a PG13 one. Not so for R, not even remotely. They ask for IDs.

    I think, re: a Batman trilogy, when the first one is PG13 and then promises sequels, yes, I think it is fair that the viewers of the first movie should be able to safely see the sequels. Otherwise, something else is going on. And note that the industry made sure that (with the PG13 rating) that their market from the first movie “could” see the TDK.

    I don’t (my opinion) call TDK, “dark”…I call it “sick” with lots of gratuitous violence and Hannibal-Lecter type scenes.

  • MaryAnn

    They ask for IDs.

    Really? Where do you live? I have NEVER witnessed anyone being asked for IDs are a multiplex. And even if they did, kids just buy a ticket for a PG movie and then hop into the R one. THAT I’ve seen happen.

  • Bill

    Sara – Gratuitous violence? There was plenty of violence, but it all seemed to move the story or tell us more about a character. Could there have been less? Sure. I think the deliberate nature of much of the violence added to the “sickness” and made for a more disturbing flick, but I don’t see it as gratuitous. Adult, but necessary, I think.

  • D

    I think Sara is the kind of person that sat trough the opening of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and thought:”Why would someone build a trap that can only be used once? Nothing about this movie makes sense”. Also, I get the feeling she didn’t like “Silence of the Lambs”. But how she liked Iron Man (which I did too, actually), where Tony actually kills people, is beyond me…

  • MBI

    Jesus, when did CAPAlert take over the FF comment boards? Sheesh.

  • D

    You didn’t like the movie? That’s fine by me,neither did my dad, and I’m okay with that. But seriously, this movie is only sick in the sense that “Silence of the Lambs” and “Se7en”(which I thought were some of the best films of the last decade) are sick, and that’s only a bad for minors, people who don’t like movies with violence in it or people going trhough a depression(why would someone allow psychologicaly troubled people to watch something like this, where all the heroes’ nemesis are asylum inmates is beyond me). Your brother should know how sequels work: bigger, darker bloodier. Take a look at Harry Potter.1(Philosophers Stone), all ages. 7(Deathly Hallows), should be R rated. This movies are not meant to be pleasant. They are meant to grab our interest by showing us the darker side of humanity and the people who try to hold on to the light. Sometimes, good guys loose and bad guys win. In real life, that is often more true than the contrary. If you think of movies as only something to lighten you up from the worries of your daily life, I guess you could hate The dark knight. If “suspension of disbelief” has also no meaning to you, the film could turn you off. And again, that’s okay. But don’t look so shocked when people like a batman film where there’s actualy shooting and killing. I mean, look at his, Two-face’s and the Joker’s origin(in The killing Joke). What where you expecting, bat-shark-repelent? Didn’t the trailers explosions and heath ledger disturbing face and voice tip you off? And just for the record, I hope both the advertising companies and the parents who let their young ones see movies like this get put in a miserable retirement home and kicked in the crotch by their children when they get older.

  • D

    Also, from an humble european’s point of view, all those manifestations haven’t helped a lot the cause, have they? Manifestations are usualy a form of public theraphy, never producing actual changes in the government’s, or companies policies. At least half of your country is convinced that Bush did his job efficiently as Leader of the free world. And Mccain looks like a great replacement…
    “Jesus, when did CAPAlert take over the FF comment boards? Sheesh.” Again, from an outsider’s point of view, didn’t get that reference. Sorry ): . Will you please break it down for me?

  • Accounting Ninja

    Um, I think I made it clear that I DO have (a) kid.

    But, I am, however, not a kid and have a mind of my own. I don’t care about advertising. I don’t care about “society”. I don’t even care if kids sneak into it, or if my own son does that in years to come. (I mean, I think it’s wrong of course, and he’d get in trouble for lying and sneaking around.) But I am not going to go hysterical that he has seen something I deem inappropriate. I can only control what goes on in my house. Whenever possible, I’d like to do damage control of course, like if a scary movie gives him nightmares. But I won’t always get to do that.

    Sara, you sound like someone who is always worrying about “other people”. “Well, sure!” you may say “that’s all fine for your family but what about all those OTHER people who don’t follow the rules or who aren’t good parents?!”

    *shrugs* What can I do? Nothing. Worrying about it is pointless. All I can do is stay involved in my son’s life and stick by the rules I set. Bad parents will reap what they sow.

  • Sara

    Yep, if the movie is R, the teenagers are asked for their drivers’ licenses. Happened to my son all through high school…and his friends. Sometimes if there WAS an R movie that he wanted to see (and it was OK with us if he did) we’d go with him. Live in a large city in the South.

    No, I’m not always “worrying” about other people. I’m stating my views on this particular movie. This particular one.

    I loved Raiders of the Lost Ark.

    I am a child and adolescent therapist–so that would figure in. My experience, knowledge, and the realization of how difficult it is for parents to parent well in general is clearly known by me. For instance, right now my brother and his son are into it over TDK. Batman Begins…fine…they waited for the sequel…sequel rated PG13. Brother plans to take son. Then hears concerns from his psychiatric patients who are appalled at public positive reaction to this movie that kids will see (no, doesn’t tell them he plans to take son.) Brother and wife go to movie (just the two of them) and are disgusted (they almost walk out) and they aren’t prudish people at all. They thought the movie wasn’t good and was over-the-top with gratuitous violence and sick images, etc. (which I agree with)…now son (as many sons across America) will harass my brother to be allowed to see this movie. My brother said, absolutely not. So arguments will ensue that need not if the industry was more responsible and made a Batman that all could see safely.

    I didn’t notice that the Indiana JOnes movies got increasing horrible. I didn’t see any IJ movie that I thought should be R. Spiderman, fine. No R needed there. Ironman, no R needed there. (Plus it was a good story to me–as I said, I cared about the characters. Could have cared less about the characters in TDK–didn’t connect with any of them…lack of character development. I HAVE heard this from guys in their 20’s…my son and friends, but they are saavy when it comes to these movies; they want a good story. Aren’t impressed with one explosion after another.)

    Star Wars…R? No. Need for R? No.
    My opinion…TDK wanted to gross a lot of money and they did with their PG13 rating. That’s how they did it. They cut out some of the stuff to get their rating right below “R”…but what I don’t think people get, is that kids (and even adolescents) don’t have to “see” something…they can get the inferred violence easily (easily enough to really screw with their minds.)

    I’d appreciate it if everyone would get off my case. I am only voicing my opinions. It seems that I can’t do without sarcasm tossed my way.

    I didn’t think the movie was a good one. I didn’t like it. I didn’t think it had good character development. I thought it was choppy and had entirely too many scenes in it. I thought it had way too much gratuitous violence for the movie it was, I didn’t care for Ledger in this (and I like Ledger); I thought Bale was “flat”…(I liked him in The Prestige and in 3:10 to Yuma.)

    You all can love the movie, think the story is great, the acting great, the violence fine and not be concerned at all. That’s your right. I’m voicing my opinions which keep getting slammed. I’ll write no more on this. I’ve said it all… you get what I’m saying or you don’t. You don’t have to agree…but you either get it or you don’t…and it would be nice to show respect.
    Thanks.

  • MaryAnn

    if the movie is R, the teenagers are asked for their drivers’ licenses.

    You couldn’t do that in New York. Most people here don’t have driver’s licenses — or, at least, they don’t get them when they’re 16 or 17.

    I’ll write no more on this.

    I think that’s probably a good idea. You’re entitled to your opinion, but it’s clear that you’re not getting any sympathy for it here. We *get* what you’re saying… we just don’t agree with it.

    Oh, and disagreeing with you is NOT showing a lack of respect.

    Unless the conversation moves in an entirely new direction, I’m going to shut down this thread.

  • Sara

    Lack of respect comes from sarcasm, not disagreement–that’s what I referred to.

    I don’t think people are getting what I’m saying or they’d say…I see what you’re saying but I don’t agree. There’s been none of that. I’m not interested in “sympathy”…I was voicing my opinion and clarifying.

  • John Cornell

    Hi Sara,

    Allow me to address a few of your concerns and also tell you partially why I found this film appealing.

    When you suggest that the Nolan camp have turned “Batman into something that it wasn’t before”, you are gravely mistaken. From the character’s 1930s conception, Batman was always a psychologically dark character. Furthermore, much of Nolan’s The Dark Knight is heavily influenced by some of the more notable Batman comics and graphic novels (e.g., Batman #1, The Long Halloween, Arkham Asylum, The Killing Joke). It’s shocking JUST HOW MUCH of this film was actually derived straight from the source material.

    What Ledger’s Joker does in TDK is frankly quite tame in comparison to the horrific acts readers have come to associate with the fictitious clown in the pages of DC comics for years, if not decades. So repulsive is the character (in The Killing Joke) that he shoots Barbara Gordon in the spine (crippling her for life), while taking snapshots of her nude body as she writhes in pain, only to reveal enlarged photos to her caged father (Jim Gordon) in a freak show of an abandoned amusement park. Surprised? You don’t know the half of it! Joker was created for the sole purpose of epitomizing great evil to Batman’s great good and he does that in spades. Incidentally, Jerry Robinson (who created The Joker in 1940) went so far as to say that Nolan and Ledger’s vision was “closer to the way the character was conceived nearly 70 years ago”.

    Now, I won’t disagree with you entirely on the level of toxicity in the film. Thing is, that’s the whole idea. In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne waged war on all of Gotham’s criminals and it’s in TDK that he must deal with the consequences of those actions. Before things get better in Gotham, they have to get worse. “It’s always darkest before the dawn” remember? Still, in the midst of all this tragedy and chaos, we see a flawed hero struggling to save his city, and at the same time desperately trying to hold on to the part of himself that was untimely ripped away in childhood horror. What makes Batman such a compelling figure is his willingness to sacrifice any semblance of a normal life for the sake of Gotham. As much as he loses at the hands of The Joker in the film, Bruce Wayne proves that a truly incorruptible spirit (unlike Dent’s) cannot be broken. The whole notion it’s not what you say, but what you do or how you endure that makes a difference.

    As far as the rating goes, I think PG-13 is appropriate, considering there is no on-screen bloodshed, overly sexual content or foul language in The Dark Knight. Don’t get me wrong. Some of the more violent scenes (e.g., Gamble’s murder, the “magic trick”, Batman’s “bad cop routine”) really pushed the limit. With that stated, much of what happens here is left to the imagination. I understand that small children will find a way to see this film just because it’s Batman and agree that is a problem, but the responsibility falls on parents to take a more active role in the lives of their kids. It’s a changing world and you can’t just assume what the little ones watch is safe based on packaging alone; you have to invest much of your precious time into researching any and all media content prior to letting them get a go at it.

    “Now, lonely hearts and Sunday School teachers like to say that rain is the tears of God. But God doesn’t bother to cry on Gotham. This rain? If it comes from Him…it’s not his tears.”

    Brian Azzarello (author) – Broken City/Batman

  • Sara

    Hi John,
    For any others on this site, it is hard to ignore a post that begins “Hi Sara” (and I think if it were you that you would want to respond also.) As MaryAnn has said earlier, anyone would want to defend their views, whether they are majority ones or minority ones.
    I understand your points, John, and I appreciate you taking the time to go through them. As a mom who took her son to the comics store when he was younger, I would actually flip through the comics to see if, in fact, I would allow him to buy them or if I would pay for them. Many I would not. So, I am familiar with the genre itself (something I don’t think others on this post realize.)
    My son grew up with X-men figures, and Masters of the Universe, Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Bizzaro Superman, Wonder Woman, Venom, etc.
    I bought him an antique (or very old but in great condition for its age) batmobile that is really cool, with the original Batman and Robin, sitting in it. He still has this in his closet.
    That said, I would have a problem with the Green Goblin episode where the hero’s girlfriend is stuffed into a refrigerator appearing in a PG13 movie (especially if it is one that is hyped and highly anticipated.) It doesn’t matter how “graphic” the sight is really (and this is very important.) For children and young adolescents, the imagination is powerful. They can figure out what is behind what might not be literally “shown.” They see the enormous sadism that goes into the act, though, and that’s the point–especially when it goes on and on. MaryAnn gets angry at me when I reiterate my points. When I feel that my points are entirely missed, I should say nothing?
    I do think this dialogue (although I wish some others…and some have) would step up to the plate and at least see what I’m seeing (if they can, in fact) and comment on it. It doesn’t have to mean the didn’t like the movie. It’s critiquing it. It’s not an unhealthy dialogue and it’s an important one, I think.
    I think many are giving too much responsibility to parents (who are not gods) and can only do so much. I would not have wanted my son to see TDK at age 11 (and let’s say he had seen Batman Begins) and here comes TKD at PG13 which really doesn’t help parents–the parents are to do what? The industry puts them in a no-win situation and there seems to be no empathy on that end. So yes, the kids are one concern to me (and I don’t know why they wouldn’t be for anyone…just in general)…Did people on this post truly find the depth of characterization in TDK as great as that of Ironman? The same level of sadism? Both verbal and acted-out? I didn’t. Or even of V (which was rated R and no, kids are not so familiar with V and there won’t be the clamor to see it.) It seems that so many on this thread pummeled me with saying any comment I made was way-out. I’m not saying you should not like the movie, or judging you, I’m saying what my thoughts are.
    I just bought my son the graphic noviel, The Watchemen. We talked about it. But he’s out of college, for gosh sakes. He’s a balanced young man and he highly critiqued TDK too…saying he was disappointed in the movie. He didn’t like the lack of storyline (his comment) and the lack of depth of characterization.
    It is a very odd thing (and worth exploring) why, say, on a blog this open and “thinking” that it seems one view gets looked at and that’s it. As MaryAnn said “we” (whoever “we” is) “get” what you’re saying (I’m not convinced this is the case, but whatever) but “we” (again whoever that is) don’t agree. That feels very odd to me. Anyone understand that? John, who wrote specifically to me, do you understand my points in a clearer way at all now?

  • Sara

    John,
    An option: If the studios truly want the darkness of the comic books and that’s where they want to go (and no, this hasn’t been brought up on this thread at all)…then from the get-go…with Batman Begins, put some things in that movie (not hard to do) that MAKES it R. Makes it clearly “adult.” This is an adult Batman…ie NOT FOR KIDS. There are still issues with this, but this would be more upfront and honest. Then the next one, R, too, or NR-17 and maybe the next one NR-17. Not as much money would be hauled in, but the integrity of the studio, etc., would be there. But, don’t make something PG13 and then up the ante (and make it PG13) just because it doesn’t have “fuck” in it or sex (for gosh sakes!) in it. Put a bunch of “fuck this” and “fuck that” in Batman Begins. You got an R movie. You have an adult movie. Nothing dumb-downed at all. This would be a fair option. No confusion from the get-go. Adult Batman…clear to everyone.

  • Jolly

    It amazes me when a movie like TDK comes out and people rave about as if it is something path-breaking (comment about it being “a masterpiece” or “the best movie ever” are as overwrought as comments about it’s “toxicity”). Does the average movie goer have absolutely no familiarity with movie history? It’s pretty easy to trace the influences of TDK, which go back at least as far as the seventies vigilante flicks. Dirty Harry is an obvious choice, and although Nolan and company turn Batman into a less interesting variant of Raimi’s Peter Parker (right down to the thwarted love interest), rather than a costumed Harry Calhoun, the parallels between Ledger’s Joker and the Scorpio Killer are unmistable. However, both Miller’s Dark Knight Returns and Moore’s The Watchmen appropriate freely from earlier Hollywood work (Rorschach’s use of gasoline and a hacksaw is straight out of “The Road Warrior”), so it’s hardly surprising that such influences should resurface. Couple this with liberal borrowing from Mission: Impossible (the Hong Kong sequence, which served no obvious purpose but to eat a portion of the budget on flashy cinematography), and one is left with a movie that is anything but fresh. Entertaining? Yes. But does it live up to the hype? Hardly. A story with poorly developed characters and nothing original to anyone with a familarity of more than five years of American culture. I can understand a teenager being swept away, but when the Eberts of the world are raving, I can only feel a little sad.

  • amanohyo

    Jolly, I think the reason some people are swept away is that in their minds, a “comic book movie” has finally reached the level of a slightly above average regular movie. Sort of a “Wow, this movie takes itself very seriously even though it’s based on a comic book!”

    It’s a patronizing view, because many comics and fantasy based movies have already explored interesting themes to great depths. But most of them are a little too eccentric and off the beaten path to connect with the average moviegoer (yes, I’m being a little elitist).

    If you look at popular movie lists, you’ll see that crime dramas and vigilante action movies are disproportionately represented. As you and many others have noted, this movie borrows a lot of conventions from those films. Maybe part of the reason the movie is being praised and watched so much is because it is so familiar and comfortable.

    In other words, the very things that make the movie derivative and run of the mill to you, are the things that make moviegoers rave. “Finally,” they think, “a comic book movie has appropriated enough material from respectable genres to stand on its own feet alongside real movies.”

    I don’t personally feel this way, but it’s a possible explanation. I use a similar explanation to rationalize to myself why the Harry Potter books are so popular.

    As for the Eberts of the world, they seem to always have a strong bias for anything geek related that’s halfway decent. Their raving isn’t based on a patronizing view of comics, rather just the opposite.

    That is, they’ve always idolized comics and geek-related merchandise and have treated it as very serious business. They’re overjoyed with a movie that seems to treat their geek-fiction with the same reverance that they always have. “Finally,” they sigh, “someone has done justice to DC’s literary masterpiece.”

    Both groups are probably overrating the movie. Some people want to fill the world with silly macho geek gangster movies. Well what’s wrong with that? I’d like to know…. (just kidding) Seriously, no one can stop it, so we might as well let people enjoy themselves until the hype train moves along. On the plus side, it does help give comics the air of respectability that it sorta sometimes deserves in a few of its better incarnations.

  • D

    “Does the average movie goer have absolutely no familiarity with movie history?” No. Duh.

  • Annie

    This was an amazing insight, although a very dark review. Which, fits the darkness of the movie. I appreciate your thoughts and insights into my favorite movie of all time!

  • Reagan

    “A story with poorly developed characters and nothing original to anyone with a familiarity of more than five years of American culture.”

    How could you possibly think the characters of Dark Knight are poorly developed? The way that Nolan reveals secrets and pasts about his characters is pretty obvious, and lets the audience know little by little about each. The audience begins to understand, even if they don’t accept, each of the main characters. The Joker is a HUGE contradiction to your comment, whoever you are. If you have even any thought that this character is poorly developed, you should probably either see the movie again or have your brain checked. And as for originality, it doesn’t matter one bit that previous Batmans were created in movie history. Someone can do a movie over and over and over, and each time, there will be originality to it. It’s seeing it through a whole new perspective, through an entirely new set of eyes and ideas. The Dark Knight, though created from a foundation of the Batman comics, is one of the most original movies I’ve ever experienced. Nolan brought a whole new meaning, a whole new darkness and being to what Batman is. This one is nothing like Batmans of the past. Open your closed mind and see what you’re missing in between the lines.

  • Sara

    Reagan,
    Re: character development–what do we know about the Joker? What information does TDK give us about Brucy Wayne/Batman that we didn’t know before? Those would be the main two. How do these two characters develop and change through the movie? I know Batman struggles with his limits. That’s what Batman always does. He’s on the opposite continuum from Superman. What’s the character development that you see in TDK that seems to have impressed you?

  • Reagan

    Well, for starters, we get a lot more hints as to what the Joker’s past was like. I know I never saw the Joker as anything more than a silly spectacle who loved to wreak havoc in the older movies. In this version, the audience gets an insight as to why he is the way he is through his “story-telling” about his scars. His past has made him so messed up, that his sole purpose is to make others suffer, even if it means losing his life. He has no motive, except for ruining the control and plans of others simply to “send a message.” But there are parts in the movie, such as when he is standing in the road, telling Batman to hit him, that we see walls go down in him. It’s just a flicker here or there, but it’s enough to see that he’s so angry and torn up inside. He is an agent of chaos, but there’s still that hurt, emotion-filled person in there somewhere. He is not completely immune to human emotion. At least, this is what I saw.

    As for Bruce Wayne/Batman, we get the same story as in the previous Batmans, but with more detail and emotion. The story changes a little as far as Bruce’s fear of bats and his attendance at the trial of his parents’ murderer. The entire story of how he meets Raz Algul and defies the League of Shadows is original! Older Batmans may have portrayed the same idea, but nothing like the way Nolan did. This was all new to me, even though I’ve seen the old Batmans. Was I missing something when I watched them? Because I don’t remember any of that being in there the way Nolan put it in. It’s all about originality, which is what I’m saying Nolan’s Batman has. And, Batman doesn’t always struggle with his limits. In “Batman Begins,” he becomes the vigilante, figuring out what his limits are. He changes in TDK, becoming more conflicted about who he really is. Batman becomes more like him, and Bruce Wayne changes into more of a mask and facade. This does happen near the end of the first movie, as well. But there is change there, such as when Batman makes the decision to let his best friend and love die for the greater cause of Gotham, when he would do absolutely anything selfish to save her in the first movie. He changes at the end, when he decides to be the hunted, villian Gotham thinks he is; to give up his heroism for the sake of their hope. He wouldn’t have done that in the first movie. Frankly, he changes a lot of his perspective and becomes more realistic and dark in TDK. I guess I don’t understand how people can’t possibly see this. Hope that makes sense, because I don’t know how else to put it.

  • Jolly

    “How could you possibly think the characters of Dark Knight are poorly developed?”

    I don’t think it’s possible to make an action flick with as many characters as TDK has in it and engage in any meaningful character development. The Joker is an elemental force rather than a human being with some compelling back story. The rest of the characters are essentially stock characters, though in many cases well-played by established actors. The title character doesn’t get enough screen time for further development. This is fine, as far the genre goes, but for some reason people want to claim that the movie transcends the genre.

    For the record, I’m thirty seven years old, which has given me thirty-some odd years to read comics (mostly in my teens) and watch movies. TDK may well be different from other Batman movies, but that hardly makes it original. I’m not just benchmarking it against other Batman movies, but a whole range of influences. I respect your right to love the movie. Implying that I’m somehow deficient because I didn’t find it “great” is hardly a trait of an open-minded individual.

  • ashok

    I’m sorry, Sara, but I think perhaps you’re not very good at reading movies. This is not an attempt to personally flame you or something like that. Some people can do it, some people can’t. It is very overwhelmingly clear that one of the biggest Strengths of TDK is the character development. I don’t know how you could possibly think that getting any information about the Joker could have been good for the narrative. The whole point is that he is a nameless ‘agent of chaos’. We don’t NEEd information – the fact that we know very little about him makes him all that more terrifying. Are you one of those people that think every character should have spelled out origin stories? And if you meant what do we know about the Joker psychologically then you werent watching the same movie I was. Everything you need to know is right up there on the screen.

    I understand that you feel attacked but maybe this is not because you didnt like the movie but because your reasons for not liking them seem to stem from a) EXTREME preconceptions/bias b) blind spots a mile wide stemming from said biases and c) often completely baseless. Not to mention the constant air of moral superiority that creeps over this thread every time you talk about the evils of cinema violence or how the movie should be R or how its male dominated.

    How can you possibly a judge a film for what the MPAA rated it anyway? Why is the rating somehow connected to how good or bad the movie is. You should be lamenting the evils of the MPAA (and I’d join you there) and not the filmmakers. You sound like you’re somehow suggesting the filmmakers were irresponsible for making a film this dark and violent when it’s supposed to be a PG13. It’s the film that comes first and not the rating. To be suggesting that Nolan dumb down a magnificent film to pander to the little children that the MPAA sees fit to let into the theater is ludicrous. Parents can damn well do their research and figure out whether the kids should go to see the movie. Everyone knows the MPAA system is a joke and anyone that buys into that nonsense is not doing their groundwork. Any parents thinking about taking their kids to the movie should just listen to the buzz or read the million reviews that say this movie isnt for kids. You’re saying that Nolan should compromise his work because kids will be let into the theater??? Thinking like that is part of why art these days is going down the tubes. By that logic, Gerard David should never have painted The Judgment of Cambyses the way he did because ‘oh, the poor children that might go to the museum in Bruges where it resides!’. Maybe Sisamnes in the painting should have just been tickled lightly with tulips. Or maybe Shakespeare should have thought about how many children might watch the possibly PG 13 cinema adaptations of his films and refrained from having Gloucester’s eyes plucked out in King Lear. Your criticism of the filmmakers for making it a dark movie simply because an independent (and famously stupid) authority would rate it PG13 is a deeply flawed and wrongheaded one. What you’re suggesting is that filmmakers should be enslaved by the MPAA ratings system and it’s an argument that undermines the art form.

    And news flash, NOT all portrayal of violence onscreen condones the acts or become automatically gratuitous.

    MaryAnn, I apologize if this comment is a little too inflammatory but some of Sara’s views so go against the grain as to merit some response. And Sara this is not a personal attack on you stemming from your dislike of a film I loved. It is an attack on your views – something which you profess to welcome.

  • Jolly

    Amanohyo, given the camp treatment that the material has received in past movies, I think you’re probably right about Ebert and others. It’s just not that important to me that Batman get his silverscreen dues to pretend that this movie is much more than a high-budget, derivative action flick.

    FTR, Potter never made much of an impression on me either. But then I was comparing it to the work of Tolkien, Moorcock, Eddings and other that I read when I was at a more receptive age.

  • Reagan

    Hmmm…I read over your comment a few times, and I suppose I do agree with the fact that there are so many characters and not enough movie time to develop each one of them. I don’t believe, however, that NONE of the characters go through a visible development.

    As far as Dark Knight being original, it’s probably MORE original when benchmarked against other a whole other range of influences. ‘Different’ and ‘original’ mean two different things, and The Dark Knight is both. Origins of how the characters came to be and how they end up are original. The Batman technology overall is original. The way the characters are portrayed is original.Bruce Wayne/Batman’s conflict with himself is more serious, real and original. Maybe the film as a whole, in its entirety, is not an original idea, but many, many parts within it are. Thank you for respecting my right to love it, which I do. I suppose I am pretty biased when it concerns this movie, but it makes me roll my eyes when people say they won’t see it because of certain things, and won’t at least give it a chance. They don’t know what they’re missing. Me getting defensive because you didn’t think it was great, Jolly, is not because I don’t have an open mind; it’s because I saw this movie with an open mind, unsure of how it would turn out, and now there’s no going back on how I feel about it. It was amazing.

  • Accounting Ninja

    Was the “sarcastic remark” comment directed at me? Guilty as charged, I suppose. I don’t take myself too seriously. I find that doing so only makes one miserable. So, yeah, sarcasm is a part of who I am.

    Now, I really, REALLY have to go see TDK, now that I’ve got everyone’s perspectives. I’m sure it ain’t no Tim Burton.

    So, now that I’ve stated all my points, I move on. No point beating this fly-covered horse carcass.

  • Reagan

    I don’t know who directed the “sarcastic remark,” but you are in for a real treat and eye-opener when you go see TDK! Enjoy it, savor it. I almost wish I could rewind time and see it for the first time again, just for the rush of emotion and amazement.

  • Jolly

    Reagan,

    Nowhere am I saying that TDK was a bad movie. In my opinion it is the best of the Batman movies, and one of the better comic book movies (though I think I enjoyed X-Men 2 more). All I am saying is that to me, the reaction, particular of many critics, seems to be unmerited by the product. At the same time, I’m more than happy to admit that there is probably a generational gap at work here too…the only Batman comic I’ve read in the last 6-7 years is Miller’s DK2.

  • Jolly

    “I almost wish I could rewind time and see it for the first time again…”

    As a jaded old-timer, this pretty much sums it my position. I feel like I’ve seen the various parts that make up TDK elsewhere, so it simply doesn’t give me that same rush. Not that I’m incapable of feeling such rushes…I saw Serenity twice in the theatre, something I hadn’t done since Empire Strikes Back first came out. But as much as I loved Serenity, I would never describe it “original” or “a masterpiece.”

  • Jolly

    I really should get back to my day job, but…

    With Serenity, there was nothing original about the plot elements, and even some irritating deux ex machina. But somehow the combination of an ensemble of charimatic actors and some snappy (albeit at times corny) dialogue gave it a certain freshness. For me, TDK just didn’t have that same kind of freshness. While I agree with the “consensus” position that Ledger was very, very good (even “great”) as the Joker, the Batman simply didn’t measure up…

  • As a jaded old-timer, this pretty much sums it my position. I feel like I’ve seen the various parts that make up TDK elsewhere, so it simply doesn’t give me that same rush.
    –Jolly

    I’m a bit of a jaded old-timer too–not quite that old but definitely older than MaryAnn–and I actually found myself admiring Dark Knight far more than I did Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. (And this from someone who hated Batman Begins and was at best lukewarm about Tim Burton’s Batman.)

    Yes, it deserved a R rating. And yes, I would NOT advise my niece and nephew–or any person under 18–to go see it.

    And time will tell if it is the masterpiece so many people claim it to be.

    Personally, I thought it was the best movie Nolan’s done since Memento. But some might say that that’s not exactly saying a lot.

    Well, for starters, we get a lot more hints as to what the Joker’s past was like. I know I never saw the Joker as anything more than a silly spectacle who loved to wreak havoc in the older movies. In this version, the audience gets an insight as to why he is the way he is through his “story-telling” about his scars. His past has made him so messed up, that his sole purpose is to make others suffer, even if it means losing his life.
    –Reagan

    I think it was pretty obvious from the multiple explanations he gave for his scars that the Joker didn’t really have a motive for his deeds. (At least, not one he was willing to share with the public.) And for all we audience members know, there could have been many, many reasons why he turned out the way he did–reasons he himself might not know.

    Of course, even today it’s difficult to say what makes one real-life person choose to do an evil deed and another person from the same background and circumstances choose differently. I don’t believe that we’re all robots or wind-up dolls programmed to produce said actions depending on much input of element X we get from our environment.
    I’ve seen too many instances of people from impoverished circumstances who nevertheless managed to legally rise above said circumstances to believe this.

    But, alas, free will is a tricky thing.

  • Sara

    I agree with Jolly re: characterization and number of characters. Thanks Reagan, for your thoughts, though. I think TDK was more plotline based than character based. I’m not saying there was no character development; yes, there was some that I saw. But, say, in comparison to V for Vendetta (a lot of character development there with V–even with a mask on; we never even see his real face, yet the moods and feeling that were portrayed, the change of heart, etc, was great. And the movie slowed. It was nuanced, I thought, and gave time for characterization. Same with Evey, as well. I’d say the same in Ironman to, but not as much as V, but more than I saw in TDK.
    The main problem re: Batman (to me) is that both Batman and Superman (in particular) have become such staples for kids in our culture or decades… both characters are on their lunch boxes to shirts, to capes, to posters and even from four or five years old.
    It seems like most on this post would like a Batman true to the comics text and in that case, yes, very dark and the trilogy would make sense to clearly be made for adults (don’t try to get the cuts of the kids’ money)…it’s a Batman for grown-ups and that alone. All three. That would have been better, I think. I don’t think Nolan can have it both ways…true to the Batman/Dark Knight comic texts and then PG13. I understand that Nolan didn’t put the rating on it, but Nolan cut scenes certain way as to get a certain rating. Just make a movie for adults that kids wouldn’t even be interested in. Advance it that much. Most kids weren’t that interested in V (or haven’t even heard of it.)
    Why not just go for the adult viewers, go for being true to the texts and rate it accordingly. Hold back nothing. Go strongly for the adult viewers and adult viewers alone (if sticking to the text.) The cultural aspects of Batman and Superman in America make it all tricky but I really don’t think you can straddle the fence. I was looking for a copy of V for Vendetta the other day at Blockbuster (a young teenage boy was helping me find it)…he said, “you know, I really didn’t get that movie.” Yeah, it’s adult. It didn’t try to have it both ways.

  • Jade Fox

    All this talk about worrying about how it will impact kids and making R seems to forget one big flaw in the “Make it R-rated” argument: That would just make the movie even MORE appealing to kids. R-rated comic book movies are a rare breed(V for Vendetta is the last one I can think of) so there are going to be a lot of kids who will be curious to see why The Dark Knight got an R rating.

    It’s the hand in the cookie jar deal: Tell the kid they can’t have the cookie and often all that does is make the kid want the cookie even more.

    So while if Warner Bros were to slap an R rating on this movie and target it to adults, well as Mary Ann pointed out, kids will end up buying tickets to PG, PG-13 rated movies and sneak into the R-rated one. A practice that I can vouch for because my friends and I did that a lot when we were still under 17. And that will just show how Warner Bros. can only do so much and ultimately the job of determining whether something’s appropriate for kids is up to their parents.

  • D

    Sara: “Lack of respect comes from sarcasm”
    Well, this is the internet. And the 21st century. And a geek comunnity. We just take it as a natural part of an argument, not a sign of disrespect. Like Dr Horrible would say: “Wow, sarcasm. That’s soooooo original…”
    I would also like to point out “The killing joke” influence on the film. Joker:”All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That’s how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day. You had a bad day once. Am I right? You had a bad day and everything changed. Why else would you dress as a flying rat?(…) it drove tou as crazy as everyone else. Only you won’t admit it. You have to keep pretending that life makes sense, that there’s some point to all this strugling. God, you make me wanna puke. I mean, what drove you? What made you what you are? Girlfiend killed by the mob? Brother carved by a mugger? Something like that, I bet… Something like that happened to me, you know… I’m… I’m not exactly sure what it was… Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another… If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice, ha,ha,ha. But point is, I went crazy. When I saw what an awfull, black joke the world was, I went crazy as a coot. I admit it. Why can’t you?(…)It’s all a joke. Everything anyone ever valued or strugled for… it’s all a monstruous, demented gag. So why can’t you see the funny side? Why aren’t you laughing?”

  • Sara

    From interview with Nolan:

    Nolan knew that was the rating the studio was targeting throughout production and kept that in mind when crafting the film. “…Part of my creative process is knowing the tone of the film that I’m going to wind up with. So always knowing that this was going to be a PG-13 movie and that we want kids and families to go see this…”

    Nolan believes that although it does push the PG-13 boundary, The Dark Knight never really crosses the line into ‘R’ territory.

    (Fine. Nolan made a kid and family friendly movie. That’s what he thinks, that’s what he says.) MaryAnn has disagreed. Take it up with her if you take it up with me. She’s said the same thing I’ve said. Before I said it.)

  • MaryAnn

    I don’t think anyone here has suggested that this is a movie suitable for children.

  • Sara

    MaryAnn,
    PG13 means (in our culture) that it’s suitable for children. You’ve seen enough PG13 movies to know what they look like. All the arguments that parents much parent their own kids well (yes, they must do their best) and all is beside the point.
    Nolan (in an interview) said he wanted this movie to be one that families and children can go to. He thinks it is. I’m saying, what does that say?
    I understand that very few on this post have an issue with this.
    Then when I say, I don’t think that Nolan can have this movie both ways if true to the text–I think Nolan straddles this. Can’t have it both ways. Choose one, you know. Got completely in the direction of R (fine by me.) Only Nolan didn’t. That’s a valid point for discussion. (Why didn’t he? It’s as important a cultural question and goes right along with concerns in your review.) If no one wants to discuss that, then they don’t. I understand that. It seems as if you would, other than just saying, this movie isn’t suitable for children.
    And even if it’s screamed from rooftops “no one suggested that this is a movie suitable for children” well, no, that’s not the case: Nolan himself said he kept in mind the whole time that this was a movie he wanted families and kids to see.
    Thanks.

  • Jolly

    D, Sara should be horrified by the Killing Joke. As a comic book, children can/could easily acquire it (one blogger has an account of buying it as an 11-year old at: http://blog.kobek.com/2007/08/15/alan-moores-the-killing-joke/) I read it 10 years after reading Watchmen and thought it was absolute dreck. Watchmen pretty much heralded the end of superhero comics for me. With it’s combination of complex themes, multi-layered storytelling, and perhaps most importantly of all, violence with consequences, I was never ever able to find another superhero title that satisfied me. Serial comics seemed silly to me after that, and it was only with Gaiman’s Sandman series years later that I was able to pick up comics again on a regular basis.

  • Jolly

    As Jarrett Kobek (link above) says about the KJ:

    “But secondly, who cares if Batman is or isn’t crazy? This is the book’s payoff? That a genre character in an admittedly unrealistic medium is just as nuts as his arch-nemesis? Dude dresses up like a bat and is fighting an evil clown. How profound can it get?”

  • millie

    I think all this hoopla about the movie’s rating, in a way, speaks to the director’s effectiveness in creating, whitout resorting to bloody gore, a pervasive sense of dread and menace. I mean, how do you quantify that? I was scared out of my wits several times during the movie, peering at the screen through my fingers. Yet, in terms of actual graphic violence, the movie was relatively light. I’m on an X-Files binge right now (prompted by your review of the X-Files Revelations DVD, MaryAnn… I’m very grateful to you, but my wallet isn’t! ;]), and many episodes are far gorier than anything in TDK.

  • Sara

    Jolly,
    Thanks for seeing my point at least. I’ve been through my share of tons of comics with my son as he was growing up (and his friends, too)…there were times when we’d go to the comic book store and the guy selling the comics would look at the boys and say, “nope, not this one. Or, this one might be OK. I was there with them.” I read the stuff. My son has a huge collection of characters from Spiderman (various ones) to Batman (various ones) to Masters of the Universe, X-Men, etc. It’s not as if I’m stupid about this stuff. As if I’m ignorant about it. I probably know more than the average person my age.
    But, yeah, when Nolan himself (in an interview) says he had in mind all along (during the filming) that he wanted families and kids to see this movie together, something doesn’t add up to me. He makes the guy at the local comics store look like the picture of sanity. Especially in our culture as it is today. And what’s with D’s rant at me? Odd.
    Truly, I like this site; I like MaryAnn’s work and I’ve bought a shitload of her books and given to family and friends. But, this site is appearing to only hold one opinion (at least on this thread) and that if one is not in “that opinion” (and even when directly addressed) that I should just get off the site. That I would not respond when directly addressed? What is this? It’s not allowing for discussion in the midst of disagreement (and that CAN occur.)
    My husband (avid reader of comics when he was in his teens and early twenties) saw TDK and gave it a 4 out of 10. I guess he’d get chewed up on this site and that’s strange to me.
    Nolan’s interview where he says he kept in mind (during the filming) that he wanted this movie to be fine for families and kids is on the web. I don’t have the address right now, but can get it. It’s easy enough to access.
    And yes, I’m fully aware (again, not stupid) that kids can get into about any movie they want. They can see about any DVD they want. I don’t need to be preached to about that (and then told that I’m preaching anything)–I am an aware adult and parent. Geez.
    What adults in our culture say, what adults model (if healthy) is taken into account by kids/ by teenagers whether the parents (or even kids) realize it or not. It’s powerful…from even an unconscious point of view. But that seems to be getting missed here.
    Thanks.

  • Jolly

    The internet has created an easy means for readers to respond to critics. You see it elsewhere on this site. Mary Ann gives an Apatow movie an unfavorable review and is subjected to personal abuse for it. (BTW, Mary Ann, I totally agreed with your review of “Knocked Up.” It’s how a found this site in the first place.) I can’t help but thinking that this behaviour is mostly from younger people, who seem incapable of seperating their identities from their tastes, and take any expression of dislike of something they like as a personal attack. At least I certainly hope that’s the case.

  • Sara

    Again, I think Jolly is on target. I agree, too, with MaryAnn’s review of the Apatow movie above. Although, I do have some sympathy (seriously) for younger people as I think they have a more difficult time than perhaps earlier generations have had (in terms of the identity issues that Jolly points to)–I think perhaps (perhaps) the issue I’ve raised, “Where are the adults?” has impacted them more than we realize, for the adults in their lives have often been absent or not engaged with the kids.

    See below for Nolan’s stated view–he made TDK with the thought in mind that families would enjoy the movie together–families and “kids.” MaryAnn, please do take note of that as you’ve said that no one on this post thinks kids should see this. When Nolan states what he states below, I think it deserves real discussion and not brushing it off. Your review of TDK was good, I thought. You mentioned cultural/political issues (and have in this thread)…what hasn’t been dealt with is Nolan’s own agenda and intentions which are clear when you read his interviews. I included part of one below and the link. I think “culturally” that yes, that attitude is bothersome (just as much as our political climate) and no, not fair to families, but the opposite. Thanks (and please check out below)

    From interview with Nolan–I start at the point that is applicable… (link included below):

    Nolan knew that was the rating the studio was targeting throughout production and kept that in mind when crafting the film. “…Part of my creative process is knowing the tone of the film that I’m going to wind up with. So always knowing that this was going to be a PG-13 movie and that we want kids and families to go see this, you think along those lines and you don’t really tend to come up with stuff that’s completely beyond the pale.”
    Nolan believes that although it does push the PG-13 boundary, The Dark Knight never really crosses the line into ‘R’ territory. “If you assess the film carefully and analyze it with other films, it’s not a particularly violent film actually. There is no blood. Very few people get shot and killed, compared with other action films,” said Nolan…
    (Nolan further states:) “I think the MPAA were very responsible in their assessment of the movie. I made it very clear to them that I’d gone into this knowing that it had to be a PG-13 and every day on set when we were dealing with violent issues I would be careful to tone things down…”

    http://movies.about.com/od/thedarkknight/a/darkknight70408.htm

    (I add…not sure why is HAD to be PG13–from Nolan’s point of view.)

  • MaryAnn

    As Jarrett Kobek (link above) says about the KJ:

    “But secondly, who cares if Batman is or isn’t crazy? This is the book’s payoff? That a genre character in an admittedly unrealistic medium is just as nuts as his arch-nemesis? Dude dresses up like a bat and is fighting an evil clown. How profound can it get?”

    I don’t understand this attitude, that something cannot be profound if it’s — to reduce Batman to his most simplistic — about a guy dressed up like a bat and fighting an evil clown. *Of course* is can be profound, depending on how it’s handled. Batman is all about how insane our world has gotten, that even the good guys seem insane. How is this not profound?

    I think all this hoopla about the movie’s rating, in a way, speaks to the director’s effectiveness in creating, whitout resorting to bloody gore, a pervasive sense of dread and menace.

    So, ratings are all about gore? I disagree. A movie does not have to be gory to be very disturbing and inappropriate for small children. Perhaps PG-13 is the right rating for this… in that it is inappropriate for preadolescents. Why some parents seem to take a PG-13 rating as an excuse to bring small children to films — although they do that with R-rated movies too — is a huge mystery to me, who is childless but has children in my life that I care deeply about.

    I have enormous problems with our current ratings system, but it appears that parents don’t even heed it as it stands now. I don’t see how that is the responsibility, though, of either the MPAA or Hollywood.

  • Sara

    MaryAnn,
    But what about Nolan’s own admission that he had in mind (as he made TDK) that he wanted it to be a movie for families and “kids.” Do you not find that odd, in and of itself? Having seen the movie? It’s not a movie for family and kids…as you’ve said, with all the disagreement and agreements on this thread, no one has said suggested that TDK is for “families and kids.” I find that really odd and maybe pointing to other agendas. Would you please address his comments (in interviews–nothing he tried to hide.) And also, that the studio wanted PG13…that they were saying that…not the MPAA.
    Thanks.
    Sara

  • Jolly

    Mary Ann, this is what Moore himself had to say about the Killing Joke:

    “But at the end of the day, Watchmen was something to do with power, V for Vendetta was about fascism and anarchy, The Killing Joke was just about Batman and the Joker – and Batman and the Joker are not really symbols of anything that are real, in the real world, they’re just two comic book characters. ”

    http://www.blather.net/articles/amoore/brought-to-light1.html

    I’m not arguing about the profundity of the message. However, I don’t feel that either the KJ or TDK are exceptional in their power to convey that message.

  • MaryAnn

    what about Nolan’s own admission that he had in mind (as he made TDK) that he wanted it to be a movie for families and “kids.” Do you not find that odd, in and of itself? Having seen the movie? It’s not a movie for family and kids…as you’ve said, with all the disagreement and agreements on this thread, no one has said suggested that TDK is for “families and kids.”

    I said that none of the commenters HERE have suggested that DK is for kids. Those commenters you were addressing when you wrote, “Take it up with her if you take it up with me.”

    Sara, it’s not your opinions that are riling other commenters up: it’s your attitude. I’ve given you enough warnings. Play nice or don’t play at all.

    As for Nolan: What artists think their work says, and what it actually says to an audience, are not always the same thing. I think Nolan is wrong, and I think the marketing of this film to children is wrong — AS I’VE MENTIONED BEFORE.

    That does not change the power of the movie itself.

  • MaryAnn

    The Killing Joke was just about Batman and the Joker – and Batman and the Joker are not really symbols of anything that are real, in the real world, they’re just two comic book characters. ”

    As I said in the post above, what artists think their work says and what it actually says are two different things.

  • Jolly

    “Batman is all about how insane our world has gotten, that even the good guys seem insane. How is this not profound?”

    The whole Batman story, from Dectective Comics on, is about the world being so crazy that the good guys seem crazy? I don’t think so. Even with TDK, you basically have to be a disciple of the Joker before you come away with that message…

  • Sara

    MaryAnn,
    Well, I apologize for any attitude I have on this post that you see as inappropriate. It was not intentional. I don’t see that I haven’t “played nice.” When there is disagreement, it seems that discussion over the disagreement is healthy. I apologize though for any impropriety that you’ve been bothered by.
    I was on this thread before the movie came out and wasn’t sure I wanted to see the movie at all. I got a lot of grief from everyone really about even writing on the post (although others have) without seeing the movie…this was at the beginning. I was most concerned with seeing Ledger and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go through that (in light of his death as I admired him as an actor.)
    So, as a result of this thread and discussions, I went to the movie. Interestingly, seeing Ledger didn’t bother me as I thought it would (his character actually became woefully tiresome to me); it was other things that I found disturbing or problematic. As other posters have commented here, too.
    I have certainly not tried to have an “attitude”…I have tried to voice my opinions and when I have been put down rudely, I would, of course, defend my reasoning. As anyone would.
    I only found the Nolan interview last night and I do think it is important–it points (to me) perhaps about economics over artistry. That money is more important than the health of this country which goes hand in glove with political concerns at this point (re: power and money.) I have been told that the studio doesn’t make the rules (by other posters)–that it’s all the MPAA’s rules and then here Nolan says he knew all along that the studio was holding him to PG13 and he worked with that because he wanted families and kids to see this movie. Perhaps a clue to all the jerkiness from scene to scene (that bothered me and some others too.)
    Again, I apologize for any impropriety.
    Sara

  • Sara

    Jolly,
    I agree…I don’t think the that Batman is about how insane the world has gotten…that even the good guys seem insane.
    Batman seems more about how an individual handles his/her own aggression in the face of trauma (which has always existed)…Batman aquires skills to come back and fight Joe Chill only Joe Chill has been killed. So Batman goes after the criminal element (I see this as his own hostile aggression but used in the service of good–usually)…I don’t know that Batman particularly cares about who he helps (I’m thinking comics now which TDK drew heavily from)–if in getting the bad guys he helps people, fine by him. I see Batman (and always have…years and years ago…decades ago) as a superhero on the opposite continuum as say, Superman. So much so that Batman carries Kryptonite in his utility belt. He knows all the character’s weaknesses (and I understand his paranoia based on the fact that he has no “real” superpowers as most all the others do)…still, the hostile aggression is pronounced in his character and always has been. Not just in TDK. In the stories/texts he comes from.

  • Jolly

    I don’t know if Mary Ann was referring to the comics in general, or TDK in particular (or even KJ for that matter), but I don’t personally see it. The Joker may have a particular world view, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the theme of the movie, and despite all the movie’s contrivances and Ledger’s performance, it doesn’t make it a compelling one either. From my perspective, the Killing Joke was a gratituous portrayal of sadism. To claim there is a powerful and profound message in such a work is equivalent to saying the Death Wish movies were important social commentary.

  • Jolly

    Sara,

    Batman has over sixty years of history, with dozens of authors producing over a thousand stories. I don’t think I’d make any definitive claim about what the character represents…cleary that varies both by author, and, as Mary Ann has indicated, by reader. Frank Miller, in DK2, has Batman say something that is almost verbatim what Mary Ann indicated was what she preceived as the theme of Batman. I don’t have a copy at hand, or I would quote it.

  • Jolly

    Come to think of it, Batman says something about having to be a criminal, not having to be crazy…

  • Jolly

    “Of course we’re criminals — we’ve always been criminals. We have to be criminals.” -Batman from DK2

    Which seems a lot closer to any theme that I saw in TDK.

  • Sara

    Jolly,
    I was referring to two sources about the Batman. The beginning jail scene from Batman Begins:
    DUCARD: Are you so
    desperate to fight criminals that you lock yourself in to take them on one at a time?

    B.W.: Actually, there were seven of them.

    Ducard: I counted six, Mr. Wayne.

    B.W.: How do you know my name?

    Ducard: The world is too small for someone
    like Bruce Wayne to disappear no matter how deep
    he chooses to sink.

    Also I was referring to a book by Rosenberg, The Psychology of Superheroes (a really interesting book, in-depth, with citations from various sources in the comics themselves. Not a long book. I’d recommend it; it’s on Amazon.) But, whatever, if in DK2 Batman says “Of course, we’re criminals, we’ve always been criminals. We have to be criminals,” I’d stick to what I wrote earlier about Batman on the aggression continuum away from Superman (just in general.) In that sense, Batman is closer to the Joker, actually, in a psychological way–Batman just doesn’t have the motivation to hurt or punish innocent people as the Joker does. Batman’s motivation seems based on hurting or punishing criminals because of what happened to his parents and that origin story (as far as I know) stays true in almost all the adaptations. So, yeah, Batman pushes the limits to get the criminals. I don’t see him as driven psychologically by altruistic motives (as say, Superman is or Wonder Woman.) I think, really (this is strictly my opinion) that the killing of Rachel (childhood friend) would have driven him to kill the Joker (making him much more like The Punisher…)
    I think what MaryAnn meant (and MaryAnn please correct me if I am incorrect) referred to re: political climate now is the rule by fear, the chaos, the incompetence, the ignoring the law (torture, detention centers, etc.), “shredding the Constitution,” (as she said.) I can see how she makes that comparison to this particular film at this particular time in our history. The same could certainly be said for V for Vendetta which refers to the Iraq War, detention centers, etc., consequences.

  • Sara

    Clarification: V for Vendetta (in the above post) is referencing the movie, not the book (in terms of timeframe.)

  • Jolly

    Sara,

    I agree that the origins story has remained intact. The Batman of my childhood (1970s) was essentially a morality play with the simple message that crime was punished. I wonder if there is any implication of institutional failure in the original comics. The 1970s vigilante flicks were largely built around the conceit that the “liberal” courts were incapable of dealing with crime, which meant that private citizens had to take matters into their own hands. Batman Begins flips this around, instead implying that the system is so corrupt that justice can only be administered by vigilantes. TDK contiues in this vein, but by focusing on the spectacle of the Joker, it never explores why Gotham City has been reduced to this state. The Joker’s monologues don’t provide any deep insights either. For me, the movie, allegory or not, has no meaningful insights. It doesn’t really explain how we got here, or how we might get away. And Mary Ann’s lament doesn’t strike me as being in anyway profound. Nolan makes a pretty action picture. Writers like Graham Greene, Joseph Conrad, and George Orwell actually have something to say about the human condition.

  • Jolly

    Sara,

    I’m not a fan of V, in either form. Moore wrote V as a reaction to Thatcherite England before he was mature enough as a writer to do good political allegory, and the Wachowski brothers didn’t improve. I lump V and TDK in with movies like Crash, which basically states that Racism is Bad, and that We’re All Racists, but doesn’t provide any kind of analysis into the pathology of racism. A good social commentary is more than just a public service announcement with the slogan of the day.

  • Jolly

    Mary Ann,

    I think what you’re describing is a mood rather than a theme or message. And when I left the theatre to a warm summer night, that wasn’t the mood I was feeling.

  • Jolly

    Though I suppose a theme can be a message…?

  • Jolly

    Sorry…a theme can be a mood…?

  • Sara

    TDK contiues in this vein, but
    by focusing on the spectacle of the Joker, it never explores why Gotham City has
    been reduced to this state. The Joker’s monologues don’t provide any deep
    insights either.
    ———–
    Jolly,
    I agree with this. What is going on in Gotham City? Why all the incompetence when it appears they are aware of the problem? Why can’t they get it together? How are all those drums of oil/gasoline put into the hospital? Did no staff see them? Hospitals are open all hours. No one saw all those huge drums being brought in? Let us see how that happened maybe? Why would Gotham City authorities have all the people out in the streets when the Joker threat looms (so Gordon’s death can be faked in front of everyone?)
    I also agree about the Joker’s monologues. I got tired of them. It got painful to me. As well as the punching of the Joker in the interrogation by Batman with not one bruise and the Joker kept talking. Some will say, it’s just a movie, don’t take it so seriously. But, the fact is, this movie (by the fans) is being taken very seriously, it seems.
    I didn’t see Batman as potent in this movie. Others did, I know. I don’t know how true to DK2 the film is, but Batman seems to be at a loss, not really struggle all that much internally. It doesn’t really seem to be his movie. He’s lost control of his own movie (my thoughts) and that feeling drifts off his being, his acting.
    Interesting that you brought up the movie, Crash. I felt like I was in that type of movie when I watched TDK (but not V.) Bam, bam, bam for however long.
    I think what caught me about V had to do, not with the slogans (I agree with you on that and I think MaryAnn does too–check out her review on V from a while back) but with the story, with the way that a man in a fixed mask could convey such nuance. The characterization to me was far greater. Perhaps that’s what I’m reacting to.
    Re: possible institutional failure in the original comics. I don’t know but I don’t think it’s to the degree you describe from the ’70s (what you watched.) It seems more individualistic…stories about these people who are somehow different, have gifts or traumas (that they use somehow to mature–the stronger ones or less traumatized ones.) It’s more the hero’s tale to me (at least a version of it.) The individual, not societal. (I realize they overlap.)
    I probably didn’t care for TDK for several reasons–but the strongest perhaps being that it was straight action movie. I prefer a story with action (and V, for example, if you push aside the slogans) did at least take the time for that. TDK wore me out and gave me no story of interest. Interesting, too, that I was thinking about the books you describe above today. Just read some of Margaret Atwood’s newest short stories. Excellent.

  • MaryAnn

    Batman says something about having to be a criminal, not having to be crazy…

    Are you suggesting that Bruce Wayne is not half psychotic himself?

    What is going on in Gotham City? Why all the incompetence when it appears they are aware of the problem? Why can’t they get it together?

    Might as well say the same thing about the U.S.A. today.

  • Jolly

    “Are you suggesting that Bruce Wayne is not half psychotic himself?”

    No, I meant that Batman himself makes the comment about having to be criminal. I’m sure Batsy is a little crazy.

    “Might as well say the same thing about the U.S.A. today.”

    Yes! Exactly! I’d like a movie that tries to explain why the U.S.A. is in the state it is! I just don’t think TDK fills that bill.

  • Jolly

    Sara,

    I agree…Batman wasn’t potent. He ends up being portrayed as a reluctant hero, like Spider-man, rather than as the obsessive crusader I recall from the comics, driven by the trauma of witnessing his parents’ murder.

    I’ll see if I can round up a copy of Rosenberg…it sounds interesting.

  • Sara

    Jolly,
    It’s interesting the Batman seems to be seen by many as the obsessive, the struggling with himself conflicted crusader. I didn’t see that very much either. He did say to Alfred, how do I stand this or something like that and Alfred said, you endure and then during the interrogation, Batman beats the hell out of the Joker.
    I didn’t see Batman exactly as the reluctant hero (althought I know what you’re getting at–and yes, he was at a loss–more defeated-like) but not as you mention Spiderman (at least to me)–it’s something else, though. But, yes, not potent, ineffectual (to me.)
    The Robin Rosenberg book is not expensive, is on Amazon (plus you can get used copies there) and I think you’d find it intriquing. Make sure you get the one by the right editor because there are several with the same title. There are chapters on various superheroes and yes, the movies, the specific comic books, writers as they go through the years (and reconfigure the characters) are referenced. I’d be interested in what you think. If you read it, leave a note at this site for me re: your thoughts if you would.

  • Paul

    As far as how Gotham became as messy as it was in the movie, I thought “Batman Begins” covered that in sufficient detail. I saw no reason to recap the corruption in the city.

  • MaryAnn

    I’d like a movie that tries to explain why the U.S.A. is in the state it is! I just don’t think TDK fills that bill.

    But this movie isn’t *trying* to explain why the U.S.A. is in the state it is. It’s just *about* the mess as it stands.

  • Jolly

    Mary Ann,

    I don’t see why you think setting a Batman movie in a world with some superficial parallels to our own makes for a great movie. A show like The Wire is also about the mess the U.S.A. is in, but it actually attempts to analyze the interactions between people and institutions that created that mess, rather than just using it as a backdrop for non-stop action. TDK aludes to some issues, but it never manages to become anything other than a average big budget action movie. The movie may have inspired you…it never managed to do more than entertain me.

  • MaryAnn

    I don’t see why you think setting a Batman movie in a world with some superficial parallels to our own makes for a great movie.

    If that was all TDK had going for it, I agree that would not make for a great movie. But I’ve never suggested anything of the kind.

  • Jolly

    Hi, Mary Ann,

    I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree about the relative merits of the movie. I look forward to reading your reviews in the future.

    Regards,

    Jolly

  • John Cornell

    Hi Sara,

    FYI, I was not suggesting to have some of the more disturbing panels/storylines (taken from various Batman comics and graphic novels) appear in a PG-13 movie. It was simply my intent to give you a better understanding of the DC characters in question, as sparked by your views on how Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight supposedly “turned” them into something altogether different from what they were prior to his involvement; to reiterate, not true. Now, had the producers of this film depicted a scene loosely based on a fictional event so revolting as the circumstances which lead to Barbara Gordon’s paralysis in the aforementioned graphic novel The Killing Joke, I am more than confident that TDK would have earned itself an R rating.

    And I do not contest your point on the power of the imagination, particularly with regard to young children, however, it should be noted that much of the film’s overly violent content is handled with at least a mild degree of caution. Likewise, when a gang leader is brutally assaulted during an early action sequence involving The Joker, there isn’t a shriek of anguish heard or a even the slightest hint of blood shown on-screen. And that truly does make a difference on how the mind perceives what is going on. From my perspective, what greatly disturbs audiences is when they are invited to share in the suffering of an imperiled character. Not long ago, an elderly woman went to see a showing of Mel Gibson’s Passion of The Christ at her local theatre and subsequently suffered a fatal heart attack in response to the all-important crucifixion scene. Obviously, there have been numerous depictions of the act on film, but it is only in Passion that viewers are able to witness in gruesome detail just a fraction of what Jesus’ real life ordeal could have possibly been like.

    It has been my experience that PG-13 (and even some PG) rated films often tend to tip toe around adult subject matter. The Dark Knight is no exception. As you pointed out though, kids will always find themselves a way to go see a Batman movie, as the character isn’t suited just for adults. And therein lies the problem. It’s not so much about the MPAA, but the fact that Batman is uniquely interpreted by varying age groups. Why is that? Although he is both a physical and mental prodigy of the highest possible level, Bruce Wayne does not have any superhuman abilities; he’s only a man. Perhaps for this reason alone, his motives are unfairly, but understandably scrutinized. Think about it for a minute. Superman isn’t a cop, he doesn’t wear a badge, he isn’t government sanctioned, but it is Batman who is commonly branded the outlaw. Then you have Spiderman who wears this ridiculous costume and [his appearance is] viewed acceptable by most, as it just so happens that he was bitten by a spider. Wayne puts on an equally questionable getup and folks call him nuts! I’m not going to go into every way the character has been altered and marketed in one direction or another (be it dark or campy) since 1939, but it’s obvious that Batman means different things to different people. There really is no simple solution here. Were studios to release an R rated Batman film that is clearly for adults only, kids would flock to it even more. Remember, children are especially intrigued by that which is forbidden.

    And believe me, as much as I love Nolan’s The Dark Knight, I do get what you’re trying to convey here to some extent. Still, I will admit when you posed the question, “Did people on this post truly find the depth of characterization in TDK as great as that of Ironman?”.. I vomited in my mouth a little. =) Not that I dislike Iron Man, but to me, Favreau’s offering had little heart or substance behind it.

    Be well.

  • Sara

    John,
    I didn’t think you were suggesting that Nolan took any of the characters and turned them into something different than the comic texts. I think the dynamics of the “true to the text stuff”, alongside how Batman and Superman (in particular) have been portrayed in America on TV and in the movies, makes the enterprise of anything really dark very difficult. Kinda dark, OK. Really dark becomes somewhat problematic from the viewpoint of kids who our culture has really given Batman and Superman to. Or rather those two heroes have typically been clearly (except in the comics) for everyone.

    I mentioned a book to Jolly (that I recently read)…The Psychology of Superheroes (by Robin Rosenberg) that I’d recommend. Great referencing and the book is not long. I’m trying to remember the title of the chapter on Batman (my son has the book right now and lives in another city)… well, just got it…”An Appetite for Destruction: Aggression and the Batman.” References much from the original texts (various ones), etc., and the chapter is compelling.

    Really, the superhero comics were written for adults anyway (as I understand it)….much as fairy tales were written for adults and religious stories, written for adults. When they get appropriated for “kids” (as has happened with Superman and Batman– same has happened with Cinderella–really Ashputtle, The Little Mermaid, etc.) I think presenting them to only adults (or slanting the story strongly that way) becomes difficult. It can be done, though.

    Re: kids being intriqued by what’s forbidden, I think that’ just how it often goes.Or even if it’s not, for kids to know that adults have stepped up and put parameters on certain things (or that our society has, too)–that this holds a power that often goes unrealized for kids. I can look back at my middle, high school, college years, and be glad my parents set certain parameters…I usually respected them. Not always, but I sensed they had my best interests at heart. They were the adults and while I might have fought that at times, they had my attention and respect.
    Thanks for your response.

  • John Cornell

    “I didn’t think you were suggesting that Nolan took any of the characters and turned them into something different than the comic texts.”

    Sara,

    I never implied that you thought so. In fact, my initial post came about as a response to your comment suggesting Nolan had changed things, in asking, “Where is the outcry over the rating and the turning of Batman into something that it hasn’t been before?” I basically have been trying to explain to you that such isn’t the case, while addressing other points.

  • Sara

    J,
    Okay, gotcha. I see what you meant. Nolan did change things in terms of ramping up Batman toward the Batman comics/graphic novels (I think)…in terms of how Batman had been presented for years and years on TV and in movies. Seems that Batman on TV and in cinema has always been for families and kids–just how they marketed and made it; didn’t get into all the dark material that’s in the comics.

    So, I think a lot of people (especially people with kids) were expecting similar stuff with TDK (or at least around the level of Batman Begins) when TDK appeared with a PG13 rating. I did, actually. As has been noted on this thread, most have said they thought TDK deserved an R rating(a movie can be highly disturbing psychologically without showing gore. Think Hitchcock, etc.) My point was that in this country, Superman and Batman have been given over to the kids for the most part (except for the comics which some dealers won’t even sell to kids unless they are certain ages. They’re actually really strict about the comics around here)

    Just makes it tricky to do anything with Superman or Batman that is (as Nolan wrote) “beyond the pale.” Nolan (in an interview) said during the making of TDK he wanted to make sure families and kids could see the movie. He knew going into it that the studio itself wanted a PG13 rating. I didn’t see the movie as family or kid-friendly but I don’t think too many others think so either.

  • John Cornell

    “Seems that Batman on TV and in cinema has always been for families and kids–just how they marketed and made it; didn’t get into all the dark material that’s in the comics.”

    Not necessarily, Sara. Remember Tim Burton’s Batman way back in 1989? You should know that much of Burton’s film was inspired by Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Incidentally, it was this very graphic novel that helped restore Batman to his darker roots. And in Burton’s hands, the troubled Bruce Wayne was certainly no boyscout, as I’m sure you might recall. Rule #1: Batman does not intentionally kill. Like his father, he believes all life is sacred and that noone has the right to judge who lives and who dies. Burton ignored this all too important fact, as he did the symbolism behind the totem, which is so much more than ridiculous fetish. Then came the morbid sequel Batman Returns that was marketed to children (in a way The Dark Knight never was) and parents were outraged. So WB hired a fellow by the name of Joel Schumacher in an effort to remodel the character into something more campy and accessible to children and families. The infamous director put nipples on the batsuit and the rest is history. The franchise was nearly destroyed. As far as the fans (both kids and adults) are concerned, Schumacher’s Batman and Robin will always be remembered as one of the worst films ever released in modern cinema. Fortunately, a British director by the name of Christopher Nolan had a couple of fresh ideas on how to “bring a little dignity back to The Dark Knight.”

    And you’re right. Nolan’s sequel isn’t suited for very young children, but the comics and darker graphic novels which inspired much of its content are often read by teens (13 & up), as much as they are by adults; trust me! And those are the same kids who have already seen this movie and will continue to watch it over and over again. The little ones don’t really have a whole lot of interest in TDK. And yet, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen irresponsible parents drag their six year olds and toddlers to films like this for reasons I personally can’t fathom.

    Like you stated above, it definitely is “tricky to do anything” with Batman that is “beyond the pale”. Forget Superman though. That one’s camp for life.

    One more thing. For me, it’s not just an absence of gore in TDK that takes away from the psychological impact associated with the more violent scenes, but the agonizing screams that usually go along with these types of sequences. The first time I saw Knight I didn’t even know that Lau was on top of the pile of burning cash lit up by The Joker. You hardly even saw or HEARD A PEEP out of the guy and this a man who is being burned alive. Food for thought.

  • One more thing. For me, it’s not just an absence of gore in TDK that takes away from the psychological impact associated with the more violent scenes, but the agonizing screams that usually go along with these types of sequences. The first time I saw Knight I didn’t even know that Lau was on top of the pile of burning cash lit up by The Joker. You hardly even saw or HEARD A PEEP out of the guy and this a man who is being burned alive. Food for thought.

    –John Cornell

    As one who has known relatives and acquaintances who have died from violence, one would think that the tendency for filmmakers to sanitize the violence in their movies–and pretend it doesn’t really hurt anybody–would be worrisome than the reverse.

    But then I still find it interesting that Sara has no problem with V for Vendetta whose protagonist kills cops and blows up buildings yet has a problem with The Dark Knight, a movie in which the antagonist kills cops and blows up buildings.

    Curiouser and curiouser…

  • I meant, more worrisome, of course.

  • Jolly

    Tonio,

    I think Sara’s point is that the Batman “brand” has become increasingly murky, given the multitude of products, some which are aimed at children, some which are not. If your only exposure to the characters had been the cartoons over the last 20 years, or perhaps even Batman Begins, I’m not sure you would necessarily be prepared for TDK. Or that the PG-13 rating would give you an adequate idea of how far the movie would deviate from the products I’ve mentioned.

    Batman, in some form or another, is marketed to children. V for Vendetta was not.

  • Sara

    Jolly,
    100% my thoughts. Tonio, Jolly’s got my point exactly. Batman has always been marketed to kids and young teenagers (not talking about the comics–as I’ve said the comics store guys will NOT sell certain issues. I’ve been there with my son and friends. They simply will not sell them and the boys would not want the forbidden fruit…they would realize that for some reason, those comics weren’t appropriate and they’d chose something else.
    Little kids (age 4 and 5 mostly) sleep in Batman PJs. They where the capes to nursery school. So when they’re 10 years old, they’re going to want to see Batman movies. They do not care about V. They don’t know who V is and haven’t had the exposure. V is R, V isn’t in their universe. That was my point.
    And, oddly, Nolan, himself, said he wanted TDK to be something that families and “kids” (and this doesn’t have to mean 5 year olds–I don’t think Nolan meant that)…I think he meant 9, 10, 11 and up could see TDK with their families. Family night. Which it has been.
    Thanks.

  • Sara

    As one who has known relatives and acquaintances who have died from violence, one would think that the tendency for filmmakers to sanitize the violence in their movies–and pretend it doesn’t really hurt anybody–would be worrisome than the reverse.
    —————–
    I’m in complete agreement with Tonio’s comment above.

    Also, I’d add, if I ask my 11 year old nephew “who is “V”…as in the movie “V for Vendetta”? he would say “what are you talking about? I don’t know.” (And he doesn’t care.) But he and his dad are in the outs over TDK…they were looking forward to seeing it together (after seeing Batman Begins) and my brother (as a responsible father) is saying “no”…and my nephew is arguing with him…why not? “It’s PG13 and I’d be with you–it’s ‘the same’ as Batman Begins.” And, hell, my brother is a psychiatrist. He knows more about child development, etc., than the average parent in America so there is no way that my brother will budge on this, as he shouldn’t.

  • John Cornell

    Tonio says, “As one who has known relatives and acquaintances who have died from violence, one would think that the tendency for filmmakers to sanitize the violence in their movies–and pretend it doesn’t really hurt anybody–would be worrisome than the reverse.”

    The studios aren’t pretending it doesn’t hurt anyone. They’re just keeping it clean for younger and possibly more sensitive viewers by not going too deep into every gruesome detail.

    Persons of average and above average intelligence don’t believe they are impervious to pain.
    Furthermore, everyone doesn’t live in movieland and it’s the last place anyone should learn all their life lessons.

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    I’m not sure what part of the country you’re from, but to my knowledge, most kids (11 and up) are able to purchase just about any Batman comic their little hearts desire. With that stated, there definitely are certain restricted comics out there, but not so much Batman. You’ve got me to thinking though. I wonder if retailers would go so far as to sell Batman graphic novels that really push the limits of good taste to minors? Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum: Serious House on Serious Earth is one GN that comes to mind. You don’t get more disturbing than that tale.

  • Sara

    John,
    Large southern city. The restricted comics were always from comic book stores as I recall. I have no idea what Barnes and Noble, etc. carries now. I also think that at the particular two stores (comics, baseball cards,etc.) we went to, the guys who sold the comics were careful what they sold to the boys who came in. Just out of psychological respect for the boys.

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    Yeah, but not the mainstream stuff (e.g., Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, etc.) right?

    I believe Marvel comics actually has a separate line specifically geared toward adults called Max or something to that effect.

    On a side note, I thought it was interesting that you previously brought up the Green Lantern issue where the central character’s then girlfriend was decapitated and subsequently stuffed into a refrigerator. Did you know that author Gail Simone actually dubbed the term, “Women in Refrigerators”, as a reference to any and all female comic book characters abused in one way or another, which is apparently fairly common in this medium? Don’t want to go into the subject too much on here, but you might want to check out this link.

    http://www.unheardtaunts.com/wir/

  • MaryAnn

    Persons of average and above average intelligence don’t believe they are impervious to pain.
    Furthermore, everyone doesn’t live in movieland and it’s the last place anyone should learn all their life lessons.

    All that is true… for adults and older adolescents. Not for children.

    I don’t think that just because Batman has been marketed to children in the past, that means we cannot have a Batman for grownups only. It does mean that we need a stronger, more workable ratings system and also, and even more importantly, we need for parents to parent. Regardless of what ANYONE ELSE thinks of a film — even if it’s the creator of the film — parents need to make their own decisions about what their children should or should not see. If that means that parents see a film first in order to decide whether their children should see it, then that’s the way it has to be.

    Nothing else we can do as a society, whether it’s a better ratings system or V-chips or IDing people coming into a theater or anything else, can ever substitute for responsible and informed parenting. And that’s even MORE important when we know how manipulative marketing can be. The way to push back against this crap — the marketing, I mean, not the movies — is to be informed consumers.

  • Jolly

    Nothing else we can do as a society, whether it’s a better ratings system or V-chips or IDing people coming into a theater or anything else, can ever substitute for responsible and informed parenting. And that’s even MORE important when we know how manipulative marketing can be. The way to push back against this crap — the marketing, I mean, not the movies — is to be informed consumers.

    I agree with the general sentiment that you are expressing, but I’m not sure how far the “informed consumer” argument can be pushed. It implies a high degree of sophistication on the part of the consumer, and assumes that we have time in our busy lives to accumulate and process all kinds of information. There’s a long running argument that brands are supposed to help us with that task by providing useful information. The problem with the Batman brand is that it’s been differentiated and marketed to different demographic markets. It would be curious to see the public reaction were JK Rowling to launch an “adult” series of books using the Harry Potter characters.

    Legislative interventions have been used to protect the interests of children (banning gum packaged as cigarettes comes to mind). For a long time, mass distribution of comic books required meeting the Comics Code Association requirements, and adult theme comics were limited to magazine format (Warren Publishing and Heavy Metal). Innovations (direct shipping/graphic novels) effectively undermined the existing regulatory environment, but it’s not clear that some intervention isn’t merited.

  • John Cornell

    MaryAnn,

    It’s unlikely that we’ll ever get a Batman film geared solely for adults. Here’s why.

    1) Greed. Film studios and big name comic book publishers will always want a piece of the kiddie market. They won’t give that up for anything or anyone!

    2) Interpretation. Like I keep trying to tell Sara, Batman isn’t quite like other mainstream comic book heroes (e.g., Superman or Spider-Man). In truth, he isn’t terribly unlike one of those words you aren’t supposed to say at the workplace that can take on more than one meaning.
    When it comes to Batman, some adults will always think of the classic Adam West series, which was ironically a parody of the character in many respects. And those same types will drag along their little tykes to see a PG-13 or even R rated film, defying the logic staring them right in the face.

    3) Teens (ages 13 and up) still make up a large percentage of Batman’s fanbase. They read the comics and graphic novels, just as much the adult “fanboys/fangirls” do. Excluding them is simply not an option.

    Now, you do realize that integral parts of the character designed especially for kids remain a distinctive part of the more adult oriented storylines right? Batman wears a crazy costume not because he’s a nut – he’s a comic book character!! It’s very interesting how people (myself included) humanize Bruce Wayne and bring him down to our level, simply because he doesn’t have any supernatural abilities. After all, it’s okay for Spidey to dress up like a freak and take the law into his own hands right? Noone questions the sanity of this character. Why is that? Because he was bitten by a spider? How does that make him less accountable for what he does? The answer is simple. We don’t care because we can’t relate to a guy that can cling to walls and shoot web fluid from his wrists. Sometimes people forget that Batman isn’t real, oddly enough. That’s what makes Batman so complicated. Many of the things adults love about him are the qualities which were initially meant to appeal to children (his outfit, his code of preserving all life, his silly adversaries and sidekicks), and the flipside to that is the attraction felt by teens to the darker side of the character. So it’s hard to say who should and shouldn’t be allowed to partake in all the “fun”, ya know? Both kids and adults own a piece of The Batman in their own way.

    With that stated, I honestly don’t think you can push it further than Dark Knight. At least, not yet. An R rating will not keep away the uninformed parents or the irresponsible ones who let their babies roam the streets at 2 in the morning. It won’t stop the technologically savvy, willful and defiant teens who just won’t understand why they aren’t allowed to see a film about frickin’ Batman, while their little brother is watching a cartoon based on the same character in the next room! If an R rated Batman film eventually does get made, we’re potentially looking at scenes of a very graphic nature including excessive bloodshed and sexual content (possibly rape). Even the people on this blog who think TDK deserves such a rating (even though it doesn’t) have to admit that slapping an R rating on Batman would be taking him to an entirely different level and oh what controversy that would bring! And then it’s Joel Schumacher all over again!

    I just vomited in my mouth a little.. again.

  • Sara

    Would be interested if suddenly an “adult” version of Rowlings Harry Potter came out. Yet it was marketed to kids also, yet not appropriate.

    I agree with Jolly re: the high degree of sophistication that it takes for consumers to make decisions. Many parents in this country are both working (and often double shifts right now) and are having a difficult time making ends meet. If I were in that position, I’d have no problem letting my 12 or 13 year old (or younger) kid go see TDK because of the rating. Think Bud in the movie, Swing Vote. Many parents just like him (and daughters not like Molly.) Parents like Molly’s parents aren’t going to monitor their kids’ habits.

    John, don’t recall the exact comics (or those who produced them–you asked above.) Yeah, I’ve been to the website you mentioned. Not surprising, of course. One day when my son was young, he had all his X-men and women at a local playground–was playing with them in a sandbox. Got home and realized he didn’t have Storm. Got upset and we had to go retrieve her. I’m sure the clouds gathered and thunder roared as lightning spiked downward. He rushed out to the sandbox and got her. She was never lost again:)

  • Jolly

    It’s interesting to note that Alan Moore was able to create an effective adult-oriented comic book in the Watchmen without using any existing comic characters (I realize that the Watchmen are based on Charlton Comics characters).

  • Jolly

    Both kids and adults own a piece of The Batman in their own way.

    John,

    True. However, as I was implying with my example of the Watchmen, I don’t think there is any need to use existing characters if one feels the need to tell an adult-themed superhero story. Other than the obvious commercial ones that you refer to.

  • Sara

    Good point about Alan Moore creating effective adult-oriented comic book characters (V, also, I think.) My son just bought the Watchmen but was not familiar with it. Is plenty old enough for it, but of interest is that he was not familiar with it.
    So, in the case of my nephew (age 11) arguing relentlessly with his dad about going to TDK, the son has no idea who V is, nor would he know who The Watchmen were. No idea. Watchmen hasn’t been rated yet, but I suspect R. Also, read that there is a glitch…something about rights to the material, etc.

    Agree, Jolly, if you want an adult-themed superhero story, come up with new characters in the screenplay and don’t rely on those characters that all of America owns a piece of.

  • Sara

    John,
    I get that Batman isn’t like the other superheroes in the League. All the other have superpowers. He doesn’t. He also has so much distrust of the others that he knows every weakness of every character and has the necessary stuff in his utility to do them in. He appears to be the most dangerous of all in the League. That’s why when Superman can’t keep an eye on the Batman, then Wonder Woman does and vice versa (at least in one version.)And yeah, who of a “certain age” didn’t grow up watching Batman and Superman–who didn’t grow up watching them? And Zorro (my favorite.)I think I liked the humor. Maybe that’s why I liked Robert Downey, Jr. in Ironman (that so grossed you out–the movie, I mean.)

  • MaryAnn

    I’m not sure how far the “informed consumer” argument can be pushed. It implies a high degree of sophistication on the part of the consumer, and assumes that we have time in our busy lives to accumulate and process all kinds of information.

    That’s true. But no one HAS to see movies in the same way that we HAVE to buy food or medical care or baby pajamas that are fire-resistant. If parents cannot take the time to vet a movie before they let their kids see it, then don’t let the kids see it.

    Legislative interventions have been used to protect the interests of children (banning gum packaged as cigarettes comes to mind).

    Again, true. And I’ve agreed with you: strong measures to keep movies away from children who should not see them are appropriate. I don’t believe, however, that one of those measures should be “not making the movie in the first place.” It’s not at all the same thing to say, “Make a grownup movie with original characters.” I mean, that’s fine, and I loved *Vendetta* and I look forward to *Watchmen.* But telling a story with a faux Batman is not the same thing as telling a Batman story. Part of the impact is *precisely* because *this character* has previously been seen as cartoonish. To make an extreme comparison, *The Last Temptation of Brian* would not have been as powerful as *The Last Temptation of Christ* is.

  • Jolly

    Frankly I don’t really believe in making it illegal to make movies like the TDK. However, I do believe that TDK represents a cynical exploitation of an American icon by the studio. As John implies above, an R-rated Batman movie will never be greenlit by the studio. At least not one on the scale of TDK.

    Part of the impact is *precisely* because *this character* has previously been seen as cartoonish.

    I think you’re confusing “cartoonish” with “campy.” TDK is cartoonish. The 80s comics, despite their elevated levels of graphic violence, were cartoonish. “Sin City” is cartoonish. Which is fine. Adults are entitled to their pulp. And although I’ve encountered better scripted pulp, TDK was enjoyable enough as such.

  • Jolly

    Mary Ann,

    I feel like I’m haranguing you, so I’ll make one last comment and then let this particular theme drop. In anticipation of what I’m guessing your response might be, do I think that super-hero stories, despite their intrinsically cartoonish nature, are capable of telling important stories or otherwise transcending their genre? Yes. I just don’t personally think that TDK succeeds in this regard.

    The closest thing I’ve seen to a “realistic” superhero story in the movies is the enjoyable but flawed “Unbreakable.”

  • Sara

    I agree, Jolly–I saw TDK as very cartoonish. Over the top cartoonish and violent (only not *animated*.) Also, I don’t understand this: where is the struggle with this Batman? Where does he struggle? I just didn’t see it, at least not in a way that convinced me.
    What scenes does he struggle in (in a way that is new)? He doesn’t seem to struggle with slamming the Joker from here to kingdom come in the interrogation room. He seemed fine with that. And THAT scene in particular was cartoonish to me.

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    Technically speaking, Batman/Bruce Wayne isn’t the most dangerous character in the DC universe; he’s just the smartest. Supernatural beings who can read minds and take human lives with something less than a thought are obviously far more dangerous. That’s why Wayne keeps an eye on them. He can’t afford to let creatures with unlimited power and capabilities go unchecked. What should happen if one or more of them goes rogue or suffers mind loss? That’s why Batman does the voodoo that he doodoo so well. It’s not that he doesn’t trust his allies. He has to do what’s best for everyone else. If there is an element of madness about the character, it’s that in his delusion, he actually believes he can eliminate all crime.

    And I actually liked Iron Man, but try not to use it in the same sentence as Dark Knight too often. To me, FF, Iron Man and Hulk are all the same. Spider-Man, on the other hand, brought something original to the plate.

  • Sara

    John,
    Try to maybe get a copy of the Robin Rosenberg book (Psychology of Superheroes)…it’s excellent and I think you’d like it. The essays in this book argue that even though Superman has the powers he does that he uses them for good (ie, he’s truly into altruism as opposed to punishing criminals)….whereas, Batman is less into altruism and more into punishing criminals. The writers give good arguments for this. Anyway, it makes the Batman a darker character with motivations that are slightly paranoid but understandable because he is in a league of those with superpowers and while he has none (other than well-developed human skills)–Superman’s upbringing is vastly different from Batman’s and the book goes into that (and how it affects the psychology of each.) I’d agree with you that Batman’s delusion is that he actually believes he can eliminate all crime (ie, he’s after the criminals to punish them, as opposed to Superman or Wonder Woman or Spiderman who have altruistic motives–their main motivation is to assist those in need; whereas, Batman’s main motivation is to get the criminals (it just so happens that this helps victims or would-be victims in the process)–and this difference springs from Batman’s psychological experiences (seeing his parents murdered before him and raised in an urban environment)…contrast with Superman (yes, orphaned but didn’t witness his parents’ deaths, was raised in a midwestern farm environment with doting “adoptive” parents. Check it out if you can or want to.

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    Let’s see if I can answer your questions though you’re likely to disagree, but here goes anyway.

    1) From this film, I got that Joker desperately wanted to prove that deep down everyone would sell their soul for the right price. Batman has one rule, which is the sanctity of all life and Joker would just love for him to break that rule, as it potentially makes a mockery of all that Wayne stands for.
    Sure, Batman kicks the crap out of the Joker, but we all know what he really wants to do is take the psychotic clown out of the picture once and for all, but he can’t; he doesn’t. He chooses to “oppose darkness with darkness” and to “fight fire with fire”, but will not become his enemy and will not be burned. There’s one struggle for you.

    2) Nolan and Bale depict the character as one who believes what he is doing is a finite task and Bruce desperately wants to be with Rachel, but he can’t give up being Batman.. at least not until Gotham has its new “hero with a face” who can take up the fight for him. And it also seems like there’s a part of him that won’t let go of the dark persona. Rachel picks up on this and ends their relationship.

    3) I also think he struggles with some of the more questionable choices he later makes in the film even though Nolan doesn’t spell everything out for us. The scene with Batman and Fox comes to mind. Bruce knows that spying on millions of people is wrong even if it helps to stop the Joker’s madness, so he configures his new toy at Wayne Enterprises with a self destruct sequence to be activated subsequent to victory.

    4) In a way Bruce blames himself for Rachel’s death in addition to the fact that criminals are taking things to new levels now and copycats are defiling what Batman stands for. He doesn’t go on public television and cry about it (like a certain Iron Pimp does, but it’s obvious that Bruce is questioning his own intentions.

    “Did I bring this on her? I wanted to inspire good, not madness..”

    5) Bats also fights with the choice of turning himself in. He obviously doesn’t want to, but he psyches himself up for it and burns anything that can be traced back to Rachel or Lucious. He struggles with the notion, but with Alfred and Harvey’s help, chooses to represent something “more than a hero” and doesn’t give in to the Joker’s demands.

  • John Cornell

    Sara says, “Batman’s main motivation is to get the criminals (it just so happens that this helps victims or would-be victims in the process)”

    Sara, if that’s what you choose to believe, so be it. To each, his or her own. I disagree with this assessment of the character 100% however and much prefer to draw my own conclusions, as opposed to getting them from a psychology book.

    To me, there’s a part of Batman that wants to punish the guilty, yes. But you sadly fail to acknowledge that in addition to this, he desperately wants to make sure that noone should ever suffer the same fate he did as a young child! Batman watches over his city vigilantly and risks his life protecting the people of Gotham every single night he dons the cape and cowl. He doesn’t just spend all of his time going after criminals. That’s a ridiculous and twisted view of the character. Does Rosenberg mention how often Batman takes bullets for the same criminals he targets because even their lives hold some value in his eyes? Probably not.

    There’s a name for the kind of character you believe Batman to be Sara, but “The Punisher” he is not.

  • Jolly

    Sara,

    At the end of it, I realize that my frustration with TDK is not with the violence, or the cartoonish nature of it, or the questionable marketing. What annoys me is the critical praise this movie receives, when, by the standards of comic book writing, it is a run-of-the-mill story. The impact that Mary Ann refers to simply isn’t there for someone who read Miller’s DKR or Moore’s Watchmen as a teen. I don’t understand the fanboy’s need to see these classics brought to the big screen, because I don’t believe the big screen products will do justice to their source material. I’m guilty of elitism…based on experience, my belief is that movies are less likely to exhibit inventive and intelligent story-telling that either books *or* comics. I’m certain that the need for a mass audience plays a role in this. Mary Ann and Ebert have become my most read critics,and I genuinely enjoy their commentary. But at best I use their reviews as a guideline of what to avoid, rather than what to watch. I simply don’t share their love of the movies.

  • Sara

    Jolly,
    Your comments make complete sense to me, especially for someone who has read the comics as you have (plus other books you’ve mentioned.) My son and his friends had a similar response as yours after seeing TDK, actually almost identical. I agree with using the reviews as what to avoid also. I think not just need (but the grasping) for a mass audience plays a huge role in the way a story/comic/book is portrayed–not always, but for the big studios going for the big blockbusters that seems the case…usually not for the better.

    John,
    I see the struggles you mention but I don’t see them as so different (or as so much “more”) than the ones in, say, Batman Begins (although you’ll probably disagree)…In Batman Begins (near the beginning)–and I even quoted the script someplace above–Batman is asked if he wants to fight criminals so badly that he gets himself put in jail with them so that he can fight them. That was something brought up in the book I mentioned which is balanced more than you might think. It’s not that Batman is “going to the dark side” (or that I see him there) but that he is closer to that side than Superman is, or Wonder Woman, or Spiderman. His motivations are different (I think) than theirs. But, I don’t think that’s anything new. Not anything new from Batman Begins, for instance (at least to me.)

    The situation with Rachel didn’t seem like a struggle to me. In V, his decision re: Evey didn’t seem like a struggle either. Very few of the superheroes seem to really struggle all that much over “what they do” and “a relationship with a woman.” We know “what they do” is their priority and will always win out.
    My point…he didn’t in TDK seem to struggle more than I see Batman struggling in general, knowing the character. I think it is significant that he trained initially to come back and hunt down and kill Joe Chill but Chill is already dead. So, (my opinion)– he transfers his feelings from that situation to other criminals. That (to me) is part of the interesting dynamic of this character. That he is angry and he is going for the bad guys (as in the scene at the beginning of Batman Begins–fighting in the jail.) I think there is a part of him that enjoys this (unconsciously.) I don’t think there is a part of Superman or Spiderman, or Wonder Woman that enjoys this kind of thing. I see different motivations with them. As you said, we all can draw our conclusions and have our own views.

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    Several more things I’d like to share about the character.

    A) Batman saves countless lives every day, including that of criminals he opposes. He seeks to preserve life at all costs. I recall a story taking place not long ago in which members of the league “mindwipe” Batman when he tries to stop them from erasing a criminal’s mind. And how about the scene in Nolan’s TDK where Wayne risks his life to save the lawyer who threatens to blackmail him and reveal his identity on live TV? You don’t find that even the slightest bit selfless?

    B) Batman isn’t invincible, so when he jumps off a building to rescue a falling child (which he often does) he puts his life at risk every time, unlike Superman. When he uses his detective skills to track down a teenage girl who has gone missing for months, he isn’t doing it out of vengeance. He’s looking to find the girl and bring her home. You have it the other way around. Criminals take a beating from The Batman when they stand in his way.

    C) Even though he’s initially motivated by revenge, it’s really justice that Batman is looking for. That’s why he doesn’t kill. With that stated, Batman certainly does take out his anger and resentment on criminals, but that’s not what drives him.

    D) Like I state above, individuals with dangerous abilities cannot go unchecked. In taking precautions with members of the league, Batman isn’t being paranoid. Things can happen. Characters can go rogue or be manipulated and you can’t take chances with the supernatural. Why doesn’t that make any sense to you? Batman simply prepares for everything, because someone has to.

    Why do I feel that I’ve said too much? Oh.. because I did. =)

  • John Cornell

    “I think it is significant that he trained initially to come back and hunt down and kill Joe Chill but Chill is already dead”

    Sara,

    You got this totally wrong.

    In BB, when Bruce returns from Princeton, he intends to murder Joe Chill, but Falcone (by way of an assassin) gets to Chill first. Bruce confronts Falcone and the mobster pretty much tells him that he a rich boy with the world at his feet can never understand the criminal world and will always fear it! So Bruce abandons his old life and worldly possessions to travel the world in the hope he will learn things a pampered rich boy never could. It is here that the training begins, not necessarily with Ducard mind you.

  • John Cornell

    If there is something I don’t like about the Nolan films, it’s that we don’t get to see Batman protecting the “little people” in his city, even though I know it is implied.

    That’s something I always loved about the character. The notion that when most people are turning in for the night or snuggling up with a loved one, some poor guy feels compelled (every damn night) to suit up and watch over his city in an effort to prevent muggings, slayings and rapes. He doesn’t just focus on the larger than life threats and it’s a side of Batman that has never been shown on the big screen.

    “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”
    George Orwell

    That’s Batman in a nutshell for me.

  • Sara

    John,
    Well, thank god we can sleep in our beds at night because rough men stand ready to do “violence” on our behalf. Makes me sleep real well.
    I do understand why you like Batman. Some of the reasons you like Batman might be why I’ve always liked Zorro (whose parents–attacked in front of him, I think.) I also (and could be wrong) think in some versions it was the movie, The Mark of Zorro, that the Wayne family had seen that fateful night when Bruce’s parents were killed. And Zorro goes with zest at those he considers corrupt–more at them, then at saving anyone, although, yes, he does save in the process (as Batman does.)
    I like Batman better than Superman. Why do you think Bizzaro Superman had to be invented (as I understand it)? Because Superman was “too” good. So, not trying to take your Batman from you at all. I just think he is more motivated by revenge than you do. As I think Zorro is also and that’s OK with me. Also there have been various makeovers for Batman and we can get tangled up in that (as Jolly commented on.)
    The origin story is critical and stays pretty much the same. Batman witnesses the worst thing a kid can witness. Awful (as the original creators seemed to get clearly.) You are correct, I made an error…Batman did not go off and learn the skills to then kill Joe Chill (Batman Begins) but he did go away (school) with the intent to come back and kill Joe Chill. As I understand it, in connection with the origin story (way back–30’s) Batman was out for the criminals and wasn’t opposed to killing. That was then, though, and revisions occur.
    I see him as a tragic character. Again–variations. I don’t know nearly the amount that you and Jolly know. What I know comes from the movies (most all of them) and from the comics I read before my son would read some of the darker ones so I’d know (as a responsible parent) what he was reading. He saw TDK before I did (he’s grown now) and initially told me to avoid it. That was his review. Not because he didn’t think I couldn’t deal with it, but because he didn’t care for it himself, I think (similar to Jolly.)I saw it though.

  • I suspect that the exposure of children to adult-themed films has been an ongoing problem for some time now.

    Why do I say this?

    Memories.

    I remember attending grade school back in the early 1970s and feeling embarrassed as hell because most of my classmates were bragging about having seen The Godfather–and I think we can all agree The Godfather is hardly an appropriate film for grade-school-age children–and Raquel Welch movies and the only movie I had ever seen at that point was >i>101 Dalmations.

    Bear in mind that all this took place in a small town in a conservative state (Texas) back when the concept of R-movies was still a relatively new thing.

    The thing I took away from that: when I did finally get a chance to see movies on my own, I’d make a deliberate effort to seek out the “grown-up” stuff. Yet when I had a chance to go see The Jungle Book–a movie I had desperately wanted to see when I was a little kid–I chose not because by then I was a teenager–and thus too “sophisticated” to settle for a mere Disney film.

    I’m not sure how applicable this is to the main subject but looking back on all that, I can’t help but wonder if Sara has a point about peer pressure encouraging children to see movies they really aren’t ready for.

    And yet, like MaryAnn, I don’t necessarily want to live in a world in which the only thing available at the metroplex is the cinematic equivalent of Barney or Clifford the Big Red Dog just because all too many parents choose to exercise bad judgment in raising their children.

  • Sara

    Tonio,
    Well, good for you. 101 Dalmatians is scary enough for a grade school kid, but I understand your point about feeling out of the loop. That’s how my nephew is feeling right now re: TDK, but too bad and that’s all OK. Even if he sees it later on a DVD at a friend’s he’ll remember that his dad said it wasn’t appropriate, etc., and that has it’s positive effect.
    Seems to me there are a lot of good kids’ movies. One that comes to mind is The Water Horse. It’s a “family movie.” TDK isn’t, as most on this thread have agreed, but that the studio and Nolan did NOT agree and marketed it for families/kids presents a problem. Obviously, we can’t solve it for everyone, but as a society we do function “as a village” and we’re all responsible to some degree for each other (I think.)
    The bottom line to me is that the Batman series has been given over to families for decades (and kids)…if that is going to change, I think a shift should show the change and that would be to rate it R and not market it to families and kids–to make it clear that this is something different (not the other way around)…BEGINNING from the first movie in the trilogy. Still, Batman is tricky. It’s like making a movie about Superman that kids really shouldn’t see. Good luck with that. Doesn’t mean we have to dumb down anything. Just means certain things have been already deemed for families and that’s hard to change, I think. And if you do, I think it’s fair that everyone is alerted to the point that’s you can’t miss it.
    Too bad you turned down the Jungle Book. My son and friends who went to see TDK (and didn’t think it deserved the high praise it got–thought it was hype and they didn’t care for the movie)…watched (several nights later) on DVD…The Water Horse and loved it. (22 year olds.)They pretty much don’t care what others think though. Or the peer pressure within their group leans more toward the positive (or independent) rather than the other way.

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    Thanks for your post. Seems like I misconstrued some of what you were trying to convey in your critique on Batman, but it was mainly your statement, “Batman’s main motivation is to get the criminals (it just so happens that this helps victims or would-be victims in the process)” that I take issue with it. On the contrary, I do agree that Batman isn’t quite as good natured as is Superman, but he isn’t just out there on the streets at night looking for a fight – he’s trying to stop violent crimes before they happen. He couldn’t prevent the murder of his own parents and is obsessed with taking every possible caution in safeguarding Gotham, if not the world entire.

    Some time ago, comics’ first Green Lantern reportedly snapped and went rogue subsequent to learning of his hometown’s destruction at the hands of criminals. FYI, Lantern is a boyscout, much in in same vein as Superman, but his grief was so unbearable that he just lost his mind. As a result, he misused his special abilities becoming a mass murderer. Now, although Lantern was partially influenced by another entity, that doesn’t erase what he did. The entity only tapped into feelings of agression within him that were already there. That’s one of the reasons Batman has to keep an eye on his otherworldly allies from time to time. “With great power comes great responsibility.”

    And there’s nothing wrong with you and I having different views of The Batman. That pretty much demonstrates what I briefly mentioned before about the various ways in which so many people interpret the character. He’s arguably the most complex and enduring hero of them all.

    On a side note, do you really think an R rated Batman film is a good idea, especially when it could expose children to graphic content far more intense than anything you saw in Dark Knight? Reference my post to MaryAnn for more info.

  • Sara

    John,
    I’ve said (along with Jolly) that I think it would be very difficult to make an R movie of Batman (or Superman or Spiderman) in our culture and not have kids fighting to see it. Simply because those three belong to “everyone.” That was one reason I was appalled by TDK, the rating, and the audience I saw it with. I don’t think it was a families and kids as Nolan says it is. He made it (and the studio made it) with families and kids in mind, they say (and I think this is a financial objective.) That repells me (in particular.) I felt like (with the movie) that Nolan tried to straddle the fence too much.

    To me, the movie should have been R (all it lacked was an F word or something. Put a few in there and it’s R)…that’s all it would take. AT least that would alert many parents to the fact that it IS not the typical Batman fare. As I mentioned, my brother who is a very responsible father, but also a very busy man right now, watched Batman Begins with his son (elementary age) and they eagerly awaited the next movie. My brother started hearing stuff about the movie (while his son was at camp, otherwise, they would have walked into this movie and I can guarantee you, they would have walked out and it would have been a mess) and my brother and his wife went to see it, just the two of them. And they noted the number of kids (and families in the theatre. They were appalled (and my brother is a psychiatrist so he has that going for him; he is not a prude though.) He LOVES Batman but saw the movie as Jolly did (and as I did)–not worthy of the praise it’s gotten–and dodging the R rating but deserving it for on-screen really vicious sadism alone. Kids were laughing at some of those parts (parts where you would not laugh.) Same thing happened when I saw the movie in a theatre in another city. Kids laughing at parts that you or I wouldn’t laugh at.

    A truly “R” Batman could be made but it would have to be marketed VERY differently and would have to deal with issues, language, scenes that would not interest children. It would go over their heads and this could be done. It was done with V for Vendetta. Most kids that saw that movie had trouble with it (I mean with getting into it, with following it, etc.) They didn’t like it. The ones who saw it. Many had zero interest in seeing it.

    As it stands, the movie (TDK) while, no it doesn’t “show” blood but one need not to be horrible, mean and sadistic…sick—is, I don’t think appropriate for “families and kids” yet that market was targeted and helped propel the movie to the place it stands. Unfair, I say. Unfair marketing, as has been discussed on this site. And can’t help but be a comment on our culture in and of itself.
    If Batman is truly written and filmed as Batman IS (even in the variety of materials) I think it would be R to start with. How he became “for kids” is unclear to me. On the otherhand, I can see why kids (because I was ) was drawn to Zorro (and he IS about getting at the corruption above helping people. I mean,yes, he wants to help people–he would say that if you could ask him, as would Batman–but I think if you could get to the deepest place inside them, they are more driven by controlled revenge (which is fine, it’s just difficult psychologically) to route out the corruption. Zorro is less brooding than Batman and has fun with this on some level so he uses much more humor (a good defense mechanism.) He leaves Z’s on things, people, clothing, etc. He galvanizes the people against corruption in a more effective way, I think.

    Much is said in our culture by the fact that little kids routinely sleep in PJs of Superman, Batman and Spiderman. Not V, not IronMan, not any of the Watchmen, maybe some of the X-men but nothing compared to the three I mentioned. As a culture, I think we need to pay attention to that and to messages we send via movies about those three legendary “family figures” (in the popular culture.) ESPECIALLY if movies are marketed at those very kids. And it was. That’s enough really (had I realized it more clearly) to keep me away from the movie. I know others feel differently, but I don’t. We do live in a village and the lines can be more clearly drawn between adult films and others. As we well know. Doesn’t mean that all films would then be “kids'” films. That’s absurd. Nor does it mean that “all films” must be for adults only. There is plenty of talent and story to go around.

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    As you’ve apparently chosen not to acknowledge some of the more notable points I’ve made regarding the violent scenes in this film, I suppose we’ll just have to agree to disagree on the score. And if I have been guilty of the same, know that it was not my intention to overlook anything you might have suggested in prior responses.

    As far as the character goes, I feel that although vengeance initially drove Bruce Wayne into doing what he does, he has certainly moved beyond that. He represents something so much bigger than the common vigilante. Unlike The Punisher or Charles Bronson’s Paul Kersey, Batman is innately good spirited and self-less. As much as his mission is terribly important to him, so too is the sanctity of all life (and I’m stressing on what Batman means today, not so much the 1940s). Here is a character having no superhuman abilities, who is willing to put his life and sacred mission on the line in traveling to another planet (a taxing endeavor for a norman man, mind you) for the sole purpose of tracking down and rescuing an ally (i.e., Superman), who has fallen into the hands of supernatural entities capable of breaking every bone in an average person’s body with something less than the flick of a finger. My point is that in psychologically examining someone (in this case, a fictional someone), you have to really look at every aspect of what he/she does and I just think Batman is a bit complicated and not so easily defined or placed in a certain category. The demons are definitely there, but the overwhelming desire to help people is just as strong, in my humble opinion.

  • Jolly

    John,

    For me, Batman is an unusual character (at least by Marvel comics standards), because he really *is* the Batman. He is so committed to his mission that his “secret identity” is nothing more than a calculated pose. His childhood loss completely consumed him. I agree that his motives transcend simple vengeance.

    I don’t recall Bruce expressing angst over the burden of being Batman in the comics. As you say, he is selfless in his actions. This is why I object to Nolan portraying Batman as a reluctant hero eager to hand the burden over to Harvey Dent. It’s completely at odds with the character.

  • Sara

    John,
    I thought I did address the points you made re: the violence in the movie (I’m thinking you mean that the violence cuts away right where it would be a gory shot. Is this what you mean?) I’ve said (and others have too) that the implied violence can be as bad as showing the blood, etc. Sadistic violence need not show gore. It can imply it and especially young imaginations (young teenagers and a bit younger) will fill in that cut off scene in their own minds in often even more graphic ways. But perhaps that’s not what you’re referring to…not sure.
    You might be referring to motivation. I do think with the Batman that the motivation is for getting the criminals first and foremost. Good things can follow from that and yes, he cares deeply for Gotham City but Gotham City (I think) stands for his parents to him and what happened to them. So I see it as altruism that is driven, though, by an egocentric desire to get the criminals. So, yes, that no one will suffer as HE did. It’s about him on some level. I’d say the same for Zorro. Does not mean that there is not a concern for people. That’s been played up bigtime with the movies/shows for kids–the altruistic theme and part of the quaqmire that I think has been created.

    I just see the Batman as a darker figure than I guess you do. My point about the Punisher was that IF Rachel meant so much to Bruce Wayne/Batman and IF a person had been through what he’d been through with his parents, then I think (and I’m using my own imagination here) that if he truly cared for Rachel so very very much that her exploding death would be enough to do him in. Make him more like the Punisher, perhaps. But, perhaps his training and insight is that great, and he pulls back. Although the blows to the Joker in the interrogation scene would have killed the Joker, I think. The rage there and the blows, the slams into the wall, etc, etc. was just enormous. Would have killed a person.
    One thing no one’s said (at least not that I’m aware of) is that Batman in his choice of clothing (again, similar to Zorro) chooses the color black (the other superheroes don’t typically)…he chooses to look very frightening–even dressing as what frightens HIM the most. All that is significant to me when looking at the character.
    Wonder too about Jolly’s point re: handing over the burden to Dent. I don’t see that happening either.

  • Sara

    John,
    My son is visiting and he and I were just talking about this…he’s looking for his comics now. His take that I’m passing on (and I agree with) is that origin stories always seem critical and Nolan’s Batman Begins focuses a lot on Batman’s origin story.Plus the origin story has stayed the same throughout most of the variations throughtout the years.
    As was just said to me…”If Batman had not seen his parents murdered by Joe Chill, he would never have been Batman. There’s no way it would have happened. That’s his defining moment and look what that kind of violence does to a kid. Superman would have still been Superman–didn’t see his parents murdered in front of him. Wonder Woman would have come to the League to fight injustice. Peter Parker wouldn’t have been Spiderman if he hadn’t been bitten by the spider…and the fact that his uncle gets killed is horrific to him because he blames himself. Batman doesn’t blame himself, though, he blames Joe Chill–he blames criminals.” Seems of interest and significance in trying to understand the character. Perhaps?

  • John Cornell

    Jolly said, “I don’t recall Bruce expressing angst over the burden of being Batman in the comics. As you say, he is selfless in his actions. This is why I object to Nolan portraying Batman as a reluctant hero eager to hand the burden over to Harvey Dent. It’s completely at odds with the character.”

    Jolly,

    I also had a problem with this, but feel that Nolan and Bale were trying to portray their version of Batman as being more susceptible to basic human needs. A lot of people (Nolan included) like to say that anyone can become Batman, but this is simply not true, in my opinion. Bruce Wayne (as depicted in the comics) is a prodigy of sorts and meant to be the epitome of human perfection in every possible way. Nolan’s Batman is also gifted, but not quite the prodigy that comic readers have come to know throughout the years. As such, I don’t really take issue with Wayne’s struggle to relinquish the role of Gotham’s “silent guardian” in TDK. Also, much of this comes from his desire to be with Rachel. Have you ever watched Mask of The Phantasm? Same deal here. In Phantasm, a young Wayne briefly flirts with the idea of giving up his mission, all for the sake of one Andrea Beaumont. Fate intervenes, however, just as it does in The Dark Knight, when Bruce lets Harvey “take the fall” for him in a plot to trap The Joker. That’s why Rachel decides to leave him, because she knows in her heart that Batman is the true Bruce Wayne now and nothing will likely ever change this. With that stated, TDK is a comics to film adaptation and with movies and even toons, you’re always going to find inconsistencies with the source material.

    On a side note, I do believe that Batman (as seen in the comics) does not want to do what he does forever, although he never whines about it.

    Towards the end of Brian Azzarello’s Broken City, Batman thinks to himself, “Someday I won’t have to do this anymore because someday I would win. Someday, there will be no more LOSS, no more PAIN, no more CRIME… because of me.. because I fight… FOR YOU… for your sakes, I PRAY THAT DAY IS TOMORROW.” That’s not a word for word quote, but I don’t remember the rest of it.

  • John Cornell

    Jolly,

    Here is the full Batman quote as taken from Brian Azzarello’s Broken City, Batman #625.

    For all those who read it, enjoy. =)

    “The rain seemed to be letting up, coming down in dribbles and shakes–meaning God was done with Gotham.

    I appreciated that His timing couldn’t have been worse for me, but I felt lucky to find a broken gutter, so I could hide the stream running down my face.

    And as the Sun that had been too afraid to show it’s face in this city, started to turn the black into grey, I smiled.

    Not out of happiness, but because I knew..

    THAT ONE DAY, I wouldn’t have to do this anymore.

    One day I could stop fighting, because one day..

    I WOULD WIN, one day there will be no pain, no loss..

    …NO CRIME

    Because of me, because I fight. For you.

    One day I will win.

    I hope, for your sake, that day is tomorrow.”

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    I think children need something to grasp onto before their imagination takes flight. Like I state above, most of the TDK’s violent scenes don’t go heavily into the suffering Joker’s victims experience. Likewise, if you actually HEARD Lau or Gamble scream during their ordeal, I think that would be a lot more disturbing. Remember the scene from Last of The Mohicans where the blond guy is burned alive? I’ll never forget the way I felt hearing his cries of anguish. It was awful. Had they just alluded to what was going to happen to him, it wouldn’t have bothered me nearly as much.

    It should also be noted that suggestion is very strong in MOST PG-13 movies. They can’t “show” overly sexual or violent content, but they usually come pretty darn close!! When I was a kid and first saw Who Framed Roger Robbit I was more than surprised at the level of sexual innuendo in this PG rated film, but there was no outrage over that! So why all the hostility over Dark Knight? Kids 13 and up are pretty mature and often read the darker comics and graphic novels. Food for thought.

    And I never said that Batman’s motivations were not INITIALLY inspired by revenge, but my point is that he moved beyond that. Wayne perfected his mind and body, counseled with some of the world’s greatest teachers around the world, fusing all that he learned into something uniquely his own. He didn’t just pick up a gun and start shooting down criminals in the street like Frank Castle AKA The Punisher. I personally believe that human beings (and I know this is a fictional character we’re discussing here) have the ability to evolve and better themselves. Bruce Wayne may have started out the way you see him, but he’s evolved into so much more. Do you realize how deeply you’re analyzing this character’s motives Sara? Maybe it’s the psychology book talking and not you? I mean we could do the same with just about any character if we tried hard enough. Maybe Superman feels a need to help people because he felt like an outcast growing up, as a result of his alien origins. Perhaps he felt compelled to become a larger than life hero because deep down he views himself as a freak. Then you could say it’s “about him on some level” right? So Batman doesn’t want people to suffer in the same way HE did as a child and you view that as selfish?? I think if people were more like that in real life, the world would be a better place. Let me tell you something Sara. Everything is about US on some level. These other characters you believe to be more genuinely altruistic or closer to perfection are actually notthing of the kind! Noone is perfect. Everyone does something for a reason, but that doesn’t make us less good at heart. It simply makes us human. You say that “Superman would still have been Superman” regardless of the events that shaped his life. Not true. What if he was raised by Lex Luthor’s dad instead of the Kents and instilled with Luthor values? Sure, you could say that he might still grow up to be a good character, but you honestly don’t know for sure.

    I’ll leave you with an Alan Grant quote, until next time. Be well.

    “He (Batman) is perhaps the only genuine hero amongst them. People say Batman is this dark, vengeance-driven, obsessed character but that’s not Batman to my eyes. That’s just the fuel which drives Batman. The trauma of his parents’ death is what motivates him and forces him to go on, but what makes him Batman is a decision. He took a decision to be a good guy, which is a decision in life not too many people make. He is a self made character. He didn’t get superpowers, he’s not a cyborg, he made a choice to be what he is. He is motivated by the terrible thing that happened to him when he was a kid, but that’s not the thing that defines his character. What defines his character is the decision to do something.”

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    You’ll likely be unhappy to learn what direction WB is planning to go with regarding other DC comic to film adaptations in the very near future. Read on for the latest news.

    “By 2011, Mr. Robinov plans for DC Comics to supply the material for up to two of the six to eight tent-pole films he hopes Warner Bros. will have in the pipeline by then,” it says. Those projects will likely be about single characters at first, and will be darker much like The Dark Knight:

    With “Batman vs. Superman” and “Justice League” stalled, Warner Bros. has quietly adopted Marvel’s model of releasing a single film for each character, and then using those movies and their sequels to build up to a multicharacter film. “Along those lines, we have been developing every DC character that we own,” Mr. Robinov says.

    Like the recent Batman sequel — which has become the highest-grossing film of the year thus far — Mr. Robinov wants his next pack of superhero movies to be bathed in the same brooding tone as “The Dark Knight.” Creatively, he sees exploring the evil side to characters as the key to unlocking some of Warner Bros.’ DC properties. “We’re going to try to go dark to the extent that the characters allow it,” he says. That goes for the company’s Superman franchise as well.

    The studio is set to announce its plans for future DC movies in the next month. For now, though, it is focused on releasing four comic-book films in the next three years, including a third Batman film, a new film reintroducing Superman, and two movies focusing on other DC Comics characters. Movies featuring Green Lantern, Flash, Green Arrow, and Wonder Woman are all in active development.

  • Sara

    John,
    It doesn’t surprise me that the other characters are being developed for movies. Especially after the success of the Batman movies.
    You mention the analyzation of the characters (and many have analyzed them over the years)…looking at origin stories, motivation, that sort of thing and why I’d do that in particular. Why would I do that? It’s in the texts first of all, and secondly, for me, I’m trained in child/adolescent psychiatry, my son does psychological research and my brother is a psychiatrist. So, we do tend to think analytically–not all the time, but a lot of the time and it can make things all the more interesting. Sometimes on target, sometimes not. (BTW, my brother is the one who is NOT taking his 11 year old to TDK–but they watched Batman Begins together, in part, BECA
    USE of his knowledge)…because he very well does understand the psychology involved for an 11 year old in that instance–wish that more parents would think along these lines.

    You and I disagree re: how violence is displayed (what’s shown and what isn’t and the effects.) I don’t think it has to be “seen” to be horrible. And, yes, I’m aware of other PG13 movies and how they can sometimes approach R. None have swept the box office though as TDK has.
    But for me I’d say MaryAnn’s review itself is smartly analytical (from the viewpoint of: our times and the movie). I’d say my look into the characters and what goes on with them is going to have an analytical cast to it, which can make it more interesting (at least to me). As long as it’s in line with the texts, then what is the problem with that? It involves thinking and feeling for the character and situation–something that seems to be a good thing for the most part.
    What my son meant in his comments to me was that Superman would have had his powers (and had to decide what to do with them) regardless of anything…since he ended up on Earth, etc. If he’d ended up anywhere else, he’d still have had his powers. If Batman’s parents had never been killed (and in front of him too) then he wouldn’t have been Batman…I think if his parents had never been attacked, had lived and lived well and Bruce had anywhere near a normal upbringing that he would have gone on to work at Wayne Enterprises. No Batman.

    Superman, regardless of what he did, or who raised him (yes, the outcomes could, for sure be affected) would still have his superpowers and still have to decide what to do with them. So, yes, Batman IS different. You and I see his motivations as different. I see the main motivation as getting the criminals and that in effect, helps the citizens. It ends up being altruistic which is what you like so much in Batman, so we agree on that part (the altruism that is there.) I just think the Joker (in TDK) in the interrogation scene–would have not had a Joker who kept talking–it would have had a very dead Joker. Or at the very least a severely head-injured Joker.

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    It seems like you’re blatantly ignoring the fact that I focus (time and again) on the psychological effects of not just seeing, but HEARING what is going on during a violent scene that may or may not involve torture on some level. Do you remember the scene from TDK in which Lau is seated atop an enormous pile of cash the Joker sets ablaze? Do you recall hearing any cries of anguish or protest during Lau’s ordeal? Nope. Hell, I’d wager that many kids don’t even remember what happened to the guy.

    “What my son meant in his comments to me was that Superman would have had his powers (and had to decide what to do with them) regardless of anything…since he ended up on Earth, etc. If he’d ended up anywhere else, he’d still have had his powers.”

    I agree with that statement to a point. You should know, however, that Superman derives his powers from Earth’s yellow sun. On his own planet or “anywhere else” other than our solar system, Superman wouldn’t be very “super” at all; just an average person.

    “You and I see his motivations as different. I see the main motivation as getting the criminals and that in effect, helps the citizens. It ends up being altruistic which is what you like so much in Batman, so we agree on that part (the altruism that is there.)”

    We actually disagree on that quite a bit to be frank. I believe that Batman wants to get at the criminals while helping Gotham’s citizens SIMULTANEOUSLY, whereas, you feel that he just wants to eliminate corruption. In your view, anything good that comes as a result of that is unintentional. And in my opinion, that is not very altruistic at all. Bruce Wayne’s father was one of the wealthiest men in Gotham and yet he worked many late nights in the hospital to save any life he could, even though he was obviously financially stable. His mother Martha contributed to many charitable causes and sought to help underprivileged children in some of Gotham’s worst slums. These were good people at heart. Oh and incidentally, this stuff is from the comics, as opposed to what movies and toons “play up” to. Likewise, when Batman risks his life in taking a bullet for a thug who has been targeted by another criminal (as seen in the Fugitive storyline), he reflects on how these values come from his father, who deeply believed in the sanctity of all life.

    Batman IS different in contrast to most of the other characters, but he isn’t less altruistic even though his mission was initially motivated by revenge. It’s not just about that anymore; he’s evolved. If Bruce Wayne’s parents weren’t murdered before his eyes, he would not have ended up becoming Batman, but I’m sure he would still be out there trying to help people.

    Batman doesn’t want people to suffer in the way that he did and yes, that makes it “about him on some level”, but does it make his intentions any less noble? Superman’s home planet was destroyed and he’ll be damned before he lets his adopted world suffer the same fate. So it’s about him on some level, as well! Doesn’t everyone have some kind of of ulterior motive or agenda to a degree Sara?

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    To me, Bruce Wayne is a good natured character and this affects the way he goes about his crusade, regardless of the initial motivation. If we were to take a less altruistic type (e.g., Frank Castle, John Paul Valley) and put him in Bruce Wayne’s eight year old shoes, it’s a very different Batman that we would be seeing, in my opinion. A Batman much less concerned with human casualties, as long as he gets to the root of corruption. Fortunately, Bruce Wayne represents more than that.. at least in my eyes.

  • Sara

    John,
    I think you make great points, I do…and I haven’t mean to imply that you haven’t. Yes, Bruce Wayne’s parents’ own altruism would have an effect on him (I’d think) even if he didn’t become Batman. We hope he’d be doing some great things for Gotham City if all had gone well in his life. My thoughts re: the origin story of Batman come from the realization that the very worst thing (my opinion) is for a kid to have a parent die before they are seven years old. Even worse would be to be murdered in front of your kid. That’s where I’m coming from on that. The rage/fear/horror that that would engender that would stay with you pretty much forever would be set (not that it couldn’t be dealt with in various ways, as Batman Begins shows, for example) but it doesn’t go away. It’s always there in the mind.

    I see what you mean by the example of the Lau’s ordeal. It was confusing to me at first who the heck was up there. That is one complaint I’d actually have about the movie. And, no, I didn’t like to see Batman pummel the hell out of the Joker in the interrogation room and the Joker sheds no blood. Looks like that kind of violence “doesn’t hurt.” What does that teach kids? Just my thoughts on that, as you probably already know.

    The book I mentioned (which was fascinating to me, but no I didn’t read it as the “truth” on these characters–just very interesting thoughts backed up with references to various comics, etc.)…it is written by various psychologists, who like you, know way more than I do about the characters and who have read the comics through and through (that’s why I mentioned it–it’s intriquing but the views they present are not set in stone remotely.) I recall one argument in the book re: WHERE a person is raised (which is exactly what you’re commenting on)…how Superman lands in this midwest farm close-knit community and how that affects him. What if he’d landed in a large urban area? (Questions asked in the book and the author of that particular essay said, in his opinion–you’d get a Superman who looked more like Batman only with superpowers. How that would play out…who knows? But it’s an interesting thing to think about and you point that out. I agree with you.)(And yes, as you point out, Superman to be Superman needs to have a sun–would need that wherever it would be.)

    And I did say that I truly do LIKE Batman better than Superman. I like Zorro better than either of them. Personal preference and sure, for my own reasons, as you point out–the stories that resonate with us, for whatever reason, do have to do with our own selves. I know clearly why Zorro resonates with me and why at age 6 I had a Zorro outfit and jumped around on the furniture in our house with my cape and mask and plastic sword, making Zs in the air, for the swashbuckling sound effect. I liked Zorro more than Wonder Woman, even though, I now see how the writers’ (many of them) struggled with Wonder Woman and didn’t really know what to do with her (and I understand that now, too–and why they had such difficulty.) I’m afraid for how she will next appear. But that’s getting off-topic.

    You can see Bruce Wayne/Batman as a good-natured character and I can see him as much darker than that (which is fine by me) and I think both views have their own merits and are OK. I think we’re more in agreement than not. It’s the degree here and there that is the issue I suppose. The only thing I see that we really disagree about is the violence in TDK and you’re thinking that as long as it’s not seen and heard then it’s less violent and I don’t necessarily think that at all. Otherwise, I think we’re both pretty much on the same page.

  • shoop

    Finally got around to seeing this. My initial complaints were fairly simple–way too long, way too loud. (Which are the main two reasons I’d keep a child away from this movie, rather than the violence–I mean, if a guy getting his heart ripped out of his chest back in the 80s invented the PG-13 rating in the first place, the rest might as well be silence.)

    What bothered me more about the movie upon reflection is its conservative, even reactionary, point of view. I’ve read nearly all the novel-length posts on this thread, and NO ONE mentions THE PATRIOT ACT. Batman violates everyone’s civil rights en masse to trace the Joker’s calls. And it’s the right thing to do because that’s how you deal with the Joker (or, a terrorist). Like, wow, I thought, did nobody pick up on this? I had to google “The Dark Knight” and “the Patriot Act” to reassure myself that yes, some people, fans and non-fans of the movie, made that connection. And admittedly, one could argue, as some fans do, that Batman returns to his core ethics once he finds the Joker again (as shown by the self-destruction of the tracking device). But there’s something deeper at the end that places the film firmly in the Bush-apologist camp, which is the film’s ultimate message–the public MUST be lied to for its own good, in order for it to believe in goodness and to support what is really heroic. (Translation: of course we had to believe in weapons of mass destruction to get the war going, because the war was ultimately Good.) If McCain’s smart, he’ll spend the next few months wearing a bat-suit.

    Hundreds upon hundreds of millions at the box-office, fueled by enthusiastic repeat viewings. As of now, we still have the freedom to choose our own heroes. And we’ve chosen Batman. I guess we deserve him.

  • Jolly

    snoop,

    I was bothered by the ending as well, although I’m not sure that I share your interpretation. Batman lies, but in the process he is choosing the rule of law over “ends justify the means” vigilantism. He sacrifices public support and truly becomes an outlaw (and, by extension, his methods cease to be heroic as well).

  • Jolly

    …the problem with what I’ve just written is that Batman continues to be heroic to the audience. His fall from grace is only for the fictitious people of Gotham City.

  • Sara

    Snoop,
    As I recall, MJ addressed some of your points in her review and especially in places on this thread (re: use of torture, etc.) I think that has been mentioned and discussed on this thread.

    I do agree with you that the movie was way too long and way too loud (and I’d add crammed full of one scene with another before the preceding one had been comprehended)…I, too, though, did see Batman violate everyone’s civil rights to trace the Joker’s calls. And I’ve said enough about the interrogation scene (that would have killed or grossly maimed the Joker) and that only led to disaster anyway…we don’t know that about torture?

    But, yes, you’re right, I think and I haven’t brought this up–that the public has to be kept in the dark at the end. Or perhaps I did bring it up (wasn’t a popular view.) As an adult (and if I considered this movie an “adult” movie) that alone would turn me away.

    Batman would (I think) fall under the benevolent dictator who is exiled for the people’s own good in deception of what really happened. All of that I found bothersome–especially in the times we live in. But by that time, I was really ready to get out of the theatre–but I didn’t miss that part. I stayed with the movie and it IS critical in terms of popular culture and the impact on this culture and also what it reflects of that culture.

    Jolly, not sure what your comment means as I didn’t see where you’d written lately. But I’d say that the fictitious people of Gotham City are people we are to identify with–and even more so because we see the whole picture. As snoop says, the sheltering of the people, somehow thinking that is for the common good is an issue that is hard to square unless one does hold the view that the people are unfit to govern themselves.

  • shoop

    @Jolly and Sara,

    Thanks for the response–although, please, guys, it’s “shoop,” not “snoop.”
    Jolly–
    I understand your interpretation, but I think as you admit in your second post, Batman is the audience’s hero, if not the hero of fictional Gotham. And, I think, years from now, IF we’re still talking about “The Dark Knight” as a popcorn masterpiece, I believe the “rule of law” explanation for Batman’s final actions could hold water. BUT, timing trumps artistic intentions. At the end of two presidential terms filled with lying to the general public (as, I guess, about 70% of us have figured out, according to polls), we have a colorful comic book hero who says that yes, you gotta lie to the public so they can believe that there is goodness and honor in their leadership–which is right in line with the philosophy of Bush, Cheney, Rove, et al. (Lying for the greater good also extends to Alfred’s withholding some vital information from Bruce Wayne.) @Sara, yes, MA talks about “extralegal adventures,” but that covers EVERYTHING about the Batman–as MA notes, he’s extralegal by definition. What I’m referring to is a very specific invasion of human privacy on a mass scale–so specific and so out there that even the Morgan Freeman character will quit after helping Batman do it. The fact that the tracking device is destroyed immediately afterward, and Freeman’s patented wise-old-man-everything’s-ok grin, tell us that what Batman did was right. And in the context of the movie, IT WAS RIGHT. But what I’m missing from people who’ve seen the movie is that “hey, wait a minute” moment–the one that says, wait, that’s a perfect example of the Patriot Act in action. Does that mean the moviemakers support such an act? And maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. But it’s there, clearly, and again, at this particular time in history.

  • Jolly

    shoop,

    Here’s a review I came across that offers an interesting interpretation of the movie:

    http://porch-dog.com/?p=418

    The premise of the interpretation is that Nolan is not portraying Batman as a hero, and although he is meant to represent Bush and company, we are not supposed to side with him. It’s an interesting idea, though it makes me recall MaryAnn’s comments about the distinction between what a movie intends to say and what it actually says. I’m still of the opinion that the movie lacks thematic coherence, which may be why it’s so fun to try to interpret it.

  • MaryAnn

    I agree: I don’t think we’re necessary meant to side with Batman, at least not 100 percent of the time.

    Batman violates everyone’s civil rights en masse to trace the Joker’s calls. And it’s the right thing to do because that’s how you deal with the Joker (or, a terrorist).

    I don’t think the movie does say “this is the right thing to do.” I think it questions whether it is.

    We have the same problem here that we had with the film *300*: just because some of the issues are germane to the real world doesn’t mean to you simply map the real world neatly on top of the movie. There aren’t necessarily one-to-one correlations between the movie world and reality.

  • John Cornell

    Shoop,

    I hope you’re not suggesting that ONLY conservatives lie for what they perceive as “the greater good”. Just look at liberal John Edwards who sought to cover up his (now very public) extramarital affair, as he knew it would cost him politically and cost him it has! This is a guy would could have potentially been the democratic nominee! I try not to get into politics too much, but it’s ridiculous when people like you point to George Bush every time a fictional character commits a deceitful act on film.

    But as you’ve already chosen to do so, let’s examine Batman’s intentions in TDK a little closer shall we? First of all, Bruce Wayne isn’t without flaw in judgment, as is evidenced by him holding onto the belief that “Dent is the best of” the triumvirate, including Gordon and himself. Obviously, this isn’t true. At the end of the film, Batman chooses to take the blame for Dent’s killings (a selfless endeavor), in an effort to keep hope alive in his city. He knows that Gotham’s spirit would be crushed if Dent’s vengeful actions became public knowledge and does what he feels is necessary to prevent that from happening.

    Everyone lies Shoop, liberals included. Parents withhold love letters from their young daughters if they disapprove of the boy she’s dating. They feel it’s for the best, as far as all parties are concerned. That’s right. These things have been happening long before George Bush took office. And while on the subject of the President, it should be noted that Bush’s quest for oil was clearly more personal. Unlike Batman’s motives, I don’t see how the Bush administration sought to act on the welfare of the American people here. If there really were weapons of mass destruction to be found in Iraq, then I’d be more inclined to support such a notion. Obviously, there was not. But yeah, everyone lies or withholds information at some point, we can’t just point the finger at Bush when they do! That’s insane! It’s a part of human nature to keep things from other people. In TDK, Alfred knows that Bruce Wayne has already lost so much (i.e., his parents, a normal life and now Rachel) and he chooses to burn Rachel’s letter because he wants to leave the poor guy with at least the simple memory that she was going to be with him in the end. He’s simply using his discretion here. Maybe you’re the type that believes people should ALWAYS know the truth, no matter the cost. Fine. Thing is, everyone isn’t like that and it’s got nothing to do with politics.

  • Sara

    Shoop,
    Geez, sorry about getting the name incorrect before…my apologizes! And better glasses for me.

    Jolly,
    Glad you posted the link to that article. I saw the article weeks ago or more but on this thread, at that time, somehow I didn’t think it would be really looked at. Your comments below seem on target to me:

    What I’m referring to is a very specific invasion of human privacy on a mass scale–so specific and so out there that even the Morgan Freeman character will quit after helping Batman do it. The fact that the tracking device is destroyed immediately afterward, and Freeman’s patented wise-old-man-everything’s-ok grin, tell us that what Batman did was right. And in the context of the movie, IT WAS RIGHT. But what I’m missing from people who’ve seen the movie is that “hey, wait a minute” moment–the one that says, wait, that’s a perfect example of the Patriot Act in action. Does that mean the moviemakers support such an act? And maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. But it’s there, clearly, and again, at this particular time in history.

    And why must the public of Gotham be “protected” so? This type of thing only makes people flabby and doesn’t empower them to act. How does ‘he know that Gotham’s spirit would be crushed’ if they knew the truth? The people of Gotham can’t handle the truth?
    They handled it fine with the two ferries. Better than anyone else in the movie, seemed to me.

    I didn’t like that Alfred burned the letter from Rachel. Yes, everyone lies, that’s true, but I don’t consider that a positive thing. Secrets usually will come out and will cause more problems in the long run.

    A key thing to me (that rings true) is the selected good guy too often “needs” the appointed bad guy (and not for positive reasons)…the connection (or likenesses) between the terrorist and the leader as they play a game of cat and mouse, both meeting some need of the other but causing chaos itself in their wake (all while they claim to their supporters to be about reducing chaos, etc.)

    I don’t think the movie needs to be read as total political commentary by any means but there is that piece of it in there, seems to me. I thought that all along.

  • Jolly

    MaryAnn,

    All this discussion has me wanting to watch the movies over again. I do think that various preconceptions I had about the character may have coloured my viewing. In some ways, I think this goes back to my comments about the Watchmen, though. By creating new characters, Moore was able to establish an entirely new world in which the role of superheroes was radically different. By working with an established, well-known character, and pitching the movie as a blockbuster, Nolan’s approach may be too subtle to achieve the desired effect. Well, too subtle for the average movie-goer (me).

  • Sara

    Appears that comics do reflect what is going on in politics, in the world, to a great degree. Think Superman’s boom during WWII and Wonder Woman’s very origins during that time. I don’t think the political slant, what’s happening in the world arena, can be left out of it…after all comics are more serious than people take them, I think–have more to say than they’re given credit for. When blockbuster movies are made of them, sitting up and taking note of the storylines, subplots, etc. makes sense for the thinking movie-goer. TDK was so loud, so much, so chaotic, it pretty much discouraged this type of thinking (especially for the average movie-goer who would focus only on the action and the awesome and cool gross stuff and awesome and cool technological moves. Especially the preteens and families (and the parents would either be appalled, and perhaps get up and leave…or sit there uncomfortably– or would sit there just as the kids and say, wow, how cool was that pencil trick? And…don’t be scared, Batman will take care of the bad guys. Don’t you worry.

  • MaryAnn

    I hope you’re not suggesting that ONLY conservatives lie for what they perceive as “the greater good”. Just look at liberal John Edwards who sought to cover up his (now very public) extramarital affair, as he knew it would cost him politically and cost him it has! This is a guy would could have potentially been the democratic nominee! I try not to get into politics too much, but it’s ridiculous when people like you point to George Bush every time a fictional character commits a deceitful act on film.

    I hope you’re not suggesting, John Cornell, that lies about foolish things that are purely personal and perfectly legal are the same kind of transgression as lies that lead a nation into war? It’s ridiculous to suggest that *anyone* “point[s] to George Bush every time a fictional character commits a deceitful act on film” — that simply is not happening here. However you interpret it, *The Dark Knight* clearly is a response to where the leaders of America have taken the country, and it’s not about lying about sex, that’s for sure.

    Now, John, I agree with your take on the film and mostly disagree with shoop’s, but still: let’s be honest in our disagreements. There’s no need to create straw men to knock down.

  • Sara

    MaryAnn,
    I agree with you above, but I’m not clear on what you disagree with re: shoop (I’m thinking of shoop’s entry on August 24, 11:28 PM.) Unless it’s maybe his last paragraph…that we deserve this Batman which I kind of agree with…a Batman who is willing to cover over things that the people (my opinion) deserve to know, etc. The people REALLY can’t handle it? (Again, not sure what you mean in particular re: what shoop wrote.)

    I keep thinking back to the ferry boats part (the strongest part of the film to me) and I think the people of Gotham put the cops, Batman to shame on that one. Which might mean that Batman (and some others) is NOT whom the people choose. Although, in reality, if you’re talking about Bush, too many people (and this has been commented on) have been cowed, fear (and chaos have been played up as did happen in TDK, I thought)–then there’s this desire to be protected by Daddy, Batman, etc. Someone who will put on the cape (the outfit) and say Mission Accomplished. And then we can all sleep well at night. Which is, of course, BS. It takes a village and if the village is kept in the dark, it’s wrong. The village, if anything, needs to wake up and deception helps lull the inhabitants to sleep.

  • Sara

    Clarification:
    It’s odd that after the ferry boat/prisoners’ dilemma which the citizens (and criminals!) passed with flying colors as Batman and the Joker watched from the rooftops and the others did also…why then the need to hide the truth of what happened on that rooftop from the people? What the people did managed on the ferries was right in the middle of chaos from which they were NOT protected. Yet, they made the right decision when allowed to. Why is it “assumed” that if they know the truth re: Dent and Batman that the people (at least those on the ferries) will fall back into chaos?

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    Don’t get wrong. In my eyes, Batman is a very dark character, moreso than that of Superman. When he witnessed the murder of his parents as a young child, a part of his soul was tainted forever. But unlike Frank Castle or John Paul Valley, Bruce Wayne manages to control and utilize the darkness within him for the greater good. The unclean spirit is there and isn’t going away anytime soon, but Bruce isn’t entirely consumed by it. He’s a good character influenced by something terrible. A lesser man subjected to similar circumstances would likely end up going down an entirely different path than the one Bruce Wayne chooses in life.

    My point about the scene involving Lau was that it doesn’t affect us on some level because we aren’t invited to partake in the victim’s suffering.

    I can understand your fascination with Batman and your need to psychoanalyze him, but it just strikes me as odd how many neglect to scrutinize other characters (particularly the supernatural) nearly as much. With Superman, for example, there is so much you can play around with. He’s an alien, the last of his kind. His parents didn’t just die, his entire race was wiped out. Kryptonians physically look like human beings, but they aren’t. No matter how hard he tries to fit in, he will always feel different; an outcast of sorts. And yet it’s Batman who is often dismissed as a vengeful nutcase with a weird fetish that is capable of doing what he does largely because of the size of his bank account. Those types would be surprised to learn that Bruce Wayne (as portrayed in the comics) is a character with a genius level IQ who spent his early years traveling all around the world, versing himself in multiple forms of combat, disciplines, languages, sciences, escapology, gymnastics and the art of detection. A prodigy of the highest order, Batman certainly borders on what might be considered supernatural. In Nolan’s Batman Begins, we only get a brief glimpse of that, but it is strongly suggested that Wayne is already a formidably trained martial artist when Ducard finds him in a Bhutanese prison. Contrary to what many viewers think, Ducard does not teach Wayne how to fight, but instead, hones his already considerable fighting prowess.

    Getting back to the violent sequences in TDK, I’m actually in agreement with you to some degree. I don’t understand how you can show a guy whose face has been partially burned off and then refrain from showing even the slightest amount of blood on screen. That doesn’t make sense to me and you’re right that Joker would have been pretty messed up (not necessarily dead though) subsequent to taking such a beating at the hands of one Dark Knight during the interrogation sequence. It reminds me of the scene in Spider Man 2 where Dr. Octavious’ wife is tossed through shards of glass without getting so much as a bruise. It’s very odd and only seems to happen w/ PG and PG-13 rated motion pictures. There’s plenty of blood in primetime TV, interestingly enough. Go figure.

    And on a side note, I don’t have a problem looking at the political connotation of films like TDK or V for Vendetta, but it just irks me when people immediately point the finger at one side (be it the right or the left) when a character does something questionable on film. I got the sense that Shoop is suggesting that liberals are completely infallible, when such a notion is simply untrue.

    As far as Alfred’s decision to burn Rachel’s letter goes, I wasn’t implying that I’m in full agreement with what he does, but just trying to objectively explain why he does it. I do personally think his heart is in the right place though. Do we have to support every choice a character makes in order to enjoy a film? I think not.

  • John Cornell

    MaryAnn,

    Based on Shoops post (not what the film itself politically represents), I actually do believe he was suggesting that we point the finger to the GW administration when various characters make questionable choices and/or lie for reasons they feel are justified, be it personal or not.

    Here’s a quote from Shoop:

    “At the end of two presidential terms filled with lying to the general public (as, I guess, about 70% of us have figured out, according to polls), we have a colorful comic book hero who says that yes, you gotta lie to the public so they can believe that there is goodness and honor in their leadership–which is right in line with the philosophy of Bush, Cheney, Rove, et al. (Lying for the greater good also extends to Alfred’s withholding some vital information from Bruce Wayne.) ”

    Now, Alfred withholding “vital information” from Bruce Wayne was “purely personal and perfectly legal” was it not? So why are we comparing him with the Bush administration here?

  • Sara

    John,
    Of course Superman could be discussed and analyzed (and any film about him could be)…why is Batman being discussed here? Because the movie is TDK, as I see it. Anything other than that and we get way off topic (or so it would seem.)Perhaps (and I’m analyzing but as Jolly said above “I’m still of the opinion that the movie lacks thematic coherence, which may be why it’s so fun to try to interpret it.”) Batman probably owes any of his stability to Alred. When something so horrible happens to a kid as it did with Bruce, and they turn out reasonably well, you look around at who in their life stepped up to the plate. It was Alfred, I think
    Agree about the violent sequences in TDK (such as Lau sitting on the pile of money and the interrogation scene–yeah, the Joker would have been VERY messed up, as in 911 messed up. And this was without a cop present (as I recall) and it was torture to get information. Yet the Joker talks and talks as he is beaten to death…or would be to death or close to it…(which to me was ludicrous, but that’s me. It’s hard to overlook that stuff for me.)
    I don’t hear Shoop saying that the deception issue is “just” conservatives or Republicans. I hear him saying that’s who has been in the most power during the past 8 years and we’re clear (I hope) about what’s gone down.

  • John Cornell

    “Of course Superman could be discussed and analyzed (and any film about him could be)…why is Batman being discussed here? Because the movie is TDK, as I see it. Anything other than that and we get way off topic (or so it would seem.)”

    Sara,

    I actually meant, in general. Batman tends to be scrutinized (as a character), moreso than other “heroes” – specifically the supernatural ones – for the reasons I describe above… somewhere.. Not just on this blog, to clarify.

    “I don’t hear Shoop saying that the deception issue is “just” conservatives or Republicans.”

    Just because you don’t “see” and “hear” something, that doesn’t mean it isn’t implied. Isn’t that right Sara? =))))

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    I also don’t get your point about Alfred. What he does is somewhat questionable, but certainly not evil. He was being a protective parent in his own way is all. Are you judging the character solely because he burns Rachel’s letter or is there something else?

    BTW, you and I are definitely not on the same page here I think. Not even sure what “book” you’re reading.

  • Sara

    John,
    You lost me on that last post to me. My point about Alfred was in general not about the letter.
    1) Re: Batman’s character development. I wrote that when a child has something so horrific happen to them but they still come out OK, it’s usually because some other adult stepped up to the plate. In Bruce Wayne’s life (after his parents were killed) I think it was Alfred. He was left in Alfred’s care. And Alfred has had a huge impact on Bruce Wayne’s development (my opinion.) It’s always been my opinion ever since I’ve known the origin story of Batman.
    2)I’m not “judging” Alfred at all. I like Alfred. Do I think he should have burned the letter from Rachel so that Bruce could never read it? No. Bruce is a big boy now. That was all I meant re: the letter. Alfred doesn’t need to protect Bruce now.
    Re: what book I’m reading, I don’t know what you mean.

  • Sara

    John,
    OK, I understand what you’re saying about Batman being scrutinized more than the others (as opposed to just about TDK.) Perhaps my views come from the views of children (which is a complicating factor in the whole Batman issue, in terms of how to make it an “adult” movie as has been discussed)…as a kid I didn’t see Batman as more scrutinized but I didn’t read the comics the way you did. With my son and nephews and nieces they all prefer Batman over Superman so I’ve not been familiar with the bad press Batman has gotten in the League (until recently.) But then again, they don’t read the comics either…they watch the movies.
    About what Shoop meant…I guess we should request that he speak for himself. Right.

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    Okay. Gotcha. I just didn’t know why you suddenly started discussing Alfred and assumed it was in response to him burning the letter.

    “Bruce is a big boy now.”

    Is he really though? Did Bruce Wayne ever truly grow up in the way someone who didn’t experience a traumatic, life altering experience, would have?
    That actually reminds me of an old Joker quote taken from another (animated) Batman film:

    “It’s true, Batsy. I know everything. And kind of like the kid who peeks at his Christmas presents, I must admit it’s sadly anticlimactic. Behind all the sturm and Batarangs, you’re just a little boy in a playsuit CRYING FOR MOMMY AND DADDY. It would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic… oh, what the heck, I’ll laugh anyway!” – Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker

  • MaryAnn

    John and Sara (this connects to questions you’ve both asked me):

    This is where I disagree with shoop:

    we have a colorful comic book hero who says that yes, you gotta lie to the public so they can believe that there is goodness and honor in their leadership–which is right in line with the philosophy of Bush, Cheney, Rove, et al.

    And I disagree for several reasons. One, I don’t think the philosophy of the Bush cabal has anything to do with goodness and honor, or even pretending to goodness and honor. Two, I don’t think the movie is necessarily onboard with Batman’s belief about what the people of Gotham need. Just because Batman thinks the people of Gotham need to be lied to, that doesn’t mean that he’s correct in thinking that. The ferry dilemma and how it plays out may well prove that Batman is wrong.

    Here’s where you can’t make that one-to-one comparison between reality and The Movie: while Batman’s actions may appear similar to those of the Bush Administration, I don’t think the motives are at all similar. Bruce Wayne does not appear to have ulterior motives beyond the noble ones that he explicitly states… but what’s fascinating here is that that doesn’t automatically mean that his methods are sound or noble. I think *TDK* in particular among all the Batman movies asks us to at least think about that fact, that motive and method are not automatically in agreement. And that also goes for anyone who believes that Bush and Co. *are* correct in their motives: even those people should be thinking about whether the ends justify the means. Do we have to destroy the village to save the village? Isn’t it a contradiction to purport to be saving America by destroying that which makes it unique: ie, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?

    Maybe that’s too deep for the ordinary moviegoing crowd to appreciate. But that’s another issue entirely.

    Also, though I don’t agree with shoop, I don’t think shoop was suggesting that Alfred’s lie about Rachel’s letter was on the same level as the other much bigger lies and misdeeds occurring here — I think shoop was suggesting that the movie is exploring all kinds of ideas about lies and the lying liars who tell them, and why. :->

  • Sara

    Thanks for the clarification MaryAnn. The ferry boat scene seemed key to me and didn’t jive (for me) with what was happening on the rooftop, but the last movie of the trilogy hasn’t been played out (as you point out– or rather we don’t know certain things.)

    The quotes from Broken City,Batman #625 (that John C. supplied above)of Batman, standing in the rain over Gotham City, hoping that one day he won’t be needed any longer because there will be no crime–which will come about because he (Batman) would have won. That’s clearly the hero’s take but I don’t think there will be the day when there’s no more crime, but there could certainly be much less, and much less tolerated, and much less fear and dependency. Which would mean not counting on figures like Batman (unless it is within ourselves)–like the people on the ferry who take charge in a scary situation and stand up to it.

  • John Cornell

    MaryAnn,

    I feel slow for asking, but what do you mean when you suggest that the “ferry dilemma and how it plays out may well prove that Batman is wrong”?

  • Paul

    Based on something Gorden said, I was under the impression that Batman had to cover up for Dent in the end because if it could be proved that Dent was insane, then all the criminals he put in jail would be released or retried. I’ve seen that issue arise in law-oriented movies and TV series from time to time, but I’ve never asked a lawyer about it. I realize that Dent didn’t go overboard until relatively late in the movie, but there were hints of Two-face quite early.

  • shoop

    Wow, you turn your back for a half-day, and look what happens.

    MA, I appreciate your respectful disagreement. And John Cornell–yup, people lie, not just Bush–can’t argue with you there. My point was that the KINDS of lies Bush has been telling and the KINDS of lies we see in TDK are so close–both in form and in timeframe (that is, we’re still living with the Bush lies) that they deserve to be commented upon. I’d also say there would be a strong comparison to real-life events if the movie featured Harvey Dent lying about accepting a blow job from his intern, but then we’d have a pretty different movie. MA likes to point out that it’s all about execution–I’d say a movie is 90% execution and 10% timing. Quick example–“On the Waterfront.” Classic Brando where he stands up to the corrupt, vicious mob, right? Absolutely. But in 1954, it was also inextricably tied to Elia Kazan’s being a cooperative HUAC witness (and for some people, the tie is still there after 55 years).

    And no, the Alfred lie in TDK isn’t the same kind of lie. Yes, his heart was in the right place, and his intentions were good. But I think that old cliche about what the “road to hell” is paved with applies. If there’s another Batman flick (seems inevitable), that lie is going to bite Alfred in his noble cockney ass.

  • John Cornell

    Shoop says,
    “And no, the Alfred lie in TDK isn’t the same kind of lie. Yes, his heart was in the right place, and his intentions were good. But I think that old cliche about what the “road to hell” is paved with applies. If there’s another Batman flick (seems inevitable), that lie is going to bite Alfred in his noble cockney ass.”

    With both Rachel and Harvey dead, I don’t see how Bruce would ever find out about the letter. And yes, Dent most certainly is dead (I briefly went through the script, fyi). Unless you’re suggesting that Alfred will be struggling with his own conscience so much that he might feel compelled to reveal the truth perhaps? I think it’s unlikely.

  • Sara

    Whether the letter (not itself) comes back to haunt Bruce/Alfred, I have no idea, but I think a letter of that import (written by someone who has been a childhood friend and love) deserves to be read regardless of how “difficult” it is.

    No, I don’t think Bruce needed protecting from Rachel’s letter.
    If I were a writer in this, the letter would somehow figure in. And, yes, it certainly appears that Rachel is very dead, but is she? But did she escape in some way that we don’t know about? That has been intimated on this thread. I think she’d dead, blown to pieces, but in these movies you don’t ever know (well, usually you do know, about the females.)BUT If the Joker could survive the interrogation scene fully intact with no traumatic brain injury, no broken bones, no blood, (it’s just absurd to me) then perhaps Rachel isn’t dead…perhaps she got out at the last moment. And if so (by some bizarre chance) then she’ll ask Bruce about the letter she gave Alfred.

    I’ve seen too many instances where “family secrets”–some which include letters (and yes, letters that are missing but get found out about and some that go back to around 1920) but have affected people in families in profound (and not always positive ways.)

    The whole “secrets” and “lies” part is something that I don’t think is ever a good thing. Secret in terms of intelligence information…OK, but done correctly and also SHARED with the right people and with competent people. Lies to “protect” the people (or “said to protect the people when it really protects the ones telling the lies) are disgusting to me, I don’t care the intention. Lies that “protect” the children usually do backfire. And yes, there are more significant lies than others. All lies are not created equal. But TDK is full of lies and tricks to “protect” the public and some individuals (as if they can’t deal.)

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    You brought up some great points that I’m itching to address and will do just that in a few hours or so, after I get home. =)

  • MaryAnn

    I feel slow for asking, but what do you mean when you suggest that the “ferry dilemma and how it plays out may well prove that Batman is wrong”?

    I mean, it looks like the people of Gotham City are perfectly capable of making the right decision even in the face of the most terrible horrors. Perhaps they could have heard the truth about Harvey Dent and dealt with it like grownups.

    As for Alfred and the letter… I don’t see what purpose it would have served to let Bruce know that Rachel had no intention of leaving Harvey for Bruce, no matter what. He’s already lost Rachel, since she’s dead — I don’t know that it’s not a kindness to let him think he might not have lost her had she lived.

  • Sara

    I don’t know…I think Bruce should have gotten the letter because it was written to him…Bruce really lost her BEFORE she was killed (supposing she really is dead and wasn’t catapulted out of the building unharmed, maybe an amnesiac somewhere right now)…one could argue it would make him feel better on some level…he already lost her before she ever died. Also I think it’s fair (my opinion) for Bruce to once again see what being Batman is costing him in terms of personal relationships.

  • Sara

    What about this? Let’s go ahead and assume that Rachel Dawes is dead. But Batman thinks she really wanted to be with him. His heart is with her–more than he realized it would be–especially after he goes into seclusion at the end of TDK (I don’t really believe this but hear me out)…let’s say Rachel was a plot device (not uncommon for females in the comics) for the creation of Two-Face. BUT, in the 3rd movie there is a love interest for Batman. He falls hard and for a woman fit for him…even more than Rachel ever was. Like Superman and Wonder Woman (they are complete equals even though no one seems to notice this.)

    And Gotham (a la the ferry episode) gets its shit together…the people that is. Batman really isn’t needed. He can have a life of his own and it’s not the end of the world.

    But, alas, he just can’t get over Rachel…much as he loves this new woman, much as she would be incredible for him and vice versa. All Bruce can remember is what Rachel said to him…that she would be with him if he ever gave up the Batman and went to the south of France or wherever. And he’s tortured NOW (delayed PTSD) about Rachel’s exploding death and how he didn’t get to her. He failed her, he feels.

    Now isn’t the letter important here?

    (Because in the next movie, I’ll bet Batman DOES have a love interest. Will he so easily say, such is life re: Rachel’s death? Perhaps. Happens in comic world all the time. But on the other hand…)

  • MaryAnn

    The question isn’t really how Alfred’s decision not to give the letter to Bruce will play out — because whatever Alfred did, there were always going to be a variety of possible outcomes, both positive and negative, as a result of that. The question is whether Alfred’s motives in withholding the letter were the right ones. And there’s no right answer to that.

    Except that Rachel herself did leave the decision about when to give to the letter to Bruce in Alfred’s hands… and Alfred decided that “never” was the right time. Rachel didn’t give the letter to Alfred with explicit instructions to give it to Bruce immediately, or at some particular and definite moment in time. She left the decision up to him. And he exercised that perogative.

    I think Alfred is in the clear, morally.

  • Sara

    True…Rachel did give her letter to Alfred to give to Bruce at the right time. As you say, there’s no right answer to when that time would be (if at all.)
    I think Alfred is in the clear, morally, and didn’t mean he wasn’t–I just wonder the outcome of his decision (if it will be relevant or not–seems to me it would be, but I don’t know.) And, again, it does have to do with keeping secrets (but not on the level of foreign policy and major domestic ones.)

  • John Cornell

    Okay Sara,

    First off, I want to make it clear (just so you know where I’m coming from) that I look at Nolan’s The Dark Knight for what it is and not necessarily what it represents symbolically in the real world. And as MaryAnn stated above, I also don’t feel that audiences are expected to support the choices these oh so fallible characters make throughout the course of the film. If there is a valuable lesson to be learned here, it’s that everything we do has a consequence of some kind. It doesn’t pay to be arrogant either.

    I mean, just look at all the suffering and mayhem that could have been avoided, had each character acted more responsibly. Early on in the film, we see Batman underestimating Joker as a serious potential threat. He responds to Gordon’s concerns about the infamous psychopath in saying, “One man or the entire mob??” and this error in judgment comes back to bite them all in a big way. Similarly, Dent warns Gordon about dirty cops in his unit (I believe he specifically points out Ramirez who ironically ends up kidnapping Rachel) and later discourages him, i.e., Gordon from keeping Lau in the MCU (something Joker wanted all along). In his arrogance, Gordon refuses to heed Dent’s warnings and the cost is disastrous for everyone involved. Nolan wants us to know that, believe you me.

    It should also be noted that Knight’s director is being faithful to the source material here, as Batman (as depicted in the comics) is no stranger to manipulating others and withholding information from his allies/peers. As the world’s smartest man alive, he feels that he knows what is best for everyone and often “plays it close to the chest”.

    Sara said,

    “The whole “secrets” and “lies” part is something that I don’t think is ever a good thing. Secret in terms of intelligence information…OK, but done correctly and also SHARED with the right people and with competent people. Lies to “protect” the people (or “said to protect the people when it really protects the ones telling the lies) are disgusting to me, I don’t care the intention. Lies that “protect” the children usually do backfire. And yes, there are more significant lies than others. All lies are not created equal. But TDK is full of lies and tricks to “protect” the public and some individuals (as if they can’t deal.)”

    So you don’t think Batman’s intent in taking the blame for Dent’s murders in TDK is to “protect” Gotham’s citizens? And whoever said the “secrets and lies part” is a good thing?? At times, it can be necessary and as you’ve pointed out, that all depends on the situation.

    Sara said,

    “If I were a writer in this, the letter would somehow figure in. And, yes, it certainly appears that Rachel is very dead, but is she? But did she escape in some way that we don’t know about? That has been intimated on this thread. I think she’d dead, blown to pieces, but in these movies you don’t ever know (well, usually you do know, about the females.)BUT If the Joker could survive the interrogation scene fully intact with no traumatic brain injury, no broken bones, no blood, (it’s just absurd to me) then perhaps Rachel isn’t dead…perhaps she got out at the last moment. And if so (by some bizarre chance) then she’ll ask Bruce about the letter she gave Alfred.”

    Keep in mind that it was Rachel herself who entrusted Alfred alone with the responsibility of deciding when it was appropriate to hand deliver her letter to Bruce. She clearly gave him permission to do so in stating that the envelope was unsealed. That’s an important point to consider. For whatever his reasons, Alfred obviously felt that it would NEVER be the right time for Bruce to read the letter and made a personal judgment call. Maybe, it wasn’t the right one to make, but it was his and his choice alone. If Bruce is such a “big boy” why didn’t Rachel just hand the letter to him directly or better yet, face him and tell the truth in person? She was playing games with the affection of two men. Maybe Alfred thought she had a split personality disorder or something? All kidding aside, even Maggie G had a problem with this particular aspect of her character.

    And BTW, Rachel Dawes is not coming back to Gotham, without a doubt. She was blown to smithereens and there’s no way anyone could escape from that unless supernatural elements were invoked. I know how you feel about the beating Joker took at the hands of Batman, but this is totally different. If the clown was taken “out of the picture” subsequent to the interrogation scene, then our film would have reached a dead halt. Plus, he wasn’t exactly in little pieces. =) Also, Nolan doesn’t do the “back from the dead” nonsense often associated with comics and other comics to film adaptations. It isn’t his style.

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    One more thing. As much as you hate this film, you’ve gotta admit TDK is rather thought provoking.

    And for the folks who actually enjoyed some of the more violent scenes involving The Joker in TDK, specifically the “magic trick”, I think it was Heath’s little quirks and idiosyncrasies in his performance that made us laugh – not necessarily what he did to his victims.

    Yeah, that was two things. I know. =)

  • Sara

    John,
    I agree with you more than I think you realize. On the otherhand, I don’t think the average movie-goer thinks deeply about the film as you and others do(or few do–they’re there for the grossness, the gratuitous violence and many simply don’t see beyond that–and the ones in the theatre I saw it with laughed at the most horrific times.) That’s what is bothersome. No, it’s not “my problem” but it does concern me for the reasons that I’ve clearly stated and don’t need to state again, especially re: the character of Batman and families, children (even preteens.)

    Initially, I did not want to go to this movie because of Ledger. I thought he was a incredibly gifted actor and am sorry he is not with us anymore. I read MaryAnn’s review and there were those of us who talked about the movie (on this thread) before the movie was released. I really thought that even seeing Ledger in this role based on (well, you can go back to the top of the thread and read the posts if you want)…I thought that even seeing Ledger would be upsetting. It turned out NOT to be that way for me. I actually found the Joker to be very tedious (ie, the movie was way too long)… I found nothing about the Joker that was funny–not remotely. I saw nothing funny in the film period. It was a tragedy. The only light I saw was in the ferry boat scene. When I contrasted that to what was going on up above with Batman et al, it was sad to me.

    The “decision” to keep the truth from the people was not heroic to me. If Batman so wants to give up his job and not have to do it anymore, then let the people have the power. Give up the job and do a more difficult one, Bruce. Have an intimate relationship which I don’t think Bruce Wayne knows how to do.

    Ironically when I did go to the film (and that was for two reasons)…on this thread, there was a lot of ire at me for making any comments without seeing the movie (even though at that point a huge amount of it could be seen on YouTube and full summaries of the movie were out.) The 2nd reason I went to see it was because my son asked my husband and me to go see it (he’d already seen it)and wanted to know what we thought of it. He and most of his friends were disappointed in it. Both my husband and I (and my husband knows comics like you and Jolly) were of the same mind re: this film.

    Yes, there is much interest in parts of it, but too much of the movie (to us) involved what could be the biggest blow-ups, plus so much wasn’t really all that coherent to us. Neither of us could put the thoughts behind us that Nolan made this with families and kids in mind. I know that doesn’t bother you, but it does me. But, it’s all connected, I think, to the times we live in, among other things.

    I do think the conversation surrounding the movie (and the characters) is very interesting and important and I have an interest in pop culture and the effect on our young people and vice versa–by young people, I mean preteens, teens and early twenties in particular. Plus, all this brings back the trips to the comic stores, etc., that I’ve mentioned. Sorry so long here, but I’m trying to address your posts to me and I haven’t completely done that.

  • Sara

    At the end, Batman takes the rap for Dent (supposedly dead, but we all know he’s not, don’t we?)…and what comes to mind to me? If in our day and time, discussing our political climate? Powell taking the sad, deep bow, taking the heat for his superiors, even while knowing the truth. That’s not a hero to me…that’s what a “good” soldier does. So I see Batman as more of a “good soldier” than a hero as he backs down, and takes the heat for something he knows isn’t the truth. I know you can’t compare identically, but the “hiding the truth” from the public has similarities. To me the people already proved that they were far ahead of either Batman or Gordon, etc. with the ferry scene.

  • Jolly

    The ferry scene rang false to me. As I was watching it, I couldn’t help but thinking of a sequence out of The Dark Knight Returns where Gotham is plunged into anarchy and before Batman restores order, some people behave decently and others behave horrifically. It’s not that I don’t think the outcome could have happened, but rather that it felt more like a contrivance than a moment that honestly earned what other posters here seem to think was the intent. Indeed to me it felt like just one more plot detour in a movie already full of detours. Which is really my problem with Nolan as a director; he seems to delight in stories with twists and misdirections, but he’s not good at humanizing his creations. So in moments that hinge on more than just surprising the audience, he falls flat. Whatever intellectual merit TDK may have, for me it never achieves the status of masterpiece because the drama elements are handled so poorly.

  • Jolly

    Alfred withholding the truth is one more trope. Nolan has no deftness or imagination when it comes to building character or pathos. He simply recycles tired material from other movies.

  • Sara

    Jolly,
    The whole movie rang false to me, as you know. The ferry scene was the best of the worst to me, I suppose, and I liked it that the people (when it came down to it) and when they had decisions to make and weren’t going to be “saved” except by themselves, did a smart thing. I agree (as I’ve said) about misdirections and lack of character development (which even though it’s a comic–that should make no difference; there could be great character development.) But not with so much crammed into a movie. It was sensory overload to me and for too much sensationalism. You know I don’t see the movie as a materpiece either but I do think it is interesting and curious that the public responded so. I still wonder if the top reason was that Ledger was dead. My son (on opening weekend) went to see the movie and called and said, go out and see TDK in tribute to Ledger (which says a lot coming from a 22 year old and friends who then saw the movie and were disappointed for the reasons you describe.)I think Nolan could have done a much better job just as I think Woody Allen could have done much better in Vicky Christina Barcelona. Both got sloppy, I thought(and were guilty of using characters somewhat to jerk around and for their own plotlines rather than as characters in themselves.)
    And yes, I didn’t like withholding the truth either. Have you seen the movie again? I can’t remember if Rachel delivered the letter to Bruce (and he wasn’t there so she gave it to Alfred or if she gave it directly to Alfred.) John has a good point re: Bruce being so vulnerable that he could not handle the truth (from Rachel or Alfred and has to be protected.) In that case, where’s the hero–the man–the person who can stand up to the truth of things as they are?

  • Jolly

    I’m not even convinced that the people on the ferry did the right thing. I suppose you could argue that they realized that the Joker’s offer was bogus, and it was not worth tainting themselves. But…the Joker is as much as anything a force of nature. Nothing he does is explained, either in terms of motive or method. The ferry situation can be viewed as an example of triage…many lives are at risk but not all can be saved. It’s not at all clear to me that the choice that was made is the only defensible one. The crews and passengers did not intentionally create the situation, anymore than survivors of a natural disaster. Is this the moral equivalent to looting or triage in the wake of a disaster?

    As I indicated, I’m not sure what Nolan’s intentions were with that scene. It creates a tense scene which raises a moral dilemma. And there is a trademark Nolan “twist,” but that twist depends partly on expectations built within the movie…that the behaviour of Gotham’s citizens so far makes it seem unlike that they will make the choice they do. Given the various ways in which the public was responding to the Joker’s game (calling for Batman’s exposure, trying to kill the lawyer that knew his identity, fleeing Gotham in the first place), I don’t see how that scene can possibly be intended to illustrate anything about the people of Gotham deserving or not deserving Batman.

    The scene would work better if we were meant to understand the convicts as “the terrorists,” because then at least the enemy is humanized. However, that interpretation doesn’t really work, because it avoids issues of complicity on the part of the parties.

  • Jolly

    Sara,

    I didn’t particularly mind that Alfred withheld the information. I didn’t go back and watch Batman Begins before seeing TDK, but I feel a sequel should be able to re-establish certain parts of the story effectively. Nolan uses tropes to attempt to do so, which is pretty standard in movies, where there is a limited amount of time to do everything. I just felt like they were tossed in ineffectively in a movie that we’ve both agreed is too busy.

  • Sara

    Jolly,
    Yes, WAY too busy. Manic. I was exhausted after that movie and just ready to get out of the theatre–and it was from feeling manipulated and having stuff thrown at me. Still, within all of that, as I said, the ferry scene was the best of the worst, I thought (which isn’t exactly a compliment) but it’s saying it was better than the other parts to me.

    What do you mean when you say the Joker was a “force of nature”? People have said that and it doesn’t make sense to me. He was a character and, yes, he was like the Tasmanian Devil but the TD (like the initials?) is still a character…not a “force of nature.” I see the ferry scene with the Joker’s voice played over speakers to be very different than being in the midst of a hurricane.

    TDK as the top grossing box office movie in history–and I don’t know how it will stack up with other movies when all is said and done…I think the numbers/revenue is connected to Ledger’s death (and so many people viewing the movie as a tribute to Ledger, along with the over-the-top marketing, American style)…I think the success is connected to the PG13 rating and the huge number of theatres it opened in on the same weekend. Also, re: the marketing/ratings issue and numbers–I know families who went to the movie with their preteens and got up and left–so those tickets were paid for–and then walked out and couldn’t get their money back)…and/or either America is just made up of a heck of a lot of people with ADD and the fast movement from scene to scene was fine with them, in fact, desirable because it’s overstimulating (and I’m not saying this rudely as there are people in my family who are ADD.)
    Still, I like Batman in general, just didn’t care for this movie.

  • John Cornell

    Sara said,

    “The “decision” to keep the truth from the people was not heroic to me. If Batman so wants to give up his job and not have to do it anymore, then let the people have the power. Give up the job and do a more difficult one, Bruce. Have an intimate relationship which I don’t think Bruce Wayne knows how to do.”

    Sara,

    I don’t think he feels the people are ready for that kind of responsibility just yet. Before Batman came onto the scene, Gotham was in chaos – crime was rampant, corrupt cops were everywhere – it was an even bigger mess than it is now. Batman’s presence changed all that. He gave the criminals a reason to fear and the good people a symbol to aspire to. Then Dent came along and a part of Bruce was really hoping that the new DA could take over and continue in that direction.

    It’s my personal belief that Wayne will never let go of being Batman (Rachel saw that) regardless of what he might say or do. If he intentionally did something that went against his code, on the other hand (like picking up the “hated gun” to shoot someone in self defense or what have you), then I could see him saying, “Okay.. enough if enough.” There’s actually a scene from an episode of the Animated Series where a much older Batman, feeling his age tremendously, reaches for (but doesn’t use) a gun to get himself out of a sticky situation and it’s the last time we see Wayne don the cape and cowl.
    This sequence and the series in general is not considered to be canon (with the comics), but many fans (young and old) have the feeling that it’s definitive of the character in many respects.

    I agree that Bruce Wayne does not know how to have an intimate relationship. And I’ll add that he fears getting too close to anyone in a binding way, knowing he could lose them forever, much in the same way he did his beloved parents.

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    You missed a point I made earlier that Nolan tends to refrain from doing the “back from the dead” nonsense generally associated with comics and the like. Dent is gone. I actually got a look at the script (wasn’t kidding when I said that) and you can bet the farm that Two-Face won’t be coming back.

    Also, Batman isn’t playing “good soldier” here. Keep in mind that it’s HIS decision to take the heat for Dent’s actions. Clearly Batman’s motives are entirely different from that of Powell or anyone else associated with the Bush administration. Batman is doing what he does to protect what Dent represents to the people of Gotham. As others have already stated, much of what the triumvirate accomplished together would be undone if word got out about Harvey’s crimes. It’s important to additionally realize that Batman is a manipulator here (be his actions good or bad) and that goes completely against the standard definition of what a “good soldier” is.

  • Sara

    NOW I need to see the very end of the friggin movie again (but will NOT pay a red cent)…maybe will go to a theatre where it’s playing, go in early to another movie and slip in and watch the end of TDK because I have a few questions. Is the script to TDK available as it is with Batman Begins (I doubt it)…but if you know of it, let me know.
    John, I didn’t miss the point re: resurrection stuff, I just had commented too long as it was. I won’t bet the farm on Two-Face returning, though. BUT I think Rachel is blown up (because that follows what happens to females in the comics–and elsewhere, I’d add.) YOU never commented on how my son and I rushed out to get Storm from the sandbox as the lightning twisted across the sky and the trees bowed:) THAT’S what I’d call a force of nature (Jolly)
    Still think the Powell analogy (it WAS POWELL’S decision–didn’t have to do what he did) fits but would have to see the very end of the movie again.

  • John Cornell

    Sara said,

    “John has a good point re: Bruce being so vulnerable that he could not handle the truth (from Rachel or Alfred and has to be protected.) In that case, where’s the hero–the man–the person who can stand up to the truth of things as they are?”

    Sara,

    Please do not twist my words to support your overly negative views on this film.

    First of all, I never stated that Bruce could not handle the truth. In many ways, Alfred will always see Bruce as a “little boy, lost, struggling to find a way to make up for not being able to save his parents’ lives”, but this does not make Batman less of a hero. Parents often look upon their adult children as little ones still needing guidance and protection – to varying extent, of course.

    Secondly, my critique was of Rachel; not Bruce. I thought her actions lacked maturity and showed cowardice on her part. When she told him that she wouldn’t be with him towards the end of Batman Begins, he took the news just fine.

  • John Cornell

    Sara said,

    “John, I didn’t miss the point re: resurrection stuff, I just had commented too long as it was. I won’t bet the farm on Two-Face returning, though. BUT I think Rachel is blown up (because that follows what happens to females in the comics–and elsewhere, I’d add.)”

    Like I state above, it isn’t Nolan’s style to bring characters back from the dead. This is the same man who has vowed (along with Bale) that Robin will not appear in his films and thank God for that! According to the script, Dent is dead and you may recall there was actually a funeral service for him.

    Here is a quote from the script,

    “Gordon, horrified, RUNS to the edge- peers down-

    Dent lies at the bottom of the hole, his neck broken. DEAD.”

    Also, I think you need to be more specific about what Powell did that can be compared to what Batman does in TDK.

  • Sara

    John,
    Certainly didn’t mean to twist your words at all. Sorry it came off that way. I apologize. Also, I made an error in not ending quotes at the correct place. Should have corrected in another post.
    A hero to me is one that can handle the truth of a situation, regardless of what it is…might take a lot of help, might take not looking like a hero, but that’s my view anyway (and to allow others to make decisions for themselves also.) I also think (my opinion) that Alfred would do well to stop trying to protect Bruce (regardless of what happened in the past.) Yes, parents and guardians have that tendency but it’s not particularly a good one after a certain age (again, to me.)
    I don’t dislike Batman, it’s the movie that disappointed me. I hope you get that. I think Nolan could have done better–I expected better.

  • Sara

    John,
    Would you please send me the link for TDK script?
    Thanks

  • John Cornell

    “I think the numbers/revenue is connected to Ledger’s death (and so many people viewing the movie as a tribute to Ledger, along with the over-the-top marketing, American style.”

    Ledger’s death certainly had something to do with the film’s revenue initially, but I genuinely believe that people were moved (and taken aback) by his performance, as well. You already know that I personally think TDK (in general) was a tremendously well done film with a marvelous script behind it and others, including many film critics (e.g., MaryAnn, Peter Travers, David Keyes) feel the same way.
    It should also be noted that Ledger wasn’t exactly a big star yet or huge box office draw. I could be wrong about that, but I think I’m spot on here.

    I guess if something does well and people don’t like it, they will always try to find excuses for its success.

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    Here ya go. Keep in mind that some of the sequences were “fleshed out” a little, particularly the Joker’s lines. Still, over 95% of what you see here made it into the film, which is astounding, if you ask me.

    http://joblo.com/scripts/The_Dark_Knight.pdf

  • John Cornell

    “John,
    A hero to me is one that can handle the truth of a situation, regardless of what it is…might take a lot of help, might take not looking like a hero, but that’s my view anyway (and to allow others to make decisions for themselves also.)”

    Yes, but it was Alfred who chose to keep the letter a secret. I don’t understand why you’re judging/critiquing Wayne for someone else’s actions.

    On a side note, I think Batman (both in the comics and on film) is a flawed hero. Like I’ve said before, noone is perfect and you’re bound to find bad qualities in even the best of heroes, politicians, teachers and leaders. That’s one thing I despise about politics, how people attack and criticize those in the public eye for saying or doing things average citizens do all the damn time. Pointing out what you think is wrong about what he/she might have done is fine, but completely dismissing the person as a degenerate for one minor utterance or action is ridiculous. And yet, it happens all the time.

  • Jolly

    Sara,

    The Joker is a plot device. I called him a force of nature, but I could just as easily lump him in with the Fates or fickle Greek Gods, or call him a Devil. He has powers and motives that are not Human.

    John,

    Yes, I’m just going against mainstream opinion because it makes me “cool.” You’ve found me out. I’m secretly wearing Batman underoos.

  • John Cornell

    Jolly said,

    “Which is really my problem with Nolan as a director; he seems to delight in stories with twists and misdirections, but he’s not good at humanizing his creations.”

    I agree with that to a point Jolly, but actually feel that Nolan improved on his technique somewhat with The Dark Knight. One of the things that really irked me with Batman Begins was the way in which Martha Wayne was portrayed. She was basically a “stepford wife” and I felt no connection between her and Bruce at all. Did she even have a whole line??

  • Jolly

    Sara,

    As I’ve learned from watching “The Simpsons,” moral perception is all in the presentation. I’ve been mulling over the ferry scene and have concluded that in a consequentialist framework, the passengers choice is only “smart” because the batman does intervene. People have compared the situation to the familiar “Prisoner’s dilemma” where the incentive structures are such that the two parties could be better off if they co-ordinated, but face incentives that create the possibility of “rationally” choosing am outcome where they are both worse off. There is no such structure here…barring Batman’s intervention, everyone dies. I can imagine a scene where a civilian reasons, “This is a terrible choice that I must make, but there are women and children on this vessel, and I believe that it is justifiable to sacrifice the convicts so that they may live.” The fact that the Joker, and not nature, created the situation, does not change the fact that there are moral choices to be made, or that the right choice is not necessarily one that refutes the Joker’s view of humanity.

    Nolan frames the issue in terms of craven self-interest, maintaining the core contempt with which he portrays Gothamites throughout the movie.

  • Sara

    “I called him a force of nature, but I could just as easily lump him in with the Fates or fickle Greek Gods, or call him a Devil. He has powers and motives that are not Human.”

    Well, what the hell is this, Jolly? If the Joker is that, then SAY IT you know, or have him say it. Is Batman “God”? Or Zeus? Or a Zeus? Or a god? How is the Joker a “force of nature” but Batman isn’t? Or is he? Is it all metaphor, is that what you’re saying? Or are you talking literal devil and literal god? On earth. To fight against/for humanity? This is religion then. More or less. Really religion.
    OK, I’ll read the rest of your stuff a bit later when I have time to focus so I won’t mess up and yes, I have heard people discuss the “prisoners’ dilemma” in TDK a lot. As said, will read your stuff and respond later.
    John, you’re agreeing with Jolly about just what I said also (wanted to note that–the problem with Nolan and character depth/development,etc. which was part of my disappointment with the whole movie.)

  • Sara

    John,
    Thanks for the link…and please try to understand that I’m not looking for “excuses” as to why TDK did so well at the box office…I’m looking for “reasons” that it did well because I think that popular culture is significant. I think it’s important to look at it the public response to pop culture and try to understand what’s going on.

  • Sara

    John,
    Also, I disagree with you about Ledger. I think Brokeback Mountain (and perhaps some other movies but definitely that one) established him as a gifted actor. It wasn’t TDK that did that (my opinion.)

  • Jolly

    Sara,

    I’m not trying to be deep. I just mean that the Joker is not played as, or even intended to be, a human foe. He has no motives and there is no attempt to explain what he does. I’m not faulting the movie for this…I think the Joker works fine in the movie. I don’t think he’s an allegorical character, representing Bin Laden, as some have claimed (if not here, then elsewhere). If anything, he’s a personification of some idea (chaos?). Whatever the case may be, I feel no need to judge the characters in the movie through the warped moral lens of the Joker.

  • John Cornell

    John, you’re agreeing with Jolly about just what I said also (wanted to note that–the problem with Nolan and character depth/development,etc. which was part of my disappointment with the whole movie.)

    I agreed with Jolly to a point. I found problems in Batman Begins, but not so much The Dark Knight. There was certainly more “character depth/development” found here (in the sequel) than in say.. Iron Man or Fantastic Four. My opinion, of course.

    FYI, I think Nolan accomplishes this best with The Prestige.

  • John Cornell

    Sara says,

    “John,
    Also, I disagree with you about Ledger. I think Brokeback Mountain (and perhaps some other movies but definitely that one) established him as a gifted actor. It wasn’t TDK that did that (my opinion.)”

    Sara,

    I never said that Dark Knight was Ledger’s “best” performance. I agree that he was a gifted actor in the eyes of many, but that doesn’t necessarily equate with being a huge box office draw. In my opinion, he hadn’t exactly arrived just yet. Likewise, if Ledger’s performance was mediocre, I don’t think people would have kept coming back for more. They would have paid their respects in a single viewing and the drop-off would have likely been considerable a few weeks later. Instead (like Batman Begins), The Dark Knight showed legs benefiting from strong word of mouth.

    If it means anything, I was not a Heath Ledger fan at all and wasn’t expecting to be wowed by his take on The Joker based on what I’d seen of the film prior to its release. Ledger made me eat my words though, as I was blown away by what he accomplished in TDK with just his simple mannerisms, ticks and idiosyncrasies. I was on the edge of my seat (heart pounding) waiting to see when this new Joker would make his next appearance. Credit the Nolan’s for using him sparingly.

  • Sara

    John,
    You mentioned that Ledger wasn’t “exactly a big star yet”–but look at this…Ledger won the 2005 NY Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor; 2006 Best Actor award–Australian Film Institute; for 78th Academy Awards, he was one of five nominated for an Academy Award for best leading actor. Brokeback Moutain was up for 8 nominations and won three (Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score.)Brokeback Mountain is ranked 8th in highest-grossing dramas of all time.
    My opinion…TDK didn’t touch Brokeback. I thought he was on the screen too much in TDK–talked too much; actually became tiresome to me. But others will disagree, I realize that. Main point is that Ledger was an established talent (and a dead one) when TDK came out. As I mentioned, I heard the clarion call from university halls and I think it’s important to acknowledge this (yes, those oldest adolescent males and males in their very early twenties)…go out to see TDK in memory of Ledger.
    I was a Ledger fan; I saw the talent in him and it’s not always “box-office” draw that’s true talent (to me.) Talent much as I see in Crudup (who for years and years has eschewed blockbuster films.)
    So, yes, I think the success of TDK owes much to Ledger and the honoring of him.

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    Average movie goers (who went and saw this film time and again) don’t know or care a whole lot about the awards you just mentioned with exception to the Oscars. I think Ledger (like Bale) was more popular with a certain demographic and had a cult following of sorts if you will. And I wasn’t suggesting that “true talent” has anything to do with being a box office draw, but we are discussing NUMBERS here. With that stated, I do agree that much of TDK’s success has to do with Ledger, but mostly for his performance – not just his untimely death. I don’t think people would lie to themselves and keep coming back to see a film they didn’t care for just because it features the last performance of a great actor/actress. But it would be presumptuous of me to try and speak for everyone who saw TDK.

    What I’m trying to get across is that there are other factors to be considered, as well. The film in question was highly anticipated long before Ledger’s demise and the Joker character has been said to be nearly as iconic as that of Batman or Superman. Food for thought.

  • Sara

    John,
    Yes, this was an anticipated film, I agree. But I also think that it was confusing, loud and hard to follow too much of the time. For that reason I’ve known many who have gone to see it again. And this evening (while out at a gathering) I asked around re: some issues in TDK– the ending, the ferries issue, etc., and the answers I got varied widely because the viewers (even some who have seen the movie twice) weren’t clear on certain parts…as in “I THINK that’s what happened…at least that’s what it looked like to me” or…”That part wasn’t clear to me, what did you think?”
    And I even said earlier to you, well, now I need to see the end again and that’s why I asked you for the script. I don’t think you should have to do that in a film. Not that the film should be simplistic, no. Of course, complexity is good. Complicated, confusing, loud (so as to cause difficulty in hearing the dialogue) and too dark (and in literally too dark in places so it’s difficult to tell what’s going on) shouldn’t be reason for repeat viewings or not being able to catch what’s going on. Certainly not having to read the script.
    For people like you who already have a strong background in Batman comics, you can follow along OK. For many others, I think they get into the wrong stuff–the sensationalistic crash and burn, exploding stuff. Again, concerns about the audience.

  • Sara

    MaryAnn,
    In the movie, did you see Batman intervene to save the ferry passengers (they did to choose to not blow each other up) but did you see Batman intervene to save them from being blown up?
    Thanks.

  • I’ve been mulling over the ferry scene and have concluded that in a consequentialist framework, the passengers choice is only “smart” because the batman does intervene. People have compared the situation to the familiar “Prisoner’s dilemma” where the incentive structures are such that the two parties could be better off if they co-ordinated, but face incentives that create the possibility of “rationally” choosing am outcome where they are both worse off. There is no such structure here…barring Batman’s intervention, everyone dies. I can imagine a scene where a civilian reasons, “This is a terrible choice that I must make, but there are women and children on this vessel, and I believe that it is justifiable to sacrifice the convicts so that they may live.” The fact that the Joker, and not nature, created the situation, does not change the fact that there are moral choices to be made, or that the right choice is not necessarily one that refutes the Joker’s view of humanity.
    –Jolly

    Actually there is such a scene in the movie as the one you describe. And yet that same civilian changes his mind at the last minute, evidently preferring to risk dying rather than save himself and the others through murder. And it wasn’t the Batman’s intervention that prompted him to do this any more than it was the Batman who prompted the convict on the other boat to throw the remote out the window and into the sea.

    While I can see the reasons why that scene isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I can’t help but admire the way Nolan handled it because it would have been so easy to throw in a shocking plot twist in which one boat–if not both–ended up exploding and killing all the passengers on board. Yet Nolan chose not to do this.

  • If Batman is truly written and filmed as Batman IS (even in the variety of materials) I think it would be R to start with. How he became “for kids” is unclear to me. On the otherhand, I can see why kids (because I was ) was drawn to Zorro (and he IS about getting at the corruption above helping people. I mean,yes, he wants to help people–he would say that if you could ask him, as would Batman–but I think if you could get to the deepest place inside them, they are more driven by controlled revenge (which is fine, it’s just difficult psychologically) to route out the corruption. Zorro is less brooding than Batman and has fun with this on some level so he uses much more humor (a good defense mechanism.) He leaves Z’s on things, people, clothing, etc. He galvanizes the people against corruption in a more effective way, I think.
    –Sara

    Actually there are a lot of Chicano militants who have had have issues with Zorro–yes, in spite of the recent movies–because they consider the Zorro movies and TV shows to be a distortion of the history of the American Southwest.

    Most real-life Zorros fought back against Anglo-American oppressors more often than their Spanish equivalents but we rarely hear about such types in the mainstream culture because that’s an aspect of American history we’re not quite comfortable with exploring.

    Then again I’ve used Zorro as an user name so I’m not unsympathetic to the more positive interpretations that are usually given to that character.

    I will admit, however, that the more I hear about some of the real-life exploits of the Texas Rangers, the more I regret ever having seen the Lone Ranger as a childhood hero. And for what it’s worth, I was never all that fond of the Cisco Kid…

    Back to Batman…

  • Jolly

    Tonio wrote:

    Actually there is such a scene in the movie as the one you describe. And yet that same civilian changes his mind at the last minute, evidently preferring to risk dying rather than save himself and the others through murder.

    Which scene are you referring to?

    And it wasn’t the Batman’s intervention that prompted him to do this any more than it was the Batman who prompted the convict on the other boat to throw the remote out the window and into the sea.

    I wasn’t implying that Batman’s intervention made them do it, but that they were dependent on him for their survival. I was also questioning whether their decision was right one and was suggesting that if we judge their actions based on consequences, it only becomes so because of interventions outside their control. This is actually not an easy call, since we don’t know what the various actors believed when the decision was made. Hope plays a role here, as the passengers may have been hoping,”If we don’t make a terrible decision, is there a chance that the passengers on the other boat also don’t make a terrible decision *and* something happens that keeps the Joker from blowing us all up?” However, in both the movie and the real world, terrible things are done regardless of how much we might hope that it were otherwise, and we dearly wish for action, even if we aren’t personally willing to put ourselves on the line. I think the scene in question supports the read that the passengers don’t act because they are hoping that someone else will take responsibility for the situation. In fact, although there are questions about whether Orwell actually said or wrote it, the quote that John provides above is relevant in this context:

    “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

  • Sara

    Tonio,
    Good points about Zorro. Recall, too, Lone Ranger and “Tonto” (that kind of makes me cringe now)…then most of the Superheroes are males (and the peripheral females get blown up or shut up in refrigerators.) But, yeah, back to Batman. Tonio, did Batman keep the ferries from getting blown up?

  • Sara

    Jolly,
    I started thinking of Batman and the Joker fighting over that detonator that the Joker had. Did the Joker press it and nothing happened? Did Batman disarm it in their scuffle? In the script John sent me Batman takes the detonator but this is past the midnight hour.

    Jolly, I thought when you said Batman intervened (or that’s how I understood it) that you meant that he did something with the detonator that the Joker had. That’s what I was asking people about at this party tonight. Some had seen TDK more than once. They didn’t remember. Weren’t sure. Hmmm…”I don’t know.” One person said, “When I left the theatre it was all kind of a blur to me.” That’s what is problematic to me and frustrating. I don’t know either. My husband doesn’t and my son who has seen the movie twice doesn’t. Know one knows. Did Batman intervene via the detonator? We’re not stupid people, we should know this.

  • Jolly

    Sara,

    Batman stops him. He shoots the Joker with the blades in his wrist weapon as the Joker is going for the detonator.

  • Sara

    Jolly,
    It’s when the Joker says something about having to do everything by himself or something to that effect…and then they scuffle. It’s interesting that no one I’ve asked about this (in person or by phone) who has seen the movie could answer this question. That’s a bit strange, huh? Again, smart people…not your average movie goers and several Batman fans who have read the comics.
    Thanks, Jolly.

  • Jolly

    I think the ferry scene is actually quite clever. It shows why the citizens of Gotham need Batman, and answers the question that I asked earlier…how did Gotham end up in such a mess? Its both subtle and has reaching implications for why America is in the mess it’s in.

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    Those are some good points you bring up, but I don’t think it was terribly “confusing” for the most part. You might like to know there were definite moments I had trouble following when I initially saw the film, as well, but I’ve come to understand this is Nolan’s style. FYI, my brother in law isn’t a Batman fan at all and he picks up on EVERYTHING in a first viewing. Almost makes me feel slow. To be honest though, I kind of like going back and saying to myself, “Wow! I totally missed that. Dent actually warned Gordon about locking Joker up in the M.C.U and he didn’t bother to listen!”

    I have a question for you, Sara. Is there anything at all that you liked about The Dark Knight?
    Here’s something else you might have missed in your first and only viewing. Remember when Bruce is seen lamenting over the loss of Rachel in his penthouse? That’s meant to be a homage to a scene from the first film, i.e., Batman Begins. You may recall that shortly after a memorial service is held for the Waynes (in BB), we see Alfred attend to a young Bruce offering him supper, to which Bruce ignores the gesture. Alfred replies, “Very well.” and takes his leave only to be interrupted by Bruce’s anguished cry, “Alfred!! It was my fault!” Same deal in TDK. Presumably, just a day after Rachel’s murder, Alfred is shown trying to get Bruce to eat some breakfast. Wayne remains silent. Alfred takes the hint in responding with a dry “Very well.” And as he takes his leave, Bruce cries out, “Alfred. Did I bring this on her??” I thought it was a touching scene and film technique. Even the melody used in the former scene (composed by Zimmer and Newton) was applied for the new sequence.

  • Jolly

    Sara,

    I went to the script that John graciously provided us the script for. I wasn’t precisely sure what happened either. But I was pretty sure that boats would have been blown up without Batman’s intervention.

  • Sara

    I thought the ferry scene was clever too but obviously I missed a chunk of it and other people did too. I just talked with his son (his dog is at an emergency vet center) and my son is in the waiting room. The dog will be fine, he’s just got to wait. I asked him if he saw Batman get the detonator. He said, no I did not. Saw it two times and that was never clear. To me or anybody else that I saw it with.
    Why does the scene (to you, Jolly) have implications for why America is in the mess it’s in?

  • Sara

    Jolly,
    See you had to go to the script too…that shouldn’t be. I mean, come on, Nolan. And this is PG13?! I give it an R for the fact that you have to go to the darn script for a major point! And I’m saying that to myself and Jolly and everyone I’ve talked to tonight. And about the film in general.
    Wonder if MaryAnn saw it at the TIME of viewing. Because it is CRITICAL to the movie. If it’s THAT hard to see or get, it’s too subtle or the lighting is bad or something.
    I bet a shitload of people didn’t get this either and again, my concern about just loving a movie cause it’s got this cool special effects and lots of blow-ups and some really vicious sadism. Yikes.

  • Sara

    John,
    Interestingly, yes, I do recall both parts you describe (surrounding the meals that Alfred prepares) in both movies. As I would. It’s story and nothing was exploding during that part, is my guess:) So I could hear the dialogue that was critical to both scenes and ties them together.

  • Jolly

    Sara,

    The choice the passengers make may not create new evils, but it is too passive to counter an existing evil. Since they respond to evil passively, the Gothamites rely on the White Knight/Dark Knight. I agree with MaryAnn…Batman does not represent Bush and Co. However, if a populace passively relies on its knights to counter evil and those knights are not incorruptible like Batman, then what?

  • Jolly

    Sara,

    I’m not so sure that my inability to remember the precise sequence is Nolan’s fault. I’ve read so many reviews and comments about the movie, that I’ve come across conflicting recollections of all kinds of plot details. Unfortunately, that sometimes becomes blurred with my own memories.

  • Sara

    Jolly,
    I don’t think the passengers were expecting to get rescued. I think they thought the Joker would blow them up. You kinda had to go with that, given their decision. Otherwise, they’re just babies waiting to be taken care of. I think they were sitting there, resigned…they were going to get blown up but they were NOT going to be forced by fear to blow up the other boat. On the otherhand maybe the people were dependent on Batman (not a good thing)…and that could very well be as many have been dependent on Bush (thinking…he will save us from the terrorists.)
    The wilder thing to me (and worth discussing and worth discussing with MaryAnn) is that the critical piece (the what-should-be-clear piece)–the Batman took the detonator was not understood by you, Jolly, by me, by anyone I have talked to about this movie. Except, I guess, John. That’s really very very weird, you gotta admit.

  • Sara

    No, Jolly, your reaction–Aug. 28,1:52 AM– is totally what I’ve been hearing and seeing from so many people. People who KNOW the comics, people who get stuff, guys who are wise to slick movies.

    I think it was poor on Nolan’s part. I’ve heard people say that much of TDK was all a blur after they left the theatre…that’s the too loud, too much, etc, that has even appeared on this board (and not only by me.)Others have said that, too…

    But this ferry thing is significant–if Nolan can’t make that clear to most of the movie-goers…if they can’t come out of the movie and know that Batman took that detonator (if the script is correct–is it?) then there’s a problem and it’s not with us…it’s with the directing. Or as you have said, perhaps very correctly, misdirections.

  • Jolly

    Sara,

    Even many people that loved the flick (and Batman Begins) comment on Nolan’s apparent inability to film clear action scenes. I haven’t declared the movie a masterpiece yet…I’m just considering that I may have missed the point of many of the scenes.

    I don’t think it matters whether the passengers hope to get rescued or not. My point is that they are unwilling to take difficult actions, but their passiveness only insures that evil prevails. Surely having only one boat explode is a better outcome than having both boats explode.

    Recast the scenario as follows. Someone not on either boat is given fifteen minutes to pick which boat is destroyed. If no decision is made after fifteen minutes, both boats are destroyed. Can you really say that picking neither boat, and allowing both boats to be destroyed is heroic? Other than having a personal stake in the outcome, how is the moral dimension any different for the passengers on the boats?

  • John Cornell

    “I bet a shitload of people didn’t get this either and again, my concern about just loving a movie cause it’s got this cool special effects and lots of blow-ups and some really vicious sadism. Yikes.”

    ::SIGH:: That’s not the only reason people love this film, Sara. You’re impossible.

    Hell, I don’t remember everything that happened in Iron Man, which isn’t a terribly complex film, in my opinion.

  • John Cornell

    This review pretty much sums up the way I feel about the film.

    http://www.cinemaphile.org/reviews/2008/thedarkknight.html

  • Sara

    John,
    What are you doing up so late? I had surgery on my knee over a month ago and overdid PT today and it’s bothering me. Am up and working on some writing. Don’t have to work tomorrow or Friday unless I choose to.
    The review is good. I was thinking about Nolan’s Prestige which I thought was very good…AND I figured out that Bale was the twin brothers in the first bit of the film. Nolan didn’t cram too much into that movie. I thought it was well-done. I wish he had taken a similar approach (if this makes any sense at all to you) in TDK…and I think it could have been done and done really well.

  • Sara

    Who would have thunk? The Joker (when he falls) loses the detonator? And who saw that? Can’t say I did. See below. http://alaymansphilosophy.wordpress.com/2008/07/23/the-dark-knight-philosophy-a-case-study-pti/

    “Both groups expect to die very soon. The large number of people on both the boats becomes an issue very quickly, as no one wants to die, but no one can bring themselves to push the button and become the ultimate hero/villain (or, as the Joker views himself).

    While this is all going on, Batman and Joker are having a battle of their own. Batman and Joker are on the top of a skyscraper, watching over the river themselves. The time is nearing for the explosion of one of the ships, and the Joker is quite confident that at least one person will decide to succumb to his level (by feigning a God-like control) and murder the other ship’s passengers. Batman and Joker wrestle around and the Joker is caught up in one of Batman’s gadgets. Joker falls from the roof, losing his detonator for both the ferries, laughing all the way, and Batman catches him with his bat-ropes and saves him.”
    (Also perhaps of interest: http://www.quantitativepeace.com/blog/2008/07/the-dark-knight.html

  • Jolly

    Sara,

    Knee surgery, eh? I had an ACL reconstruction a few years ago. Fun, fun. I spent my time then occupied with Serenity/Firefly then. Now I’m too busy with a paper I’m writing to find much time to find something else other than TDK to occupy my “free time.” (sigh) Pre-injury I’d probably just go shoot some hoops, but that’s what got me into trouble in the first place…

    I wasn’t especially enamoured by The Prestige. I pretty much agree with Ebert’s review; I thought the movie cheated. And I would argue that the movie again kept the audience distant from the characters.

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    Sorry to hear about your knee. I actually took a few days off from work, as well. Time flies by so quickly though. =(

    I agree about The Prestige and also thought the characters were better developed here than in Batman Begins. The Dark Knight (for me) falls somewhere in between; it was an improvement. Still didn’t feel a whole lot of chemistry between Bruce and Rachel in the sequel though.

    I know and understand why Nolan is hesitant to use certain chracters (from the comics) he feels would not work well in his “hyper-realistic” setting (e.g., Robin, Killer Croc), but I really hope that Selina Kyle aka Catwoman isn’t off that list. She’s too important of a character to leave out I think. That said, there better be some chemistry between Bale and the actress they potentially decide to go with.

    It will be interesting to see how Batman/Bruce is portrayed in a follow up to Dark Knight. I can really see him as becoming more obsessed and getting into it with Alfred to an extent. In the comics, there is a great character by the name of Dr. Leslie Thompkins, who reminds me of you in some ways, Sara. She is a pacifist type who took it upon herself to look after young Bruce after his parents were killed and is seen as parental figure (like Alfred) of sorts. As she noticed his anti-social behavior early on, Leslie feels partially response for Bruce becoming Batman and often urges him to find other less violent ways in dealing with corruption. In Nolan’s world Leslie obviously doesn’t exist.. at least not yet. It would be cool and interesting to watch if she did though. =)

    http://www.geocities.com/womenofgotham/Leslie.htm

  • Sara

    John,
    Thanks for the info on Leslie–how cool–cooler than massive fireballs. A fireball of a female who has had major effects on these characters. Who found Bruce Wayne for gosh sakes!!! (whimpering over the bodies of his parents)…WHY is this not in the origin story in Batman Begins? Nolan, Nolan, Nolan.

    Leslie’s even treated Catwoman. I’m surprised to find that Leslie survives. Really should be allowed to do her thing; I can imagine ways for her to fit in the script, depending on Nolan’s designs. If you want to get Batman away from his obsession with fighting crime (which will always exist–the crime) then get him to Leslie. He MIGHT be able to have an intimate relationship after working through the old issues that actually haunt him to this day. This transformation could be created in an interesting way. No, not, pure action, but that’s my main complaint of TDK anyway, as you know. Too much action, not enough story…in fact the action evidently (and this is just not me at all–it’s for many guys who KNOW the comics) got in the way of the story for many. I realize you HAVE to have action in every story but TDK was overdone (my opinion.) Why not more of a mystery than a blow-up movie, than a sensationalistic sadistic movie? Why not something like flavor of The Prestige, WITH Leslie in it (she does NOT get killed off anymore than Alfred does), and then some of the classic Batman stuff (Nolan’s stuff–the very best and sparingly.)

    For me to know within the first bit of The Prestige that Bale was playing two parts was insightful enough…if I could see THAT early on I certainly should have seen the Joker drop the detonator…KNOW that that happened. Even people who I’ve spoken with who understood that Bale was playing twin brothers in The Prestige (imagine if that was not clear!) did NOT get the full ferry picture. Problem, I’d say. I considered that the best part, yet didn’t get the whole of it. And who did? I haven’t talked to anyone who did–upon seeing the movie one time. Did you? You probably did.

    I thought Bale was too flat in TDK and not in the above movie or in 3:10 to Yuma either (probably his best acting to me.) Also, think that the Joker is a psychopath, not a force of nature, Jolly. Ted Bundy has been mentioned as similar (and he was not a force of nature, but had an anti-social character disorder (perhaps with psychotic features at times.) The DC Snipers were of the same type as the Joker. These people caused terror but no superhero was needed to get them. Really, PEOPLE PAYING ATTENTION, taking responsibility, was what got them. I knew the woman in Florida who saw Bundy in her backyard, called the police and by the time they arrived, he was driving around in his car in the neighborhood. He was arrested and did NOT get away. Although, he had escaped once previously (but out West, I think.) Good intelligence, good law enforcement, a public who does not live ruled by fear even in fearful times, but an awake populous…and, yeah, get Bruce to Leslie. It’s been far too long and Leslie has better skills than ever now:)
    John, if Nolan doesn’t do it better this next time, let’s write a script. Would need Jolly’s help, Tonio’s and of course MaryAnn would have to edit (if she would.) Shoop, too. And whomever else.
    My knee is actually doing well…too much PT yesterday, I think.

  • shoop

    Sara, thanks for the writing invite–still, Batman would be better off without me. For me, Batman will always be Adam West, ready with his bat-shark repellent spray. Hope the knee feels better.

  • Sara

    Ha! Shoop! I remember those days. My little brother watched that show entranced in his Batman PJs. Think he still carries shark-repellant today inside his suit pocket. I also think he still uses his shoe phone when he’s Smart. He does say things these days like, Holy Bill of Rights, Batman! (among others.) Yeah, Batman (Adam West), Zorro (a bit earlier), and Sky King, etc.

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    Regarding Leslie, I really think it would have been interesting to bring her into the films. It should be noted, however, that it isn’t just Nolan who overlooked the importance of the character in times past. Maybe the studios are under the impression that one parental figure is more than enough for Bruce Wayne to have in his life. Go figure.

    MUCH AS I LIKE Nolan’s work, I do get the sense that he has a problem developing strong female characters. Rachel Dawes, in my opinion, wasn’t a very good creation at all. And you know how I feel about the way Martha Wayne was portrayed in Batman Begins. In the comics, Bruce was very close to his mother – he would often reflect on her reading bedtime stories [to him] and the like – a connection I felt was notably absent from Begins. Everything here seemed to revolve solely around Wayne’s father and that irked me quite a bit. Sara Stewart is a great, capable actress and could have been utilized a lot better. Instead, both she and Linus Roache came off as very wooden under Nolan’s direction. They didn’t feel like real people to me.

    With the above stated, Dark Knight was a big improvement I think. Some didn’t care a whole lot for Eckhart’s performance, but I found his pain to be almost palpable. “What was that name you had for me down at the M.C.U, Gordon? ::awkward pause:: SAY IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” And Melinda McGraw deserves some major recognition for her portrayal of Barbara Gordon, despite having such a limited role. I hope I wasn’t the only one who noticed that. Wayne and Gordon also stood out for me. More of the same from Lucious and Alfred though, not saying that’s a bad thing.

    Curious how the final chapter in the trilogy will play out. Are things going to get even darker or will there be some light at the end of the tunnel for Gotham’s citizens? Only time will tell I suppose.

  • Sara

    John,
    Agree with your comments above re: female characters in the two movies. Light at the end of the tunnel might “be” or shine more brightly if females were included as full-fledged equals. Why ignore 51% of the population (when as you said, in the early versions, Bruce’s mom was instrumental and her loss would change everything for him?) And, as you also mentioned,Begins played up the loss of the father over the mother. When both losses were critical. Mother doesn’t need to be put on a pedestal, though. (Nor does father)…equal and balanced.
    So far as I can find, Leslie didn’t appear until later…don’t see her in the origin story (although it seems she was put there maybe in the 90’s?) Any info on this?

  • Jolly

    Sara,

    Yes, the Joker is a psychopath. With an oracle- like ability to anticipate the future and an implausible army of lackeys to carry out his plans.

    I came across a comment from David Bordwell, in an article trying to explain the popularity of comic book movies, and TDK in particular, that seems appropriate:

    “More often, I think, filmmakers pluck out bits of cultural flotsam opportunistically, stirring it all together and offering it up to see if we like the taste. It’s in filmmakers’ interests to push a lot of our buttons without worrying whether what comes out is a coherent intellectual position. Patton grabbed people and got them talking, and that was enough to create a cultural event. Ditto The Dark Knight.”

    http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/?p=2713

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    I think Leslie’s first appearance in the comics (Detective Comics #457) was way back in March 1976. To be honest, it doesn’t really make a difference to me when she was introduced, as many of the things which define Batman today (e.g., his no killing code, hatred of guns) actually came later. I think you mentioned this at one point, as well.

    http://en.dcdatabaseproject.com/Detective_Comics_Vol_1_457

  • Sara

    John,
    Yeah, I talked with the owner of one of the comic stores we used to frequent when my son was much younger. This owner knows EVERYTHING. I don’t mean that particularly as a compliment. He said at lst there was NO Leslie.hat I was flat out wrong. I said, yeah, uh, there is. He looked it up and sure enough, there was…he said she was never a real character (some truth to that in the sense of “in the present”)–always a flashback. Still. He had no copies but said he could order them (24 dollars a piece–I didn’t order any) and it’s in The Dark Knight (and others too.) He said she appeared in ’92. Somehow I didn’t think that was right but I wasn’t going to argue with him.

    His IS one who knows his inventory (not that he had Leslie in his store) but he will only sell to kids what he thinks is appropriate…if he knows it’s adult stuff, he won’t sell it to them and I always appreciated that. He did talk about the evolution of Batman as we have and said, it’s not always for the good (certain evolutions) and I understand what he means. He said, you know, at the beginning Batman carried a gun and had no problem using it.

    I thought about what Jolly said re: the ferry situation and is it better for all to die or half. Seems to me that Bruce ought to get his detective license/cop license, whatever–work undercover, and operate within the law. He’d have more leeway. If the Joker is coming at him, he could shoot the Joker in self defense and for good reason. And that would be that. Which follows Jolly’s reasoning somewhat. Otherwise, I’d like to see Bruce struggle with his demons in some sessions with Leslie (this could be done in a creative way, actually.) I’m just not for all the explosive stuff. It actually gets boring to me plus it’s not good for kids anyway because they think it’s so cool. I truly don’t think they can tell the difference (seriously) in “shock and awe” and what they see in a lot of the movies. I also think it gets in the way of the story when it’s excessive…I think you know that by now. AND I think I have a good point. The comics owner did NOT like TDK…and he had an interesting take. I asked him if he “liked” it and he said that’s the wrong question and I think it is. He said, did it disturb him? Did it bother him? Did it leave me with a sick feeling? Yeah. (Clearly saw his point.) He also said it was too loud and too much of the dialogue was lost as a result which cuts down on story. I agree, too.

    But I think he’s wrong about Leslie. She could really be used to build character and interest. Get Bruce on the couch more or less. Let him have some flashbacks that torment him horribly. Let him struggle THERE with what he wants to do. Let him admit that he’s scared shitless of any relationship with a female. Let him say he misses his mom. It takes bravery to approach that level of stuff. But most people are drawn to the sensationalistic which ruins so much of it to me.

    Jolly, I gotta have some kind of coherence. The guy I mention above didn’t know what the hell happened with that detonator either (that the Joker had.) How could that–should that–be so obscure. It shouldn’t, I don’t think.

    He did mention some old films that I want to rent, saying that some of the best stuff is older. That nowadays, the more explosions, the more everyone is elated. Not my cup of tea. At least not when it’s over-the-top.

    Hope ya’ll have a good Labor Day weekend. Oh, I thought of this. Why did they choose Chicago for the filming? The city I’ve always thought (and it’s the architecture–even from a distance, as you approach the city)is Atlanta. So very Gotham City to me. Dark and strange. Next film ought to be there. I’ve always approached the city from the Northeast on the highway. And Gotham just looms ahead in my mind in an almost creepy way. Sorry for the long post but I wanted to address both John and Jolly.

  • John Cornell

    Sara said, “Light at the end of the tunnel might “be” or shine more brightly if females were included as full-fledged equals.”

    I think Nolan just needs to focus on developing better female characters with more to say and do. It’s not that he doesn’t consider them to be “full-fledged equals” in my opinion.

    On a side note, it’s odd that you didn’t seem to have a problem with Iron Man, considering that just about every woman in that film basically threw herself at Stark. I understand that he’s somewhat of a ladies man in the comics, but to me the producers overdid it a little with this film.

    Here is a deleted scene (not shown in theatres) from Iron Man:

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=W0nNbtdyLtQ

    Ummm… ok.

    Seriously, Favreau doesn’t hold a candle to Nolan on his worst day. =) Honestly, what the heck was that?

  • John Cornell

    I know I know..

    That was three minutes and 31 seconds of your life wasted on decadent shit – that you will never get back. My apologies, but I had to share.. =)

  • Sara

    John,
    I think it was WHERE I watched Iron Man, too. NOT in a theatre (I could control the sound) and also I liked Robert Downey, Jr.–I liked the storyline and the fact that I could hear the dialogue, plus I like his wry sense of humor.He saw what his industry was doing and set out to change it. I like Paltrow. As far as the ladies’ man part, it was clear he and Paltrow had something together and Stark didn’t pay much attention to any others. Jeff Bridges annoyed me in that movie and the giant iron man suit thing was stupid. (I think I snoozed through that part cause I knew what was going to happen–same in TDK, though. You know what’s going to happen for the most part–that’s what bugs me too.) I didn’t think Iron Man was wonderful, I would just choose to watch it over TDK BUT I wouldn’t watch either again. So don’t think I’m an Iron Man fan. I liked Downey in that role. And Paltrow. Their characters (to me) were more “humanized” than any in TDK (I know you’ll disagree.) Or put it this way, I could understand what they were saying and they appeared as real people to me. I wasn’t for watching the movie…it was a trade-off…if I’d watch that, then the next night we’d watch another (that I chose:) An indie film.
    But, yeah, after the length, and loudness of TDK, Iron Man was sort of a relief. And I could hear the dialogue and follow a storyline. That’s really it.
    And I didn’t have to hear kids laugh at horrific stuff.

  • John Cornell

    John,

    “As far as the ladies’ man part, it was clear he and Paltrow had something together and Stark didn’t pay much attention to any others.”

    Exactly and you’re justifying it. Stark basically used them for sex and forgot their names the following day. And yeah.. he had “something with Paltrow”, but wasn’t man enough to act on it or treat her with any kind of respect. The whole notion that you can have as MANY women as you like on the side and your “someone special” will always be there at home to take the shrapnel out of your heart. That sends out a real good message to the kiddies! I won’t even go much into the air hostesses who suddenly transform into exotic dancers at Stark’s beckon call. Was this a comics to film adaptation or a Puff Daddy video??

    Seems awfully hypocritical of you in expecting national outrage over a film like TDK when you apparently have no problem with this kinda crap. Everything bad isn’t just violence and loud noise, Sara.

  • Sara

    John,
    I agree with you.

  • John Cornell

    Sara said,

    “Seems to me that Bruce ought to get his detective license/cop license, whatever–work undercover, and operate within the law. He’d have more leeway. If the Joker is coming at him, he could shoot the Joker in self defense and for good reason. And that would be that.”

    In the comics, he went through all that, but had a problem with all the red tape and such. He also feels that concealing his identity allows him the freedom he needs to do what he does.

    Also, one thing that defines the chracter TODAY is his hatred for guns. The 1930s version of Batman with his purple gloves and penchance for killing hasn’t been canon for ages or even acknowledged for the most part. Batman doesn’t use guns and has a big problem with killing, even in self defense.

    Likewise, if Bruce was to become a cop then there would be no more Batman. Who wants that? Not I.

    Ya know, I somehow missed one of your earlier posts – specifically the one regarding your local comic book retailer/guide. Can’t say I share his views at all. Seems like everyone in your neighborhood dislikes Nolan’s latest film. Don’t think I’d be welcome there. =))

    Enjoy your labor day weekend!

  • Sara

    Yeah, I was surprised by what the comics’ store owner said about TDK. However, I do think he has a point. Is it a movie you LIKE? If so, what is it that is so liked about it? That was his point. He was disturbed, he was bothered, and so on but he wouldn’t say he “liked” or “disliked” the movie. Simply thought that was the wrong question about it.
    I’m sure you’d be welcomed to talk with him and would have much in common actually. You could probably have found out more about Leslie T. from him than I did.

  • Sara

    John,
    My point about Batman and guns was connected to something Jolly said about the ferries…he questioned how wise it was for both boats to be blown up as opposed to one. If Batman was an undercover detective of sorts, yes he wouldn’t be “Batman” I know but he would perhaps be more effective as the Joker wouldn’t keep getting away–that sort of thing. He’d take him out then and there, really in self-defense.

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    Thought you might be interested in knowing about a previous controversy surrounding Leslie Thompkins, as a result of a plotline (in the batbooks) depicting her as a murderer.

    The short story goes something like this. One of Batman’s young allies (Stephanie Brown) is brutally tortured and left for dead at the hands of a psychopath, i.e., Black Mask. Brown ultimately doesn’t come through, while Leslie Thompkins subsequently goes missing. Batman eventually tracks her down in Africa of all places and finds out that she knowingly withheld treatment from Stephanie to teach Batman some kind of a sick lesson in demonstrating that his war would always have casualties and has to stop before it’s too late.

    Anyway, this development really rubbed fans the wrong way, as they felt the aforementioned portrayal of Leslie Thompkins (as a murderer) was grossly out of character. As a result, the story was thankfully retconned. In the revision, Leslie faked Stephanie Brown’s death and the two had been hiding out in Africa ever since.

    I personally found the original story to be quite chilling and well written, but also agreed that Leslie would never do anything like that.

    Found this online for your viewing and reading pleasure:

    http://i267.photobucket.com/albums/ii318/barbarabush8/Batman644pg19.jpg

    http://i267.photobucket.com/albums/ii318/barbarabush8/Batman644pg20.jpg

    http://i267.photobucket.com/albums/ii318/barbarabush8/Batman644pg21.jpg

  • John Cornell

    “My point about Batman and guns was connected to something Jolly said about the ferries…he questioned how wise it was for both boats to be blown up as opposed to one.”

    Gotcha Sara.

  • D

    http://www.cracked.com/video_16496_why-all-cool-kids-want-dark-knight-action-figures.html

    On the “suitable for children debate”…
    Favourite line: Dent: “Aaaaaaaaaargh!!! I’m being consumed by the evil I’ve sworn to admonish!!!”

  • Sara

    “Sweet!” “Awesome” “COOL!”
    America’s kids…trained for the gruesomeness of combat conditions!

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    Not sure if ya missed my latest post regarding Leslie. It wasn’t published right away because of the three links included. Obviously, it’s up now though..

  • Sara

    John,
    Yeah, got it. I haven’t had time to read it yet, but will shortly. I was supposed to be at a university football game but the weather made me do a u-turn.

  • Sara

    John,
    Where did the sections you sent come from? Are they flashbacks or is Leslie a character in the here and now (or then and there) in the publication it appeared in?
    Well, Leslie didn’t really “kill” Brown–yeah, she withheld treatment but that’s not the same (to me) as being a murderer. I understand why it bothered you, though. Although, because Batman WON’T kill, he often just prolongs chaos, it seems. As in TDK. Batman can’t kill (but as we’ve discussed, in that interrogation scene, IF in reality, the Joker would have probably been dead, traumatically brain injured, had many broken bones, etc. You don’t get pummeled that way and literally slammed on the floor, on tables and against walls without sustaining major, if not fatal damage. Allowing Batman to do this, but “allowing” the Joker to go unharmed is misleading, I think. He would have killed the Joker (in my opinion) if that happened in reality and TDK presents itself as in reality but then not…both/and. Has it both ways. It’s a way to keep the violence going, to keep the chaos alive, yet to allow huge amounts of pain and anguish to many. THAT’S what I don’t like. The sensationalism of showing that relentlessly and in an exciting sort of way. A cool way. But then still be able to say, Batman doesn’t kill. Well, maybe he does, you know. Maybe he does withhold power when he could weld it (as with the Joker) and then innocent people DO get killed or maimed. So, how is Batman so different than what was in the section about Leslie that bothered you so much?

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    What bothered me about the aforementioned story is that Leslie was portrayed out of character. Life is precious to her and as a doctor she would do everything in her power to save a young mother’s life – hell, to save ANYONE’s life! She wouldn’t refuse to treat a girl properly just to prove a point! Hard to tell from your comments, but it almost seems like you’re okay with that. Maybe Leslie didn’t commit murder in the sense that she wasn’t the one who inflicted damage on the victim, but she certainly committed a serious crime in willfully CHOOSING to let her patient die. It borders on Euthanasia in my opinion. Leslie isn’t evil; plain and simple.

    Regarding Joker, I actually do believe he did sustain injuries to some extent at the hands of Batman, although it wasn’t shown and I agree that we should have at least seen something to suggest that. FYI, Batman is also a trained martial artist who knows exactly how to execute certain attacks without killing or hurting someone too badly. Believe it or not, that kinda stuff is taught to martial arts students – how much pressure to apply here and there.

    Sara, much (if not all) of what you truly dislike about TDK is pulled straight from the comics, by the way. With that stated, it’s hard to believe that you really do like the character. It’s a little baffling to me to be honest.

    “So, how is Batman so different than what was in the section about Leslie that bothered you so much?”

    Because Leslie INTENTIONALLY made a decision that she knew would result in the death of a young teenage mother. Leslie WANTED Brown to die to teach Batman a lesson. Stop and think about that for a few minutes. Even though Batman pushes the boundaries of what is right and wrong, he doesn’t take it upon himself to decide “who lives or who dies”. He sure as hell isn’t TRYING to endanger or take innocent lives! And yes, some of his choices do have serious consequences, but again.. it’s the intention behind the action which makes a difference to me. Does that make sense to you? Also, we all know that Bruce Wayne has major issues, but Leslie is nothing of the kind; she’s very together. Likewise, if someone was to tell me that YOUR favorite film was Natural Born Killers, I’d be like.. umm…no..not Sara. Incidentally, it was during the Leslie controversy that I first came to know about “women in refrigerators”. I’m actually surprised (but pleased) they retconned it.

    “Where did the sections you sent come from? Are they flashbacks or is Leslie a character in the here and now (or then and there) in the publication it appeared in?”

    The pages were scans from Batman # 644, which is still in continuity, although in the revision Leslie faked Stephanie Brown’s death (yeah she’s alive) and the two had been hiding out in Africa for some time. Brown has already returned to Gotham, but Leslie hasn’t made a return appearance to my knowledge just yet – no those aren’t flashbacks to answer your question.

  • Sara

    John,
    I think the Batman character was just part of my growing up…mostly TV and all the various movies. Some comics but the ones for kids. Not the darker stuffas you have read and know so well. Same as with Zorro and Superman. These characters are part of our culture.

    Batman Begins was interesting to me but I have to say that it turned too much (to me) into car chases, wrecks, and that sort of thing that becomes sort of numbing in the last part. While in TDK I found the figure of Batman on top of the buildings and swooping down to be really kind of beautiful and some of the moves, slick, while I like the character (in general as I’ve known him over the course of my life), well, you know what I thought of the movie, for the most part.

    Riddle me this…seriously…for it is worth thinking on and it’s not off-topic, I don’t think. Why would I find V for Vendetta to be very compelling (the character of V to be complex), the storyline to be a good one yet be disappointed in TDK. Let’s say that both are rated R (so that issue is out of the way). The character of V as played in the movie was a compelling character–to me, full of nuance. The pace of the movie would move from fast and furious to slow, poetic. There was the element of a mystery to it, also. Which could be had with Batman.

    I see what you mean about Leslie. I’d like to have a copy of Batman #644. I’d have to order it, correct?
    I still think I have a point about Leslie, though–in that she argued (I’m going by what you told me) with Bruce that if he kept doing what he did, he’d just kind of be bait for the bad guys. Stir them up…give them a challenge to go after (“we complete each other”) Leslie may have cared more for Bruce than for Stephanie (I have no idea) and thought, one death is better than a series of them–on and on and on. I did sense in TDK that Batman was creating chaos too. Just by being himself he created chaos. Just go for therapy with Leslie and create harmony with Rachel, you know. That’s how I was left feeling. (Of course, Rachel was gone by that time, but still, you get my point.)

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    There was never a distinct line of Batman comics that was just for kids – darker and lighter themes are basically intermixed. As long as I can remember, the character wasn’t ever considered unsuitable material for minors in the same vein as other comics and/or graphic novels. At least that’s how it is now and particularly when I was growing up. Maybe that has something to do with it – the divergence between time periods. Your retailer friend would likely know better.

    Regarding Batman #644, I think you would be a little lost if you hadn’t read the other titles in the storyline leading up to Stephanie’s fate. Not sure what else I can say about the way Leslie was wrongly portrayed here though. Leslie has always been depicted as being a good person. Now, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong in thinking that “one death is better than a series of them”, but that’s beside the point. First of all, who is Leslie to decide that Stephanie should not live? Life and death isn’t a meaningless game!. If you’ve got a young innocent woman in front of you needing critical medical attention and some calculating part of you TRULY WANTS HER DEAD – that makes you a very sick individual in my book, REGARDLESS of whatever motive you might have. With that stated, Leslie has always been against Bruce’s crusade (that’s fine, Sara), but the character would never do something so twisted (as what she does to Brown), in my opinion. FYI, Bill Willingham penned the controversial tale. You can look him up if that’s your cup of tea. Let’s not discuss the events of Batman #644 anymore though. You’re kind of scaring me a little. ;-/

    “Just go for therapy with Leslie and create harmony with Rachel.” Leslie doesn’t exist in Nolan’s Gotham. Rachel doesn’t exist in the comics. Sure, it would have been cool to see what kind of influence Leslie (and not Willingham’s version, sorry) would have had on Bruce, but Batman Begins already came and went without her. Wouldn’t make sense to bring her in now. Would it?

    “Riddle me this…seriously…for it is worth thinking on and it’s not off-topic, I don’t think. Why would I find V for Vendetta to be very compelling (the character of V to be complex), the storyline to be a good one yet be disappointed in TDK?”

    Well, that’s something you would need to elaborate on yourself, Sara. I will say this. V wasn’t very faithful to its source material and was changed/hollywoodized to be more appealing to certain audiences. In fact, Allan Moore (the author of the original novel) refused to even see the film and entirely distanced himself from it.

    Here are several differences between the film and graphic novel, as taken from Wikipedia:

    “There are several fundamental differences between the film and the original source material. For example, Alan Moore’s original story was created as a response to British Thatcherism in the early 80s and was set as a conflict between a fascist state and anarchism, whereas the film’s story has been changed by the Wachowskis to fit a modern political context.[15] Alan Moore charges that in doing so, the story has turned into an American-centric conflict between liberalism and neo-conservatism, and abandons the original anarchist-fascist themes. Moore states, “There wasn’t a mention of anarchy as far as I could see. The fascism had been completely defanged. I mean, I think that any references to racial purity had been excised, whereas actually, fascists are quite big on racial purity.”[15] Furthermore, in the original story, Moore attempted to maintain moral ambiguity, and not to portray the fascists as caricatures, but as realistic, rounded characters.[15] The time limitations of a film meant that the story had to omit or streamline some of the characters, details, and plotlines from the original story.[4] Chiefly, whereas the original graphic novel has the fascists elected legally and kept in power through the general apathy of the public, the film introduces the “St. Mary’s virus,” a biological weapon engineered and released by the Norsefire party as a means of clandestinely gaining control over their own country.

    Many of the characters from the graphic novel underwent significant changes for the film. For example, V is characterized in the film as a romantic freedom fighter who shows concern over the loss of innocent life. However, in the graphic novel, he is portrayed as ruthless, willing to kill anyone who gets in his way. Evey Hammond’s transformation as V’s protégé is also much more drastic in the novel than in the film. At the beginning of the film, she is already a confident woman with a hint of rebellion in her, whereas in the graphic novel she starts off as an insecure, desperate young woman forced into prostitution. V and Evey’s relationship, strictly platonic in the original novel, develops romantically in the film, ending with mutual pledges of love. In the graphic novel’s finale, she not only carries out V’s plans as she does in the film, but also clearly takes on V’s identity.[5] Whereas in the film Inspector Finch sympathizes with V, in the graphic novel he is determined to stop V and goes as far as taking LSD in order to enter into a criminal’s state of mind.[5] Characters who were completely omitted from the film or had a significantly reduced role include Rose Almond, Alistair Harper, and Mrs. Heyer.”

  • Sara

    John,
    The comics store dude said there were Batman comics versions for kids so I guess there are–seems I recall reading them; I mentioned that to him and he said, yeah, you did…you wouldn’t have read this other stuff until much older. (Which I didn’t do–read the comics when I was older, as you obviously have.)
    I’d heard about the differences in V in the movie and the graphic novel…heard much more violent in the movie (not a final showdown where V wielded all his knives) and yes, had heard about Evey and how she took on V’s role (yet she wasn’t V, you know…didn’t have his genetic mutations so don’t know how that would play out.) I’m reminded of The Princess Bride where the Dread Pirate Roberts is role is passed from one person to another.
    I liked V because of the reasons I mentioned earlier, the nuanced stuff, the storyline, you could HEAR the dialogue which was pretty exquisite at times. The explosions hurt no one but were to make a statement…and in the end, V died. No V forever as savior. The people either had to get it together and take up for themselves or too bad–talking the movie here.) V was, for sure, an adult movie–kids, preteens and even many teenagers just weren’t that interested. (Have you read MaryAnn’s review on this movie? It’s excellent–if you haven’t read it, check it out.)
    I certainly think Leslie could be brought in to the Batman story now. Why not? She’s been off someplace–who knows where–and Bruce wondered what had become of her. She just couldn’t stand to see him continue his night flights with chaos around him like dirt encircling Pigpen in Schultz’ comic strip.
    The Leslie horror (as you described and which was changed) wasn’t so awful to me in line with the same thing that Jolly had presented (about the ferries…why both when it could be just one of them)…I was just following that thought–that was my point. I kind of think–how dare Batman yell at her as he did when he traffics in what he does. As he’s not all so good as he appears. CERTAINLY not at certain times (as when Batman himself carried weapons, killed people, even carried a gun–that is how he started out. I realize it was changed, but that is how it began.) The all good/all bad dichotomy is always a ruse. We’d like to think it could be that easy but it never is. I’m getting the book (that I recommended) back from my son this afternoon. Now, I want to reread the section on Batman.

  • Jolly

    John,

    As far as I know, the various Batman titles (Batman, Detective Comics, etc.) would have been covered by the CCA (Comics Code Authority) until at least the mid-1980s. The code explicitly acknowledged that children made up a sizable portion of the audience, and laid out standards that comics were suppose to meet. Once upon a time, comics that didn’t meet the code would have had a hard time finding distributors, and generally would not have found their way to news stands, convenience stores, and so forth.

    Direct shipping to comic book stores changed the market…when I was reading comics in the early 1980s, there were a number of comics that were “Direct Only” (meaning you could only get them at a comic store) and did not meet code standards (“Moon Knight” comes to mind). The Watchmen (a 12-issue mini-series), and The Dark Knight Returns (a 4-issue mini-series) fell into this category. DC and Marvel both launched adult comic lines using direct shipping (Vertigo and Epic respectively) at this time.

    I haven’t picked up a “proper” Batman comic since since the Batman: Year One storyline, so I can’t claim how “adult” Batman is now. Ledger’s pencil scene wouldn’t have passed mustard under the standards when I was reading.

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    Maybe there are Batman comics specifically geared just for kids now, but when I was growing up it wasn’t like that.

    “you wouldn’t have read this other stuff until much older. (Which I didn’t do–read the comics when I was older, as you obviously have.”

    Wrong. I read some of the “other” stuff when I was a kid and I’m not particularly old right now, just so you know. =))

    I see why you enjoyed V for Vendetta (it was a brilliant film), but I personally don’t need Batman to be portrayed like any other character, thank you very much. Furthermore, I had no problem hearing the dialogue in The Dark Knight. Not sure why you did. I can’t help, but wonder how much you would have liked V for Vendetta if it was actually faithful to the source material (w/o all the played up romance and tearjerker scenes).

    Not sure about Leslie being brought into Nolan’s Gotham, as things stand right now. It would seem a little forced, in my opinion. Depends on how it was done. Plus, the child who portrayed young Bruce in Batman Begins is too old now for any flashback scenes and I hate recasts. I was, however, very satisfied with Gyllenhaal taking over for Katie. And on to the next topic!

    Batman carrying weapons and killing people isn’t canon and hasn’t been since the 1940s Sara. You don’t seem to comprehend that very well and tend to look at the history of the character as one big, cluttered mess. The Bruce Wayne (written by Willingham) who yells at Leslie isn’t the same guy who once wore purple gloves and used a gun. Today, Batman is DEFINED by his code. You can’t have a Batman who USED to kill and one who hasn’t EVER killed (in the overwhelming majority of tales published, mind you) coexisting at the same time. Also, comics are written by multiple authors, each with their own unique interpretation of who and what Batman is. That said, there’s a basic formula they all must adhere to in penning stories for the readers – Batman not killing or using a gun is a HUGE part of that. The purpose of continuity is to make sure things make sense, as much as possible. If you’re curious about what is and isn’t CANON nowadays, click on the link below, as the article I’ve provided is pretty informative. Keep in mind, it was written several years ago and is a little outdated. For instance, after the success of Batman Begins, DC decided to (thankfully) restore Joe Chill as the killer of the Waynes in current continuity. For some reason, it was retconned before that – not sure why. The article was obviously written before Batman Begins.

    http://www.comicsbulletin.com/bobro/103887248221989.htm

  • John Cornell

    Got your point about the Comics Code Authority Sara. I used to get my comics from a local stationary store when I was a kid, if that makes any difference. I think they actually sold the popular adult fantasy art magazine Heavy Metal to kids, believe it or not. Not sure though.

  • Sara

    John,
    Re: V…no, it wasn’t the romance (are you talking between V and Evey?) that was appealing–I didn’t find that appealing, actually. At the end when she says, V you don’t have to do this, we can run away (I was thinking or saying aloud, no, Evey, shut up–don’t go anywhere with him.) The complexity of characters was appealing. I also liked the guy who was with Evey at the end (Commissioner…can’t think of his last name)…he was serious about uncovering what had happened regardless of what he found.
    Jolly wrote the info about the Comics Code Authority. He knew that–not me. I was just told what the comic store owner told me recently which sounds pretty much like what Jolly wrote.
    I do think the various versions are interesting and significant…not just what is “canon” now. If there is such a thing. Even with the Bible…what is considered canon ain’t so much so.
    I’ll send you a script with Leslie in it:) Or a couple of scenes. Also will check out the link you sent.

  • Sara

    John,
    The post below is from the link below…makes sense completely to me. Note especially the last two sentences. (also noted on the blog is that Batman did kill until the Code came into existence–of the comics–and that had to do with concerns re: children. My argument…we’re left then with lots of chaos and torture when someone (doesn’t have to be Batman) could easily take out the Joker. On the spot. And it would be legal. I do think in TDK that we saw Batman torturing the Joker (at least that amount of pummeling–even if martial arts–) would injure badly (as we’ve discussed)…throwing someone up against a wall really hard or down on a very hard surface will result in blackouts usually. Regardless of whether martial arts or used or not. See below…

    http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=147052

    “Who is to say that those doing justice aren’t allowed to kill? People have this big misconception about killing. Murder coldblooded is wrong,that is a universal truth. An assailant has a boxcutter to your mother’s throat and you have one chance to pull the trigger or take him down and you know he won’t stop coming. Killing would be justified, trying to talk someone out of it is sometimes not an option.

    Batman should be allowed to kill the joker because no amount of rehabilitation will work. It’s a delay to the problem,Batman is more of a guilty party than anyone else because all the chances he had to eliminate the problem and he just let it continue. He gives the joker more meaning by allowing him to come back each time out just so that he has something to do.”

    Response:

    While you are right, imo, up to a point I think it’s worth considering the reasons Batman doesn’t kill Joker. If he kills Joker then why not Two-Face? And Ra’a Al Ghul? And Scarecrow? And any crook he comes across that he feels is enough of a threat?

    He can’t kill Joker because the justification for doing so would apply to a lot of his regular foes.

    And of course DC would lose out on a character that fans enjoy seeing Batman tangle with.

    Really though, why hasn’t some Gotham cop just shot the Joker in the head or why hasn’t some clandestine government agency done so?

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    I’ll address some of your other concerns in a later post, as I’m kinda out the door. Wanted to briefly comment on something you brought up though.

    “I do think the various versions are interesting and significant…not just what is “canon” now.”

    I didn’t say they weren’t “interesting” or “significant” when you look at the history of the character as a whole, Sara. What I’m trying to convey is the fact that Batman’s code TODAY is a very integral part of the character. If you’re reading a story written by someone (like myself) who also adheres to this notion and does not acknowledge the killing associated with 1940s version, that is something to be taken into consideration. Willingham’s story depicts a Batman who has NEVER killed and deeply believes in the sanctity of all life, so you can’t say, “Well, Bats is a hypocrite for yelling at Leslie since he’s also a killer.” He isn’t! Not this Batman. Two (or more) versions cannot coexist at the same time.

    Now, I personally didn’t know that Batman’s code was influenced by the CCA in the 1950s, but that doesn’t make it any less relevant to me. Numerous stories have been written (since then) thoroughly working Batman’s “sacred” code into the fabric of what the character stands for.

    With that stated, I’m not really familiar with Batman in comics prior to the 1970s or late 60s. If you want to further discuss what the character once WAS, as opposed to what he IS today, that’s fine. Maybe that’s something your retailer friend can help you with. If you choose to continue conversing with me, let’s focus on the now. Likewise, Nolan’s The Dark Knight draws most (not all) of its inspiration from tales written subsequent to the 1950s (e.g., The Long Halloween, The Killing Joke, Arkham Asylum, Batman: Year 1).

  • Jolly

    John,

    DC Comics seems to have created a canon out of a combination of the DC Universe Batman (which is CC approved) and the Batman of the more adult comics (Moore’s Killing Game, etc.). I’m curious as to how this was done…was Oracle’s maiming retold in a toned down version in Detective Comics or is there the typical footnote making reference to the KJ?

    Sara,

    Although I don’t know if it has status as canon, the Dark Knight Returns does see Batman questioning his principles as the Joker’s body count mounts.

  • John Cornell

    Jolly,

    So as not to confuse Sara or anyone else, I want to be clear that many of the “darker” Batman stories I’d read up until now were actually CCA APPROVED; gratuitous violence is the norm here.

    You know that character (Stephanie Brown) that Sara and I have been discussing? Well, she was viciously beaten and tortured with an electric drill by a villain called Black Mask in a “DC Universe” Batman comic, a CCA approved comic no less. The same psychopath went on to kidnap the sister and brother-in-law of one Selina Kyle AKA Catwoman. Black Mask tortured Catwoman’s brother-in-law brutally in front of her sister, and then forced the woman to swallow the eyeball of her dead husband’s corpse. This all took place in a regular Catwoman comic, i.e., issue #16. Don’t think that one was CCA approved, but I do believe it’s a part of the “DC universe” nonetheless.

    As far as Killing Joke (a one shot by Moore) goes, whenever the story is touched upon, be it in Detective Comics, Batman or Birds of Prey, there is no mention of Joker stripping Barbara and taking snapshots of her nude body as she writhes in pain, only the shooting/crippling. So yeah, I guess the intent is to tone it down somewhat, much like what is done in Nolan’s The Dark Knight.

    There’s ALWAYS something a little creepy or overly violent that’s bound to pop up in just about ANY Batman comic out there – even the ones supposedly geared for little kids. Truth be told, when you’re writing a story about a vigilante-hero whose parents were murdered in cold blood right before his eyes as a young child, you’re already in “dark” territory if you ask me.

  • Jolly

    John,

    Thanks for the update. I guess what the CCA finds acceptable reflects the sensitivities of the times. I stopped reading “superhero” comics somewhere around 1987. By then, it was clear that the genre was becoming darker and more violent in general. Punisher and Wolverine were popular titles then, and battles to the death were increasingly common. I’ve never really followed up on the genre since…I did re-discover the joys of comics a few years later, but it was Gaiman’s Sandman, which had it’s roots in DC’s horror comics, and quickly became something else.

  • John Cornell

    Okay Sara,

    Let’s address your other points now, shall we?

    “Re: V…no, it wasn’t the romance (are you talking between V and Evey?) that was appealing–I didn’t find that appealing, actually. The complexity of characters was appealing.”

    I haven’t seen V in a very long time, but am inclined to agree with you. Nolan could definitely work on making “the complexity” of his characters more appealing, but I will say that TDK was a huge improvement over Batman Begins in that regard. Furthermore, V and TDK come from VERY different places, Sara. It’s hard to compare the two. V didn’t have to worry about a lunatic in clown makeup running around his town wreaking havoc everywhere he goes.

    From http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=147052

    “Who is to say that those doing justice aren’t allowed to kill? People have this big misconception about killing. Murder cold-blooded is wrong,that is a universal truth. An assailant has a boxcutter to your mother’s throat and you have one chance to pull the trigger or take him down and you know he won’t stop coming. Killing would be justified, trying to talk someone out of it is sometimes not an option.

    Batman should be allowed to kill the joker because no amount of rehabilitation will work. It’s a delay to the problem,Batman is more of a guilty party than anyone else because all the chances he had to eliminate the problem and he just let it continue. He gives the joker more meaning by allowing him to come back each time out just so that he has something to do.”

    Sara, I agree with this person to a point, but this is how I look at the whole moral dilemma.

    Batman chooses not to kill for several reasons. (And I’m basing this on the modern comics I’ve read – mostly stuff from the late 70s, 80s and onward – in essence, what Batman is today.)

    1) His father Thomas Wayne was both a wealthy entrepreneur and doctor. Saving and preserving lives was terribly important to him. It didn’t matter who you were or where you came from to Thomas Wayne. If someone needed help, he simply would not turn them away – even mobsters who threatened his own family. I forget names.

    2) Wayne was deeply traumatized by the murder that gave birth to The Batman. Because a gun was used to kill his parents, Wayne despises the weapon with a passion. It’s a constant reminder to him of what he once lost. In addition, as a formidably trained fighter (in multiple levels of combat, including boxing and martial arts), Wayne feels that guns are too easy; a weapon for “cowards”.

    3) The aforementioned murder of the Waynes. Young Bruce Wayne saw everything that was dear to him stripped away at gunpoint. As much as he looks down on the “hated gun”, so too does he despise the thought of intentionally taking anyone’s life – even a criminal. Those types have kids too and Bruce cannot stand the thought of making another child an orphan.

    4) As stated above, Batman is a prodigy of the highest order, versed in numerous combat skills and strategies. Unlike average people, Wayne generally doesn’t HAVE to kill in order to stop an opponent. He can put a criminal down in a hundred different ways, WITHOUT taking a life. Noone is suggesting that “those doing justice aren’t allowed to kill”, as the author of the quote you’ve provided seems to believe.

    5) Batman isn’t a cop and in killing people, he would be crossing a very serious line. He already pushes the boundaries and if he went around playing judge, jury AND EXECUTIONER, it would make a mockery of everything he stands for. Batman’s motive is to stop criminals, but he lets the courts decide what should happen to them. As “the world’s greatest detective”, he also works closely with Gordon in providing the commissioner all the evidence he would ever need to keep the scum behind bars for a long time.
    Once you cross the line, it becomes that much easier to kill again and again. And what about the notion of rehabilitating criminals? Don’t at least some of them deserve that chance?

    There’s no perfect answer here Sara, but you should know that various Batman authors have addressed Batman’s dilemma, just as you have. Not long ago, Jeph Loeb penned a story, in which Batman comes terribly close to finally putting an end to the Joker’s madness, for all the reasons you and the newsarama guy specify above. It was highly controversial! I think some fans were so livid, they stopped short of sending death threats to Loeb! In my opinion, though, it was a good story beautifully rendered by artist Jim Lee. I’ll have to look it up for you.

  • John Cornell

    Jolly said, “I guess what the CCA finds acceptable reflects the sensitivities of the times.”

    That’s a good way to put it Jolly. Did you ever read A Death in the Family (Batman #426 -429)? Apparently, the second Robin (Jason Todd) was a really unpopular character back in 1988. Likewise, DC comics gave readers the opportunity to decide if Todd should live or die at the hands of the Joker by calling a 1-900 number. “Over 10,000 votes were cast, a narrow majority voted to kill Jason, and DC published A Death in the Family to massive media attention, though many people who didn’t read the comics believed it to be Dick Grayson, the original Robin.”

    Not sure, but this may have been the first time Batman seriously considered going against his moral code in stating, “his insanity always got him a stay of execution. But no more. Jason’s dead.”

  • Sara

    John,
    The blogger that I quoted above wrote:

    “And of course DC would lose out on a character that fans enjoy seeing Batman tangle with.

    Really though, why hasn’t some Gotham cop just shot the Joker in the head or why hasn’t some clandestine government agency done so?”

    This, to me, gets down to the main points we’ve been discussing. If Batman killed some of the psychopathic villians then “DC would lose out on a character(s) that fans enjoy seeing Batman tangle with.” I do think the last sentence makes sense, too–I mean if you’re going to try to make Batman more and more “realistic” on film then, yeah, I think the Joker would be killed (from what I saw in TDK–I think the Joker would have been killed, broken his neck when he hit the wall, etc., been knocked unconscious, etc.) There were plenty of times in TDK for that to have happened.

    I understand your admiration for Batman’s code of ethics (as it stands now) but Batman certainly is not against extreme violence (and violence that I think–if the movie would own up to the realism it trys to have, but not quite, then as I’ve said previously, I think the Joker’s life would have ended in the interrogation room. A body doesn’t get slammed against solid objects like that (walls and floors) without being most probably killed (and at the very least, knocked unconscious with extremely severe injuries.) All it takes, really, is watching a live boxing match and seeing what a blow to the head does (and that’s with boxing gloves on.)

    My argument is that TDK extends the violence (thrives on the violence) in a way that had the Joker been killed, it would have (to me) seemed merciful…to all involved. It ceases to become a mystery story (as V IS or the movie was, at least.) TDK (to me) jumped from one scene of violence to the next. If the comic book is like that what is so compelling about it? (Somehow I don’t think the comic book is like that, but I don’t know.) Or is that comic book more compelling than the movie, perhaps? Because you can’t really tell precisely how hard someone is hit, etc. There is more room, perhaps, in your imagination for that stuff?

    You mentioned that Batman doesn’t use guns…hates guns. That’s fine. He doesn’t have to use a gun to end the reign of the Joker. I understand that the whole thing becomes a cat and mouse game but it seems to become kind of ludicrous to me when there were any number of times when someone (didn’t have to be Batman) could have taken out the Joker and saved a lot of people and much property from destruction, death, trauma.

    Interestingly (and this will mean more to you than to me obviously) but the comics store owner I talked with said he’d always preferred it when Batman fought against regular criminals–that when the “bad guys” become “terrorists” (of a sort) or what he called “supervillians”. The story then becomes something he doesn’t necessarily relate to “Batman.” Or the Batman he may identify with, admire, etc. (again, we might be back to the times certain versions were written, I don’t know.)

    The reason this is of interest is that I don’t get why TDK was as popular as it apparently was (and I don’t think most viewers went away with the thoughts and questions that MaryAnn had after she saw the movie.) The reasons I think it was “liked” so much kind of concerns me. What would Batman himself think of TDK? And all the people watching it and “enjoying it?” I have no idea, but I kinda wonder.

  • Sara

    Jolly,
    Yeah, you’re right re: what you write below…

    There’s ALWAYS something a little creepy or overly violent that’s bound to pop up in just about ANY Batman comic out there – even the ones supposedly geared for little kids. Truth be told, when you’re writing a story about a vigilante-hero whose parents were murdered in cold blood right before his eyes as a young child, you’re already in “dark” territory if you ask me.

    Makes me wonder why Batman ever was “for kids” anyway. IF the origin story is used (or even told.)
    ALTHOUGH, there are a lot of fairy tales that if put on film would be horrific but when told are acceptable for kids (depending on the age–and whether the reader or storyteller is paying attention to the age of the kid.)And think of it…in fairy tales, usually one or both of the kids parents are dead to begin with. Not that they saw it occur, though. They’re just told…”when she was a little girl her mother died and her father married a woman who had two daughters”…or “when he was very small, his father died and he was left with his mother and now they had nothing, and he was sent to sell their only cow at market…” So the “darkness” or the “alone-ness” is important (on some level) because kids do feel that stuff in general, kind of normatively.

  • John Cornell

    Jolly didn’t that Sara. I did. =)~

  • John Cornell

    Didn’t say, that is..

  • Sara

    John,
    Yes, I see that…sorry bout that. I see it was TO Jolly that you wrote that. The fairy tale analogy stuff kind of works, though, huh? Seriously. I’m thinking the original versions. Of the well-known ones. I’m not thinking Disneyesque.
    You know, like Fe-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman. Be he alive or be he dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread. (From Jack the Giant Killer–or Jack and the Beanstalk)…Jack whose dad was dead and whose mother called him…”foolish boy.”

  • John Cornell

    “The fairy tale analogy stuff kind of works, though, huh?”

    It does. Aesop’s fables come to mind. More on that later though. =) As of now, I probably should get some much needed shut eye.

  • Probably way too late to respond to this but still:

    Quote:
    Which scene are you referring to?
    –Jolly

    The one mentioned in this quote:

    I can imagine a scene where a civilian reasons, “This is a terrible choice that I must make, but there are women and children on this vessel, and I believe that it is justifiable to sacrifice the convicts so that they may live.
    –Jolly

    Okay, the man in said ferry scene didn’t exactly say the same thing Jolly said but his sentiments were similar.

    Quote:
    But, yeah, back to Batman. Tonio, did Batman keep the ferries from getting blown up?
    –Sara

    In a way, he didn’t because–as I’ve noted earlier–the actions and decisions made by the passengers not to give in to the Joker and attempt to save their lives by murdering innocent people were in no way directly influenced by Batman.

    But it could be said that in the end, he did because, as others have noted, when the Joker tried to go ahead and blow up the ferries anyway, the Batman prevented him from doing so.

    I don’t remember seeing what finally happened to the detonator. I’m assuming that once it fell out of the Joker’s hands, it broken into pieces upon hitting the sidewalk below, but Nolan didn’t choose to specifically show us that. Nor does it make for a bad movie that he chose not to show us that any more than North by Northwest is a bad movie because it doesn’t specifically show us how in the world the Cary Grant character managed to rescue the Eva Marie Saint character from falling.

    Quote:
    It’s when the Joker says something about having to do everything by himself or something to that effect…and then they scuffle. It’s interesting that no one I’ve asked about this (in person or by phone) who has seen the movie could answer this question. That’s a bit strange, huh? Again, smart people…not your average movie goers and several Batman fans who have read the comics.
    –Sara

    Well, speaking as the son of a Mensa member and a bibliophile who has always considered himself to be a smart person, it should be noted that even smart people don’t pick up on everything. Especially if it’s a subject they don’t consider particularly important.

    Indeed, I suspect the very reason the more intelligent people in this forum disagree so much on various movies is because we don’t always pick up on the same things. And when we do, we don’t always give them the same importance.

    Quote:
    Recast the scenario as follows. Someone not on either boat is given fifteen minutes to pick which boat is destroyed. If no decision is made after fifteen minutes, both boats are destroyed. Can you really say that picking neither boat, and allowing both boats to be destroyed is heroic? Other than having a personal stake in the outcome, how is the moral dimension any different for the passengers on the boats?
    –Jolly

    Oh, geez. How do I put these? Given the options available to these ferry passengers, there were few actions they could have taken that would be considered heroic. The Joker had already threatened to blow up the ferry if anyone tried to leave.

    So of their remaining options, there was:

    1. Sit tight and wait for help. Not the most heroic option, but at least if they ended up all dying, they would be seen as martyrs, not murderers.

    2. Try to save one’s life by blowing up the other ferry. Even if this worked–and MaryAnn has already made a good case earlier in the thread why it wouldn’t–the passengers would have to spend the rest of their life knowing that they gave in to a terrorist and saved their lives at the expense of someone else’s. In a world where even cops and soldiers who kill in self-defense sometimes have nightmares about their kills, it would be foolish to pretend that the average ferry passenger–or even the average convict–would want that on their conscience.

    Plus any member of Sara’s profession would tell you that giving in to a bully’s demands would only encourage that bully to make further demands. And in this case, the Joker was the bully and blowing up the other ferry was the equivalent of giving in to his demands.

  • John Cornell

    Sara said,

    “This, to me, gets down to the main points we’ve been discussing. If Batman killed some of the psychopathic villains then “DC would lose out on a character(s) that fans enjoy seeing Batman tangle with.” I do think the last sentence makes sense, too–I mean if you’re going to try to make Batman more and more “realistic” on film then, yeah, I think the Joker would be killed (from what I saw in TDK–I think the Joker would have been killed, broken his neck when he hit the wall, etc., been knocked unconscious, etc.) There were plenty of times in TDK for that to have happened”

    The producers made an obvious choice in allowing the Joker to live, despite everything that befalls the character. A lot of people say TDK is “Nolan’s baby”, but it’s really not that simple. Batman is DC comics property and if DC wants Joker to stick around bad enough, even the great Chris Nolan can’t say no to that . You might find it interesting to know that our favorite maniacal clown was, in fact, killed off before in Tim Burton’s Batman ’89 and believe me when I say this DID NOT go down well with an overwhelming majority of fans. That’s a very important factor to be considered.

    Now Sara, Nolan’s intention isn’t necessarily to make Batman “more and more realistic” on film. Instead, he tries to ground the characters to an EXTENT so that viewers can relate to them. And in my eyes, the director has certainly accomplished that on at least some level. FYI, others I’ve spoken to or conversed with online often express the same sentiment. Obviously, you aren’t one of those people. =)~

    “I understand your admiration for Batman’s code of ethics (as it stands now) but Batman certainly is not against extreme violence (and violence that I think–if the movie would own up to the realism it trys to have, but not quite, then as I’ve said previously, I think the Joker’s life would have ended in the interrogation room. A body doesn’t get slammed against solid objects like that (walls and floors) without being most probably killed (and at the very least, knocked unconscious with extremely severe injuries.) All it takes, really, is watching a live boxing match and seeing what a blow to the head does (and that’s with boxing gloves on.)”

    It’s good to know that you understand my “admiration for Batman’s code of ethics” (as it has been standing for a very long time now). To me, Batman from the 1950s onward is kind of like spaghetti! We know it came from the Chinese, but it’s the Italians who perfected the dish! I can’t think of anyone who would want the stuff to go back to whatever it was prior to Marco Polo getting his hands on it. Can you? Sara, tell me that isn’t a great analogy! I know how much you like those.

    Moving on, allow me to reiterate the fact that I’m with you in your stance on the interrogation room sequence from TDK! Now, I’m not so sure a body slam onto a table would actually be enough to kill a man, but the poor guy might be out of commission for quite a while. And yes, Joker would have likely suffered a gash to the head subsequent to getting slammed into a mirror head first. I acknowledge that, but will admit I wasn’t terribly bothered a whole lot by his lack of cuts and bruises, until you mentioned it. See what you’ve done now? =) The interrogation scene has earned itself a place right next to Martha Stepford Wayne in my book! (Yep. I’m kidding. Martha still stands all by her lonesome.) Still, this type of thing is generally associated with most PG-13 rated films, which is why a “healthy” and happy Joker running around in TDK didn’t alarm me too much. Remember my previous comment regarding Dr. Octavius’ wife in Spider Man 2? Poor woman gets tossed through shards of glass and comes out of it with not so much as a bruise. We all know if that was to happen in reality, there would be plenty of ketchup everywhere! Didn’t happen though.

    “My argument is that TDK extends the violence (thrives on the violence) in a way that had the Joker been killed, it would have (to me) seemed merciful…to all involved. It ceases to become a mystery story (as V IS or the movie was, at least.) TDK (to me) jumped from one scene of violence to the next. If the comic book is like that what is so compelling about it? (Somehow I don’t think the comic book is like that, but I don’t know.) Or is that comic book more compelling than the movie, perhaps? Because you can’t really tell precisely how hard someone is hit, etc. There is more room, perhaps, in your imagination for that stuff?”

    You can’t really compare more than 60 years of comic book stories penned by numerous authors to a single 2-hour flic, Sara. But you’ve read Mary Anne’s review in addition to the one I posted from David Keyes right? You know how I feel about the film. And yet, you ignore the fact that we each found much about The Dark Knight to be compelling for the reasons we’ve all specified. Do you think we’re all living in LA LA land? What about the 239 people who voted in favor of TDK on Rotten Tomatoes? Why don’t you read a few more reviews on the site and perhaps you’ll get a better understanding of what so many saw in the movie that you failed to grasp.

    On a side note, I’d like to see a Batman movie done in a very similar manner to Brian Azzarello’s Broken City; a very film-noirish Batman arc. I think you would like it a lot, as well. Since I can’t actually send you a comic book reader file on a blog, you’ll have to settle for a few quotes here and there. Maybe you can order BC from the local book store that your kids used to frequent.

    “You mentioned that Batman doesn’t use guns…hates guns. That’s fine. He doesn’t have to use a gun to end the reign of the Joker. I understand that the whole thing becomes a cat and mouse game but it seems to become kind of ludicrous to me when there were any number of times when someone (didn’t have to be Batman) could have taken out the Joker and saved a lot of people and much property from destruction, death, trauma.”

    You’re really getting carried away here Sara. The Dark Knight is a work of fiction based on a comic book, regardless of how profound it may be. As such, the film is bound by certain restrictions, some of which I mention above. Again, SO VERY MUCH in TDK is derived straight from the comics, including just about everything you happen to dislike about it. Almost don’t know what to say to you anymore. You want Batman to be something it/he’s not. That’s really what it comes down to. Stop with the V talk! =)~

    That stated, I actually like the fact that our controversial masked vigilante-hero is an anomaly of sorts. Batman is terribly violent (as you’ve so eloquently pointed out time and time again), but he’s got rules. It’s not simple with him. This discussion you and I are having Sara? I love how we can argue back and forth about Wayne’s true motives, which border on hypocrisy to some, border being the key word used here. It makes for a very intriguing character I think. Ironically, Joker (in TDK) is doing just what you are to a degree. He wants to show Gotham that rules and codes are inherently flawed and can be easily picked apart. He even sounds like you in telling the Batman [that in order to put an end to all the madness], “you’re gonna have to break your one rule!” Joker knows that you can always find a loose end or a hole somewhere and (like you) he knows how and when to exploit it; “turn it on itself”. He wants to show that even the best of intentions can ultimately lead to someone getting hurt. Here’s another analogy for ya! Renovating an old apartment building might look all nice on paper, but it could cost people their homes when the rent inevitably goes up to support the cost of new changes. What I’m trying to say is that no matter how hard some people might try to do things for the better, it doesn’t always tend to work out that way. Hell, sometimes the direct OPPOSITE unintentionally happens. There’s a great couple of verses from a song called The Day I Tried To Live (written and performed by Chris Cornell of Soundgarden) that go, “The day I tried to live I stole a thousand beggars change and gave it to the rich – the day I tried to win I dangled from the power lines and let the martyrs stretch – words you say never seem to live up to the ones inside your head – the lives we make never seem to ever get us anywhere but dead”. See, in my eyes, Batman obviously doesn’t have all the answers, but at least he’s out there making a hell of an effort in doing what he thinks is right! And THAT is what I truly find “admirable” about this iconic character, Sara.

    I’ll leave you with a quote from the purple glove wearing, gun toting Batman of the 1940s (incidentally, not directed at you or anyone else on the blog).

    “Quiet or papa spank!!!!!!!”

  • John Cornell

    MaryAnn,

    I’m liking the new design. =)~

  • Sara

    John,
    We all have our viewpoints and I realize I’m in the minority viewpoint but there are others who think in ways similar to me…have even been on this blog–so worth noting. Also, I think there are many points you and I have agreed on and many we haven’t. Kind of interesting you’d say I’m like the Joker, but that’s OK…I won’t call you Batman.

    To me, the interesting thing about this blog is that popular culture can be discussed intelligently and I think it needs to be. So, I think this blog serves a great purpose. For sure, in the discussions you and I’ve had, I’ve been very careful to state my thoughts, feelings and opinions and not put them on you or anyone else. Also, as we both know, just because something is popular or gets high marks doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s great stuff. Miniority opinions often hold much wisdom without being a negative.

    You’ve been gracious to send me the scans from the comics you’ve discussed and also various links. As a person involved with young people, I make it a priority to try to stay updated on popular culture enough to have discussions with these youth…and with anyone really.

    I did get the book I mentioned to you from my son over the weekend. While I can’t send it to you through the internet, I can give you a short bit of the part on Batman that I thought was interesting, is worth thinking about. Even though these characters are fiction, they hold great power in the imagination of us all (regardless of how they are interpreted.) I don’t think that can be underestimated. Well, it can be, but I think it’s wise to realize the power of fiction–often more powerful than non-fiction, actually.

    From The Psychology of Superheroes…(essay on Batman)–this, is written (all essays are by a different psychologist in the book) by someone in my field…which would naturally interest me, and perhaps you alas…

    Wish you could read the whole thing, but alas…”A viewing of the 2005 flim Batman Begins can give the novice a fairly good understanding of who the Batman is. The writers Christopher Nolan (who also directed)and David S. Goyer did a commendable job of staying true to the arc and themes of the original stories while taking some liberties with certain character relationships within the original timeline.” (Then summary of the origin story, to include the later journeys of Bruce as is shown in Batman Begins, and the fact that Joe Chill has been killed by someone else.)

    “Adding frustration to his anger, when he returned to Gotham City he discovered that Joe Chill had been killed some time ago. The object of his revenge now dead, the Batman–his true identity now named–externalized his desire for revenge on Joe Chill to others like Chill, namely criminals. The Batman resorted to intimidation, other fear-inducing tactics and physical violence to rouse, confuse, and ultimately subdue criminals and continues these practices to the present.

    Using an understanding of the Batman that comes from anytime before or after the 1960’s Adam West series, we can already start to see quite clearly that the Batman is not an altruistic do-gooder such as Superman or Wonder Woman. He’s motivated to get revenge on his parents’ killer at first and then transforms his vengeful motivation into something altogether different. Instead of taking solace in the fact that the man who killed his parents was himself killed, the Batman strove to stop all criminals wherever they might be and make them fear the shadow of the bat, as his first ever appearance on the opening page of Detective Comics #27 indicates “Hurting Criminals Incidentally Helps their Victims”: The Real Motivation of the Batman.

    “The Batman’s desires to intimidate, injure and induce fear in the minds of the criminals he encounters cannot be adequately explained by using instrumental aggression”….”the Batman focuses almost exclusively on the perpetrators, not the victims, doing all that he can to “strike fear into their hearts,” as the 1989 Batman film puts it. In fact, he dresses like a giant bat to scare the criminals he ambushes and beats into submission.” (He goes on and then says…) “One might object and ask: Is the Batman really helping people? Admittedly, he is often described as a vigilante and an anti-hero, especially by Frank Miller, who, in the late 1980s helped reintroduce the Batman’s earlier (circa 1940s) sharply aggressive and almost sadistic style (e.g., Batman: The Dark Knight Returns). But a psychologist would probably say, ‘Yes, the Batman is helping people’ because being helped is a consequence, not a motivation. In social science we separate the outcome from the motivation, which is why, for instance, many social scientists believe that people can behave in racist ways without intending to be racists–the motivation is separate from the outcome…(He points particularly to one example from a myriad of them…that one being Venom, which appeared in Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #16-20 (1991).”

    And lastly…”One needs only glance through a current (2007-2008) issue of any Batman title to see that in virtually every encounter with a criminal, Batman either: (a) breaks one of the criminal’s limbs (usually the arm), (b) breaks the criminals’ jaw, or (c) both. He could easily use nerve gas (which he carries in his utility belt, use aikido (a far less injurious form of self-defense in which he is thoroughly trained.)”…”In the 1989 Batman film, the first sequence featuring the Batman portrays the protagonist dangling a criminal over the edge of a tall building, threatening to drop him unless he divulges information. While some peole might try to justify these behaviors as “harmless” scare tactics (and thus instumental agrreission as opposed to hostile aggression)…we should remember that intimidation tactics are not usually the first tactics used or the only choice…The Batman isn’t choosing from a set of strategies of which coercion is a part: instead he appears to have only one strategy–the threat of violence, either preceded or followed by actual violence.”

    Lastly…asks…”then, is Batman really a villian?” And answers…”by no means. However, it does illustrates that aggression is a far more complex phenomenon than simply “good guys” using instrumental aggression and “bad guys” using hostile aggresion.” …”Still, the Batman and Superman are two of the most beloved superheroes, and have been for nearly seventy years, despite being on the opposite sides of the aggression continuum. (Also of interest, the writer refers to Bruce Wayne as the alter-ego of the Batman (not the other way around.) And this is all written by a fan of Batman. Even more interesting is the essay on Wonder Woman.

    I know our posts are long but I wanted to share this with you…that there are a variety of takes on Batman and you and I both agree and disagree with some of those views. This view especially intriqued me and showed even more clearly the complexity of Batman that I think many viewers probably missed.
    Thanks!

  • MaryAnn

    I’m liking the new design. =)~

    Thanks, John.

    And I just want to say that I’m astonished this post has spawned such intense discussion. This is now the posting with the most comments, by far, since I moved to the blog format.

  • I’d like to think the awesomeness of the new design is one thing we can all agree on. Although I somehow doubt that MaryAnn is going to get 456 posts to that effect.

  • Sara

    The new design of this site is fabulous. No disagreement from me. I say, Go MaryAnn. Great job!

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    I respect your views for what they are, but I sometimes just get the feeling that you aren’t even trying to see where myself and others are coming from in our stance on TDK. And the only real thing I noticed that you had in common with Nolan’s Joker is the way you perceive folly in Batman’s “code of ethics” and the reasons you give to support your beliefs. Case in point, Joker (as portrayed by Ledger) desperately wants to show Batman that in taking a life he can prevent any more tragedies from befalling innocent people. The intent behind wanting to vanquish crime and at the same time allowing perpetrators to live so they can potentially do wrong another day is ludicrous in the eyes of the “clown prince” of Gotham. Interestingly enough, our flawed judicial system can be viewed much in the same light. Some argue that the system really works, whereas, others feel it doesn’t even come close. Now, there’s a nice analogy for Batman’s moral code! But yeah.. quite a few of your statements echoed this sentiment, in my opinion. Is the thought of being able to relate to the character (i.e., Joker) on at least some level so frightening a concept for you? Good or bad, everyone is bound together by human nature. If it makes you feel better, I wasn’t suggesting that you have wicked or cruel intentions, in making your arguments. My apologies if that was unclear.

    “Also, as we both know, just because something is popular or gets high marks doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s great stuff.”

    Did you ever consider that it might be “great stuff” for the people who enjoy it? Regardless of what those in the minority think, it doesn’t necessarily mean everyone else’s point of view is wrong.

    Perhaps I am at fault here for being fairly new on this blog and not taking the time to read some of your previous postings. Not entirely sure.

    “Even though these characters are fiction, they hold great power in the imagination of us all (regardless of how they are interpreted.) I don’t think that can be underestimated. Well, it can be, but I think it’s wise to realize the power of fiction–often more powerful than non-fiction, actually.”

    Sure. No argument from me there.

    Still, I AM getting close to the part where you discuss that psychobabble book again. Uh oh!

    “Using an understanding of the Batman that comes from anytime before or after the 1960’s Adam West series, we can already start to see quite clearly that the Batman is not an altruistic do-gooder such as Superman or Wonder Woman. He’s motivated to get revenge on his parents’ killer at first and then transforms his vengeful motivation into something altogether different. Instead of taking solace in the fact that the man who killed his parents was himself killed, the Batman strove to stop all criminals wherever they might be and make them fear the shadow of the bat, as his first ever appearance on the opening page of Detective Comics #27 indicates “Hurting Criminals Incidentally Helps their Victims”: The Real Motivation of the Batman.”

    I think we already went through this before Sara. Guess much of what I tried so hard in stressing to you regarding Batman’s true motives went right over your head. Normally I would digress at this point, but not today. Like I mentioned before, I’m not greatly familiar with the gun toting, purple glove wearing, “papa spank” saying Batman of the 1940s. Based on what you’ve shown me, however, I’m inclined to agree that THIS version of Batman definitely does appear to be less altruistic than Superman or Captain America. You did get what I was trying to convey with my aforementioned spaghetti analogy though right? Incidentally, I first started reading comics as a kid in the mid to late eighties, just so you know. In many ways, you and I are looking at two different characters sharing much in common. Complicating matters further, you seem to view them as being one and the same. And to me, they’re ALMOST as far apart from the other as is Santa Claus to Saint Nicholas of Myra!

    “The Batman’s desires to intimidate, injure and induce fear in the minds of the criminals he encounters cannot be adequately explained by using instrumental aggression”….”the Batman focuses almost exclusively on the perpetrators, not the victims, doing all that he can to “strike fear into their hearts,” as the 1989 Batman film puts it.”

    I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that. You stated earlier on that you wish I could “read the whole thing” and I truly wish I could enlighten you on how wrong you are in thinking that Batman doesn’t focus on the innocents ahead of the criminals. I think I know where you and the author of this quote are getting tripped up though. Obviously various individuals interpret Batman’s motives differently. That we can agree on. Now, let’s say both you and I were chosen to write a 12 issue story arc for Batman. When kids and adults would sit down to read my take on the character I like to think they would come away with the feeling that Batman isn’t just about getting at the corruption ABOVE helping others. I’d want them to see that both goals are balanced and even though it’s “about him on some level”, that’s okay. In fact, I’d say it’s a part of what makes us human. Batman doesn’t want anyone to endure the kind of suffering he was forced to endure all his life. There are heroes in the real world that risk their lives every single day, but we don’t know what truly drives them deep down do we? Is it tragedy? A desire for recognition? A need to prove something to a loved one? Who knows?? But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Let’s discuss your interpretation. How would YOU portray The Batman in the year long arc proceeding or following my own? Would your “dark knight” allow a young child to fall to his/her death because he was more concerned about kicking the snot out of a drug dealer? I know that sounds extreme, but I’m playing devil’s advocate here. With that stated, I think I’ve given you a good example of what goes on in comics today. There are numerous writers who have and will continue to work on the character for years to come, each with their own unique perception of who and what The Batman is. It’s obvious that I’ve been heavily influenced by those writers who have opted to focus on his more altruistic qualities (e.g., Alan Grant, Dennis O’Neill) WITHOUT abandoning that which makes him dark and controversial, mind you.

    Ever hear of an author by the name of Jeph Loeb? That’s a guy whose work I think you would really identify with and maybe even appreciate, Sara. Here’s a quote from Loeb’s Batman #612.

    “If Clark wanted, he could use his superspeed and squish me into the cement. But I know how he thinks. Even more than Kryptonite, he’s got one big weakness. Deep down, Clark’s essentially a good person. . . and deep down, I’m not.”
    -Batman as written by Jeph Loeb.

    Have I clarified myself a little better now? Hope so.

    BTW, I actually dig that Loeb quote, despite feeling that Bruce Wayne too is essentially a good person/character.

  • D

    On Batman, and Gotham, letting Joker live:
    I saw this joke in some blog once. “Batman finds out that Joker and Bin Laden are actually the same person. Then he puts him back on Arkham.”

  • Sara

    John,
    I’ve agreed with you on discussions we’ve had on a lot of stuff and you have some with me.

    I don’t think Batman can be viewed as “one way” or rather as seamless. As you’ve said, there have been various writers, various times. The critical thing is that the origin story hasn’t changed and as you’ve said that story is tragic and traumatic and would affect any child (especially that young) in untold ways.

    I’ve said I think Bruce’s saving grace was Alfred (in terms of Bruce having some stability after the horror of his parents’ death.) Your input about Leslie was very intriquing (never had I heard of her) and it’s too bad that that part (Leslie finding young Bruce in the alley, and helping him, her being close to Alfred, etc.) didn’t become part of the story (or story that most everyone would have heard of)…but it didn’t.

    I understand why you see Batman as you do and I respect your views. I see Batman in a different way. I do see him as the dark knight for the most part(dark as in terms of how he operates, literally “in the night” and dark, as in his psychology.) I think the book I told you about is superb in terms of its research, psychological discussion, and knowledge of the comics. It’s written by psychologists who love the comics. I think the comment about Batman (if you look at most of the comics, etc.) about him (excluding the Adam West series) you do see someone who is “dark”—who is damaged himself and hanging on by a thread in many ways psychologically. Yet, he hangs on. I understand that. It’s admirable.

    Yet, I see his motivations differently from you. Still, he helps people. We can agree on that. And helping people is usually a good thing.

    I thought the psychological motivations re: instrumental aggression or hostile aggression was fascinating. This is nothing new in the field of psychology but I hadn’t read such a well-written, interesting view from a group of psychologists on the superheroes before.

    Yes, I see Batman in a very different light from Superman or Wonder Woman or Spiderman. He is still a beloved hero, no doubt. On par, actually with Superman. Still, he is driven (I think) by much rage and it is telling that the criminals he fights do get hurt badly (in the comics) quite often in ways that he doesn’t need to inflict on them (because he very well knows other ways–less violent but highly effective techniques) to contain a criminal and hold him until the police arrive. In TDK, the Joker was no physical match at all for Batman. If Batman knew the martial arts as well as he does…why all the need for the kind of violence (from Batman) that we witnessed? He could easily have subdued the Joker with much less violence, but the Joker in a hold that would freak him out psychologically as much as anything would. So what is all the violence in TDK about (coming from Batman)? I think it does come from Batman’s own psyche. Also, if Batman is so concerned about victims why does he have no concern about the prison system, etc., and how criminals keep getting out and the effect this has on regular citizens? That’s a huge part of the picture.

    I see Batman as damaged (and yes, everyone is to some degree) but I see him as damaged and just barely salvaged (and this happens in people’s lives all the time, unfortunately.) He does choose odd ways…dressing like a huge bat to intimidate and fighten the criminals (dresses as what HE fears the most, in fact), lurks around in dark places of the night. No, he’s not The Punisher, but he veers in that direction psychologically more than the three Superheroes I mentioned above.

    I also wrote that the death of Rachel (if Batman were REALLY close to her and cared with the depth that was intimated) then HER death could have driven him over the edge. I KNOW his code, but things can drive people past their code. That would have been believable to me. But it didn’t seem to faze him particularly. I would conclude (my own conclusion) that he wasn’t that close to Rachel in a really deep level…that he uses compartmentalization so stronly that he couldn’t allow himself to love her so much because as you’ve said…he might lose her. Which he did. So, the loss wasn’t as great psychologically as the movie would want us to think it was perhaps. I saw Batman (please note it’s my interpretation here) as more interested and “tied up” psychologically with the Joker…more engaged with the Joker than he ever was with Rachel. Hence, the draw for me that Batman’s motivations are probably close to what is described in the info I sent you last time. My opinion. And that’s fine. He saves people. He rescues people. But to me, he is a tragic, tragic figure. I feel for him. But he’s chosen his path.

    One other thing and this is off-topic so I’ll make it quick. The interesting comment in the essay about Wonder Woman is that if we pay attention to HER origin story (as we should to any of the origin stories) and if we do that, we would know that she would look at America as a curiosity. That she would see herself (when here) as in a place where things are very backward. She comes from a place very very different. I fear for how she will be written next (and the writing is in process)…she will probably be written as a female who basically embraces the patriarchal establishment…a man’s kind of gal (sort of a macho but beautiful woman) and I don’t see Wonder Woman remotely like that.

    But, YES, I do see your points about Batman and why you feel/think about him the way you do. I just don’t share the exact same views. And I thought TDK (while many absolutely raved over it and have their own reasons for doing so) was so focused on one violent scene after another that it became mind-numbing. I WOULD like to see different pacing…I would like to see more nuance…and it could be there. It IS there…it just wasn’t in TDK.

  • Sara

    John,
    Re: comment from Jeph Loeb. Yep, there you have it, too. The huge lack of self-esteem on Batman’s part and that usually goes hand-in-hand with built up rage (and that rage is gonna come out.)

  • John Cornell

    Sara said,

    “I’ve agreed with you on discussions we’ve had on a lot of stuff and you have some with me.”

    More of the latter, not so much of the former I think.

    “I understand why you see Batman as you do and I respect your views. I see Batman in a different way. I do see him as the dark knight for the most part (dark as in terms of how he operates, literally “in the night” and dark, as in his psychology.)”

    Sara, I’ve always acknowledged the darker aspects of the character. Why you often tend to miss that not so minor detail is beyond me. It’s just that I see more of a balance between Batman’s two most important goals, i.e., rooting out corruption and safeguarding Gotham. And that’s partially because I’ve generally been drawn to stories written by authors (i.e., Alan Grant, Chuck Dixon) who depict him as an altruistic figure, an essentially good person who manages to harness the raw emotion within himself and utilize it for something good. And there certainly are moments where the “unclean spirit” gets the best of him, but in end Batman somehow finds a way to rein it all in.

    It seems to me that your perception of the “dark knight” comes primarily from pop culture references and a psychology book on superheroes, whereas, I have had the privilege of reading/viewing some of the very best works pertaining to Batman – and that’s truly where the HEART of the character lies. It’s no surprise that you haven’t once gone into the slightest of detail regarding the selfless and heroic things Bruce Wayne accomplishes, both in and out of the costume. Here you are.. giving a critique on a fictional hero when you don’t necessarily have all the facts about what he does and doesn’t do. Maybe it’s easier to constantly focus on the way he deals with criminals instead of looking at all the lives he changes for the better or the sacrifices he makes time and again for the sake of Gotham’s “soul”.

    “Yes, I see Batman in a very different light from Superman or Wonder Woman or Spiderman. He is still a beloved hero, no doubt. On par, actually with Superman. Still, he is driven (I think) by much rage and it is telling that the criminals he fights do get hurt badly (in the comics) quite often in ways that he doesn’t need to inflict on them (because he very well knows other ways–less violent but highly effective techniques) to contain a criminal and hold him until the police arrive. In TDK, the Joker was no physical match at all for Batman. If Batman knew the martial arts as well as he does…why all the need for the kind of violence (from Batman) that we witnessed? He could easily have subdued the Joker with much less violence, but the Joker in a hold that would freak him out psychologically as much as anything would. So what is all the violence in TDK about (coming from Batman)? I think it does come from Batman’s own psyche.”

    I agree, but don’t think that Wayne puts his “rage” ABOVE wanting to help other people. It’s almost like an affliction of sorts. He’s looking at the UGLINESS that seeped its way into his then young soul and making a decision to grab it with both hands and use it to fuel his fire for justice! Don’t get me wrong, Wayne’s initial motive was clearly revenge, but with time and discipline (gained through several of the world’s greatest teachers) his intentions grew into something much more than what they were prior to his spiritual journey.

    “Also, if Batman is so concerned about victims why does he have no concern about the prison system, etc., and how criminals keep getting out and the effect this has on regular citizens? That’s a huge part of the picture.”

    I’m sure this was addressed at some point in the comics, but either way, he’s only one man. You once pointed out that “parents aren’t gods” right? Well, neither is The Batman. How much sleep do you think the poor guy gets?

    Incidentally, I feel a little weird about discussing a make believe character on such a deeply psychological level, but somehow incredibly comfortable, while doing so on this blog.

    “dresses as what HE fears the most”

    Well, USED to fear anyway. Bats are his good friends nowadays. ha ha ha

    “I also wrote that the death of Rachel (if Batman were REALLY close to her and cared with the depth that was intimated) then HER death could have driven him over the edge. I KNOW his code, but things can drive people past their code.”

    It would all depend on WHICH Batman we’re talking about here. The current Batman of the comics, who is literally portrayed to be the perfect human specimen, disciplined in every possible way you can think of or Nolan’s Batman, who isn’t nearly as perfect. If we’re talking about choice #1, then I’d have to disagree. Choice #2, however, is fairly grounded in reality, so yeah.. I was surprised that Batman didn’t flip out on Joker subsequent to her death, as well. I like how you suggest that Bruce wasn’t as close to Rachel as audiences might have been led to believe. Maybe, he wasn’t completely aware of the fact himself. Can’t blame him though. Rachel really turned into someone else entirely! ha ha ha Get it? First Katie, then Maggie. Nevermind. =)~

    “One other thing and this is off-topic so I’ll make it quick. The interesting comment in the essay about Wonder Woman is that if we pay attention to HER origin story (as we should to any of the origin stories) and if we do that, we would know that she would look at America as a curiosity. That she would see herself (when here) as in a place where things are very backward. She comes from a place very very different. I fear for how she will be written next (and the writing is in process)…she will probably be written as a female who basically embraces the patriarchal establishment…a man’s kind of gal (sort of a macho but beautiful woman) and I don’t see Wonder Woman remotely like that.”

    I thought WB was in the process of rolling out a new WW film pretty soon, but it looks like it’s still in development hell.

    “But, YES, I do see your points about Batman and why you feel/think about him the way you do. I just don’t share the exact same views. And I thought TDK (while many absolutely raved over it and have their own reasons for doing so) was so focused on one violent scene after another that it became mind-numbing. I WOULD like to see different pacing…I would like to see more nuance…and it could be there. It IS there…it just wasn’t in TDK.”

    So you just “see”, but don’t ever quite “agree”. Fair enough. You’re the one suggesting that you’ve shared some of my views in previous comments though. I, on the other hand, have always maintained that we aren’t really on the same page at all. We just happen to get along well I think.

    On a side note, I knew you would dig Loeb’s Batman quote. Keep in mind though, that’s just HIS unique interpretation of the character and you would likely understand it (i.e., the quote) a lot better if you read it in the context it was actually used in. I’ll explain further later on if you so wish.

    What else? AH! Remember when you told me that Batman’s code (against killing) came about, as a result of Fredric Wertham’s 1954 book Seduction of the Innocent? Not so! Here’s the real story, as taken from Wiki:

    “The first issue of the solo spin-off series Batman was notable not only for introducing two of his most persistent antagonists, the Joker and Catwoman, but for a story in which Batman shoots some monstrous giants to death. That story prompted editor Whitney Ellsworth to decree that the character could no longer kill or use a gun.

    So technically Batman hasn’t been killing since 1940! This makes me feel much much better now, but mostly because I know Batman’s code wasn’t inspired by that Wertham nutjob! Some of the things he wrote about Batman and Wonder Woman were ludicrous. Not getting into that though, thank you very much.

    Maybe we can discuss the religious and/or pagan symbolism behind the Batman some time. One author whose name I forget (definitely NOT Loeb) described the character as “an angel….. in the devil’s dark guise”. Me likey.

    =)

  • Sarah

    John,
    What are you doing up writing on this blog now? I was up writing on a project (which you’d find interesting I think and it’s not far-fetched from some of what we’ve been discussing. AND it ain’t easy.) I checked my email and saw your post.

    I’ll go over it tomorrow and give it my full attention as I want to respond as fairly (in giving thought) to what you write as you do to what I write. So, thanks, you know.

    I actually think you ought to (if you wanted) teach a class on this. I have no idea how old you are…if you are near a university town, but college students would eat up the stuff you’re writing…and your knowledge of it. I’m very serious. You probably would have a waitlist a mile long for your course. Naturally, you’d be in the political science department. Not psych:) I’d be there. Or we could teach the class together…a dual political science/psych course. It’s always good for students to see people who know about a subject to argue differing points (but with respect and also learning from one another)…granted you know TONS more than I do about these comics. Still, I know enough…and know perhaps what the average person viewing TDK might know. I’ve seen every Batman film, I’ve read some of the comics, I’ve watched every TV episode, I have a son who compelled me to be literate on some of this stuff, I am aware of the different versions and which writers took over when. Not to the extent that you are, obviously.

    By the way, the book I referred to is not the first one I’ve ever read on the subject–just this book recently really struck a cord with me. Not the first thoughts I’ve ever had, nor discussion ever had on the darkness of the Batman…of his motivation (and that’s what we’re really going around about.)

    I recall the play therapy with kids who came to sessions with their capes on to help them brave the psychological demons that they carried (many had been traumatized.) So, I think we both bring very different things to our conversations.

    I don’t think it’s weird to talk in depth about a fictional character and certainly not one that has so great a hold on America…and at this time also.

    Yeah, poor Batman, once he was trusting Rachel she did turn into someone else. What’s a guy to do? Other than be totally confused.

    An angel in the devil’s dark guise…hmm…interesting, still the split and the splitting is an issue for me. The less the splitting the more complex the character. Perhaps that’s why I liked the character I dare not name because I was asked by you not to bring him up again. Damaged and showed it. Trying to make something good come out of it and part of the time, failed, some of the time succeeded. Should we be like him? No. But he points to what we need to do.

  • John Cornell

    Sara,

    In case the script wasn’t enough to convince you that Two-Face won’t be coming back from the dead or that Nolan generally refrains from that sort of nonsense (even in a film inspired by a comic), read on.

    From http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=48470

    “Yes, it’s true. Aaron Eckhart says goodbye to Batman. At the press day for his upcoming indie film Towelhead, ComingSoon.net/Superhero Hype! talked to the actor who portrayed Harvey Dent/Two-Face in The Dark Knight. He told us he’s definitely not signed on for another film and confirmed his character is dead.

    Eckhart laughed about how he tried to ask if there was a chance he was coming back and was good-humored about the deadly fate of Dent.

    CS/SHH!: Is Harvey Dent alive?
    Aaron Eckhart: No. He is dead as a door nail.

    CS/SHH!: So he’s not coming back?
    Eckhart: He ain’t coming back baby!

    CS/SHH!: I was hoping he would.
    Eckhart: No. I asked Chris [Nolan] that question and he goes, “You’re dead” before I could even get the question out of my mouth. “Hey Chris, am I?” “You’re dead!” Alright, cool.

    CS/SHH!: That’s not a problem in comic book movies. You could still come back.
    Eckhart: I THINK IN CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS IT’S A PROBLEM.

    CS/SHH!: So you were never signed on for another film?
    Eckhart: No, I’m not coming back. I think unfortunately, Heath [Ledger] was supposed to go on and that didn’t work out. I’m nobody. I’m a cog. I have no say over this sort of stuff. I’m sure that there’s so many other characters that they could whip together. I heard Angelina Jolie was going to be Catwoman or something like that. I thought that was a great idea. I’d like to be in that one.

    CS/SHH!: It must be gratifying that so many people responded to your character.
    Eckhart: Yeah, I dig it. Write your Congressman. I like that for the first time in my career I’m getting fan mail from kids and 8-year-olds. “My name is Bill. I really liked the film.” I’ve never had that before. I think that’s fun. I think someone told me they’re going to be Harvey Two-Face for Halloween which is cool. I said to two kids the other day, “Did you see Batman yet?” Then I come to find out like two seconds later they’ve seen it four times. People are really going back to see it. My parents saw it I think 12 [times] so far. They’re sick that it’s going out of the theaters.

    CS/SHH!: Do they normally see your movies 12 times?
    Eckhart: I don’t know about 12, but they like to go see the movies. They like to go see the audience. They like to tell people that I’m in the movie like popcorn people.”

    Thought I’d share that with ya. Oh and don’t worry, the Angelina Jolie rumor is just that – a rumor. Even Nolan hasn’t confirmed that he’s coming back yet.

    BTW, what do you think of the new Harry Potter trailer? I’ve never really gotten into that franchise, but the trailer for the new film really caught my attention; looks eerie.

  • Sara

    John wrote:

    Aaron Eckhart says: “I like that for the first time
    in my career I’m getting fan mail from kids and 8-year-olds. “My name is Bill. I
    really liked the film.” I’ve never had that before. I think that’s fun. I think
    someone told me they’re going to be Harvey Two-Face for Halloween which is cool.
    I said to two kids the other day, “Did you see Batman yet?”

    Well, damn, this is just great. 8 year olds are going to this movie as many as 4 times, etc. How “fun.” And easy for us all that we can blame the parents of these kids (which is a huge majority of parents’ in America.) Wow.

  • Sara

    John,
    You convinced me a long time ago that Two-Face isn’t returning. I don’t think he’s returning. He’s not returning. He’s dead. I got that. I believe you. I read the script. Over with him. I see that. Saw that quite a while back.
    Bit didn’t read the fan mail he’s getting from 8 years olds. Sad. Really not a good thing.

  • Sara

    John,
    Let me rephrase. Harvey Dent is not coming back. Harvey Dent is dead. RE: Two Face…? No idea. As the bloggers pointed out below the article you sent the link to. If Two-Face could survive with half his face (the internal parts) exposed as he did (didn’t even get MRSA) then, he might survive much more. As one blogger said…a la The Prestige.
    But yeah, Harvey Dent is very dead.

  • Sara

    John,
    OK, I’ll try to address the rest of the issues you wrote about in your email to me last night:

    I think where we have differences is in the motivational area, not the outcome area. I’ll address that in a minute.

    You wrote:
    Sara, I’ve always acknowledged the darker aspects of the character. Why you often tend to miss that not so minor detail is beyond me. It’s just that I see more of a balance between Batman’s two most important goals, i.e., rooting out corruption and safeguarding Gotham.(Etc.)

    John, I don’t think I’ve missed this, so don’t despair. I see what you’re saying clearly. Again, it’s a matter of motivation and outcome…and to that in a minute.

    I wrote:
    …the criminals he fights do get hurt badly (in the comics) quite often in ways that he doesn’t need to inflict on them (because he very well knows other ways–less violent but highly effective techniques) to contain a criminal and hold him until the police arrive. In TDK, the Joker was no physical match at all for Batman. If Batman knew the martial arts as well as he does…why all the need for the kind of violence (from Batman) that we witnessed? So what is all the violence in TDK about (coming from Batman)? I think it does come from Batman’s own psyche.”

    You answered:
    “I agree, but don’t think that Wayne puts his “rage” ABOVE wanting to help other people.

    I wrote that Batman never appears interested (or never seems to care–that I’ve ever seen or read about–any kind of overhaul of Gotham’s jails or criminal justice system. And yes, he’s one person, I know, but that’s beside the point–we don’t see (that I’m aware) concern about the failing system that keeps perpetuating the chaos. Thus, criminals keep escaping time and again which perhaps (perhaps) add fodder for Batman’s fighting nights. You said you were sure this was addressed at some point in the comics but I don’t think it has been. .

    You wrote:
    Incidentally, I feel a little weird about discussing a make believe character on such a deeply psychological level, but somehow incredibly comfortable, while doing so on this blog.

    I write: All the more power to MaryAnn for having this blog and for (I think) recognizing the power of fictional characters. They have enormous power in our psyches.

    You said Batman “used” to fear bats. Is this the case…or does he still? Just wondering. To dress up as what you fear the most is a pretty high form of reaction formation and intimidation. Just observing.

    I wrote:
    Re: the death of Rachel…”if Batman were REALLY close to her and cared with the depth that was intimated IN THE MOVIE then HER death could have driven him over the edge. I KNOW his code, but things can drive people past their code.”
    (And YES, I’m talking about Nolan’s Batman, specifically TDK.) You wrote that if I was referring to the Batman in TDK that, yes, you’d have to agree. (see, agreement there.)You even wrote:

    “I was surprised that Batman didn’t flip out on Joker subsequent to her death, as well. I like how you suggest that Bruce wasn’t as close to Rachel as audiences might have been led to believe.”
    (Yes, agree completely…100%.)

    You wrote:
    So you just “see”, but don’t ever quite “agree”. Fair enough. You’re the one suggesting that you’ve shared some of my views in previous comments though. I, on the other hand, have always maintained that we aren’t really on the same page at all. We just happen to get along well I think.

    I say: Well, shit, that’s a cool thing isn’t it…that we actually can “see” what the other is saying, not agree always (or as much as I think we might and you think we don’t) but we happen to get along well. That’s pretty amazing, I think. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was more of that in this country?

    You wrote:
    “I knew you would dig Loeb’s Batman quote. Keep in mind though, that’s just HIS unique interpretation of the character and you would likely understand it (i.e., the quote) a lot better if you read it in the context it was actually used in. I’ll explain further later on if you so wish.

    (Yeah, I’d like to hear what else you have to say on this. But I’d add that with ANY literature, if the writing is worth squat, there MUST be room for each reader to make his/her own interpretations. That’s crucial, I think. The “spaces” between the lines are always important…else we are so “directed” it can become very annoying, especially for people who like to think and imagine on their own.)

    You wrote:
    So technically Batman hasn’t been killing since 1940! This makes me feel much much better now, but mostly because I know Batman’s code wasn’t inspired by that Wertham nutjob! Some of the things he wrote about Batman and Wonder Woman were ludicrous. Not getting into that though, thank you very much.

    OK.

    You wrote:

    Maybe we can discuss the religious and/or pagan symbolism behind the Batman some time. One author whose name I forget (definitely NOT Loeb) described the character as “an angel….. in the devil’s dark guise”. Me likey.

    Very cool. But MaryAnn might have to start another thread for that, I don’t know.

    Addressing the motivation issue/outcome issue that we keep stumbling over:

    We agree on outcomes. Batman helps people.

    The question is how much does he mean to do this and how much is a result of going after the criminals? How much of a “do-gooder” is Batman? I saw the Adam West series–which you don’t like, am I correct?–to be the ultimate Batman as do-gooder storyline. Anything else that I’m aware of re: Batman I see differently.

    Knowing the origin story (HORRIFIC)…knowing the effect that would have on a child,knowing the fear, the self-doubt (“I couldn’t save them…I didn’t save them”),the “survivor guilt”,the anger and profound sadness that had to exist would most likely be there forever regardless of training.

    I’ll give an example that helps me understand the the motivational issue. When I first worked in psychiatry, my superviser and mentor was a psychiatrist. At one point, when looking over some college career testing I’d taken (I already worked for him and just showed him these results) he said, “you know there’s too much ‘helpy-stuff’ here–too much do-goodism.” I was insulted but I listened to him. I asked why HE did the work he did (which included a private practice plus work at 3 psychiatric hospitals, same as me)–he said, “I do it because I’ve always loved history and this is history as no other history is plus it’s a bit like detective work. You look for clues and you try to piece the situation together and figure out what will work best for this person/family. I like the intellectual challenge. If the work I do ends up helping people then we got a win-win here.” Then he smiled at me. (And this was a very personable man, too.)

    Immediately I knew he was on to something and I could see in my own background, why I’d been motivated to “help people.” He added, “you know, when motivation comes from the desire to “help people” it’s really very controlling and it puts you above the person to be helped. As a defense against needing any help yourself.” Aha, so very very true. Again, I knew he was correct.

    From what I’ve read (and NO, not just the one book, but it is very good) and seen via movies and tv, and some of the comics, I do think that Batman is driven by (I wouldn’t say revenge so much anymore) but I’d say the desire to get the criminals. Else why would we know of Batman and the Joker, and the Riddler, and Two-Face, etc., etc., etc. but we don’t really know the names of those he’s saved as well. (The average person doesn’t. They know of Batman and the criminals.) We know the savior (Batman) and we know the criminals he goes after and he seems to relish going after them from what I’ve observed (EXCEPT in the Adam West Series.) Everywhere else I see a zeal in going for the criminals as an incredibly strong motivation and hey, it does help people. Although, I’d say, in TDK, I’m not sure how much help was given. I think (my opinion) that Batman carries a bit of chaos around with him also–or attracts it like a magnet and doesn’t mind that at all…in fact, might like it and not even realize it. Which adds to his self-doubt and brooding loneliness.

  • John Cornell

    Sara said,
    “Let me rephrase. Harvey Dent is not coming back. Harvey Dent is dead. RE: Two Face…? No idea. As the bloggers pointed out below the article you sent the link to. If Two-Face could survive with half his face (the internal parts) exposed as he did (didn’t even get MRSA) then, he might survive much more. As one blogger said…a la The Prestige.
    But yeah, Harvey Dent is very dead.”

    Harvey Dent IS Two Face. If you read the script or the interview with Eckhart, I think you would see that Two Face is simply dead and not coming back, no matter how badly those bloggers (who are likely comic book purists) want him to. Those same guys are still waiting for Ras Al Ghul! Trust me, I know. =) Now, I do believe the character could make a return if another director picks up where Nolan left off, but Bale and Eckhart certainly wouldn’t be on board. Also of note, the script clearly states that Dent/Two Face breaks his neck and dies. Like you said above, “over with him”.

    See, I knew I hadn’t convinced you that Two Face isn’t coming back!

  • Sara

    Ha, John,
    I don’t think Two-Face is coming back (with Nolan.)Your opinion?
    Had an involved conversation with my son and his best friend (both graduated from college in May) re: TDK this afternoon. Both are home, visiting. Totally civil. Disagreements but agreements, too.

    You would have enjoyed the conversation. Both said they thought that other movie I can’t mention was better, though. I didn’t bring it up either. Also both thought Batman has so long been owned by kids (same with Superman and Spiderman–re: tv and movies) that the most “noble” route would have been to forego some of the box office revenue and slow the movie down, add some nuance with adult themes (this doesn’t have to mean more gore or sex either)–it can be done with complexity in dialogue, themes and relationships) and slap an R on that baby.

  • Sara

    John,
    Told you that you should teach a course on this…literature course,I’m now thinking…high school (seniors) or college level. Why not make a pitch for it at a local college/university? You could teach on your lunch hour or a once a week (3 hours) course in the evening (only one night a week.)

  • John Cornell

    “You said you were sure this (i.e., the judicial issue) was addressed at some point in the comics but I don’t think it has been.”

    You didn’t know about Leslie right? So there’s certainly a possibility that Wayne shows concern for the judicial system on some level in at least one or two issues published over the last 60+ years I think. Why shoot down the notion if you don’t know for sure?

    “All the more power to MaryAnn for having this blog and for (I think) recognizing the power of fictional characters. They have enormous power in our psyches.”

    I agree.

    “You said Batman “used” to fear bats. Is this the case…or does he still? Just wondering. To dress up as what you fear the most is a pretty high form of reaction formation and intimidation. Just observing.”

    He no longer fears bats and has gained a new respect for the little critters. I wasn’t exactly kidding when I said they’re his friends nowadays. Also, in Batman Begins, there’s a scene where Bruce stands amidst a swarm of bats, forcing himself to overcome his fear. This is the key moment where Bruce fully knows the symbol he must use. In the comics, however, the origin story is quite a bit different.

    Author Alan Grant writes,

    “At age 14 he traveled to Europe, studying at Cambridge University, the Sorbonne in Paris, Berlin School of Science and a dozen other places, never staying for long. He spent his evenings with the denizens of the street, learning less savory skills. At age 20 he entered the FBI and stayed for six weeks before realizing that shuffling papers was no way to fight crime.”

    “The grim purpose that burned inside him was growing, demanding direction, seeking release. He looked further, to the East. He learned karate from an ascended master in the Paektu-San mountains of Korea–Savate from a convicted killer living as a beach bum on an island off Borneo. Six months in a Japanese hermitage taught him the value of Judo and Ju-jitsu. From a Chinese woman so old she should have been dead, he learned the secrets of the Tao, that nothing is fixed, everything is fluid, everything is energy. He mastered a dozen disciplines, experimented with them and fused them into something that was uniquely his own. In Africa he learned how to read the environment for the signs man’s passage leaves–how to find and follow a trail to which ordinary men were blind…The ninjas taught him their secrets–how to use the shadows, how to employ psychology to win the battle before it’s even fought–the precautions to take when you make yourself a target–and how to use fear.”

    In Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, it is revealed that upon making his return to Gotham, a disguised Bruce tries to help a young prostitute, which naturally leads to a confrontation with her pimp. No one seems to really take Wayne, an ordinary man, seriously and he actually gets stabbed by the same prostitute he was initially trying to aid, not to mention shot by the police. He eventually makes it home, bleeding from various wounds and sits in his father’s study “looking for inspiration, something that will strike fear into the hearts of criminals.” Like an omen, a bat suddenly crashes through a window in the room and perches on a head sculpture of Thomas Wayne. In reply, Bruce states, “Yes Father, I will become a bat.”

    I wrote: “I was surprised that Batman didn’t flip out on Joker subsequent to her death, as well. I like how you suggest that Bruce wasn’t as close to Rachel as audiences might have been led to believe.”

    You wrote: “(Yes, agree completely…100%.)”

    Well, that’s a given since I was umm.. actually agreeing with your previous statement regarding Rachel. =)~

    “(Yeah, I’d like to hear what else you have to say on this (i.e., Loeb’s Batman quote). But I’d add that with ANY literature, if the writing is worth squat, there MUST be room for each reader to make his/her own interpretations. That’s crucial, I think. The “spaces” between the lines are always important…else we are so “directed” it can become very annoying, especially for people who like to think and imagine on their own.)”

    I just meant that you might get a different meaning from it if you understood the context the quote was used in. If I remember correctly, some villain was able to take control of Superman’s mind and sought to have him kill Batman. With Selina Kyle’s assistance, Batman devised a way to restore the boy scout’s mind. As Loeb writes, Superman, long ago, apparently entrusted Bruce alone with a kryptonite ring, in the event he ever lost control and simply had to be put down. Selina showed concern for Batman’s well being in thinking that it might not be wise to try and get too close to Superman in the state he was in at the time. Insert quote, “If Clark wanted, he could use his superspeed and squish me into the cement. But I know how he thinks. Even more than Kryptonite, he’s got one big weakness. Deep down, Clark’s essentially a good person. . . and deep down, I’m not.”

    “The question is how much does he mean to do this and how much is a result of going after the criminals? How much of a “do-gooder” is Batman? I saw the Adam West series–which you don’t like, am I correct?–to be the ultimate Batman as do-gooder storyline. Anything else that I’m aware of re: Batman I see differently.”

    I loved it, but you should know that it’s meant to be a parody of Batman. The producers of the show even acknowledged that.

    “Knowing the origin story (HORRIFIC)…knowing the effect that would have on a child,knowing the fear, the self-doubt (“I couldn’t save them…I didn’t save them”),the “survivor guilt”,the anger and profound sadness that had to exist would most likely be there forever regardless of training.”

    Never said it wasn’t there, but the training and meditation helps him keep the rage under control. It wasn’t just Alfred or Leslie who served as Batman’s saving grace, btw. Some of those Asian philosophies he learned while traveling the East, for example, would have likely been beneficial to an extent I think.

    “From what I’ve read (and NO, not just the one book, but it is very good) and seen via movies and tv, and some of the comics, I do think that Batman is driven by (I wouldn’t say revenge so much anymore) but I’d say the desire to get the criminals.”

    “Immediately I knew he was on to something and I could see in my own background, why I’d been motivated to “help people.” ”

    Based on what you’re saying, then the motives of Superman or Spider-Man could also be viewed much less altruistically and yet I’m sure the psychology books you’ve read neglect to focus on the darker aspects of these characters. Let’s have a look at a quote you posted a couple of days back shall we?

    “Using an understanding of the Batman that comes from anytime before or after the 1960’s Adam West series, we can already start to see quite clearly that the Batman is not an altruistic do-gooder such as Superman.”

    Like I’ve stated before, Superman isn’t baggage free. He just so happens to be packaged in the primary colors as an All-American looking boy scout who always refrains from beating the crap out of normal human beings. Okay Sara. Time for me to play the role of the “psyche” teacher now.

    1) Superman is actually just as violent as Batman in some ways. You know why he holds back with regular people, Sara? Think about it for a second. What would happen if Superman punched an average criminal in the face with all his strength? That is correct. The aforementioned criminal would no longer HAVE a face, would he? Now, there are physically enhanced villains and otherworldly entities out there who are quite capable of taking a beating at the hands of Superman. And take a beating from him, they most certainly do. Hell, sometimes Supes hits them so hard that they end up going through buildings! And just where is our famous “do-gooder’s” deep concern for all the collateral damage caused by his unrivaled might? What of the people who might still be left in those buildings? Surely they couldn’t have all escaped? That’s right Sara. If you can take what he can give, Supes will rip you a new asshole!

    2) And where does all that pent up aggression come from? Although Supes grew up on a farm in Kansas with good, doting parents, living among regular folk, he has still always felt alone; an outcast, literally an alien. Like Bruce Wayne, Superman is an orphan, but he lost much more than just his parents. He lost his entire race! So what’s a guy to do? Prove that he’s something more than just a lonely alien living on a farm. Stop at nothing to ensure that his newly adopted planet will never suffer the same fate as the one he was forced to leave behind. Sound familiar? You almost get the feeling that it’s “about him on some level.”

    In Kill Bill: Vol.2, David Carradine’ s Bill cites Jules Feiffer’s The Great Comic Book Heroes in stating the following: “What Kent wears – the glasses, the business suit – that’s the costume. That’s the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent. He’s weak… he’s unsure of himself… he’s a coward. Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race.” So if we are to support this analysis of the character (and I personally do not), you could very well go on to say that Superman thinks of humans as lowly, inferior beings and helps people only because HIS oh so poor perception of them compels him to do so.

    It certainly changes the way you look at the character doesn’t it Sara? Supes sure as hell isn’t as much of a “do-gooder” as many perceive him to be. I can tell you that! In fact, I just did. And I can do the same with just about any superhero you throw at me. See where I’m going with this? Batman isn’t terribly different from the other heroes when you put them all together under the microscope. To a point, he is, yes. I understand that, but these supposed “do-gooders” – they aren’t quite so pure and flawless as the book you often cite would have us believe.

    Question for you, Sara. Do you acknowledge the fact that a protagonist of a story can be written out of character or do you always just accept the way he/she is portrayed by any author, regardless of how much one depiction might diverge from all the rest?

    You also didn’t tell me what you think about the new Harry Potter trailer! Have you seen it?

  • John Cornell

    “Told you that you should teach a course on this…literature course,I’m now thinking…high school (seniors) or college level. Why not make a pitch for it at a local college/university? You could teach on your lunch hour or a once a week (3 hours) course in the evening (only one night a week.)”

    Sara,

    Hadn’t ever really thought about teaching. I’d enjoy it a lot more than my current day job though, I’m sure.

  • Sara

    Geez, John, the punches in the last email. ?
    (Or next to last one.)

    My points are only my own and come from my experience with the texts I’ve read (which are meager compared to yours as I’ve noted) but I’ve seen every Batman movie and watched the Adam West Series when younger. Didn’t care for it so much and I don’t think kids recognized that show as a parody either. That WAS Batman to most of them. My points aren’t “right”…they’re just my points…my own thoughts/feelings…my own reactions to what I’ve seen, expecially in the two Nolan films.

    Re: Superman…he is born with superpowers. Regardless of what happened to him, he was going to have superpowers. Didn’t have to do anything to get them. They just were in him, biologically. Could he cause a lot of damage? Sure, and I wouldn’t say otherwise. I think his motivation is different than Batman’s is all. I know you don’t agree.

    I see Superman as almost pure superego. Then Clark Kent is his ego (meant in a good way…his reality-testing part of himself, his thinking and his feelings– but where is his id? It’s absent, it seems. Hence, Bizarro Superman is developed. Definitely id material–purely id material. But that aside, Superman’s main “enemy” seems to be Kryptonite.

    This quote (that you’ve used a couple of times and I might have,too) tells the tale for me re: Batman. Here it is….”Even more than Kryptonite, he’s got one big weakness. Deep down, Clark’s essentially a good person. . . and deep down, I’m not.” Huge.
    Clark (while playing the weak patsy–it’s all a front) has an intact ego whereas, I think that Batman doesn’t. How could he? (re: the origin story and what he experienced; what he saw and felt. Superman doesn’t have this hanging over him to make him feel horrible. He doesn’t have these memories.) But, because Batman has memories that are often difficult as regular humans have, it’s why he’s compelling. I still see him, though, as more the dark beat cop.

    Batman has all of these personality components (id,ego, superego) but his superego is huge (as any child’s would be after the origin story trauma…survivor guilt)…as is his id. His ego (reality-testing part of himself) is suffering and suffers horribly. Tragically, traumatically. Batman struggles (I think) far greater than Superman ever does (internally.) Batman also lives with the memory of the trauma he endured all through the developing years of early childhood and early teenage-years. He is 14 when he goes on his journey and learns skills to help him but that give 8 years for the horror of the childhood trauma to really take root. And that much harder to deal with, regardless of the training. 8 years is a long time. Without Leslie’s intervention.

    Yes, I do recall in Batman Begins how Bruce deals with the bat-fear (and the bats flocking to him.) Still, to choose as his night wear, that of a bat is the very thing that terrified him for so long. So he takes what once terrified him and becomes that on some level in terms of intimidation of those he battles with. I don’t think the Batman suit is to intimidate anyone but the criminals. I still think it’s reaction formation and that’s OK. It makes sense. I’m not criticizing him for that at all. It’s only my observation.

    I did see the Harry Potter trailer…yes, looks eerie. I haven’t kept up with all the Harry Potter movies, though. At first, yes, but then they lost me (in terms of my interest.) But, the first book, I thought was great. (Better than the movie.)

    I do find it troublesome that Eckhart made the comment re: the letters he’s getting from 8 year old boys (who have seen TDK) four times and more. They think Two-Face is awesome and so on. I think 8 year-olds shouldn’t see this movie and, yes, I realize Eckhart is not their parent, but I thought his response was poor and not psychological-minded and uncaring of boy childrens’ minds. As you know, that is a big problem I have with this movie and Eckhart demonstrates it in his comments. I would certainly be concerned about the effect my work had on kids (who shouldn’t see the movie) and wouldn’t consider letters from them as something cool. It would really disturb me.

    One other thing…yes, I do think Superman/Clark Kent looks down on humanity. A smugness generally kept in check but a smugness, a set-apartness all the same.

    Even more so would be for Wonder Woman. She didn’t grow up in the U.S. I think the U.S. would be perhaps interesting to her, upsetting to her at times, but she is not an American woman. (She could go back to where she came from–Superman can’t…in terms of the planet itself and people.)
    I think Wonder Woman would consider herself an enlightened person in a backward world (and a culture that she did not grow up in.) I think she’d look at American women as kind of odd, actually–and complicit to some degree in their own lack of equality–or at least ambivalent in terms of struggle for equality. I see her as interested and she’ll fight for justice but she’s not an American woman. I know the effort has been made to have her struggle in a “man’s world” but I think that’s ignoring her origin story and the fact she can go back to her roots anytime she wants. She’s not stuck in a man’s world. Although the writers’ for the most part have stuck her there…in a strange way, given her origins. I think they haven’t known what to do with her. I fear IF the new Wonder Woman comes out that she will look like the GOP VP candidate only with superpowers and that’s not Wonder Woman (if her origins are given attention.) Wonder Woman is not a female in the guise of a sterotypical patriarchal male.

  • Jolly

    Tonio wrote:

    Oh, geez. How do I put these? Given the options available to these ferry passengers, there were few actions they could have taken that would be considered heroic. The Joker had already threatened to blow up the ferry if anyone tried to leave.

    So of their remaining options, there was:

    1. Sit tight and wait for help. Not the most heroic option, but at least if they ended up all dying, they would be seen as martyrs, not murderers.

    2. Try to save one’s life by blowing up the other ferry. Even if this worked–and MaryAnn has already made a good case earlier in the thread why it wouldn’t–the passengers would have to spend the rest of their life knowing that they gave in to a terrorist and saved their lives at the expense of someone else’s. In a world where even cops and soldiers who kill in self-defense sometimes have nightmares about their kills, it would be foolish to pretend that the average ferry passenger–or even the average convict–would want that on their conscience.

    Plus any member of Sara’s profession would tell you that giving in to a bully’s demands would only encourage that bully to make further demands. And in this case, the Joker was the bully and blowing up the other ferry was the equivalent of giving in to his demands.

    I’m not advocating any action. My main point was that the situation is morally ambiguous, and that I don’t see any need to interpret the outcome through the “moral prism” provided by the Joker. I also don’t think the outcome “proves” that the people of Gotham want to be good, as Batman suggests later. The scene mainly serves a dramatic function and is overly contrived, from the situation itself to the plot device of having the convict discard the detonator through to our knowledge as the audience that the Batman is frantically trying to stop the Joker.

    As to the bully comment, are you seriously advocating that when robbed at gunpoint, one should never capitulate because it encourages the behavior? Or that one should always sacrifice one’s life if the alternative involves potentially facing a heavy conscience in the future?

  • John Cornell

    Sara said,

    “Re: Superman…he is born with superpowers. Regardless of what happened to him, he was going to have superpowers. Didn’t have to do anything to get them. They just were in him, biologically. Could he cause a lot of damage? Sure, and I wouldn’t say otherwise. I think his motivation is different than Batman’s is all. I know you don’t agree.”

    “I see Superman as almost pure superego. Then Clark Kent is his ego (meant in a good way…his reality-testing part of himself, his thinking and his feelings– but where is his id? It’s absent, it seems. Hence, Bizarro Superman is developed. Definitely id material–purely id material. But that aside, Superman’s main “enemy” seems to be Kryptonite.”

    That wasn’t my point Sara. The book you cite over and over lends the perception that Superman and Wonder Woman are flawless “do-gooders”, whereas Batman is not. You COMPLETELY IGNORED my critique (in addition to Jules’ Feiffer’s) on the character, i.e., Superman. We’re talking about motives right? Not physical makeup. And yes, Superman does cause a lot of damage and often brutally pummels criminals (who can take it) in unimaginable ways. Supes can’t do that with regular people, because he would obviously kill them, which is something (like Batman) he tries hard to refrain from doing. Try reading my earlier post again and face the truth of what I’m trying to convey. Superman isn’t considered to be the ultimate “do-gooder” just because he was destined to “have superpowers”. That’s a poor argument from you there Sara. Sure, his motivation is different from Batman’s (and Bruce is a lot more screwed up), but the two heroes have more in common than you might think. Certainly, Superman isn’t as much of a “do-gooder”, perfect in every possible way as you might like to think he is. But go ahead, ignore his personal demons or violent acts just because he’s umm.. genetically different from Bruce Wayne. Also of note, Superman wasn’t born with powers, but we’ve been over that. Wouldn’t say his main “enemy” is Kryptonite either, but I digress.

    “This quote (that you’ve used a couple of times and I might have,too) tells the tale for me re: Batman. Here it is….”Even more than Kryptonite, he’s got one big weakness. Deep down, Clark’s essentially a good person. . . and deep down, I’m not.” Huge.
    Clark (while playing the weak patsy–it’s all a front) has an intact ego whereas, I think that Batman doesn’t.”.

    Wow Sara. You just don’t get it do you? Superman holds back with regular people ONLY because he has to. He’s far too powerful to unleash his full rage (or even half of it) on a regular human being. If he didn’t keep his powers in check, his opponents would be instaneously killed on the spot. There’s an issue (or maybe JL episode) where Supes actually goes on to say as much, in confronting one of his most powerful opponents. He basically says something along the lines of, “People think I’m some kind of a boy scout, a wimp …. but out here.. in space.. with someone as tough as you… I don’t HAVE TO hold back.. I don’t have to worry about hurting anyone or anything around me” and then proceeds to give the super powered villain the BEATING of his life. Guys like Darkseid, Mongol, Doomsday.. Superman doesn’t ever play “the weak patsy” with those types, but in confronting a regular person he could very well potentially KILL with merely a flick of his wrist, there has to be some kind of restrain. Do you understand that? Probably not.

    “(re: the origin story and what he experienced; what he saw and felt. Superman doesn’t have this hanging over him to make him feel horrible. He doesn’t have these memories.) But, because Batman has memories that are often difficult as REGULAR HUMANS have, it’s why he’s compelling. I still see him, though, as more the dark beat cop.)

    Superman still has his demons, as I’ve mentioned above (particularly the comments you’ve chosen to ignore), but I see now that you view him as somewhat of an unfeeling alien, so I guess there isn’t much point in discussing the character in comparison w/ Batman. To my knowledge though, writers have always portrayed Superman as being very much like us psychologically (his feelings of alienation are always quite prominent). Wouldn’t say that he looks down on people in the same way that a deity like Thor does, but Supes definitely sees flaws and would like to help in bringing out the best in humanity; he loves people. The Kill Bill quote (or the one it took from Feiffer) makes him come off as a real dick though, pardon my French. It apparently ignited some controversy that you can learn more about by going to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clark_Kent#Debate_over_true_identity.

    Anyway, like you said, we’ve been stumbling over the motivation thing for quite some time now and I really don’t feel like I’m getting through to you at all (it’s almost like I’m speaking in Mandarin Chinese or Classical Greek). Perhaps you feel the same way. So as we seem to be going around in circles, perhaps it’s time to give it a rest or stick to what bothers you about Nolan’s film. I don’t know. Just a suggestion. ::sigh::

  • Sara

    John,
    I’m not citing any book over and over. When I said that Superman strikes me as pure superego that comes directly from my own head. Everything I’ve written (unless I have specifically cited it) is from what I think. So I don’t know what you’re talking about re: the book you say I “keep citing.” I cited that book in one post.

    From popular culture, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Spiderman do not seem to be dark and brooding to me–in general. Do they have other issues? Yes. I never said they didn’t. But I see them as more altruistic in terms of motivation than I do Batman, as I’ve said. If you’d asked me BEFORE I saw TDK, I would have said the same thing.

    After TDK, more so, but I think TDK could have been done in a way to capitalize on the storyline/characterization more. With all the action going on as fast as it occurred, edited as it was, the characterization (to me) of the brooding, “struggling internally Batman”, was less powerful than I think it could have been (my experience from watching the movie.)

    In TDK why did they need all the constant gigantic explosions via the huge barrels of oil? I mean, why did they need as many on the scale that they did and as often as they did. I found it distracting. I found the movie too loud. When a punch is thrown, it need not sound like a car crash. All of that type of stuff was over the top for me. The storyline, the characterization gets lost when action is foremost.

    For that matter, a lot of our movies are similar– Action movies that jump so fast and that tend to feature scenes that truly (to me) are remniscient of what I saw on TV re: “Shock and Awe” as if the viewing public wants to see that more than they (I’m talking average movie goer, not you) want to see a movie with a clear storyline.
    A bit of special effects can go a very long way.

    I think of how Bale’s acting was in both The Prestige and 3:10 to Yuma. Viseral in both. The characterization in both movies allowed Bale’s acting skills to shine and he became the characters in a stunning way. Why didn’t Nolan give Bale TIME for the same type of thing in TDK? Bale MOVED ME in both of the other films and, you know, 3:10 to Yuma is not really my type of film either, but Bale made it compelling. The story was strong. Plenty of action…I’d have cut down on the action in that movie, actually, but Bale’s character, his struggle, his feelings were seen and felt in 3:10. The Prestige showed Bale at his very best (to me.)

    For example, if I am to believe that Batman really cared so much for Rachel, then show me. Give me reasons to think that. Make me FEEL IT. Alfred shows us his concerns by not giving Bruce the letter but that’s Alfred making a decision to protect Bruce (in Alfred’s opinion.) For all I know, Alfred could have shown him the letter and Bruce would have dropped his head for a moment and then moved on to the next action scene in TDK. Distracted himself with more violent activity.

    Show me clearly his feelings before Rachel dies and also after. Show me his brokenness…let me see that. Otherwise I don’t buy that he cared for her. He seemed to be having a great time with the Joker to me.

    In the interrogation room, why wasn’t a cop in there? Batman should have been arrested right then and there in the interrogation room himself for his behavior that was way over the top. And as I’ve said, most likely the Joker would be dead.

    I’d hoped for something different and I think something different would have been better. In much of the first part of Batman Begins Nolan takes great care in setting up the story, in SHOWING nuances which were thrown over in TDK, to me. Continue with the superb storytelling, characterization with changes in pacing. Don’t just put be on a wild theme-park ride that turns me all around, shakes me up and throws me to the ground. If I want that, I can go to Six Flags, etc. Don’t take me to a football game either. I want to see a well-crafted story (it can have action, it can have violence) but do it justice and MAKE ME CARE ABOUT THE CHARACTERS. Nolan failed on this account in TDK with me (and others I know)…and yes, I’m aware that many were not disappointed at all.

    I got a sense in TDK that Batman was feeling frantic, but I didn’t get the sense that he was “losing it.” I got the sense that he was just ruthless, basically and wasn’t called on it and for whatever reason, the Joker must have been superhuman because with all of Batman’s violence to the Joker’s little body (as it appeared in the movie), nothing happened to him. At all.

    Then at the end Batman takes the blame for something he didn’t do. Why was this needed? The people ALREADY proved by the ferry scene that they could handle things better than the cops or Batman. It doesn’t matter about the detonator at that point (that the Joker had.) Batman et al SAW that NEITHER BOAT BLEW UP THE OTHER. THESE are people who you must HIDE ANYTHING FROM??? I saw more in those faces on that ferry than I ever saw in Bruce/Batman’s. I felt like Nolan really reined in Bale for some reason.

    As I understand it, Superman really lets it go with SUPERvillians, but maybe I’m wrong here. For example, how would Superman have handled the Joker situation in Gotham City in TDK? What would be the differences because you’d be able to describe that much better than I could. I could imagine it but you know the backstories better.

    Why must you “get through to me”? Why can’t you just read/hear what I’m saying and I can hear what you’re saying? Is more needed?

    What did you think about my comment re: Eckhart’s comment about how cool it is to have 8 year old boys writing to him about seeing the movie four times? I’d be interested in your take on that. I thought Eckhart’s response wasn’t appropriate at all.

    Also, for clarification, I didn’t say that Superman ever plays the weak patsy. I said that Clark Kent does (as a cover.)

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