As promised, here is the second portion of my Nolan Batman trilogy review! I have seen this movie more times than I can count and I feel different about it every time I see it. I honestly don’t think I can do this movie justice, but I will try. This review is sort of difficult for me because this movie is so complex. This review may not be perfect and I encourage people who disagree to message me with constructive arguments. Without further adieu let’s talk about Batman!
Well, actually, let’s talk about The Joker. While Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker has been called more terrifying than funny (but not in a bad way), I honestly think his portrayal was enhanced by the writing itself. Many of the things the Joker does in this film are inspired by if not completely taken from Joker comics. Everything from Batman #1 to The Killing Joke gets referenced in this film, and I truly appreciate that. Once again, the Nolan brothers wrote the film in a way that shows just how much dedication they had to preserving the feel and the tone of the comics. For instance, one of the most iconic scenes in the film is when Batman has just caught the Joker and he begins to explain what he did to Harvey Dent. The line he says here is “Madness is like gravity, all it takes is a little push”. To anyone who is already a Joker fan, this might sound familiar.
While I am not trying to say that Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker was only good because the writing of the character was great, I do think it had a lot to do with why people got so attached to this incarnation of the character. It felt true to the character in the comics because it was genuinely just like the character in the comics!
That being said, I do think Heath Ledger’s portrayal was fantastic. He put literally all he had into making sure this character was perfect. He did a fantastic job, specifically with how he took the “true to comics” writing and was able to translate that into the gritty, “real” Nolanverse. Many incarnations of the Joker have shown him as over the top to the point of being obnoxious. Ledger, on the other hand, portrays him as over the top in his schemes and plans but not so much in his general actions. He is very good at making things happen that are larger than himself and taking all the credit. Harvey Dent may have believed that he wasn’t a schemer or a planner, but if you take a close look at everything he does throughout this film it becomes clear that he is the biggest schemer out of all of them.
Harvey Dent, of course, is the other major character in this film. Aaron Eckhart did a fairly good job of portraying Two-Face/ Harvey Dent, but I do sort of feel like the writing for Two-Face in particular was somewhat forced. While this isn’t Eckhart’s fault, I find it hard to believe that Dent would be so able to accept the Joker at his word. After seeing everything the Joker has done, why would Dent be so willing to believe that he wasn’t responsible? There is a point to be made about him, Gordon, and Batman being responsible for not taking down The Joker sooner, but I don’t think Dent would have believed the Joker even after losing Rachel. With that being the way it was written though, Eckhart did a wonderful job of portraying Two-Face as a sad, broken man just seeking revenge before he inevitably dies.
Not only did Aaron Eckhart’s performance during the scene where he’s threatening Gordon’s son give me chills, but I want to mention the score. Hans Zimmer did an amazing job with the score for this movie, and I mention it first with this scene in particular because the music is haunting and chilling without drawing too much attention to itself. The rest of the score is similar, adding to the intensity or the solemn atmosphere at just the right moments. A perfect example of this is what Zimmer did for scoring the Joker. I honestly can’t explain this better than he did on the special features of the DVD, so watch this for a moment:
If you watched the video, you will understand the absolute genius that is what Hans Zimmer did with this score. The score is minimalist when it needs to be barely noticeable, and yet it gets you directly into the action when the moments in the film are the most dire, complicated, and suspenseful. There is nothing more I can say about it other than I love this score and personally, I think it is perfect. Ok, moving on.
Ahh, yes, the political messages! Ok, I know this is a rough topic for a lot of people so I’m only going to say this once. These are MY OPINIONS about the movie. You are more than welcome to disagree with them. That being said, I do not think this movie was promoting the Patriot Act or trying to compare Batman to Bush. Context clues are important, and one of the last things Bruce says to Rachel is “I’ve seen what I would have to become to stop men like him”. He knows from the beginning that in order to stop the Joker, he’s going to have to do something terrible. He nearly gives up being Batman at all in order to preserve his conscience from supposedly having blood on his hands and understanding what he is going to have to do. This is why he programs the device in the R&D department to only be operational by Lucius, and it’s the same reason he puts in a self destruct mode once they are done using the program. I did not get the feeling that this was promoting the Patriot Act or wire tapping in any other sense, but was rather an attempt by the filmmakers to say “ok, the situation was terrible but it’s basically over now. You can stop wire-tapping, everything will be ok”.
A lot of people have also said that this movie promotes fascist ideals by portraying Batman as a force that will be unpopular and even hated, but can be allowed to “do the right thing”. Fascism is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition”. With how quickly Bruce nearly dropped the mantle in the beginning, I find it hard to find him as a fascist character. He doesn’t want to control Gotham, he wants to do what is best for Gotham and follows the advice and actions from people that believe in the Batman and are too scared to lose him themselves. I think if Batman were truly a fascist character, he would not have thought to give himself up at all. Other people, like Alfred and Harvey Dent, put him in a position that forced him to continue being Batman even when he wasn’t sure if he should be.
On the plot as a whole though, I am always thrown off by this film. Not necessarily in a bad way, but the plot never hits me the same way twice. Sometimes I watch this movie and I feel disjointed because so many other things are going on in the movie that it is hard to keep track of all of them at once. Other times, plot is the only thing that stands out to me and it all makes perfect sense. To me, the plot of this film is like a puzzle and if you’re too busy trying to track down other details like bloopers or camera angles or scene transitions, you’ll miss a few pieces. But if you pay attention and just enjoy the movie without trying to dissect it like a frog in seventh grade science class, you’ll get to the end and put in that last mental piece and everything makes sense. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy the last scene when everything that has happened gets wrapped up so neatly despite all the terrible things that have happened.
The truth isn’t good enough? Burn Rachel’s letter. Faith deserves to be rewarded? Lucius gets to the destroy the machine in the R&D department. Bruce still struggling with whether or not it is ethical to continue being Batman? He gets to give up the cowl in a way that still helps the city. Even after all that has happened, everyone gets what they wanted but it doesn’t come off as cheesy or unbelievable. Not many movies can pull that off, but this one did. With all of that being said though, I’m going to stop fangirling and call this review to a close before I write the equivalent of a doctoral thesis. I leave you with two favorite scenes this week! One featuring the Joker and one featuring Two-Face. I hope everyone enjoys The Dark Knight Rises whenever they get a chance to see it!