Batman loses his cool and people die because of it.
Now that I got that out of my mouth, let’s start with the good.
The opening was masterful, I was transfixed. A bunch of clowns with masks painted by Picasso break in to a mob bank.
70’s filmic realism soaks the frames, it glues your eyes, like kindergarden paste, on 35mm film, you want to eat it.
The framing, the movement, the story, the unfolding of The Joker’s (Heath Ledger) methods of intellectual Nihilism all delivered clearly in action, the pinnacle of script writing, the brilliance of exposition delivered with few words.
It’s amazing what a truly well done film can do to you.
Yet, it was all downhill after that. In fact the speed of the decline was so shocking, I should have worn a mouth guard.
The Joker was captivating, the dialogue and concepts very good. Heath Ledger brings a thinking man’s insanity to the role. His performance is filled with nuance and a style powered by subtlety that never threatens to go over the top and was the high point of the film and the mark all should have risen to.
The Joker seeks out to justify his theories of human nature by verifying them with some ultra violence, pushing everyone to the breaking point and laughing at the results.
But The Batman (Christian Bale) isn’t supposed to have a breaking point, he is trained to NOT break, trained to transcend manipulation and fear on a physical and mental level.
In fact he knows that to break means to lose everything, and maybe that is the reason Batman loses so much in this sequel. He was so weak and confused, his determination is shattered and maybe the Joker does that to people but Batman is supposed to be smarter, much smarter. If we put my neighbor from across the street, I think his name is Bill, into a Batman costume, then of course Batman is going to break and it’s made apparent in a scene where a guy that looks very much like my neighbor Bill is broken and killed by the Joker.
When you know that the desired end is to break you down and drag you into the gutter, then you must choose not to.
Because if you do, you lose and people die, and there are a lot of deaths to follow in this film and it’s The Batman’s responsibility.
Sure The Joker’s methods are dangerous and he kills a lot of people, but hasn’t Batman seen death? Do more deaths create more shock to a trained mind? I don’t think so. There are already so many deaths happening everyday in Gotham. Batman better focus and out think this criminal or there will be even more.
It was sad to see him fall apart instead of use his wit to out think the maniacal Jokester.
Batman’s steady emotional decline is what ruined the film for me and it started a parade of faults too obvious to endure without wincing.
His lisp, aka growl, was so distracting that I found myself staring at his lips to detect if he was wearing a mouth guard or a BatLisp device to draw attention away from his actions. You know, confuse the enemy.
It completely pulled me out of the film, something you never want to do: make the audience question what they are seeing or in this case hearing.
But I am a friend, I love Batman, so please don’t confuse me. It’s so low budget to have Bruce Wayne speak like a man without a speech impediment and then Batman lisps his way through intimidation attempts.
I am a serious Bale fan, but I think that his role lacked the depth needed and Batman was underused. Bale looked rather silly to me and seemed distracted. In fact, the roles seemed reversed; Wayne was calm and poised, waxing poetically with Alfred over what to do about the Joker, while Batman raged incoherently. It should have been the other way around. Batman should have been poised and cool, dealing with and dealing it out in spades. Then as Wayne he would vent his anger and confusion as to why he tactics were not working. I don’t cry about work till I get home and my wife is there to hear me rant. To break down at work is so childish, and would get me fired.
Sadly the Bat costume was not well handled, the cape looks like a sheet from a Goth teen’s bedroom and its hue difference was disturbing to me, breaking the unity of the suit design. The shaping of his cowl was equally silly. The Jaw line is widened beyond repair and it makes you question if he needs hospitalization.
Batman changes costume in the film, quoting the need for speed and gives up protection of the heavier suit. But why can’t he develop a costume that is lightweight and covers his whole body? Make the whole suit sleeker and with better contour etc. If he can develop cell phone radar then he can do anything!
Gordon (Gary Oldeman) was excellent as always.
His role is beefed up appropriately from the first film and it adds to the film’s depth. Really when I remember the film I think of Gordon; his attitude and stance, his commitment, his realism. That was real acting and I am sure many people didn’t know it was Gary or know little of this great actor.
Gary heads the supporting cast and the backbone for this being a tour de force of Gotham City and it’s citizens that Gordon represents.
And if this was a film about Gotham City and if everyone is relating to Batman or their position to him, then Batman is still critical to the evolution of the film more than ever.
Batman should be the hub of steely determination when all others are confused and frightened, that would have been impressive and a contrast to the ensuing chaos.
Yet Batman’s brute force treatment of Joker (a jail scene after Joker is captured) felt desperate, almost childish. I am sure that is what the filmmakers wanted, what the Joker wanted: to pander to the childish minds and have Bats ape all over Joker, ohh he’s such a man, he’s beating up Joker.
It was a mistake, Batman’s strength is that he can out think others and uses force only when needed, hence the desire to frighten criminals first; they run, no fight needed.
Path of least resistance.
If brute force were so valuable then others with less skill and more weapons like those of his copycats that patrol the city emulating him would be as successful. But the evidence of when one of the BAT Copies are captured and killed by the Joker speaks out against brute force being enough.
Batman, so weakened by his own helplessness in the face of Jokers chaotic plans, contradicts his training, his skill and his heart. The people of Gotham had no choice but to find their own way.
Perhaps a valid point, but the road to it was contrived at the expense of Batman’s character and motivation.
And Batman’s final choice at the end of the film to criminalize himself in order to safeguard Harvey Dent’s memory was poorly conceived, because people forget and Harvey was a one song DA.
After all his trials with criminals, Dent would hardly become what he hated.
And to forgive the Joker his guilt in the death of his fiance (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is so totally ridiculous that I gurgled loudly on that scene.
With all those bodies lying around from the Joker’s exploded bombs, it would have been simplicity itself to add the dead victims of Harvey revenge, to the Joker’s pile of dead innocent’s limbs in a nearby wreckage.
It reeked of convenience to create a falsely heroic end as Batman victimizes himself needlessly.
I must admit a certain heartfelt ping when the wounded Batman races into the night to evade the Police on their righteous hunt for him, which of course will never succeed due to Gordon’s constant inside information.
Doesn’t this reduce the Police to fools and equally destroy the faith the inhabitants of Gotham have for the Justice System?
Maybe that is what this film was really about, that The Batman wants to be victimized by criminals as his parents were, to injure and eventually kill himself because of his self hatred at what was done to his parents or what he couldn’t stop.
The pain is converted to pleasure by soothing his sorrow and wraith. Only finally beaten down can he find the rest that any normal man would desire. So either Batman is normal and succumbs to fear and the need to stop himself or he rises above it all, you can’t have it both ways.
Actually, from the perspective of the fearful Batman, the film makes perfect sense and it wouldn’t be the first time that Batman was rendered in a brutal Sodo/Masochistic light.
Bring in a Boy Wonder and once again the erotic nature of pain and control have conspired to destroy the essence of Batman as a heroic figure and threatens to cast him back into the pool of Joel Shumacher’s nippled bat suits and head bobbling Bat scenes. (Clooney would shake his head in whimsical fashion attempting to emulate the vintage actors of the silent era, to poor effect.)
As for Dent’s decline to madman and killer:
Most people would have valued human life more than anything after what happened to him. Something that Batman said was better than he and Gordon. Somehow this person with no prior desire to kill, someone that spouts the virtues of law and order with conviction becomes the element of chaos.
Of course maybe that’s the point, it is that level of conviction that causes him to break and go insane when his convictions are shattered by the Joker’s manipulations.
Yes, order and chaos, two sides of a coin, I liked that. But why flip a coin at all? Yes, it’s a comic book movie, but lose the coin and get surgery and take some pain killers.
I can understand when you’re that ugly, common decency goes right out the window.
And ugly doesn’t fully describe the makeup of Dent after he is scarred, though I found it derivative of Jonah Hex, another DC character.
If you are going to be that crazy then show me a history of crazy in the family, maybe his dog once went nuts, ate too many rocks or his grandmother started killing mail boys. Gimme some thin needle to lay this thread through.
There are too many flaws in character, but then again it is a comic book movie as they say, so maybe that’s the excuse. But considering the talent involved here it’s absurd to use this excuse. Yet with box office this high, I suppose it matters very little what I think.
But this was NOT a movie with replay value. UPDATE: I did recently watched it again.
Here’s what I would have done, if I had talent, millions of dollars and a new Batbike:
Fixed the costume, fix the cape! A more natural voice would have made Batman’s speech bearable. Insert interesting dialogue for him, why should the Joker get all the witty lines?
“I’m not wearing hockey pants” is great! Where is Batman’s sarcastic verbiage?
Give Batman more intellect and less brawn, he seemed like a brute next to the Joker.
Batman should out wit Joker, not out beat him up, boring! Too many movies out with head bashing, throat thrusting, pelvic hammering with no motive.
I want to see the Joker frustrated at the end because he can’t break Batman down.
“I want the see Batman the Detective! Remember Detective Comics.”
Develop Harvey’s history and show that they were wrong about Harvey’s character. He did break cause of a past that was fixated on balancing the scales of justice and when that didn’t work for him it was coco for coco puffs time. Maybe they did show that kinda? This would serve to increase Batman’s inner resolve and world of we are all criminals, waiting to be jailed by him. Is Batman jaded? He sure as hell is!
Give Harvey a real reason to let Joker off the hook, not a 2 second manifesto that means nothing to a manic hopped up on pain and self pity. Give him a reason to live, now that he has none.
And give me more wonderful toys, where does he get them from? Give me more. Give me Bat Belts with overflowing gadgets that appear out of nowhere. How the hell does he fold the Batplane into his belt?
Damn I almost forgot Alfred, he was incredible, Michael Caine can do no wrong.
In The Man Who Would Be King (an incredible film, which I will now have to rent again) with Sean Connery, Caine knew what was going to happen when Sean breaks down and loses it to delusions of grandeur.
Maybe someone should have asked him what to do. I know I would have.