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Review The Dark Knight (2008): Christopher Nolan doesn't understand Batman and what makes him a great super hero!

genre: action, adventure, crime, comic book adaptation, super hero

The first time I saw The Dark Knight was in the cinema. Back then I was looking forward to seeing it since I really liked Batman Begins, and I was real ready to be wowed. But unfortunately, instead of that I was confused. Not about what Christopher Nolan was going for which is obvious. Nolan has this nasty habit to treat it's audience as idiots. He basically explains and announces essential plot points ad nausea to make sure it won't escape you. It is funny how a lot of Christopher Nolan fans seem to think that makes them clever and intelligent. No, it only demonstrates that you have been paying attention. Nothing more, nothing less. My confusion concerns  my emotions about this film. I did not know how I felt about it. Since then, I have been trying to figure that out and with every attempt the confusion maintained until now.

Well, I have known it for a while now, but I wanted to give the film a chance. I didn't want to condemn it entirely, just because it did not strike a chord with me. But then I got confronted with the adoration and praise of the film and how Christopher Nolan can't do wrong, even if he basically demonstrated that he doesn't understand Batman and what makes him a great superhero. One very essential thing about Batman that I have to point out is the fact that Batman would never ever quit. NEVER! I am aware a comic is made that is called The Dark Knight Returns says otherwise. But this is set in an alternative universe. Not the main one. And then you can bitch and moan about it as much as you want, it's not The Batman that counts. The Batman I like and love would never ever quit. He would not stop being Batman to continue his life as Bruce Wayne. Because Bruce Wayne died the second, his parents were killed. What else would motivate someone to wear a cape and fight crime? Not many people would do that. It's completely insane. Yes, I said it. It's the truth. I really advise people to watch the animated series, especially Batman Beyond. That show is so enlightening and compelling that it puts the whole Nolan trilogy to shame with its depth. Anyway, this does not matter that much since Batman is in full effect, and he is a force to be reckoned with. At least that is what Nolan keeps telling us. But is he, though? Apart from one or two scenes, Batman fails to intimidate the criminals as he did in Batman Begins. It seems like that most guys are aware he is just a man in a costume. What the hell happened after Batman Begins? Is there something I missed? One of the main reasons why Batman is so effective is that people don't know who or what he is. As far as they can tell, he is some kind of super being that mostly scares the hell out of them. Batman uses this fear to his advantage every time he can. Why else do you think he is dressed as a super giant bat? His silhouette from afar or in the dark does look terrifying. For some reason, Batman does not impress as much and has been reduced to an annoyance rather than someone dangerous. But OK for the sake of enjoyment I let this go.

What I won't accept though is how Batman almost comes off as incompetent and ignorant when it comes to combat and his detective skills. He is not called one of the greatest detectives in the world for nothing. On top of that, is extremely skilled in many forms of martial arts, and there isn't a single scene in the movies where this truly becomes apparent. Another thing that really bothers me is that Christopher Nolan gives his own interpretation to what The Dark Knight entails, using this convoluted and bombastic plot involving Harvey Dent / Two-Face. In the comics, the name is derived from Darknight Detective. Nothing fancy or complicated. This right here proves that Nolan's take is far too serious and pretentious for its own good. On top of this, he insults the source material by making his Batman and the universe supposedly grounded in realism. What would it be like to have a Batman in our universe? One could argue this as bold and brave, and therefore something that should be applauded. Or we could look at it as yet another example of Nolan not understanding the superhero. From his point of view, Batman is nothing special. In his world, there aren't any people with superpowers or extraordinary skills. For Batman, it rarely matters if the villains have superpowers or not. He will do whatever it takes to apprehend them. The fact that he takes down super powered people without having superpowers himself makes him SUPER and awesome. Why is Christopher Nolan downplaying this? Oh yes, Batman has to be dark, sinister and deep. It's all very psychological. Except we never get to the core of what makes him tick, or The Joker for that matter. All the events aren't nearly as deep or clever, especially after multiple viewings.

Even The Joker's action and ramblings fail to impress after a while. The first time, for sure. And yes, Heath Ledger does a decent job of it. He does steal every scene he is in with his mannerisms and antics. But when is he funny? Like truly make you laugh for using one of his trademark props or telling his lame jokes. He never does, does he? (To be fair, there is one scene where he walks out the hospital that put a smile to my face.  But that is just one time, and am not sure if that was meant to be comical.) I don't understand how people keep skipping this essential side to him. I mean he is named THE JOKER, isn't he?

Let's ignore all of the above and focus on The Dark Knight as a film where no one is familiar with the comics and such. Is The Dark Knight a good superhero film? Or let's take it broader, is it a good film in general? As a superhero film The Dark Knight is not my cup of tea, but I won't deny that there are some elements to it that do make it stand out. There are just enough moments that speak in favour of Nolan's caped crusader. He is trying to save people from the bad guys. However, generally speaking The Dark Knight is very flawed. It's long, pretentious and incredibly boring. One of the reasons why I failed to watch this film over and over again is the fact that I could not get passed certain scenes. They were too drawn out and unnecessary. Why do I think that? Because these scenes only are there to forewarn about what is to come or trying to explain things that don't need explaining. The Dark Knight is also quite low on action and spectacle. For a supposed blockbuster film with a duration of 152 minutes, that is unacceptable. 

I know that Christopher Nolan sees this as an art house film, but just because you want it to be doesn't make it so. Nolan doesn't do anything exceptional to challenge you emotionally or mentally. All he does is preach about morality in a way that for the most part makes a mockery out of Batman. And yet many people ate up his gospel like it's the one truth. Yeah, not buying it Nolan. This film might fool you the first time you see it. (Except it didn't hence my confusion.) 

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