4.0 out of 5 stars
A flawed but good superhero flick, Dec 10 2009
The Dark Knight lives up to its hype. It's no masterpiece, no modern classic, no Memento, but for those looking for a fun, exciting superhero flick, it's hard to beat. It's basically the story of Batman's pursuit of the Joker and Two Face -- but that's not important. The almost uniformly superb cast includes Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman and Michael Caine, all giving flawless performances and brining characters that would otherwise seem silly, to life and that is what sets The Dark Night apart from its contemporaries (with the exception of the extremely fun and enjoyable Spiderman films) and its atrocious predecessor. That's not to say that it doesn't suffer from some of the same problems plaguing most modern superhero flicks (see Watchmen). The problem is (and perhaps it first penetrated the film world with The Dark Knight, but it has been prominent in comics since Watchmen and The Dark Night Returns appeared in 1986) that it takes itself too seriously. It borrows heavily, in a sense, from 1970s grit films (Taxi Driver, in particular), making Gotham city out to be a seedy underworld brimming with amorality and corruption, but it misses, quite ironically but not unexpectedly, the point that Taxi Driver tries to make. That point is that the kind of heroism that Travis shows (and the kind in comic books) is obsessively, even self-consciously violent and is just as dangerous as the criminals he so despises. This is most evident in the scenes from that film where Travis rehearses his tough-guy antics. Not to mention that he arms himself for some kind of destiny, before he knows what that destiny is, until his obsession with doing something 'heroic' with his guns drives him to try to kill an important politician who wants to clean up the streets. The problem with The Dark Knight (and Watchmen more than anything else) is that it tries to replicate the realism of these landmark '70s films, especially Taxi Driver, and have profound meaning while at the same time featuring spandex-clad vigilantes fighting bad guys. In that respect, it seems to miss the fun of comic books and superhero movies. They aren't meant to be depressing and dark. However, the darkness in the Dark Knight does not come close to the level of depression in the far inferior Watchmen. Unlike that film, it does not lose its fun, trying to create profound meaning, and that is why it lives up to its hype.