Dark Knight was a triumph. We haven’t seen any movies in the theater since the baby was born but we made a major effort for this one, and it was worth it. It was a brilliant, layered, intelligent, and genuinely original interpretation of the Batman mythos, which paid due homage to the best of Batman in print but also broke new ground. For example, the Trinity of Dent, Batman and Gordon was perfect – three men with the same aim, to save a city they love, each bound by their own constraints and rules but acknowledging that together they have genuinely transformative power. That’s straight out of the best of the graphic novels like The Long Halloween.
However, the concept of Wayne Enterprises as an active partner in Batman’s strategy was also fresh. In most tellings, Bruce Wayne’s playboy image serves to distract people from his identity alone, but here it’s essential to distract people from the more critical question of where the Batman gets his stuff. With Lucius Fox as CEO, and Wayne the frivolous trust fund brat who snores trough critical board meetings, connecting the dots is truly beyond the realm of even informed speculation, as the blackmail scene with Coleman Reese and Fox amply demonstrates.
The best part of course was Heath Ledger’s Joker. In a nod to Ledger’s most famous recent film role, Joker tells Batman, “you complete me” – but the meaning of that statement is perhaps better told here than even in Miller’s graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns. The novel edge of Joker as anarchist rather than just evil for its own sake, a man driven to watch the world burn, seems more fitting, and more menacing. The Joker believes that the veneer of civilization is superficial and that at the heart of things, the world is as morally empty as he is – he fancies himself the only one willing to rip the facade off and embrace the true nature underneath. From his perspective, everyone else is lying and he is the truth-teller.
These movies have totally erased the nonsensical Tim Burton versions that were as cartoonish in their own way as Adam West’s portrayal. Brian Tiemann says this better than I; for me, this IS the Batman movie franchise, not a reboot like the Bond films with Daniel Craig.
The question though of course is, what next. I can’t discuss that without straying from Vagueland to Spoiler Field, so follow me after the jump…
Given that the Batman is now an outlaw (and note the sublime entendre of the movie title), redemption will obviously be a theme of the next movie, but it still needs a villain. In a movie 2.5 hours long, every subplot has to carry the main plot forward, or point the way to the future. This is why I think the matter of Coleman Reese has some significance. In fact, his name itself suggests the identity of the villain he might play: Mr. Reese… mysteries? What better riddle exists than the identity of Batman himself, especially given the Dark Knight’s fall from grace? It’s certainly a better name than the overused E. Nigma. The basic motivation of greed is well-established in Reese’s blackmail attempt; but how Reese will fit into the larger picture of how Batman (presumably) reclaims his role as guardian of Gotham is still a rich vein for speculation.
What do you think?