The Dark Knight
The late, great critic for The New Yorker, Pauline Kael, talked about the manufacturing of the blockbuster and how the product was no longer important, just that it was considered a sellable ride.
The Dark Knight is certainly a viable product: well made, sleek, sturdy, efficient, and yet sort of hollow. Part of the problem is that it is really two films crammed into one; there’s even a logical conclusion at the 90 minute mark. But then the movie varies its scenarios for another hour, exhausting the audience. While I could give credit to writer/director Christopher Nolan for expecting us to stay focused for that long, it would have been far more prudent to simplify.
The first 2/3 of the film is about The Joker, masterfully played in a spectacularly mannered performance by Heath Ledger (who may win an Oscar solely because of his death, comic-book movies never have their acting singled out at award ceremonies, even if his award would be deserved). And the last third is about the conversion of Super D.A. Harvey Dent (played by Aaron Eckhart, who is beginning to look like the combover is permanent) from great white hope, to the vengeance minded villain, “Two-Face.”
Because The Joker draws all of our attention, Eckhart’s drama seems like a distracting afterthought, when it would be perfectly valid in its own two-hour film. It is amazing how fast Nolan is able to move through twist after twist and the obligatory scenes where Bruce Wayne (still played by Christian Bale as a glum version of his Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, but without any acknowledgment of his smugness) longs for a normal life, cramming name actors into tiny parts (Nicky Katt is never even lit well enough to recognize, then there’s William Fichtner, Cillian Murphy, Anthony Michael Hall, etc.), which allows Nolan to skip over some elements that don’t make any sense at all, like why would anyone willingly work for The Joker? His elaborate plans would take thousands of manhours, but there’s no money in it and you’ll end up dead, quite quickly. In the end I wasn’t so much entertained or thrilled, I just needed a nap.