Wednesday, July 23, 2008

MOVIE REVIEW: The Dark Knight

I went to see the mega-hit film, "The Dark Knight" this past Monday. I haven't done a film review of any type for a while, so I think it might be appropriate for this one.

Of course Heath Ledger gave an amazing final performance that blew everyone away... the writing was good, the directing was excellent, Bale's Batman continues to be kickass in all it's Frank Miller-style glory. It had action, adventure, mayhem, a Joker that rivals anything Mark Hamill ever voiced, fabulous new toys and a bigger scale than Batman Begins... plus the fact the whole cast of the first returned tells me that Nolan did a lot right by his people. On top of all that, I'm not a very big fan of Hans' (though I am of James Newton-Howard), and I think the score was well done and did what the movie needed it to do... not that it will be recorded as one of the greats.

But the thing I really loved about the film, was that it provided a premise about humanity that wasn't at all cynical!

Batman is really becoming one of my favorite heroes in the comic book lexicon... He is a human with no special powers, but uses his body and his mind to stand up to those initiators of aggressive force who will always threaten the lives and liberties (and subsequently happiness) of his fellow citizens. He's in a position to administer some justice, so he does. He doesn't kill, but he does step over the line in some cases... I have this love-hate relationship with superheroes as it is anyway. As much as I love the idea of justice being appropriately meted out by individuals acting righteously, I also hate the idea of concentrated power - or really any situation where one person is assuming the moral authority to decide what right and wrong are in all cases. Especially when so many superheroes have no solid philosophical core.

Superman has basic midwestern "decency" as his guide... Batman, "crime"... But heroes like The Flash? X-Men? Nothin... I mean really...

Anyway, that's neither here nor there... the point I want to make about the film is that somewhere towards the end, a choice must be made. Not by Batman, or any representative of government... but by ordinary individual people. The choice is a great little piece of game-theory actually:

There are two ferries loaded with people (no gay jokes please). One is full of prisoners. The other full of law-abiding citizens. Both ships are wired with explosives which are set to detonate at 12-midnight. The gaffe is: Each ship also has a detonator wired for the other ship... if one ship blows the other up before midnight, then that ship will survive. Will the criminals decide to blow-up the citizens? Citizens blow up the criminals? Or will neither act aggressively and accept their own deaths?

Such a great game isn't it? Criminals on the first ship would be "expected" to just take over and blow the other people up... and the law-abiding citizens immediately dehumanize the criminals suggesting that maybe they don't deserve to live anyway.
But ultimately... each ship was prepared to accept the loss of their own lives over being responsible for taking someone elses'... Of course it's a film, of course it's hyperbole... but it's the humanistic and optimistic position. Makes me really happy...

The whole film has terrible villains, mobsters, and a glut of corrupt government officials and cops enabling the criminals (just like it is in reality... hooray!) - but at no point does it make the statement that humans themselves are evil. It's the individuals, the average citizens and the people inspired by Batman's example who are all heroes... and thus, give Mr. Wayne something always worth fighting for.

Well done Nolan... Well done.

The Dark Knight:

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