This entry began as a review for The Dark Night, but then I decided people don’t need any more of those. Instead, think of this as a personal take on what makes TDK so different from all the average-joe common movies. We know it’s awesome, we know it’s cool, but we just can’t articulate it. Thankfully, Star Wars fans over the years have articulated what makes SW so great and why we love it so much. It’s not complex(read: pretentious, stupid) concepts like “depth” (commonly portrayed by two characters staring at each other stupidly on screen, or lame long-drawn monologues), or “art” (which means lame complicated dialogues that add no value to the narrative whatsoever – Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions), that made Star Wars (disregard the prequels) so great, it’s plain simple good storytelling. Just think back on the last movie you really loved watching – did you love it because it had a gzillion CG orcs being killed by a gzillion CG elfs/humans? Or did you love it because it told you a good story?
Good story-telling isn’t rocket science. Look amongst your family/friends/acquaintaces and you’ll find that some people can tell a story so that people want to hear it. When they speak, they captivate their audience. They can take the simplest of incidences and turn it into a mesmerizing story. How many of us have bought iCrap because of a mesmerizing storyteller?There are lots of components to what makes a story captivating – and the most important one being imagination. Lots of blogs are praising TDK for it’s lack of origins-of-the-joker-story and you know why? Because it leaves things to your imagination. The audience is actively involved in the story – trying to piece together the joker’s character – trying to figure him out (and all the while Batman on screen is trying to do the same). It sort of puts you “on par” with the movie’s characters leading to an intense involvement in the story. The best storytellers of old have always been those who have inspired us to imagine. Heck, even Star Trek fans will acknowledge that behind all the Klingon, and Federation Technology that they claim to admire, the real reason we all love it is because it tells us stories about our potential and inspires us to believe in a better future.
The Dark Knight is a movie that reestablishes your faith in Hollywood and in the film-making community as a whole. There really are some few people in the world who still know how to make good movies. I think it’s a historic achievement to reach IMDB #4 spot on opening night (yes, above Star Wars!) and last I checked, it was IMDB #1 just after the weekend. It’s broken every record there was to break (except highest grossing saturday, apparently, which still remains with Spidey 3.)
Not to mention, the movie takes a lot of story-telling risks. Many situations in the movie don’t have “obvious outcomes” like most of the conventional Spider/Super/<name-your-own>man movies. It’s not the standard three-act arc of introducing the hero, hero suffers minor setback due to underestimated villian, hero comes back with “potential” or “love” or “friendship” or <insert-your-favourite-virtue-here> and kicks villian-ass. TDK has no stupid explosions, and no idiotic climax for the sake of it. If anything, those watching TDK for action are going to find the ending anti-climatic, while those who watch it for the characterization, are going to love it!
We see Bruce Wayne’s convictions towards Batman change over the course of the movie. We see his purpose for becoming Batman change. This was lightly attempted in Batman Forever by Joel Schumacher, but the irritating movie failed to highlight it (Val Kilmer’s famous words, “I’m both Bruce Wayne and Batman, not because I have to be, but because I choose to be.“) We see Bruce realising the purpose of Batman – in the first movie to rid Gotham of criminals (and we have to admit partly to make up for the guilt/shame he feels from his last encounter with Rachel Dawes), in the beginning of TDK for more or less altruistic reasons, towards the middle of TDK because he needs to be, and at the end, because he realises it’s a choice that he has to make. He’s Batman because he chooses to be – because he can – and therefore he can choose to make Batman whatever he wants Batman to be. If Batman needs to be a criminal, it’s as simple as or as difficult as making a simple choice (while sparing us the irritating “artistic” dialogue from the Matrix movies).
Finally, we also get a movie where the hero loses his loved one and will perhaps never know that she was never his to begin with (or rather towards the end). We know what will keep him driving – for vengence. Finally a movie where the climax actually involved Batman doing something for Gotham, instead of saving a stupid damsel-in-distress. A movie that focusses on crime-fighting for once – instead of fighting for some stupid dumb hot chick.
All in all, the movie has depth due to the characterization, and the story, and the way the story is being told. There are no long-drawn dialogues. There are no pointless shots of Batman standing on top of a building (well, there is one – but that’s okay – what Batman movie would be complete without Batman standing there with his cape impressively fluttering in the wind and symbolically as well as literally “watching over all of Gotham”?)