Why so serious, indeed. Because there’s not a whole lot to be serious about when it comes to ‘Batman: The Dark Knight’, the latest instalment in the Batman franchise, made by director Christopher Nolan. It’s a fun movie, but not a very good one. In fact, if Heath Ledger hadn’t been in it to freewheel as a psychopath, this movie would have been a disaster, as the last 30 minutes of it prove.
The main problems with the movie: the story is paper thin, and the Greek tragedy that lies at the core of the movie is nothing but roadkill ethos. That’s what I call an ethos that has been used and used and regurgitated all over again by bad(!) story writers for decades. When will writers finally toss that old shit aside and come up with something new? (My email address can be found on this website, people!)
Unfortunately, I’m publishing this review while hiding in one of the deep, derelict fall-out bunkers of the former German Democratic Republic. I had told some people about the gist of my review, and the Army of Batmanlovers (they carry an uncanny resemblance to Obamaniacs and McCainiacs) immediately offered 1 million euros for my body. Alive.
They’ll pay 5 million for my corpse, though!
So, here we go. ‘Batman: The Dark Knight’ revolves almost exclusively around the Joker persona, as created by Heath Ledger. He is the epitomy of ‘Evil’: he does not care about the sanctity of human life, as fewer and fewer people do these days. People to him aren’t even statistics; they’re either useful to him, or they stand in his way. So it’s not even George W Bush’s “you’re either with us, or you’re against us”, which at least leaves you with a choice. To the Joker, you’re either with him until he kills you, or – well, he just kills you.
That is what makes the Joker so appealing, and fun to play for any actor. He’s unchained, he is truly free, there are no moral bounds.
So why then, in God’s name, do the storywriters continuously have him explain his actions throughout the movie?! It’s pathetic. Here’s a character that absolutely does. not. care. about what you think about him, how you think, why you think or where you thought it.
Yet almost every single time the Joker bumps into one of the other main characters, he goes off explaining himself. “I like chaos.” “Errr, chaos.” “Do I look like I have a plan?” “Why so serious?” Etcetera, etcetera.
Dear writers, if you want a bad guy like the Joker to be a chaotic psychopath that puts fear into the hearts of the audience, make sure people DON’T understand him. Understanding is acceptance, and acceptance is embrace. That then leads to character assassination. Me and those I went to see this movie with, basically got bored with the Joker after about 1,5 hours because of this.
There were two moments in the movie, I felt, when the writers came close to what Would Have Been Better. One was the scene where the Joker is said to be dead and brought into the pool bar of the black guy mafia. The scene ends with three mafia thugs surviving, and the Joker informing them that there’s an opening for one new person in his, uh, ‘organisation’. And so he throws them one piece of sharpened wood and tells them to sort it out among themselves, but “to be quick about it”, as he doesn’t have all day. That was a true “wow…this guy’s C-R-A-Z-Y” moment.
The second was when Bruce Wayne’s lawyer is threatening to tell the world who Batman is, and the Joker calls in to the live TV-show where the lawyer’s at, and informs the TV audience that either the lawyer is dead within 60 minutes, or he starts blowing up hospitals. Yet another moment that makes any audience member with a decent upbringing go “oooh…this guy is C-R-A-Z-Y”.
Actions speak louder than words. In the Joker’s case, the fewer words he’d uttered, the better.
(INTERLUDE DID YOU KNOW: What the Joker did, is almost exactly what the Soviets did in Afghanistan in the 1980s, when they were fighting the equivalent of today’s Taleban. If the Soviets suspected a Taleban leader to be in an area, they’d inform the villages in the area that they either bring up the Taleban leader, or be bombed to hell. Unfortunately, a lot of people from the villages were being held hostage by the Taleban anyway, so most villages ended soaking up hot napalm. Talk about being in between a rock and a…napalm bom, eh?!)
A true psychopathic anarchist terrorist does not need to explain himself. The only thing you might want to come close to explaining, after approximately 2 hours of mayhem, is who the Joker actually is and where he came from. Not to explain himself, mind, as he has no goals (he’s an anarchist, after all), but to at least have the audience see why the innocent man behind the scars became the Joker. But the writers don’t do that – they simply have another character say that nobody knows who he is or where he came from.
Okay, so the latter option was fine with me. But then: be consistent! Don’t let the Joker explain himself constantly.
Then onward to the Roadkill Ethos of the movie. It’s basically this: you’ve got a Good person, and you’ve got a Bad person. The problem is, how ‘bad’ does the good person have to get in order to be able to take on the ‘bad’ person? What is good, and what is bad? And where’s the fine line that distinguishes them?
You asleep yet? I wasn’t – I just got irritated and wanted to leave the cinema.
Throughout the centuries, so many movies, books, theater plays and what not have touched upon the theme that it has been trodden into the ground. Bo-ring. Been there, done that, the T-shirt was worn out decades ago. Yawn.
And the worrying thing about all this is, that there’s not just two leading characters who are battling over this ‘when am I good, and when am I bad?’ ethos, no – there aer three! Just to be sure that Average Dumb Joe gets it, the writers threw in Harvey Dent, who of course later on becomes known as Two Face (get it, get it?) Harvey, who ends up being a villain anyway. (No spoiler there – any Batman fan worth his salt knows this. And if you didn’t – glad to be of service!)
That was too much. In fact, the whole 30 minutes after the Joker leaves the scene are too much. Especially in those last 30 minutes, Batman at various points starts small monologues, reminiscing to himself about how to recognise good from evil.
The last 30 minutes also do something else. The quality level of the movie takes such a nosedive that you get time to realise that the underlying story of the movie… Um… Well shit, there was no underlying story! The speck of blood on the wall that could have led to the full corpse – the story – only reveals that there could have been a story. But in a weird twist, the writer took the corpse away and hid it. You frantically search the room for the corpse, mumbling “this can’t be, this can’t be happening, this isn’t true!”, but in the end conclude that there was no corpse to begin with.
That killer clown just managed to divert your attention for almost 2 hours.
So, dear writers, dear Msrs Christopher and Jonathan Nolan: the story was crap. The best part of the movie consisted of the Joker’s actions and some of the funny oneliners he uttered. But that was it. Had the movie been called “The Joker. Oh, and Batman too”, and had the last 30 minutes been cut, it would have been Movie Numero Uno in my book. But you raised the wrong expectations and when the special effects, the clown and the other diversionary props were removed from the movie, you revealed just how bad your writing skills are.
Too bad. 7 out of 10.
Communicatiestrateeg en schrijver van het boek ‘Megafoonpolitiek‘. Op Twitter te vinden als @kajleers. Politiek bewust, voormalig financieel-economisch journalist, muziekmaker, professionele kletskous, schrijver. Geeft ook social media-trainingen, denkt graag met je mee over communicatiestrategie. En ja, content is en blijft King.