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Infernal Jokers, or: Gotham Police Story

One Rincon Hill and the Moon

Here's a photo I took of One Rincon Hill, the new residential tower in San Francisco. The color scheme was inspired by the Dark Knight. I thought I'd add some more thoughts here about the movie.

Mild spoiler warning! (I'm not going to give away real spoilers, per se, but I'm going to discuss the plot a bit more than I did in my initial review.)

* * *

First of all, I read in some review (forget which) that the Joker isn't just the Joker here. He's basically the Devil himself. The Prince of Lies. The smartest guy in the room (smarter than Batman), who's always a step ahead of you, who doesn't play by any rules, whose words you can never trust, and who does something totally unpredictable just when you think you've got him figured out. One thing that amazed me is that he's the most menacing villain I've seen since I can remember, and the movie is only rated PG-13, proving that unseen violence and a good script trump gorefests any day.

Ain't It Cool News has a great (though spoilerful) review by Alexandra DuPont. (I definitely recommend you put off reading it until after watching the movie.) I agree with many of her points. I like that this movie is mostly gadget-free, and I think the realism of it makes Batman Begins (which I never liked that much) look like Schumacher-era Batman. :P I liked the score. At times it felt blatantly manipulative, but I didn't mind. I was begging to be manipulated by this movie. :)

I agree with some of her criticisms, too. Harvey's actions as Two-Face felt rushed and not entirely convincing. Bale's Batman deep Batman voice got pretty irritating when he went off on long speeches with it. :P I didn't mind the editing and slight logical shortcuts too much, though. In fact, I liked that Batman's first fight scene felt confusing and messy. To me, it showed that Gotham is a confusing a messy place.

But DuPont's comment that I found most interesting was when she talked about how she loved the way the movie respected classic cop dramas, how the rank-and-file cops seemed to have depth and character. I noticed this, too. Chris Nolan was supposedly inspired by Michael Mann's Heat while making The Dark Knight. I think he must also have been influenced by classic Hong Kong cop dramas like Infernal Affairs or old John Woo/Chow Yung Fat movies (like A Better Tomorrow or Hard Boiled). I don't think it's a coincidence that the only major scene outside of Gotham was set in Hong Kong.

Maybe it's the police funeral procession, so popular in Hong Kong cop dramas? Maybe it's the fact that the cops seemed so earnest, whether they were doing good or bad? They seemed to come from another era, when cops were cops, and not wise-cracking jokers. They also reminded me a bit of cops in film noir, like L.A. Confidential. The Dark Knight definitely had a police procedural feel to it at times. Take out the costumes and the Batmobile, and you might as well be watching something like In the Line of Fire or Silence of the Lambs. The Joker is as menacing a serial killer as the silver screen has ever seen.

What it all boils down to is that The Dark Knight takes its cues from classic live action police movies instead of superhero movies. Note how none of the movies I compared it to is a comic book movie. (Okay, except for my comparison to Batman Begins, I guess, but that doesn't count. :P) The Dark Knight is grounded in a mean gray reality and then tacks on the superhero aspect only to exaggerate and emphasize its points. That's why, to steal some other review's comment, it's not only quite possibly the greatest superhero movie of all time, but a great movie, period.

P.S.: How did I manage to write two reviews without mentioning how perfectly Gary Oldman plays Gordon? He's kind of aloof, but you totally trust him to do the right thing. Oh man, there's some movie (again not a superhero movie) I've seen where there's like the rebel cop, but there's also the cop who's trying to keep everything together from the inside, and it's as hard a job if not harder... I can't remember what that movie was, but Gordon perfectly embodies that kind of role.

See also my initial review and my third review (spoiler warning).

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 20, 2008.

The previous post in this blog was A dark night.

The next post in this blog is No more Ebert & Roeper (aka Siskel & Ebert).

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