erik lundegaard

The Dark Knight: The smartest superhero movie ever made

In case you havenít heard, The Dark Knight had a better weekend than we did. It brought in $158 million (original estimate: $155 million), shattering the Spider-Man 3 mark of, what, $151 million, set last May.

What does this mean? It means that The Dark Knight will probably be the biggest box office hit of the year. Only twice this decade ó and never since 2003 ó has a film scored the year's biggest opening weekend without being the year's biggest box office hit. For once, that film is a critical hit, too, unlike last yearís Spider-Man 3 (mixed), 2006ís Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Manís Chest (mixed) and 2005ís Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith (mixed). Last I checked, Dark Knight had a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 84 on, which, for them, means “Universal acclaim.”

My review? Not quite that. I call it the smartest superhero movie ever made in an article on MSN. Check it out. Unless you came here from there, in which case you can check out my Huffington Post piece on Batman Forever.

And if you came here because you like David Carr or Robert Graves, see below.†

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Posted at 03:34 PM on Mon. Jul 21, 2008 in category Movies  


jm wrote:

Please tell me you're not serious when you write that Spider Man 3 is a better movie than Dark Knight.

No way. No how. Full stop.

There isn't a truly noteworthy acting performance in the entire cast of Spidey 1 thru 3. It's gimmicky, silly schlock. The photography is average. The movie depends almost solely on it heavy special effects budgets and is clumsy at best and sometimes outright embarrassing.

But Dark Knight?

ONLY the Rachel Dawes character is weak. Everyone else puts in exceptional performances. Bale is truly perfect. And HE takes a back seat to Ledger - who delivers by far the greatest portrayal of a comic book character ever AND maybe the best screen villain in film history.

Wally Phister's photography is FLAWLESS. Begins earned him an Academy Award nom. Dark Knight will certainly garner the same. The writing is truly stellar compared to the kiddie-drivel excreted in the Spidey triology.

Come on dude. Where's the love?
Comment posted on Mon. Jul 21, 2008 at 04:10 PM

BN wrote:

Oh God. Another "Frank Miller can do no wrong" review. Frank Miller's Batman stunk up and muddled the legend. His Batman is as insane as his creator, frantic, paranoid, self-obsessed and self-righteous. That's not Batman. That's the character from The Watchmen and he looks like he smelled as bad. In the Dark Knight, despite that horrible voice, you get a Dark Knight who has a purpose, but has insight enough to know his way is not the opposite of the highway. That's why he's a better character than Frank Miller could write if he was a paranoid maniac with delusions of grandeur. It's the human not holier than thou touch. The Dark Knight is almost a new genre of movie. It is intelligent, exhilerating and dark enough to satisfy the moodiest of Batmaniacs. I don't see the point of comparing one movie to another. I think they stand or fall on their own merits and minute to minute, frame to frame there are a lot of merits in this one. To which I will add, Heath Ledger. That's all you need to say about that. Outstanding, awesome, phenomenal, all pale words. And even though I don't like comparisons, I think a new bar has been set.
Comment posted on Mon. Jul 21, 2008 at 04:33 PM

Larry Thompson wrote:

enjoyed Erik Lundegaard thoughtful review. Clearly, the ending, while it did solve the vigilante issue nicely, left open two possible sequels. Given the money, there will be more. But there are now new problems.

What to do about the Joker: Clearly, the movie set up the idea that the Joker and the batman will be linked together in battle for a long time. Unfortunately, the death of Heath Ledger makes that story line impossible. Who could go where Heath Ledger went? particularly if/when the late Mr. Ledger gets an Oscar for his work.

Harvey Dent/Two Face: Missing from most reviews is the quality of Arron Eckheart"s work as Harvey Dent. His metamorphous into "Two Face" was very well done. You could feel and sense the power of his loss, his pain his anger. But, that work was clearly overshadowed by Mr. Ledger's Joker. The fact that the "death of Harvey Dent" was left some what ambiguous gives rise to the possible sequel. But how to solve that dilemma, the fact that the Joker helped create "Two Face" makes a stand alone movie difficult.

So, what to do next? Clearly, there are some major bad guys in the Dark Knight's future but who would be next?

The Penguin: This is probably the only time I would like to see one of the bad guys from Tim Burton's take. Danny Devito was an excellent Penguin. But clearly there are possible other, younger lions who would like to show their flippers.

Cat Woman: Please, no more Hallie Barry or Michelle Phiefer. Or Jessica Alba, etc. Still the the Catwoman/Batman love-hate relationship with mutual attraction / sexual tension would make an interesting twist, given the death of Bruce Wayne's love interest in the Dark Knight. A woman who can do evil and sexy? Charlize Theron? Hmmmm.

The Riddler: Well here a new young comic madman could come into play. Here the temptation to go to a "name" needs to be resisted (Please God / Mr. Nolan Not Jim Carey again).

This series can go to some interesting places, as long as it stays in the cave, in the dark.

After all, the dark side has always been more interesting.
Comment posted on Mon. Jul 21, 2008 at 09:51 PM

Tim wrote:

jm, I didn't see Erik say Spidey 3 was the better film. In fact, I know he didn't. He just said it made a great big pile of money and previously held the short-lived record for box office opening. Which, if you look back at his other posts, is an indicator of the greatness of Spider-Man 2 (2, two, II, not 3)...

Re: villains -- I hope they stay as far away from the Penguin and Riddler as possible. I don't see how either of them comes off as worthy of this incarnation. Catwoman, maybe; other than her, all the suitable big-name villains have already been used. That's the drawback of doing two-villains-per-film. Joker: check. Scarecrow: check. Ra's al Ghul: check. Two-Face: check. Now what? Zebra-Man? Mr. Polka-Dot? Done right, I guess Clayface or Deadshot might work, but the rest of the "name" bat-villains belong to a sillier bat-universe.
Comment posted on Tue. Jul 22, 2008 at 01:39 AM

JB wrote:

This article lost all credibility when it stated that Spider Man 2 was better than The Dark Knight. I stopped reading.
Comment posted on Tue. Jul 22, 2008 at 08:31 AM

Mark wrote:

A couple of spoilers, so don't read further if you haven't seen the movie.

Interesting article (even if you are way off base about Spider-Man 2 being better), but I think oversimplifying by making it seem like the only way to strike fear into someone is by making them think you'll kill them. While Batman won't kill you he will do things police won't do like, say, drop a mob boss three stories to break his legs and get him to talk, use a grapling hook to flip a semi over in the middle of the city to stop the driver and then beat the snot out of said driver right in front of the police *in* the police station.
Comment posted on Tue. Jul 22, 2008 at 09:04 AM

Mister B wrote:

I agree with Erik about Spider-Man 2 being better -- for the reason(s) he stated in his review. The Dark Knight may have looked cooler or darker or whatever, but the ending of SM2 was more satisfying for the character than the ending for The Dark Knight.

(spoilers ahead)

In Spider-Man 2, when Peter is holding up a wall and looking down on Mary Jane, saying "This is heavy.", the statement not only has a double meaning, but you can sense that he's almost relieved (certainly appeared to be more relieved than worried) that he doesn't have to hide his alter ego anymore.

In The Dark Knight, it certainly helped Batman that Gordon said, "We have to chase him" because he gets to be that "lawless vigilante" again, but with Batman at the end of the movie (compared to the end of Spider-Man 2), there's more of a sense of some unresolved issues (what was left unsaid to/by Rachel, what the Joker told him, what Two-Face told him, etc.).

The good superheroes have that code and that's not only one of their strengths, it's also of one of their weaknesses.
Comment posted on Tue. Jul 22, 2008 at 11:41 AM

Sylvie wrote:

One reason why the Dark Knight escaped the pitfalls of so many other comic book movies as of late is that it refused to repeat itself with hero tag-lines. "With great power comes great responsibility" is a fantastic quote and an honorable credo, but it's a top down practice.
In the Dark Knight, Batman goes through the cliche, almost obligatory, dilemma of whether or not to remain the savior of Gothom. In Batman Begins, it was whether or not to BECOME Batman. There are verbal cuts inflicted by Rachael that dilineate "right" and "wrong" in a straight-forward moral sense; being Batman is "right" and being Bruce Wayne is "wrong."
The brilliance of the Dark Knight is that Batman's fate is not a moral one; he is not Batman because it's the "right thing to do," but because he is unable to escape it. He is needed, and a need is by its nature neutral - it can be order or chaos, aid or destruction. It is his curse.
Comment posted on Tue. Jul 22, 2008 at 11:44 AM

Shen wrote:

Re the cycle of Batman descending into camp and Nolan's solution: Nolan's version of Batman actually has two methods of solving the Batman as vigilante --> institution --> camp descent. The first is the one discussed in your article. But there's another. In Nolan's Gotham, the corruption of the police and political structure acts in a way so as to maintain Batman as simultaneous vigilante / institution. Nolan demonstrates this nicely even while keeping Gordan as a supporter, with the deep infiltration by the mob and other corrupt elements. Batman therefore simultaneously keeps his vigilante status (pursued by the "police" who are actually working for the mob, although this may be less effective with Gordan as commissioner now), and Batman as institution (he's the real crime-fighting institution, since the criminals know they can always plead insanity like in Batman Begins, or manipulate/bribe the police/DA to keep out of jail, like with the Dark Knight).

Batman, then, strikes fear into Gotham's criminals not with the threat of death or mystery, but because he remains an incorruptible force. Before him, criminals didn't really fear prosecution or imprisonment, because it was so easy to avoid it. But Batman, presumably, is untouchable, and so they have to really begin to fear what he means. He's not just a cop in a batsuit, he's the only real cop in Gotham.

This solution only works because Nolan has carefully constructed a world where the criminals both control law enforcement and maintain a degree of harmony amongst each other. If Maroni were in constant battle with the Chechen and the other crime bosses, Batman might be less effective, since criminals would still fear other criminals, and presumably death is more frightening than prison. But Nolan has constructed around this problem as well.
Comment posted on Wed. Jul 23, 2008 at 12:42 PM

Steve wrote:


Keep in mind that the way the movie ends, the criminals _will_ think that Batman kills people. The Joker tests the limits of Batman's code in this film, but from here on out, the average criminal will believe that he has _no_ code.
Comment posted on Thu. Jul 24, 2008 at 02:51 PM
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