Thursday, 10 September 2015

The Dark Knight: Part 1

I believe I mentioned that I did not enjoy Batman Begins.
As such, for a very long time I refused to watch any more of the new Batman movies, reasoning that since I didn't like the first I would be unlikely to enjoy the rest.
However, enough people kept telling me that the second movie fixed all of the problems of the first that I have relented. I have now seen The Dark Knight.
It was worse.
Just in case you thought the previous film wasn't symbolic enough.
All of the things I hated about the first movie are still here and as an extra bonus they've been joined by a whole host of new things to hate.
Starting with a certain green-haired clown.
The movie starts with an establishing shot of some skyscrapers that we can safely assume to be Gotham.
Tim Burton and Bruce Timm made Gotham dark and gothic. Joel Schumacher made it bright and gaudy.
Christopher Nolan makes Gotham boring.
Some people in clown masks are busy robbing a bank and they have a very carefully laid out plan (Which wouldn't work on any actual bank in the real world) which involves the criminals each having a very specific role.
But does not include a retirement plan.
Once each criminal has completed their job, another one shoots them in the back (Literally) until we're down to two, one of which has just shot the vault-cracker. He points out that he fully expects to get shot by the other guy, but instead he gets the surprise of his life.
The surprise is the end of his life.
The bus driver gets out and catches a bullet to the torso from the other guy, who removes his mask to reveal that he is the Joker.
Well, I say that he's the Joker, but I think that Nolan skimped on the makeup budget.
And people complain about Jared Leto?
Remember when I reviewed Batman Begins and I pondered over whether or not Nolan actually knew who Batman was? Well, he certainly doesn't know who the Joker is. Because there's one very important factoid about the Joker and it's this;
He doesn't wear makeup.
His skin is actually pure white and his hair was turned green after a bath in chemicals.
Despite many iterations of the Joker this one primary fact has always remained consistent.
I can already hear what you're saying "You can't accept changes from the comics" well let me offer a rebuttal.
Imagine if, when they made a Captain America movie, they decided that he should be a Canadian.
Or if they made a Thor movie where he was just some hippy with superpowers and not a god.
Imagine if they made a Superman movie where he didn't care about human casualties.
Bad example.
You get the gist though. But hey, maybe Heath Ledger's portrayal of his personality will bring me around so that I don't mind it anymore?
Who wants to put money on it?
So, the Joker jumps in the school bus and drives away before the cops arrive, using some other passing schoolbuses as cover.
So the driver of the other buses were unperturbed by the bus parked inside the bank?
Okay, stop.
There are a few things wrong with this scene.
And I mean beyond the obvious thing about criminals dumb enough to accept a job that involved shooting each other, but smart enough to pull it off.
First off, that's a junction with traffic lights, at the busiest time of day (When the school's are being let out).
You mean to tell me that the bus driver was able to reverse his bus down that street far enough to crash through the front of the bank?
And how did the bus crash through anyway? Bank doors are reinforced to prevent vehicles from ramming them. For that exact reason no less.
And the bus took no damage? Not even a cracked window or smashed light?
And would the other buses really let him pull away when the lights are green? Seriously, Gotham's supposed to be a New York analogue, he can just pull out into oncoming traffic when they've got right of way and no-one has a go at him?
But anyway, we're treated to some exposition from a news show about Gotham's crime rates and then some other characters provide exposition about Batman and what he does.
Ok, so Nolan won't have the Joker's skin bleached, but he will put in the bat-symbol?
Most notably Detective Ramirez talks to Gordon and mentions that her mother's just been admitted to the hospital again.
Spoiler warning, that was important.
Gordon mentions that he hopes Batman's too busy to actually answer, but he likes having the light on anyway.
Because neither of them have heard the fable about a boy crying wolf.
The camera cuts away to a car park where some gangsters are meeting with their supplier because they have a complaint about their drugs.
But then again, they trusted this idiot so what did they expect?
As Scarecrow and the gangsters argue the camera constantly cuts to a Batman silhouette standing nearby. As the argument gets heated the Batman silhouette steps forward and draws his machine gun.
I wanna watch this guy's story. It would probably be more logical than the current one.
Of course, that's not Batman. Batman doesn't use guns.
The real Batman busts into the car park using Betty and fires explosives all over the place..
Because explosive projectiles and bullets are totally different things.
The real plot hole is, how the heck did it get there? We very clearly saw the gangsters driving up to the meeting point.
Are there just random ramps all around the city?
Scarecrow tries to flee whilst the gangsters set their dogs on Batman, but Batman jumps several stories down and lands on his van, crushing the roof with the weight of his impact.
Somehow managing to not crush Scarecrow's head into gooey jelly.
Batman ties up the vigilante impersonators along with the Scarecrow and they ask what makes him different from them. He doesn't give any real answer.
Oh, and that's the last we ever see of Scarecrow.
So glad they brought back the original actor for that cameo, I'm sure he's happy with his performance.
The next day Gordon's investigating the bank heist when Batman shows up and asks if they have any leads.
Does a photo of his face count?
There's some talk but they gloss over Joker and talk about the mob. They've got a plan to take them all out at once but they need the new DA's approval.
This scene exists just to show that Batman and Gordon have been working together.
And that Batman has finally perfected the bat-vanish.
Cut to Alfred and Bruce having a chat about the new DA and Alfred helpfully informs the audience that new DA Harvey Dent is dating Bruce's childhood friend Rachel.
Good thing Alfred pointed out that this woman's Rachel because if he didn't we'd think it was a different woman entirely.
After some foreshadowing about Bruce's limits we cut to Rachel herself as she waits for Harvey so that they can prosecute against a mob boss. Harvey does enter and they banter, with some foreshadowing when Harvey flips his father's lucky coin to decide who gets to lead. The trial itself is pretty boring, even when the defendant draws a gun on Harvey I can't help but feel that the first episode of Boston Legal did it better.
Pictured: Something that doesn't actually happen in real life.
In Boston Legal the guy who drew the gun was being tried for not paying his rent on time.
Here, it's a known member of the mob.
You'd think that the security might have frisked him before he took the stand.
But anyway, the judge sides with Harvey due to the whole gun incident (And not being corrupt like the judge from the previous movie) and Harvey walks out happy.
Afterwards Harvey meets with Gordon and he asks questions, mostly about Batman, but also about the operation they've got going against the mob.
Long story short, Gordon and Batman are squeezing the money launderers and they're about to catch the last one in a big operation, but they need Harvey's name on some warrants.
He also refers to Harvey as Gotham's White Knight. Because symbolism.
Cut to Wayne Enterprises where a deal is being negotiated with a Chinese company called Lou Security Investments.
This is how I felt watching this movie.
Fox chats with an accountant about Wayne and the deal, telling him to double-check the numbers.
I'm sure this won't have any repercussions later on.
Move along, nothing of import to see here.
Fox questions Bruce about the deal, pointing out that Lou's revenue is a tad suspicious, but of course Bruce already knew that. He even outright says that he just wanted a closer look at them.
Are they really still pretending that Fox doesn't know that Bruce is Batman? Because it really seems as though they're not pretending any more.
The face of a man who's not even trying.
Then we cut to Harvey and Rachel on a date, which Bruce 'accidentally' gatecrashes with his new girlfriend (Who's not important. Seriously this time.) but he's actually there to get to know Harvey.
Oddly enough, the very speech Harvey gives that convinces Bruce of his good intentions  is the kind of speech bad guys normally give.
I'm serious, he talks about how, in Roman times, democracy would be suspended in times of war so that a single individual could lead until the crisis was over.
Heck, rachel even points out the flaw here, that the last guy that happened to refused to step down again and became a tyrant.
But you can trust Harvey. Because Harvey says so. And we can trust Harvey.
But this is apparently enough to persuade Bruce, who decides to throw Harvey a fundraiser.
But we cut to the gangsters from earlier who're having a meeting with Lou (Via videophone) and they're discussing what he's doing with their money.
Lou exposits about their 'Well placed sources' (No names though) and how he knows that the cops are raiding them as they speak, but he's already moved everything.
Well, who feels like a numpty now?
The gangsters all seem pretty pleased, even though they were reluctant to trust Lou. But just as Lou's gloating a deep, cracking voice is heard, laughing. In walks the Joker.
No explanation for why the gangsters don't just shoot him on sight.
They know he stole their money but after he murders one of them they decide to listen to him. he suggests that they kill Batman and he wants half of their money to do it.
And for some reason he gets upset when someone calls him crazy.
As for Ledger's portrayal so far.
Am I allowed to say 'Meh'?
I mean, he's no Mark Hamill, but he's not done bad. Ok, so his attempt at a laugh was terrible but I think he was meant to be faking it.
Faking a fake laugh, basically.
Oh, and he has this annoying habit of smacking his lips. I'm not sure if he's doing it to get on people's nerves, but it's certainly getting on mine.
Anyway, we should probably see what the good guys are doing.
Gordon believes that the gangsters have spies within Harvey's office, but Harvey reckons that they're within Gordon's unit. Batman decides to go get Lou (Despite Lou being in China) and then he vanishes while Harvey's looking the other way.
He somehow manages this despite the fact that Gordon is directly facing him the entire time.
Bruce makes plans to extract Lou, getting some new gear from Fox as he does so. Alfred comes up with an alibi involving taking the entire Russian ballet troupe on holiday aboard his yacht.
I guess there are some perks to his job.
Meanwhile, back in Gotham the gangster who called Joker crazy is visited by some goons who claim to have killed him. They place a bodybag on the gangster's pool table and he unzips it, revealing that it is indeed the Joker. Instead of checking the body however, he turns his back to it, allowing Joker to ambush him. And the goons ambush the gangster's men, thus proving that the Joker is a criminal mastermind.
By comparison to the bumbling idiots that Gotham already has.
Maybe if he'd had some guards holding guns when the unknown people entered the room, this might not have happened.
Joker holds the gangster at knifepoint while monologing about his scars.
Basically, his father was horrible and abusive and he did it whilst laughing.
Why so serious? Maybe because you're not entertaining.
Back in China fox is visiting Lou Security, but he's actually setting up hidden devices for Batman.
Six minutes of fuzzy fight scene later and Lou is back in Gotham all tied up ready to go into police custody.
No pretty pink bow? I'm disappointed.
The scene did serve some purpose though, it introduced a few gadgets that Batman will use later.
So the police use the best interrogator to get the information out of Lou right?
No, instead they send in Rachel. Because the police often let lawyers handle these kinds of things.
Or is she the assistant DA now? I'm not sure on American law, but wouldn't it be a conflict of interest for Harvey to employ her?
Not that she does anything that Gordon couldn't have done. She just points out that the gangsters will assume he blabbed and kill him, even if he doesn't actually blab.
I'm all for having strong, independent women in films, I am a feminist, but if you're going to have them do stuff at least have them do something that makes sense. This screentime would have been far more logically filled by Gordon since he's the cop in charge.
Rachel's entire job in these films is to be a love interest, and not even a memorable one.
Anyway, after a bit of back and forth and legal blathering they realise that yes, they can use his information to arrest everybody and they do so.
I'm pretty sure they didn't need to have every defendant in the room at the same time for this.
Later on there's a meeting between Harvey and the mayor, where he points out that everything that's happened essentially rests on Harvey's head. If Harvey's public image were to ever waiver, then the public would turn against him and all the criminals would be released.
Because the public would then want the criminals to be released?
Yeah, I don't really understand why Harvey's reputation is so important since they have evidence, but it sets up later plot points so we'll let it slide.
Not because we have a choice, but because the writer wants us to.
Then the mayor sees something outside the window.
A Fathers4Justice publicity stunt gone horribly wrong?
The police get the body down and we cut to Bruce preparing Harvey's fundraiser. But he's distracted by the news which shows a video of the Joker and one of the Bat-copycats.
I would make a joke about Kick-ass, but the similarity is probably accidental since they came out at the same time.
Basically, Joker tells Gotham that unless Batman removes his mask and hands himself in, he'll kill someone every day.
The public, being morons, get angry at Batman rather than the Joker.
At the fundraiser Harvey and Alfred have a little chat and Bruce makes his entrance.
Credit where credit is due, this movie does remember that Bruce Wayne is supposed to be a foppish idiot playboy.
Bruce sings Harvey's praises, laying it on thick about how he believes Harvey is the hope for Gotham's future.
I believe the storytelling trope is called dramatic irony, where we know what's going to happen so the characters talk about things we know won't.
This movie treats dramatic irony like maple syrup on pancakes, there's no limit to how much it can pile on top.
Problem is, without the pancakes of decent plot and strong characters, you just end up with a big mess of syrup.
Meanwhile, Ramirez is telling Gordon about the DNA pulled from the Joker card found on the corpse. It's DNA of Harvey, the police commissioner and the judge who sentenced the gangsters. So Gordon sends police to each one to provide protection.
They fail.
Both the judge and the commissioner die but Bruce manages to choke out Harvey when he's chatting to Rachel and hide him before the Joker bursts in.
As Joker's goons point guns at everybody he repeatedly threatens them, asking where Harvey is. None of them know and he gets increasingly frustrated, so Rachel decides to stand up to him.
It goes about as well as you'd expect.
Joker monologues about his scars again, this time spinning a yarn about having a wife who was attacked a scarred so, to prove his love, he scarred himself the same way. But she thought he was hideous and left.
That's when Rachel kicks him in the stomach.
Yay for feminism.
As Joker retaliates Batman shows up and they fight a little. Batman beats up all of Joker's goons (Who apparently don't know what guns are for) but Joker grabs Rachel and throws her out of the window in order to make his escape.
So, for the second movie in a row, we have a badass moment where the love interest saves herself, only to require rescuing five seconds later.
Is now a good time to point out that none of the movies in this trilogy pass the Bechdel test?
So as she falls from the penthouse Batman leaps out and grabs her. But instead of using his grappling hook (A.K.A one of his trademark items) he just uses his body to cushion the fall.
I don't care how shock-absorbant your shoes are, you should be a pizza after falling from that height.
Somehow Batman manages to prevent his internal organs liquefying on impact, presumably the writers never attended Physics classes in college. Or High school. Or ever.
After some chatting with Alfred Batman and Gordon arrive at another crime scene, involving two corpses. One with the surname Harvey, the other Dent.
As Batman removes a brick from a wall that has a shattered bullet inside it Gordon picks up a newspaper with a picture of the mayor, but with Joker makeup scribbled all over it.
And then Batman manages to get fingerprints off of the shattered bullet.
Is this physically possible? Probably not.
There's a plot hole here. Every time Batman's seen the Joker do anything, Joker's worn those purple gloves. And yet his first thought when retrieving the bullet was to search for fingerprints? And he fully expects the one he found to lead to the Joker?
But wait, it gets worse.
Spoiler warning, the Joker planned for this to happen.
The Joker planned for Batman to not only be able to find a print, but to actually search for one, despite the aforementioned gloves issue?
I appreciate that they're trying to show Bruce doing his detective work, I really do. But you've got to think these things through guys. If you're doing detective stuff at least let it make sense.
While this was going on the accountant from earlier who double-checked Lou's firm's finances found some irregularities. With Wayne Enterprises. So he went into the archives and found the blueprints for Betty, then tried to blackmail Fox with revealing the identity of Batman.
Even he can't stop smirking at how stupid an idea that is.
They find the identity of the man who left the thumb print and Bruce leaves to go to his apartment, just as the mayor is having some form of parade with lots of police. When he finds the apartment however, what he finds surprises him.
Nothing unusual here.
Bruce removes the gag from one and he's informed that these are the honour guard, but they got mugged and had their uniforms stolen.
Not very good honour guard.
It's too late though as the 'Honour guard' in the street are giving the 21-gun salute for the fallen commissioner, but as we know some of them aren't there to pay respects.
None of the police questioned this guy's incredibly obvious scars?
As the Joker shoots at the mayor, Gordon jumps in his way, taking the bullet and dying a hero.
As everyone scatters (Because that's what trained cops do in these situations) the Joker runs and escapes.
Let me repeat that. The Joker, who was standing directly in front of the stage, shoots Gordon and just runs away. He manages to escape due to every single cop being too stupid to notice him.
Is Gotham PD staffed entirely by assholes?
"I knew it. I'm surrounded by assholes!"
They do manage to catch one of the Joker's goons though. The one standing directly next to the Joker.
Yep, they're all stupid.
Harvey hops on board and asks the guys some questions, but he doesn't answer so Harvey decides that they need some quiet time.
That night, Ramirez and another officer go and tell Mrs Gordon about her husband's death. She of course screams angrily and blames Batman, who's nearby.
Batman gets all depressed about this, but I'm stuck on one important detail.
The officer calls Mrs Gordon 'Barbara'.
Wait, what?
For some inexplicable reason this movie decided that they would name Jim Gordon's wife Barbara. For those of you who don't know, Barbara Gordon is the secret identity of Batgirl. She is also, in every incarnation, Commissioner Gordon's daughter.
How can you screw up a reference that much?
Or are both his wife and his daughter named Barbara?
Who the heck names their daughter after their wife?
People who aren't widowers I mean.
Anyway, lot's of scenes go by very quickly, but not much actually happens, so I'll summarise.
Batman tracks down one of the mob bosses that made bail and tries to find out details on the Joker, but the mob boss says that the Joker doesn't have any friends to contact. He says that Batman knows how to find Joker, just take off the mask and let him do the work.
He then gets all preachy about Batman letting people die.
A murderer getting preachy about death? I'm having Chanbara Striptease flashbacks.
Meanwhile, Harvey phones Rachel and tells her about Gordon's death, so she decides to go to Bruce's apartment, reasoning that it's the safest place in Gotham.
And Harvey threatens to kill the 'Honour guard' he kidnapped unless he talks, deciding to leave it up to his lucky coin.
Harvey Dent's lucky coin is probably the most well-developed plot point in this movie.
Just as he's about to flip the coin for the second time however, Batman shows up and impresses upon him just how important he is to the city. Batman even tells him that he's going to unmask and turn himself in.
After a bit of romantic subplot that goes nowhere, the press conference arrives and Harvey tries to talk the people out of accepting the Batman's surrender.
But just as before, the people are morons and they blame Batman for the deaths, rather than the guy causing the deaths.
That's like blaming the police for crime.
Just as Harvey calls for Batman to step forward however, he suddenly declares that he's Batman and has his men arrest him.
What, did you really think Batman's secret identity would be revealed? This is a trilogy remember?
Being as dumb as the rest of Gotham, Rachel immediately blames Bruce for this and leaves.
That night she visits him as he's being escorted to the armoured convoy reading to take him to the jail. Since he's now moved himself from Joker target #2 to #1A, his convoy includes a helicopter and a swat team. They fully plan to capture Joker as he makes his attack.
Rachel asks for him to change his mind, but he just flips his lucky coin into her hands and says that he never leaves things to chance.
It's at this point that the coin is revealed to be a double-headed one.
As the convoy moves, it's redirected by a burnt-out firetruck. Then it's immediately ambushed by the Joker, who's riding in the back of a lorry. And he's arranged to a rubbish truck to follow along, preventing them from stopping.
Here's one for the Mythbusters, can a truck knock a swat van off of the road? Without killing the driver of the truck.
The swat van crashes into the ocean. Somehow. I'm confused by the mechanics.
The truck hits the van from the right side, forcing it to swerve left.
But then it drives off of the right side of the road.
Wait, what?
Normally I would say that I don't care because we're near the end, but there's about an hour left. Why is this movie so long?
Speaking of, I'm running out of time for today's review (And I don't have the movie for next week anyway) so I'm going to have to split this into two parts.
I do apologise for this.
So next week is the other half of this movie and my conclusion.

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