Dark Knight, now with criticizing!

I have seen it twice. I am full of knowledge. Also full of spoilers, so beware.

Batman 1
Black is the new black

We all know it is a great, great movie. We know it will beat Titanic. We know it is a crime drama on par with Heat. We know that the writing alone is so good that the movie could just have been shots of the pages and it still woulda broke $100 mill.

Still, I must heckle. For this movie has ONE FATAL FLAW. Perhaps it is a flaw that serves to exaggerate the greatness of the rest of the film, such as the preposterousness of Red Eye, or the creamy pink thing that tastes of fluoride that I just found floating in my coffee. Ewwww.

Perhaps. But this fatal flaw is, again, Rachel Dawes. The character is flouncy where she should be imposing, lisping like Drew Barrymore when she should be simmering like Kathleen Turner. Her connection to Harvey Dent is eventually what drives the entire third act, and yet that connection is utterly unexplored.

I don’t fault Maggie Gyllenhaal for this. I feel the wrongness of her moments in context of the rightness of everything else in this movie points to flawed directing. Plus there’s SherryBaby.

I propose the following small changes to the universe to make Dark Knight perfectly perfect:

  • Cast Rachel McAdams. No disparaging Maggie Gyllenhaal, but Rachel McAdams is a better fit, for a couple of reasons. She has the kind of extravagant beauty that would inspire the Joker to want to destroy it — just like Jared Leto’s in Fight Club. Thus the leering malice the Joker exhibits while handling Rachel Dawes’ face would make more sense.

    More importantly, Rachel McAdams exudes warmth. You could toast a bagel on her close-ups. If Harvey Dent asked her Rachel Dawes about marriage, you would feel her fear of hurting his feelings instead of Gyllenhaal’s mild annoyance. “Ugh! I don’t have an answer! Gawd!”

    Rachel McAdams
    If you need me I’ll be over here exuding warmth.

    Of course, my cure for world hunger is also to cast Rachel McAdams.

  • Some alone time for Rachel. Even just one shot, to illustrate the conflict she feels between her (ostensibly doomed) love for Bruce and her (actually doomed) love for Harvey. Looking at a picture of Harvey while at Bruce’s penthouse would be nice. Hell, Googling his daggum name would be a step in the right direction.
  • When Harvey gets in the armored car, direct Rachel to be upset for personal reasons. Rachel Dawes has been cool to a fault at this point — fearless before the Joker and already indifferent to one attempt on Harvey’s life! When Harvey chooses to become bait, NOW would be a good time to show a human emotion. Some waterworks. Some bargaining. “Please don’t go, Harvey, and I’ll marry you.” That kind of thing.

    At the very least Rachel would seem to take this caper as seriously as everyone else. By flouncing around and telling him it’s bad for the case, she at best seems a bit… medicated.

  • Dress her like a real attorney. “The Wire” would be a good point of reference here. The flouncy blouse and freaky high heels she wears to question Mr. Lau are unforgivable. You don’t even see the heels — but you see how they make her walk, like she’s wearing tiny trampolines. It’s so silly and undermines the gravity of the scene.

    This is more like it.

  • Stay on Harvey when Rachel dies. For the events that are about to follow, it makes MUCH more sense to show Harvey’s reaction rather than Rachel’s death. Harvey refers twice to having to lie to his loved one and listen to her die — that should be a moment we can refer to, too. Yeah, he’s lying on the floor in a pool of oil. Show it anyway.

    Dent’s sizzled good looks… Chiseled! I meant chiseled.

Oh, man, talking about this just reminds me of how good this movie is. How the Joker actually accomplishes more to take down the mob (taking half their funds) than Harvey Dent does. How absolutely every little plan backfires (even Rachel strategically picking Harvey over Bruce). How the more strategic a person is, the less able he is to meet his goals:

Batman/Bruce Wayne Chaotic Good, highly strategic Girlfriend dies, hope for Gotham (his #1 objective) dies
Joker Neutral Evil, little strategic Achieves all objectives (ferries don’t blow up, but that was a red herring)
Harvey Dent/Two Face Lawful Neutral, highly strategic, arcs to Chaotic Neutral, moderately strategic At first, achieves no objectives (no criminals face justice); then achieves all objectives (confronts enemies, leaves outcome to coin-flip, executes outcome)
Jim Gordon Lawful Good Totally, totally impotent, except when he does something illegal (fake his own death)

Why so Sirius? OMG, I’m sorry I had to…

(Apparently the Complete Scoundrel says Batman is “Lawful Good.” NO. Superman is lawful good. Batman is, definitively, Neutral Good.)

The dog metaphor is completely out of control. Apt that Batman annihilates in hand-to-hand combat, subduing a whole armed SWAT team, but he has no defense against Rottweilers, because there is no strategy to a dog attack. Joker compares himself to a dog to hangs his head out a car window. You could even look at Joker’s gasoline-flinging as a kind of territorial marking.

Oh — and is Harvey Dent dead? I submit that his surviving a fall from that height is double-foreshadowed — Maroni comments that a similar height isn’t enough to kill someone, and Batman himself survives the same fall!

One question — what happens after Rachel and Batman go out the window at the party? Does Joker’s posse just leave, figuring they’ve caused enough havoc? Did they keep looking for Harvey?

Why are Rachel and Harvey both immediately convinced their “friends” are coming for Rachel? Wouldn’t saving Harvey be a better strategic move for Gotham?

HEY! Didja notice that the weapon Joker uses to escape his prison cell (“I just want my phone call”) is a piece of broken glass, generated by his ass-beating from Batman? AH HA HA I LOVE THIS MOVIE. I wondered why Joker goes from so vague to so helpful — he starts volunteering information as soon as he’s got that piece of glass! MWA HA HA!

So Joker does have plans sometimes — they’re just short term. Like a dog rolling over for bacon. Mmm. Bacon.


I definitely didn’t have these kind of ponderings after Titanic.


Draws. Sweats. Eats too much sugar-free candy.

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3 Responses

  1. Batman circumvents law enforcement, but aside from the whole vigilantism, he acts within it. He’s not good because a Lawful Good character would have to be charged with upholding the law and never take that power into his or her own hands (whether called by divine sources like paladins and clerics or something more mundane like the police.

    Batman strives for an order that he cannot be a part of. His methods and tactics reflect a more neutral stance on the good/evil slide. He’ll scare and hurt people to get what he wants, but never wantonly. (Just ask that mob guy he threw off the building).

    Joker wants to smash order and disrupt the status quo. His methods are chaotic and his goals– by the standards of the D&D lore of old– are evil, the destruction of society.

    Two Face is true neutral (leaning towards neutral evil) because his actions are determined by chance. However, its his overriding desire for vengeance against perceived transgressions that pushes him towards evil.


  2. Tory says:




    OK. Obviously ONE of us is a D&D master, and ONE of us had to Wikipedia alignment for a refresher course, but how can Batman be Lawful Neutral?! He acts above the law!

    And how can he be Neutral and not Good?

    BLARGH! Head asplode!

  3. Batman is Lawful Neutral.
    Joker is Chaotic Evil.
    Two Face is True Neutral with leanings towards Evil.

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