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Point/Counterpoint: Does 'The Dark Knight' Live Up To The Hype?

Andrew Payne Andrew Payne
July 25th, 2008 9:00am EDT
The Dark KnightMost people are aware that "The Dark Knight" made a record $155.3 million during its opening weekend. Fanboys and girls stood in line for hours, some in costumes, to finally catch a glimpse of summer's most eagerly anticipated film.

The hype surrounding "Knight" has undoubtedly been fueled by the untimely death of Heath Ledger, who plays the Joker. The word Oscar has been thrown around more than once. But does the film truly live up to expectations? Four Starpulse writers, all Batman fans, weigh in on whether the latest caped crusader tale is worthy of all the buzz.



Anthony LiccardelloDirector Christopher Nolan has created a film that will make you want to get down on your knees and bow it its greatness.

$222.1 million in 6 days. Multiple box office records set. Unanimously adored by the critics with rave reviews. It is becoming a cultural phenomenon.

When was the last time a movie had a budget of $185 million and received the best reviews of the year? How about...never.

There has not been a spectacle quite like this since Titanic 11 years ago. A massively anticipated and exponentially hyped Batman sequel, which unfortunately was aided by the passing of Heath Ledger.

At the IMAX in Chicago, the film is sold out until 7 days from now, a pace that is expected to continue for almost a month. Most of the good seats are already taken for days in early August! The film has a great chance at reaching half a billion dollars domestically, something no other film has ever done besides "Titanic."

It already has reached the number-one rated film of all-time on imdb.com with over 100,000 fans voting giving it a 9.5 average rating thus far. Fan reaction everywhere have been overwhelmingly positive.

There are no words to prepare you for just how great this film is, no matter how high your expectations, "The Dark Knight" will blow them away. What director Christopher Nolan has done with this franchise is beyond words. He has created a film that will make you want to get down on your knees and bow it its greatness.

There is a relationship triangle in this film that involves Bruce Wayne/Batman, Harvey Dent/Two Face, and The Joker. It is a like a greek tragedy with a story that boasts both a white knight (Dent) as well as a dark one (Batman). While both of these two are figuring out the best course of action on repairing this city, The Joker's goal is to rip it apart and create an unimaginable amount of fear and terror for the rest of Gotham City. And it all starts with Batman.

The story seamlessly weaves between these three, connecting multiple characters and creates a staggeringly epic climax. They have wonderfully combined several stories from the comics in one film that is better than any of the sources.

The script will be studied in film schools for years to come. It's poetic, entails incredible depth and takes a poignant look at the real world. You don't have to be a Batman fanboy to love the movie, you just have to love a good story. It effectively develops these characters in that you genuinely will care what happens to them. It is perfectly paced and even at 150 minutes, and the story is constructed in a fashion where it goes by much quicker than that, leaving you wanting more. The story is expertly crafted, always staying several steps ahead of the audience member.

The performances are astounding. Aaron Eckhart gives all he can into the duality of Harvey Dent, the possible savior of Gotham City. Gary Oldman is perfect as commissioner Gordon, who finds his job becoming exponentially stressful and frustrating as corruption seems to close everyone around him in. Christian Bale is stoic as Batman. Bale is always superb in everything that he is in. Maggie Gyllenhaal is smart and witty with the role of Rachel Dawes.

You can't say enough about Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker. He is absolutely terrifying and arguably the greatest villain in film history. If you met the Joker on the street you'd probably want to kill yourself out of fear. This is a metaphysical transformation of a person into that character. He lives in the same world, thinks the same insane thoughts, and acts with the same merciless vengeance (much like the Joker does when he paralyzed Jim Gordon's daughter in "The Killing Joke" comic book). It is as great a performance as the silver screen has have ever seen. From the little nuances like him licking his scars to his mannerisms and absolutely pitch perfect line delivery, he is sure to be a lock for winning an Academy Award for best supporting actor. This isn't so much a performance as it is someone actually becoming someone else.

The action sequences are special effects are mind boggling. You can see every penny of this budget on the screen. From the H.E.A.T inspired bank robbery to the epic chase sequence involving Harvey Dent in one of the craziest stunts you will ever see (Hint: it involves a truck), the action is simply jaw-droppingly awesome. It will pin you to your seat, and you almost feel out of breath when they are done, especially the chase sequence involving Dent. Wow. Even days after seeing this it is hard not to get geeked up just thinking about them.

Nolan's world of Batman isn't for kids, and it is easily is the best comic book film to date. It is portrayed with a realistic feel. "The Dark Knight" is gritty and violent and fits everything that Batman is and stands for. The dynamic that he must wrestle with on to do what is right for the city over what he feels is right is something that will always haunt him. It doesn't take any short cuts or do anything arbitrarily, everything that is on screen is for a reason. The story is epic and executes the multiple story lines to perfection. The film never tries to do too much. It is a crime saga story for the ages, one that should not be missed. You need to see this movie now!

Believe the hype, because when this one is over with, you will have a smile ear to ear, knowing you just watched one of the best films you've seen in a long, long time, one that you will most definitely want to see again.

Point by Anthony Liccardello
Starpulse contributing writer

The Dark Knight



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Writer Tim Peterson"The Dark Knight": Don't Believe the Hype? Don't Need To

The renewal of a comic book legend. The continuance of superhero summer blockbusters. The untimely death of one of the film's stars. The hype surrounding "The Dark Knight" has nearly overwhelmed audiences. Could Heath Ledger's Joker compete with Jack Nicholson's? Could his performance live up to the premature Oscar buzz? With no new villains, will audiences find the new Batman film refreshing? Will the film have an audience or just hype? Was its opening box office blowout just a result of curiosity or absolute fascination?

"The Dark Knight" is not another comic book film nor is it another Batman film. It is not an ode to Joel Schumacher nor Tim Burton. It does not tip its hat toward Spiderman nor Fantastic Four. It does not bedazzle. It beguiles, but not from reality. It beguiles the lack of reality in comic book films. It beguiles the hype that places such films about superheroes and supervillains on a super-pedestal. It does not need the hype.

For a film so strong, hype is cheating, a fool's trick. For a film so realistic, past incarnations are mementos, fluid ruins. "The Dark Knight" pulls back the peels off the comic superficiality of Schumacher's Batman, the dystopic fairy tale of Burton's, and exposes the Caped Crusader to realistic villains, ones that stalk around when the midnight shows get out, not ones who swoop from the shadows, ones whose heels may clack on lonely sidewalks.

"Why so serious?" In one of the more memorable lines in "The Dark Knight." The Joker tells one version of the history of his scars: a family member carved them into is face so that he would smile. Despite the grim story, the Joker alternates the pitch of his voice throughout, from a tilted cackle to a shake-face growl. In three words, the Joker's pitch captures the duality of the film: a disturbing moral told in a form of dark entertainment, a deranged realism shuffled into the comic's legacy.

Heath Ledger's new version of the Joker disjoins the character from Jack Nicholson's previous portrayal. Whereas Nicholson's was a wired, waltzing song-and-dance-man, Ledger's is a swiveling, swindling lunatic. Ledger's Joker prances throughout the movie in a drunken, make-believe hopscotch, but as the film progresses so too does the Joker. He grows from a criminal Mr. Magoo into a more whimsical Charles Manson, a schizophrenic jailbird with his toe digging under the gates as he rhapsodizes to the guards about life on Mars. The Joker knows where he's going even though those around him reach out to hold his hand. Such is the entire film. It did not need the hype, but neither did it refute the hype. It absorbed it.

The hype surrounding the film led to sold-out midnight shows throughout the country. It led to fans waiting in lines for over five hours dressed in tights and capes and makeup. It led to reviews on top of reviews on top of revenue. The hype led the masses to the theatres. When all was said and done, the reviews and the hype stood.

This is not a summer blockbuster as much as it is not a contender for Best Picture. It is simply a film, a film that rewards rewatching, not because anything changes upon second or third viewing but because one does not wish anything to change. Through the entire film the audience knows there will not be a sequel with Ledger playing the Joker. We know in the battle of good versus evil one must win. We know in a film so dark death is inevitable. But it is that uneasy reflection as the credits roll, as we shift in our seats hoping for a hint of more to come, that as much as we watched in the past two and a half hours, we want more.

What lies at the heart of the film is the playful yet satanic villain, the righteous yet brooding hero, and the good but thwarted victim caught in the middle. The triangulation of characters, and of morals, enraptures the audience. This is not what one would find in a Michael Bay movie, a stereotypical summer blockbuster. This is cinema, a movie and a message.

This film surpasses the former demise of the franchise, of its villains, and of its actors. It surpasses the commercials, the headlines, and the hype. It stands alone, as do each of the main characters. The commercials, the headlines, and the hype all play a role, but none overtake the other and none overtake the film. The film stands alone. It does not battle for the box office; it did not hope for the hype. It entertains. And that is all the hype it will ever need.

Point by Tim Peterson
Starpulse contributing writer

The Dark Knight


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Writer Dan ChruscinskiLarge Plot Holes, Poor Character Development & A Questionable Ending Make 'Dark Knight' Less Than Perfect

Before I write anything that will inspire legions of fanboys to curse my name I want to get something out of the way. Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker is without a doubt the greatest film performance I have ever seen in my time on this planet. But this isn't an article to talk about his tragic death. But did "The Dark Knight" live up to the hype? Is it the greatest comic book translation ever conceived? Is it even really that great of a film? In all honesty, not really. Allow me to explain.

Perhaps when director Christopher Nolan watched the final cut of the film he hoped that the audience would be so enamored with The Joker that they'd forget what they were supposed to be watching - a Batman film. For all the time Joker was onscreen the audience was captivated, and when Joker was off screen, the audience was hoping he'd pop up in some form or another.

After "Batman Begins" showed audiences that Batman could be an interesting character on his own, Nolan seemed to have forgotten and cast the crimefighter as a supporting character. After Bale's performance though, I don't think that was necessarily the wrong choice.

Christian Bale is arguably the greatest Bruce Wayne the franchise has ever seen. But why does he have to do that awful Batman voice? He sounds like he smokes 12 packs a day, and honestly most criminals would laugh when they heard it. A minor detail. What does ruin the film is the characterization of Batman and Bruce Wayne. Everything that was built up in "Batman Begins" with Bruce Wayne being obsessed with a mission, gaining allies, and bringing the Rachel Dawes relationship to a strong conclusion. But why does "Dark Knight" have Bruce Wayne as an emo kid with a stalkerific crush on Rachel? It reminded me of Anakin Skywalker in Episode II, and that is never a good comparison. I won't spoil anything for those of you waiting to see the film, but watch out for the entire plot point involving Rachel's note to Bruce, because Junior High is fun when you're a grownup.

While the character of Rachel Dawes fit well into the film, her beau Harvey Dent was slightly underused, which is a bit odd considering exactly how much he went through during the film. I get that his storyline was mirroring the storylines from the comics, namely The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, but while those stories took their time in slowly unraveling the District Attorney, the overstuffed Dark Knight threw him right into the deep end. He is also treated to the most unsatisfying conclusion of any character in the film. (However, my absolute favorite scene in the movie occurred when Joker visited Dent in the hospital, brilliant!)

I'm going to avoid griping about some questionable acting skills of extras in the film, or the weird subplot with the former employee who deduces Batman's identity thanks to the magic of plot holes and skip right to the conclusion of the film. For a movie that prides itself on creating a realistic world for our hero to exist in, the people within the world sure don't act like actual Gothamites. Skip this if you want to avoid some minor spoilers. Near the end of the film, Joker has these two boats filled with people make a choice, blow up the other boat or everyone dies. One boat has criminals; the other has law abiding citizens. The ending of the scene is so eye rollingly terrible that I wondered if Gotham really did deserve to be saved. If you've seen the movie you know that in the real world, things would have gone down differently. This is followed by the actual climax, which of course I won't ruin, but the ending shots and narration should have been left on the cutting room floor.

So did I enjoy the movie? Without a doubt yes, I did. But my enjoyment was despite some rather large plot holes, poor character development, and an ending that left a bad taste in my mouth. Go and see the movie, and see Heath Ledger at his absolute finest. Just try to stay focused on him because as soon as you start remembering the rest of the movie, things are going to start to get a bit darker.

Counterpoint by Dan Chruscinski
Starpulse contributing writer

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Writer Andrew Payne'Dark Knight' Is Only A Good Film, Not A Great One

This isn't a question of whether I liked "The Dark Knight" (I enjoyed it thoroughly). It's a question of whether the latest Batman installment lived up to the hype. Hype that purports it to be the best movie of all time. Hype that caused a fan on CNN to proclaim that "The Dark Knight" is, "so incredibly epic that I never want to see another movie because nothing will ever measure up."

I imagine fans had similar reactions to the one above upon exiting theaters showing "Star Wars" in 1977. If this is the "Star Wars" of this generation, then our standards have been lowered drastically.

Right now, "The Dark Knight" looms atop the IMDB "Top 250 Films" ranking. The film rates higher than "The Godfather", "Citizen Kane", and every single other movie ever made. It's hard to understand because "The Dark Knight" is only a good film, not a great one, and certainly not the best movie of all time as the hype surrounding it would claim.

Before we get into the spots where the film comes up short, mention should be made of its positive qualities. First, several performances are excellent. Heath Ledger and Gary Oldman deserve Oscar nominations for their work. Second, the action pieces are as good as any ever put on film. But it's within this excitement that the film finds its greatest flaw. There's too much of it.

It seems that each scene tries to outdo its predecessor and create a climax every 20 minutes. While this works in leaving the audience breathless for a good portion of the film, it ultimately fails in that the movie sort of peters out in the end. The rooftop battle between the Joker and Batman can't stand up against their first meeting and the final coin-flipping stand-off with Harvey Dent doesn't hold the jeopardy of several earlier scenes.

Speaking of Harvey Dent, his character is a complete debacle. In the scenes that present him as a hero, he never comes off that way. He's too slick, too angry with the criminals and exudes a smarmy confidence normally reserved for vilified athletes. It's important that Aaron Eckhart show us a hero rather than simply rely on the story to make him one.

This performance telegraphs Dent's descent into villainy, making it less jarring in the process. It's supposed to come as a shock to the few people in the audience unfamiliar with the Batman mythology that such a crusader would turn into the type of vigilante that makes Charles Bronson in "Death Wish" look like a Girl Scout. That shock never occurs, it's almost expected. And when Dent does turn into Two-Face, the result is extremely underwhelming. If Harvey's spiral from good to evil is supposed to personify that any hero is capable of becoming a villain with one wrong turn, it might have been nice to see him reach either the valiant high of Batman or the wicked low of Joker.

And maybe it would have been more believable if his relationship with Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal in a performance so uneven it actually made one long for the wooden and laconic Rachel of Katie Holmes) had been better established.

Both these problems could have easily been avoided were the story more tightly focused. Writer/Director Christopher Nolan spends far too much time on the relationship between Rachel and Bruce, a point that becomes moot as the film goes on and eventually distracts from what happens to Harvey.

Also, Lau, the Chinese mob accountant, takes away too much focus at the beginning of the film. It makes no sense to spend time away from the main story and themes of the film simply to set up an eye-popping action sequence that finds Batman being hoisted into a moving plane. Lau's actions do serve to spur the Joker-centric aspects of the film, but there had to be a quicker and easier way to do it.

If Nolan focused the story on the three-way dance of morality between Dent, Batman, and the Joker, he had the chance to make a true film for the ages - an examination of man's dual nature on a scale similar to the best classical tragedies. As it stands, "The Dark Knight" is nothing more than a grand-scale action film that misses truly developing its intended theme amid a sea of distraction.

No, "The Dark Knight" is not the best film of all time. Heck, it isn't even the best superhero movie of the summer; that honor narrowly goes to the more tightly-focused "Iron Man."

So does "The Dark Knight" live up to the dizzying hype? The answer is certainly "no."

Counterpoint by Andrew Payne
Starpulse contributing writer




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