Was The Dark Knight Really That Good?

In build-up to the July 20 release of The Dark Knight Rises and the conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, a look back at the flaws in 2008’s The Dark Knight…

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By CBMJamie - 6/21/2012


In 2008, Christopher Nolan brought his interpretation of Batman back to the big screen in the form of The Dark Knight, a film reviewed as being both a ‘haunting’ and ‘engrossing’ tragedy, with a ‘gritty and ‘deft’ script. The film was given almost universal acclaim and film critics and fans alike seemed to struggle to see any negativity or issues arise from the 152 minute run-time of the movie.

Surprising to me, let alone anyone else, I wasn’t one of those people. Even after £25 and three cinema viewings of The Dark Knight, followed by countless DVD playbacks of the movie, I was forced to accept an almost unbelievable truth: I didn’t love The Dark Knight.

The film was good, no question, maybe even great. It’s main theme concerning the battle between good and evil was refreshed and revitalised by Nolan in his take on the battle being just as much an inner one as opposed to a conflict of two or more people or organizations. Yet even his original take on an unoriginal theme didn’t help the film from being let-down by a lack of conviction on the ideas and symbolisms it brought up and aimed to utilize.



Much was made of the performance in the movie by the late, great Heath Ledger as Batman’s arch-nemesis the Joker. ‘Outstanding’, ‘mesmerizing’ and ‘unique’ are just a few of the words used from others to describe his portrayal of a mad, psychopathic killer, with no other goal but to be evil in its most purest and frightening form.

Whilst his performance was given almost perfect acclaim, I couldn’t help but feel that his performance showed glimpses of ‘outstanding’, with at times it being ‘mesmerizing’. But for me, as for an all-round finished product, Ledger’s quality of performance was brought down, no, let down by the movie’s plot and script.

Nolan and his team seemed to want this Joker to be the epitome of uncontrollable evil; a completely legit and almost ideal approach for the Joker in terms of Nolan’s Batman universe. What happened however was that the Joker came across as someone who wanted to be seen by others as this uncontrollable evil, even if on closer inspection and analysis was really a cunning master-mind who managed to carry out his plans in totally unbelievable circumstances and in an unrealistic time-span.

From rigging an entire city hospital and two ferries with explosives, to robbing a bank with 6 guys and escaping using a school bus, the Joker became too unbelievable for him to reflect on me as a viewer as a real threat, and I mean this completely in relation to Nolan’s Batman universe.

Whilst many say Ledger’s Joker was a psychological menace, most of his plans involved blowing up stuff. Admittedly, blowing up buildings and transportation takes psychological dysfunctionality but it came to a point where the Joker just seemed like another thug, the only difference being he wore make-up and didn’t want to kill Batman, rather watch him squirm at the thought of him being the one to blame for the deaths in Gotham.



And then there was the idea that the Joker didn’t have plans. Cue the hospital scene with Harvey Dent where the Joker claims not to be a ‘schemer’, someone ‘without a plan’. Yet almost every act of his involved highly intricate and complicated planning. You don’t just rob a bank as you walk down the street, or spontaneously decide to bomb a hospital and accomplish that within less than a day as the Joker so easily managed. People argue that when Joker claims not to have a plan he means an overall plan yet if you recall the hospital scene, Dent at first blames the Joker, 'your men, your plan', only for the Joker to reply with 'do i really look like a guy with a plan?'. The Joker does claim he doesn't plan his actions, not just an overall one; for example, for the death of Rachel, it's clear he did plan with the swapping of the street names and Rachel telling Harvey how she was told 'only one' of them would 'make it'.

So whereas the character of Joker wasn’t entirely convincing or scary for that matter, Ledger was still able to pull off a number of highly memorable, applaudable moments, even if mostly comedic. His introduction to the audience through the mask reveal towards the conclusion of the bank robbery/prologue was nothing short of genius and his ‘pencil trick’ alone has racked up millions of hits on YouTube.

Although for me his performance wasn’t the one many say it is, his Oscar win was already long and unquestionably overdue. And with his impressive - yet short - history in Hollywood, I can happily accept the praise given to him as it appears to me as more a reflection on his other works combined with the Joker as opposed to the Joker alone.

In my eyes no flaw was greater in The Dark Knight than that of the story of Harvey Dent. Aaron Eckhart played the obnoxious yet committed politician/lawyer perfectly but it all fell apart as soon as the Joker ‘blew him half to hell’.



With the woman he loved murdered and his face severely burned, Dent could be forgiven for being angry and vengeful, but for him to be confronted in his hospital room by the Joker and then let him walk away without so much as a scratch was embarrassingly bad writing.

However manipulative and sly the Joker was, there was simply no believability in the way Harvey Dent transitioned into Two-Face. For Dent, a respectable and intelligent man, to be convinced by the Joker that he wasn’t the one to blame for Rachel’s demise, but rather that Batman and Gordon were to blame was ridiculous.

There was no doubting that the story needed Dent to become Two-Face for the theme of good and evil to be truly emphasized to the audience, but the way that Nolan and his team wrote that change was almost an insult to the work that had been done up to that point in the film on Dent’s character. His downfall was ultimately unbelievable, unconvincing and heavily rushed as the film drew to a close. For that reason the film suffered greatly.

And so with the two main flaws covered I’d like to mention briefly other flaws the movie had; one of which was the re-casting of Maggie Gyllenhaal as replacement for Katie Holmes to play the role of Rachel Dawes. Whilst in Batman Begins Rachel was intelligent, strong-minded, confident and independent, Dark Knight’s Rachel was a loved-up teenager who we never see have any moment of independence as her character is used solely as a device to pit Bruce and Dent against each other as opposed to Batman and Dent against each other.



Other flaws include the pointless inclusion of Commissioner Gordon faking his own death, a plotline used only it appears to try and show the hatred growing for Batman by Gotham’s citizens as they look to point the finger of blame at him as opposed to anyone else.

Dramatization was given centre-stage over logic and although that is needed in order to express certain elements, perhaps more than ever in comic book to movie adaptations, logic was lost almost completely in The Dark Knight and as a result my connection to the film decreased; unlike in Batman Begins, where the emotion of Bruce losing his parents and taking up the position of guardian to Gotham made for both an emotive and action-packed super-hero movie.

No film is perfect and no film ever will be. And opinions will always be opinions as they are just that: opinions.

The Dark Knight had a great amount of things that worked and ultimately, whatever I may say about it, it remains one of the most popular films of this generation. Nolan’s revolution of the super-hero genre has allowed for him to make mistakes and get away with it, and that seems about right. All I hope for is that I don’t have the same disappointed feeling I did after seeing The Dark Knight when I see The Dark Knight Rises on July 20.
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TheMyth - 6/21/2012, 7:06 AM
Get ready to be assaulted...
LMFA0 - 6/21/2012, 7:20 AM
You may get a lot of hate for this editorial but your reasoning and intelligent argument is spot on. These were actually things that I thought about after seeing the movie the first time, and are things that have kept me from fully enjoying this movie. Ive always thought that if Nolan and Goyer were smart, they would haven saved twoface for the next movie as opposed to killing him off like they did.

Good write up and thank you for the well thought out article
sikwon - 6/21/2012, 7:29 AM
dude, i agree that the darkknight wasnt as great as people say it was but for entirely different reasons. youre joker plot points have some merit, he did pull off amazing feats of lunatic, criminal genuis in an unbelievably short time. that was in order to make the situation feel desperate and out of control, like the joker was every ware at once. and it worked.but is it a stretch to think maybe, just maybe, he had the hospital wired up weeks ago in prepearation for his battle with batman? he didnt just deside one morning to go to war with batman, he planned it. and you completely miss the point of his hospital conversation with dent. the joker was saying that he dosent fit into societies schemes, he dosent fit into an orderly plan. the truck load of soldiers getting blown up is, according to the joker, an orderly plan that fits within the confines of society. him blowing up a hospital isnt part of societys plans and thats what he means by being an agent of chaos. hes an extreme anarchist.

dents transition to 2face,, you are way way off on this. his aggression and willlingness to use violence was shown in the court room when he dissarmed the guy on the stand. then later when he takes the ambulance and holds a gun to a wounded mans head and is in the early stages of torturing him (think about that scene for a second). thats a clear glimps into the 2face potential of dent. and that was before he lost his girl and had his face cooked. nolan did a good job of showing just how tightely dent toed the line between good and evil, of how close he was to the edge. the reason why he didnt kill the joker in the hospital is because the things that he said resonated with harvey. a part of dent agreed with him. you live long enough to see yourself become he villan. thats what happened to dent. ware i have problems with the movie (mind you its one of my favorites) are small, nit picky complaints. i thought that the joker carried the movie and if ledger wasnt so amazing (for me his joker is in the top 3 villans with darth vader and hannibal lecter) then that movie wouldent have been nearly as good. you seem to forget that even though nolan grounded his film in reality, its still a comic book movie and the joker is still a super villan.
TheRaven20 - 6/21/2012, 7:30 AM
I think when he meant he didn't have a plan that he meant he didn't have an overall plan. If you look it all the crimes he committed, none of them were connected to each other really. He just caused mayhem to cause mayhem with no purpose. I think that's what he meant. I agree that Dent's transition was rushed, but Two-face wasn't a complete villain but more of a guy seeking revenge on his lover's death. Because of his physical deformities he saw no way to enact his revenge through the law anymore and decided to take it into his own hands and kill the people he felt were responsible. He was kinda pushed off the edge with his experience. I do agree that Gyllenhaal's Rachel was awful. Did anyone really care that Rachel died? Had we seen the same Rachel from Begins I may have, but yeah Rachel was just there as a damsel in distress in TDK.
Overall yes there are some flaws but I don't think they were that major. I like to think that my own opinion on this film is in the middle. It's not a bad heavily flawed film and I think it's quite great really, but it's not this immaculate peice of art that everyone pretends it is. Bottom line it was a different, dark take on a superhero and his archnemesis that know one had seen before from a MAJOR superhero (Crow, Spawn,etc were already dark in their own right). I enjoyed it but it bothers me when everyone thinks it was the greatest film of all time. Top 5 superhero films: Yes. #1? I still don't know.
Good article
BlackFlash - 6/21/2012, 8:03 AM
Batman Begins over The Dark Knight every time.

I've said it before if TDKR is like BB then i'm going to love it, if it's like TDK then i'll pass.
Marvelfreek94 - 6/21/2012, 8:07 AM
Great article. I agree with all of your points and i
I'm an avid Bat-fan. One of the things I noticed was at the climax of the film where Dent had Gordon's son it appears he tackled Dent off of the building essentially killing him. Doesn't that kind of break the established "one rule" he says earlier in the movie?? I know he killed in the '89 Batman but that is a dofferent story. I'm simply saying that thats a continuity issue even if he was saving a kid. Still its a great article.
calin88 - 6/21/2012, 8:13 AM
It was, sometimes I feel it's overrated or not too good, but I've seen it again a few days ago and I was reminded why it is one of my favorite movies, it has it's flaws but overall it's a very good movie, very nice article
Supes17 - 6/21/2012, 8:46 AM
Nice article. One of the few people who have made a negative article on The Dark Knight who have actually made an intelligent argument.

I saw the film again yesterday and I still felt the magic. I may strongly disagree with your opinion, but I respect it!
Vafrous - 6/21/2012, 8:53 AM
I can watch it over and over again...but its missing something that Batman Begins had. I just haven't figured out what it is yet...
ralfinader - 6/21/2012, 8:58 AM
I can watch Batman Begins repeatedly, but TDK I cannot. I never really held the movie under a microscope like this, and find I cannot argue most of it. I was more impressed by Ledger's performance, and how the charactor was written than anything else. It seemed Batman was a secondary charactor in his own movie, and that distracted me as well. Overall, I enjoyed TDK, but it is pretty much collecting dust in my DVD collection, and preferred BB.
Name - 6/21/2012, 9:10 AM
to answer the question, i think it is that good. Dont get me wrong i watched batman begins the other day and batman is better represented in that film but overall The dark knight is one of a kind regarding superhero movies and elevated the genre to the standards we expect now. Batman begins has the better ending though. "And you'll never have to" Perfect.
alucard365 - 6/21/2012, 9:59 AM
How many times are you Haters going to make an article about the flaws of TDK, this has to be like the 12th one i read! lol Ok I get it, you don't like TDK, who gives a [frick]! You picking apart the flaws of the movie isn't going to change the minds of the people that loved TDK. ps Every movie has Flaws ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
sonofsamadams - 6/21/2012, 10:00 AM
Im tired of seeing articles like this. But...sooner or later people will making articles like this on The Avengers...
HouseSnow - 6/21/2012, 10:04 AM
We may be the minority but i agree, Batman Begins is definitely my favorite of the two films, i love both but TDK had its issues. Joker was great and all, but there were definitely some inconsistencies like you said. i mean to be honest, the whole "do i look like a guy with a plan" thing was probably just a big mind [frick] by the joker to take advantage of a broken and irrational dent. i mean if you think about it, even his scar stories are BS. they are different every time he tells them. he's just good at pulling off the mind [frick] on his victims.

BB to me had a much better and consistent story, and i think thats why they want to bring it back full circle with TDKR, so that they can get back to more of a BB movie as opposed to TDK.
antonio - 6/21/2012, 10:22 AM
I can watch it over and over and over again. I do think what it's missing that Batman Begins had is it's more of a Batman film.

@BattlinMurdock I agree. On paper, Nolan's scripts sound pretty good, but strange. When it appears on screen, it's excellent.
AgentZero - 6/21/2012, 10:24 AM
Pointless article. And wrong section
95 - 6/21/2012, 10:24 AM
Yes, it's really that good. Concerning Harvey Dent "letting" The Joker go... he flipped a coin and luckily for the Joker it didn't decide: "die". Harvey Dent is in revenge-mode. He has alot of people to blame on his fate. He could care less if The Joker destroyed Gotham. In fact, it would be easier if The Joker had killed Batman and Gordon for him. And it appears that some folks who liked TDK have taken an opponent stance against TDK ever since The Avengers. Some of you guys seem to be choosing to find problem with TDK. At this level of microscopic nitpicking -- any film can have plot holes.
justified1 - 6/21/2012, 10:29 AM
Yes the film has its flaws.

I still think its one hell of a movie.
MisterFixit - 6/21/2012, 10:41 AM
i own both on dvd, and actually i have seen BB a ton of times, and 4 times TDK
MisterFixit - 6/21/2012, 11:12 AM
here the prize for "the only user so far that instead of replying with some argument, is showing his disagreement like a 5yo child"
and the winner issss..
Alucard
Supes17 - 6/21/2012, 11:26 AM
But yes, it was that good
EdgyOutsider - 6/21/2012, 11:40 AM
I feel that the movie dragged, I'll admit that the only performances that kept me interested was Aaron Eckhart and of course, Heath Leadger. When I first watched it, it was on dvd, I had got it for christmas. I was wanting to do something else, rather than watch it despite me wanting to watch it badly. I love TDK, but it's over rated.
marvel72 - 6/21/2012, 11:43 AM
good editorial mate,very well written.

its a good movie but definetly overrated,abit boring in places repeat veiwing is hard & i own it on blu-ray.

we still haven't seen a five star comic book movie yet & probably never will.
DraculaX - 6/21/2012, 11:53 AM
I watch TDK three times at my aunts last week and I'll be honest. The first 30 minutes of the film about the mob and stuff kinda bored me. (I have the same problem with the Avengers minus the mob) It was slow then it picked up after. Thats just me.

Even after seeing it 50 times before, I knew what was gonna happen in the scenes and it still delivered. The ending scene gets me every time. To me its a great film. Greatest CBM of all time? It can be arguable but I don't even know whats the greatest CBM of all time

I think they were gonna use Two Face in the third film but I think Ledger's death change that, At least thats what I heard.
DraculaX - 6/21/2012, 11:55 AM
I don't feel its overrated (I hated that word, its overrated lol) I think it deserves a spot in the top 10 or 5 CBM of all time because it brought recondition to the comicbook genre.
superbatspiderman - 6/21/2012, 12:05 PM
The reason that dent didn't kill the Joker in the hospital is because his coin said that he should live and Dent only listens to the coin because of his idea that the only true justice is chance. Also a part of him wanted the Joker to live because he agreed with him.

This movie is not overrated it is one of the best movies I have ever seen. As much as I loved the Avengers I would probably say it is overrated even though I am happy for it's success. Yeah it had a lot of fun action and comedic moments but that is pretty much all of it. The Dark Knight is an example of excellent film making it is a comic book movie that non comic book fans praise. I really hope the Dark Knight Rises is the same.
antonio - 6/21/2012, 12:16 PM
@Preacher glad to see you're trying to start shit.

@TheLizard you love it, yet thinks it's overrated? Contradicting much?
Mcpc - 6/21/2012, 12:20 PM
On the point of joker having no plans, I think you miss the fact that joker is a proven liar. That was the whole point of that line, to show he was indeed manipulating harvey. That's why the ambiguity of his origin story was so great, too, because he had a new story each time and chose the one which would resonate most strongly for intimidation.

Thoughh to add, even joker's we're focused on creating negative space - deconstructing everyone else's plans. Mob, cops, batman, lawyers, etc. in the end he wanted to make more people like him, and realize they were fools to buy into civilization's comforting narratives about human nature.
Mcpc - 6/21/2012, 12:21 PM
Curse you, iPad autocorrect.
MisterFixit - 6/21/2012, 1:12 PM
quote @preacher
OdinsBeard - 6/21/2012, 1:36 PM
comicmoviejamie@

great write-up! i disagree with you on almost everything (well not necessarily but i know there are reasons behind some of your concerns) But even though i don't share your views i can still respect someone who puts thought and effort into their opinion and doesn't babble on like some scorned fanboy. so i like to give kudos when kudos is due. and that's not often on this section of the site.

so good job buddy!
ItsATrap - 6/21/2012, 2:24 PM
great editorial, i disagree with your points on The Joker simply because i understood his ideas and "plans" differently than you did, but still a great editorial write-up
batfan175 - 6/21/2012, 3:55 PM
Yes it was that good and about 100 timles better than the Avengers which had NO philosophical ambition WHATSOEVER! It's not that Nolan gets away with mistakes. It's that he's giving us HIS version of the characters, just as tim Burton and Schumacher gave us theirs and it's a totally valid interpretation as such. I diagree with most of what you say. We got to be grateful that characters such as Two-face were redeemed by this film after batman Forever. You're right when you say it's just an opinion though. i can use the same elements to show why this film was great and I am tired of all the kids-friendly superhero films. We can't just have one OR the other. we need to have BOTH, depending on the nature of the superhero.
Alexandre - 6/21/2012, 4:35 PM
SEE THIS IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NOLANITES AND MARVELITES.

A NEGATIVE ARTICLE ABOUT THE AVENGERS, THE WHOLE FAN BASE GOES APE SHIT

HERE A NEGATIVE ARTICLE ABOUT THE DARK KNIGHT AND MOST NOLANITES DISAGREE WITH HIS OPINION BUT RESPECT IT.

I HAVENT SEEN ANY HATE ON HERE. AND alucard365 COMMENT CANNOT BE CONSIDERED HATE COMPARED TO WHAT OTHER CRAZIER FANS OF MARVEL HAVE SAID IN MARVEL BASED ARTICLES.

Devastator335 - 6/21/2012, 4:45 PM
Don't get me wrong, The Dark Knight is one of my favorite movies of all time, but Batman Begins is number one on my list. The thing that bothered me in TDK is the fact that they replaced Rachel (Katie Holmes) with Maggie Gyllenhaal. Besides that, the movie was fine in my opinion.
By the way, great article!
Devastator335 - 6/21/2012, 4:46 PM
@batfan175: Well said, I agree with you.
golden123 - 6/21/2012, 6:18 PM
This article is very well written! Bravo!

I liked "The Dark Knight" more than "Batman Begins". I was able to believe this clown could rig two ferries and a hospital with explosives from the moment "The Dark Knight" prolouge ended and set the tone for the movie. Scenes in the movie such as the Joker setting piles of cash on fire, and the Joker giving two ferries the detonator to the other helped cement the idea that he was an insane anarchist rather than just thug as you state.

I think the Joker's "plan" speech was an attempt at backing up the psychological damage already done to Harvey Dent to reassure that he could corrupt the "White Knight" of Gotham after "one bad day". His version is different than yours. His version of plan includes the goals of the future or expectations. People expect gang bangers and soldiers to die because of what they do. Their plans, for life, involve life risking measures they choose to take. People panic when a mayor dies because it wasn't included in somebody's scheme of how life should play out. The Joker setting up a few charges that force people to play his game isn't much of a long-term plan. It is just a short-term choas making stunt that involved a little planning, but he wouldn't call that planning because his definiton of a plan is just long-term. Besides, the statement, "do I really look like a guy with a plan?", is humorous. It is ironic humour that is presented before we are allowed to understand his version of the word "plan".

The one opinion on my comment that I believe as near fact is that Harvey Dent/Two-Face allowed the Joker to live because Harvey came to the conclusion that life just comes down to chance. He believes this after "one bad day" with the Joker.

Anyways, I prefer Maggie over Katie. In my opinion, Maggie didn't perform well in "Batman Begins". She was really wooden, yet she was given some really good heavy lines. Rachel was a stronger character in "Batman Begins" due to the writing, but her strength as a character wasn't really needed in "The Dark Knight". she just needed to be a damsel in distress, and that's what she was. It's not like her character was annoying or anything. It didn't take me out of the movie.

I hope you enjoy "The Dark Knight Rises", more.
WesleyGibson - 6/21/2012, 6:58 PM
I think it was that good. Hell nothing tops the stupidity of Schumacher's crazy bat-shit films. So yes, IMO it was THAT good.
marvel72 - 6/21/2012, 7:07 PM
@ Alexandre

nolanites never throw shit do they,always the innocent fan base.

XD hahahahahahaha
ralfinader - 6/21/2012, 7:29 PM
I agree Joker had a plan throughout the entire movie. Now his plan depended on reading the script, because so much was left to chance and the actions of others, but he planned everything out.
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