Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008) enjoys a certain amount of critical acclaim that action movies rarely receive. This is a movie that tackles some heavy subject matter and does so in a truly engrossing manner. But I think that The Dark Knight is often so engrossing that its audience is unable to recognize its numerous shortcomings. I think that the strongest parts of this movie are its design and its acting and that the rest basically serves as a very limited but often effectively managed discussion of a variety of moral subject matter. There are some general problems with The Dark Knight, and there are a variety of details that are grossly problematic when this movie is watched actively. Problems that detract from the assumed position of this film as one of the best of the past decade if not of all time. The Dark Knight is basically run of the mill fare at best.
Imagine another critically acclaimed movie from the early 2000s, No Country for Old Men, which has remarkable thematic similarities to some of The Dark Knight; a psychopathic killer, a good person’s ability to do bad things, an ineffective law enforcement. I don’t think No Country for Old Men would be so well regarded if it had lingered more on the sheriff character’s actions or if the cat-and-mouse game happing between the two main characters featured tangential elements or if Chigurh had been a bank robber, for instance, in addition to a hired psychopath. These would be elements seen to detract from the power of that movie. In the case of The Dark Knight such elements are present but almost universally overlooked, further the result such plot elements have on the story and thus the power of the film is also overlooked. The Dark Knight isn’t examined in the appropriate depth as audiences just seem willing to assume its intricacies based on its presentation. I’d like to look at this movie and see if it stands up to scrutiny. I say with confidence that it does not. The Dark Knight is very limited in terms of its writing and thematic weight but is finessed to deaden the underwhelming truth.
This review will breakdown into several parts. I will examine, in order, the following: Direction, themes, characters, story, and finally a conjecture section where outstanding elements will be picked apart. This is not an attempt to nit-pick, I’m not a belligerent Dark Knight detractor just to be contrarian. I think that I’m looking more closely and honestly at this movie than either people who get hung up on its RottenTomatoes score or people who nit-pick and follow plot-holes do. This critique is basically an assessment of the problems as I see them and an analysis of why they are problematic and, in cases that I feel I can comment on, why they are in the movie.