It's 'The Godfather' of Superhero Movies

By | July 19, 2008

This concludes my review of The Dark Knight.

Freaking go see it already.



…but leave the kids at home. The Joker is one of the most deeply creepy characters I’ve seen on film – well – ever. He’s Hannibal Lector with face paint.

Batman Begins was great – in a fun way. The Dark Knight is genius in a punch-you-in-the-gut sort of way. This film will be with me forever. But its not one that I’ll want to watch regularly. This will never be a background-noise movie. Every few years will be good enough.

The movie Unbreakable asked us to take the superhero genre seriously. It suggested that superheros are our mythology – Greek gods repackaged for a secular, monotheistic culture. And there’s always been the possibility of that. There was Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, and Watchmen graphic novels (and others). But the superhero story as literature has never made it to the screen before. There have been attempts – Unbreakable, Spiderman 2, that first Hulk movie – they all had their moments. But they all suffer badly by comparison to The Dark Knight.

A whole other group of films suffer similarly – films that have tried to deal with terrorism and evil in the post 9/11 world. What must we do to defeat evil? How far are we willing to go? What are the consequences for us individually? For the people we love? For society?

In the 60′s Star Trek was able to deal with issues that straight dramas couldn’t get away with. Maybe that’s why The Dark Knight succeeds where other efforts at dealing with 9/11 issues has failed. Some things are too raw to just put up there on the screen. We need the metaphor.

  • Phil Bowermaster

    The Hannibal Lecter comparison is spot on — after his initial “magic trick,” you can’t help but wince every time the Joker appears on screen. Yet Ledger manages to make that same character laugh-out-loud funny. That’s an amazing feat. Chris Nolan does something similar on the wider canvas of the movie itself by successfully mixing the crime / police procedural genre with a Bourne / Bond spy thriller and a very creepy slasher / horror movie, the whole thing packaged as a superhero movie – as you noted, a highly philosophical superhero movie at that.

    Genius is right.

    And now I’ve said much more than I intended. But what are you going to do when somebody tacks a 17-line “update” onto your one-line movie review? ;-)

  • Ettanin

    I agree. Dark Knight is filmmaking at its best. It makes a lot of statements about humanity. One thing I wonder about is if the Joker ran his experiment with the boats of people and explosives in real life would the outcome be different. I guess the film is trying to say the answer is a mixed bag. The people of Gotham pass the Joker’s test while the white knight doesn’t.