I went to see “The Dark Knight”. I saw it in Cinerama, in a packed cinema, and I was in the middle of the row. This meant that I couldn’t easily do what I wanted to: leave.
I hated it.
It was, without doubt, the most negative, life-denying film I have ever seen.
This was quite clearly a post-9/11 film. Back on September 16, 2001, Dick Cheney notoriously said:
We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we’re going to be successful. That’s the world these folks operate in, and so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.
In this film, there is only the dark side. The light side is lost, swallowed up in the shadows. Oh sure, the director tosses us a bone in the form of the two ferries at the end, but by then the pointless, inchoate mayhem has numbed us to the point where we can hardly appreciate it. All of the good guys have given up on the values they professed, and the best we can do is lie about them or make them our scapegoat.
As we left the cinema, I looked around me. Everybody seemed subdued; nobody looked happy. For myself, I jammed my headphones into my ears and cranked up the loudest music that I had on my iPhone; when I got home I knocked back half a bottle of wine in a couple of minutes. I felt as though I had lost something. I want to un-see the film, to have that bit of my life back.
Brilliant? Oh, sure, but so very, very cynical. Others have invited us to look into the pit, have shown us the fragility of civilization – Dante, Picasso, Golding, Bosch, Spiegelman – but none of them laughed at us as they did so.
UPDATE: I’ve been reading some of the reviews over at RottenTomatoes. Only one reviewer seems to have seen the film as I did: Armond White of the NY Press. Money quote:
Aaron Eckhartâ€™s cop role in The Black Dahlia humanized the complexity of crime and morality. But as Harvey Dent, sorrow transforms him into the vengeful Two-Face, another Armageddon freak in Nolanâ€™s sideshow. The idea is that Dent proves heroism is improbable or unlikely in this life. Dent says, â€œYou either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become a villain.â€ What kind of crap is that to teach our children, or swallow ourselves? Such illogic sums up hipster nihilism, just like Herzogâ€™s Encounters at the End of the World. Putting that crap in a Batman movie panders to the naivetÃ© of those who have not outgrown the moral simplifications of old comics but relish cynicism as smartness. Thatâ€™s the point of The Joker telling Batman, â€œYou complete me.â€ Tim Burton might have ridiculed that Jerry Maguire canard, but Nolan means itâ€”his hero is as sick as his villain.
And here’s the oddly-named Camila Batmanghelidjh in the Independent:
What worries me even more than the violence was the lack of human compassion surrounding it. Human life is presented as worthless. For me, the apathetic bystanders who facilitate violence are more disturbing than the Joker himself. His perversion, at least, has a sad logic to it. The indifference of the onlookers, though, is shocking.