Monday, 11 August 2008

“And Here… We… Go!” The Lone Problem With The Dark Knight

It pains me to write this, because I love the movie so much, I think it’s one of the finest films to come out of the tired, turgid, dull and unadventurous Hollywood machine in almost a decade. However, there are two moments in the film that are unforgivable because they – when given a moment or two to think about them – shatter the entire mythos that Messrs Nolan have been building with their spellbindingly brilliant reinvented Batman movies.

The crime actually happens twice, though in different ways. The first occurrence, in the sequence that I felt was most worthy of being chopped – partly for the reason I am about to detail – was Bruce Wayne/Batman’s sojourn off into the South China Sea to go and play extraordinary rendition with the gangster Lau. The sequence (in my opinion) is more Bond than Batman, and is something that could and should have been dealt with within the confines of Gotham through sharper script writing. I know it was fun to see Batman travelling the world and in a different location, but his trip out into China causes the logical problem I am commenting on.

The second occurrence of this problem, comes far later in the film, I think not long after The Joker has been to the hospital. There is a moment when Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon (probably the most underrated performance of the movie) says “We’ve got to call in the national guard.” Or words to that effect. It is the second occurrence of the logical problem. The problem that single handedly destroys the logic of any superhero movie.

The problem is this, the moment you take Batman to China, or the moment you refer to bringing in the national guard, basically the moment you root Batman in our reality and not in his own, you expose the absurdity of the story. If the Chinese Government – in between barring former gold medallists with agendas from the Olympics – are harbouring a known financier of one of the entirety of Gotham’s criminal society (let’s take Gotham as being about the same size as modern day Chicago, where the film was set) do you not think the CIA or the FBI would be involved? Do you not think he would not have been able to just march out of the country? And do you think America’s only way of getting this fellow back would be Batman?

When Gordon mentions bringing in the national guard, after The Joker has caused the havoc he already has, killing off public figures, cops, civilians and politicians left right and centre, do you not think the FBI, the CIA or – God forbid – the national guard would not have been bought in a little sooner to deal with him? Why would they leave the capture of this terrorist up to an ineffectual city police force? If the national guard couldn’t stop him, why doesn’t he head to New York or LA? We know the Caped Crusader doesn’t mind travelling. Again, do you really think Batman is America’s only hope of stopping him?

Batman Begins never encountered this problem because it was grounded in its own reality. There was no US Government or national guard to bring in and save Gotham. It was just Batman and the GPD. The moment you mention the national guard or renditions in China, you put Batman in our reality and he becomes silly. Would the Government not try to track down the man who kidnapped and illegally extradited a known and wanted criminal? Would anybody in the US Government stand for this vigilante crap that Wayne is pulling? No.

The film is amazing, without a doubt. Finely crafted, suspenseful, superbly acted and – almost – perfectly written (I did not have a problem with the film’s length). But in putting Batman in our world in 2008, you destroy the necessity for his character. You destroy everything about him. You make him a psycho in a rubber suit running around catching criminals. He ceases to be any type of hero or even anti-hero and is little more than a loon that the Government would arrest and put away. You turn The Joker from a psychopathic criminal genius into a lucky loon – cheapening his work into little more than domestic terrorism - who’s only getting away with what he’s doing because the national guard, the FBI or the CIA haven’t been called in.

Putting Batman in a world with Chinese Governments and national guards puts him in a world where he is obsolete, because The Jokers and the Laus would be dealt with before they become a problem. Because that’s what happens in the real world. Hopefully, for the follow up – if there is one (I’m assuming it’s inevitable) – Nolan will disregard these passing attempts to try and make Gotham a real place in our world, and Batman a real character, and keep him in the fantasy world in which he belongs. Otherwise, you really have to question why a Government that wiretaps its own citizens, tortures suspected terrorists and bombs the shit out of foreign countries that might be a threat, wouldn’t just seal off Gotham and ultrasound scan the city to find the Batcave, the villains hideouts, and the silly writers who – to me – take a film of near genius and reduce it merely to astonishing greatness.

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