the_dark_knight

Great vigilante, terrible beautician.

Like most people with eyes I was in awe of The Dark Knight upon release. To paraphrase the abiding message of Batman Begins, it elevated itself beyond the sum of its parts to become something much more rich and meaningful. In this case it was undoubtedly more than just a film about a rich nutter dressing like a bat to stop crime. And while its predecessor dealt with themes of fear and revenge, The Dark Knight dealt with escalation, both thematically and literally – using a broad canvas to explore, among other things, the impact of terrorism and how fragile humanity can be when pitted against the unerring will of a psychotic clown.

But with an overriding exploration of terrorism and its fallout, what once made The Dark Knight a transcendental contemporary thriller could also now confine it to a real world time and place. Like Steve Guttenburg, Chris O’Donnell or the word ‘Ninja’, some things are so indicative of a certain time that their addition is set to forever date the film in which they appear. Conversely, The Dark Knight’s predecessor actually featured ninjas, but holds up better, at least on a thematic level. I suppose ninjas follow the basic tenets of narrative: show, don’t tell, which would make sense because, like most people, I wouldn’t attempt to tell a ninja shit.

It’s likely that in a few years we’re going to roll our eyes at the prevalent themes of early millennial entertainment – like we do today with pop-socks or Alan Sugar’s E-m@iler – especially if it’s true that the death of Bin Laden has seen global terrorist incidents fall to 0.00%. This isn’t really going to help The Dark Knight’s legacy. And to compound matters further the film also features Batman engaging in levels of phone hacking that might have even raised a ginger eyebrow in the News of the World offices circa 2000. While this may have seemed like a necessary invasion of civil liberties back in 2008, it now makes the Caped Crusader look like a ruthless privacy-violating cock-end.

Still, tasteless invasions of privacy notwithstanding, The Dark Knight is undeniably superior entertainment and any problems it might have are caused by over-reaching ambition. Perhaps we’re so engendered by summer blockbusters that we need moments of levity, or the kind of fromage-laced dialogue that, when recited in the real world, would cause instant vomiting and/or a swift punch in the gob. Or maybe that says more about my own base levels of expectation. Regardless, It was a brave choice to make such an unremittingly bleak blockbuster. But it’s perhaps even more telling that audiences decided that this was exactly how they wanted to be entertained in the summer of 2008.

We don’t know much about The Dark Knight Rises, save for the recently released teaser trailer (below), but its voiceover suggests that it picks up some of the threads from Batman Begins. Whether that’s due to the fact that The Dark Knight’s themes are lacking in relevance, that there’s little left to explore, or because Heath Ledger is no longer around to pick up the antagonist’s mantle, we can’t be sure. But since the majority of new footage consists of Gary Oldman complaining in a hospital bed it’s possible that Christopher Nolan has chosen a new real-world crisis to explore: the one in the NHS . That would certainly make for an interesting rogues’ gallery. And even if The Dark Knight doesn’t soar like he once did, 2012 still can’t come soon enough.

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