Wednesday, February 18, 2009
The Dark Knight, at long last
I finally saw The Dark Knight the other day. The decision to see that movie was months in the making. It came out in theaters while we were in Middlebury, and Jeremy went to see it without me. Before you feel bad for me, realize that this was by my own choice. Seeing movies in the theater is overrated, especially when you are 9 months pregnant and need a bathroom break/seat position change every five minutes.
After seeing it, Jeremy told me he wasn't sure I would like The Dark Knight. This made me very sad - I loved Batman Begins and had been looking forward to its sequel for three years. Now I was hearing, from Jeremy as well as other sources, that The Dark Knight was scarier, more violent, and edgier than its predecessor.
So I didn't see it. Meanwhile, it seemed like everything I read about the movie confirmed what Jeremy had already told me about it - that it was dark and frightening - with one major difference starting to appear. Some reviews and discussions described The Dark Knight as being the embodiment of evil - the anti-good in cinematic form (I would link to them, but By Common Consent's archives aren't working). Others took the polar opposite view, that The Dark Knight was all about finding the humanity, honor, and compassion in mankind. It was this dichotomy of opinion more than anything else that finally made me decide to just see the darn movie already.
I started out watching it sitting up on the papa-san chair with some background lights on, while folding laundry - the ultimate non-committal movie-watching mode. In fact, I almost turned it off a few minutes into the opening bank-heist scene. It was scary, and violent, and bad, just like they said it would be.
But I didn't turn it off, and before I knew it, my unfolded laundry was cast off to the side and I was fully engrossed in this exciting, stirring, ultimately life-affirming movie. I didn't expect to realize so decisively which camp I was in, but I went to bed that night smiling, and happy to be mulling over some of the movie's brilliantly illustrated lessons on the nature of good.
I don't know that any of the reviews or commentary I read about The Dark Knight used the term "feel-good movie," but that's what this film was for me. I realize that movies involving psychotic clowns, villainous superheros (or heroic villains, whichever), and the systematic murder of public officials are not generally considered to be inspiring subject matter, but in The Dark Knight, they are. This is a movie full of teaching moments, full of scenes and situations that provoke us to consider what we are made of, and what we are willing to do to stand up against evil.
In one of my classes in high school, the teacher had us watch large portions of the movie A Few Good Men to illustrate certain principles of rectitude, honor, and right vs. wrong. The Dark Knight could easily take its place in such a classroom.
The thing is, The Dark Knight is still everything its detractors say it is. It is gloomy, violent, and at times soulless. And yet, I found it to be strangely uplifting, hopeful, and ultimately life-affirming. Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinion of this movie, so I'm not trying to tell anyone that they're wrong. I'm just trying to tell you not to let anyone convince you not to see this movie. See it, hate it, and come back here to say, "I told you so."
Or see it, love it, and have some awesome moral concepts to ponder. The choice is yours.