So here goes. ABANDON INNOCENCE, ALL YE WHO ENTER -- HERE BE SPOILERS.
Let me start with the opinion that Dark Knight was absolutely a terrific action flick. The Joker was brilliantly broken. Harvey Dent was, to a lesser extent, nicely complex. The gadgets and movement were very, very cool.The storytelling was exciting. In the end, though, I was disappointed. I've learned about myself that I really thrive on heavily character-driven fiction...and Dakr Knight, overall, just didn't make the cut.
"Really?" you might ask. "But what about what you said about The Joker and Dent?" Well, that's sort of the point. The Joker is awesome, Dent is pretty good. The other characters seemed terribly flat to me.
The Joker was reimagined, whether by writer, director or actor, in what I thought was an absolutely brilliant way. His stilted, strange gait shows him to be in constant, chronic pain. He clearly longs to die, but doesn't have whatever-it-is to kill himself, so he tries desperately to bait Batman into doing it for him. In some nice complexity, that's not his only motivation. He considers himself an agent of chaos, and he's the kind of smart that makes so many smart people outsiders. He soars far above Gotham's criminal base in intelligence and creativity. He has a knack for anticipating the possible options of the good guys, and creating ways of disrupting all of them, so that no choice is safe. His one goal, other than his own death, is to throw as many wrenches into as many works as possible before he goes. He gives different explanations for his scarring with such abandon that I have to wonder if he even remembers anymore what happened, and just how mad he is. This character completely fascinates me; so broken and so brilliant. A rare find; a smart, multi-faceted and interesting villain.
Harvey Dent is projected as the White Knight; not Batman's nemesis, but what Batman could be if he were able to work within the law. He shares the same passion for justice, the same desire to protect, and a similar driven quality, but he does it all within the law. He's noble, but not naive as some noble characters end up being; he's an idealist who has enough practical experience to be able to hit the criminal element hard...and knowing that he probably will never win, hits anyway. He recognizes Batman as something that Gotham needs, and fights to keep that identity hidden so that they can continue cleaning up Gotham...sacrificing himself (much more literally than he planned for) in order to do so. He's a nice, stable, smart guy who is doing a tough job to his best ability, and enjoying some success at it - and he is COMPLETELY unprepared for The Joker. I can't make a huge amount of comment on his transformation into Two Face, because frankly, the visuals distracted me too much for me to really pay attention to the characterization. Perhaps when it comes out on dvd I'll be able to tell more.
There is some really nice symbology going on with the White Knight/Dark Knight combo and foreshadowing the creation of Two Face.
I would have liked to see more depth in the other big players in the story, specifically in Batman, Rachel and Gordon, and in fact I think the movie suffered the lack of it. I would have liked to have seen more intense interaction within the love triangle of Rachel, Bruce and Harvey. Some intense emotional interaction between Bruce and Harvey. I mean, c'mon...these two guys are in love with the same woman, and they have incredible levels of respect and envy for each other. I want to SEE how much Bruce longs to be like Dent, able to be the hero in public, able to stay within the law and still succeed, able to be with the woman he loves without the fears that plague him. I want to see Bruce start to feel like a part of something positive with Rachel, Dent and Gordon, and I want to see that glimmer of hope ripped away by the Joker.I want to see that part of the Joker's power over Batman is that the Joker embraces the same darkness that Bruce fears and hates in himself. I want to see Rachel torn between the two sides of the same archetype, and to know how intensely she feels about both of them. I want to feel Batman's pain when it becomes clear that just as Dent sacrifices his career to save what Batman does for Gotham, Batman sacrifices his hopes of ever being an unequivical good guy to save what Dent did for Gotham.
Seriously, this movie should have been so wrenching and dark that I should have been sobbing in my popcorn at the tragedy of it all.
Instead I got a cookie-cutter Rachel, who was all but nonexistent in terms of character...not exactly unfamiliar treatment of a woman in a comic book universe, but disappointing nonetheless. Gordon wasn't any better, despite the possibilities for character growth here. Batman seemed to just be going through the same old motions, not adding layers of darkness to his character as he should have done in this story. The Joker's arrival, Batman's inability to outhink or even keep up with him, and the Dent/Rachel tragedy he set up should have completely wrecked him, but Bruce ended the movie not seeming any more lonely or broken than he started out.
This is completely worth seeing, and I even recommend seeing it on the big screen for the fabulous action and for the ability to focus on the subtleties of the Joker, but this movie, for me, lacked an emotional edge that I expected and hoped for in it.