Movies – The Best of the Decade Part 4 – “The Dark Knight”

I originally promised “Finding Nemo”, but in light of the Cracked article running today, I thought I’d post something of more interest.

Hollywood is too often denigrated, and partially that’s its own fault.  Hollywood exists for the money, after all.  But at the same time, Hollywood has a power that few industries can match, the ability to tap into and reflect the feelings and fears of a huge group of people.  A truly great Hollywood movie can find common ground among what seems, day to day, to be a fractious nation.  They’re rare, but they’re wonderful, and they take no less skill (arguably more) than an art film trying to reach a select audience.

I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to call “The Dark Knight” a great Hollywood movie for precisely that reason.  Too often, I think, a movie is abused for being something its not, or abused for its surface characteristics, and that takes away from what it actually is.

“The Dark Knight” isn’t the most subtle movie of the decade, but we’re talking about superheroes.  They don’t “do” subtle, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do artful.  All you have to do is pick topics as deep-seated and broad as the character themselves, in “Dark Knight”‘s case, the moral issues we’ve been dealing with for the last eight years surrounding 9/11 and the resulting actions of the Bush administration.

This isn’t to say that there are any one-to-one symbols: I’ve read both left-leaning and right-leaning interpretations of the movie that are patently ridiculous and reduce the film to propaganda where it isn’t, but they do serve to illustrate how Christopher Nolan tapped into the American psyche, because everybody thinks this movie is about what they believe in.  “The Dark Knight” isn’t about politics, however, but about the moral decisions we’ve struggled with for the past eight years.  Where is the moral line, how bright is it, and is it possible to cross it?  Is torture acceptable and under what circumstance if so?  Should we abduct people from their own countries if it serves our purposes?  Can we, or should we, sacrifice our privacy for the greater good?

It’s difficult to think of a filmmaker who’s even thought about entertaining these issues or talking about this on any level.  Independent films have mostly been concerned about either the mechanics of war (the superb “Hurt Locker”) or sledgehammer-obvious tales of bitter soldiers and military mistakes (“Stop-Loss” or the execrable “In The Valley of Elah”, saved only by Tommy Lee Jones’ performance).  There was and is very little discussion of what the average American dealt with as the Patriot Act was passed and the photos from Abu Garib leaked.  All of this “The Dark Knight” considers and is balanced by lingering on the cost of those who have to make these decisions: death, loss of love, loss of innocence, loss of friends.

That’s part of the reason “The Dark Knight” made half a billion dollars in one country: Christopher Nolan touched on everything we may not have been talking about, but definitely were thinking about.

It helps that there’s a lot of sugar on the medicine: Nolan has shown a facility for constructing and executing action scenes that’s still surprising.

“The Dark Knight” can’t be called “underappreciated”, it is, after all, so far the second-highest grossing film in Hollywood history.  But I think a full apprecation of it will only come with time, which is why it’s on this list.  “The Dark Knight” is Hollywood at its absolute best.

Next- “Finding Nemo”

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One Response to “Movies – The Best of the Decade Part 4 – “The Dark Knight””

  1. cop Says:

    great read, I’ll come back

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