Not so Dark, After All.
The other day I watched The Dark Knight (2008). I find it is still a movie that has images that survive as iconic eight years later when other movies from the same time are being forgotten. Perhaps the success of the iconic imagery led Batman v. Superman astray as it tried to really lean into the imagery to a point where characters motivations didn't make sense and the plot was hurried along to get to the next set piece. The Dark Knight starts with a set piece that sets up the personality and strategic mind of the Joker and the main conflict that requires Batman to intervene between the Joker's gang and Gotham's organized crime.
There are two sequences that have especially stood out to me in this movie. One is the opening heist set piece. I think more superhero films should use heist segments with their villains to get the viewer to better understand the villain and find themselves rooting for the bad guy. Oceans 11 is a movie where the viewer bands behind the bad guys in the movie who are stealing money from a legitimate business. A heist movie works when a plan is presented to the audience, it is practiced with a few pieces of the plan missing from the final action. "I love it when a plan comes together," and audiences love seeing it, too.
There are a few incredible images that seem to make their way into every Oscars show of "look how cool movies are." The scene of the Joker blowing up the hospital seems to be a constant, but my favorite image has to be from the end of the movie when the Joker is dangling upside down. It feels as though the whole movie changes in the timing and speed that the camera turns on the dangling Joker to bring him right side up. He's otherworldly as his clothes flap upward in the wind. He has an odd likability when he concedes that he has lost the fight with Batman but has enjoyed the journey.
I remember the first time I saw this was actually in a new movie theater that was built near the spot where my first apartment had previously been. West Hartford was building Blueback Square where our apartment was, in fact we were told when we moved in that we couldn't stay there more than 6 months because the building was going to be torn down for an REI.
Several evenings we would see local news correspondents outside our window reporting on the development and the few residents that were protesting it. One evening when my friend Brendan was visiting a reporter knocked on the door to get our takes on the development. I think they were looking for residents who were pissed off by having to move their homes, but they found three college guys who were kind of glad to have stuff to do nearby. The reporter listed off some of the new businesses that were coming in, then said there would be a movie theater. I lit up and said something about how great that would be because there wasn't a theater especially close to us. We watched the local news a couple hours later and noticed our interviews were missing from the report. We laughed knowing that we did not fit the narrative they were looking for.
When the Dark Knight came out I went to the theater that pushed us out of our house. I kind of watched it in an odd mindset because I had heard reviews that it had a message that was for government surveillance. Mixed with that bad taste in my mouth and the hype the movie had before I got around to seeing it, I was not in the best mindset to see it and I was also disturbed by seeing a hole in Two Face's cheek. Fortunately, by my next viewing I was in a much better mindset and appreciated it for the beauty it is, a pyramid of burning money, Heath Ledger's amazing portrayal of the Joker, and the crisp IMAX setpieces.