DirkH’s review published on Letterboxd:
As I fully intend to watch The Dark Knight Rises, I felt it necessary to re-watch its predecessor. I liked it better the first time.
This is technically a very good film. I still like the look and feel of it, building forth on the style of Batman Begins. Nolan manages to conjure up a Gotham City that feels both real and plausible. The practical and special effects, the make up, costume and production design are all very good and much to my liking. There were some fantastically choreographed action sequences that were high tension and very enjoyable.
I think the main reason I liked it so much the first time was because of Heath Ledger's performance. His sparkling insanity made me turn a blind eye towards any possible flaws the first time round. Upon second viewing his performance doesn't loose any of its impact. He manages to walk that tiniest of tightropes between convincingly insane and overacting evil really well. He still plays a comic book villain, but does so with a grounded realism.
Comic book or reality?
We should not forget one important thing. The source of this film. This is still a comic book adaptation. If we look at it any other way, it will fail miserably. Many people heralded this film as the second coming in action/crime films, well, it isn't. I don't believe in the term ' super hero movie', but I do believe in the comic book adaptation genre, that is a big difference. The problem is that this film doesn't decide what it sees itself as. It tries to explore the nature of good and evil. It does so by choosing for a gritty aesthetic. And here's where the trouble starts. The Dark Knight loses sight of where it comes from. It doesn't wholeheartedly see itself as a comic book adaptation, nor as an action/adventure film based in reality. Sure, the graphic novel it is based on is dark as hell, that's inherent to the nature of the vigilante character of batman. It is still a comic, though, it never tries to be real. The concept of the unambiguously evil Joker and the ambiguously good Batman is a concept that would work in a real world setting and it is what this film focusses on. The way the action and violence is portrayed, the gadgets and the inclusion of Harvey Dent belong to the realms of the comic book. For me this film unhinges because of this imbalance.
The plot thickens
Christopher Nolan always tends to walk a fine line between complicated plot and dense narrative. He often manages to pull this off, but here he doesn't. The plot here is simple, but the narrative is unnecessarily complicated and convoluted. It is such a shame that the only way to portray the Joker as a mastermind criminal was to have him turned into someone who can somehow predict and foresee just about anything that is going to happen. I find this type of storytelling to be completely unbelievable as it is simply impossible to predict human behaviour to such a degree. There are so many other, better ways to do this. This type of narrative simply leaves too many ' What ifs?' Normally I wouldn't mind so much, but here, due to the imbalance mentioned earlier I do.
In Batman Begins I felt I was watching an almost perfect blend of plot and narrative set in a comic book world I actually never really liked. I was impressed by the portrayal and fantastic interpretation of a comic book icon. While I still think the Dark Knight is a good film, I feel it overplays its hand and in the end doesn't know what it wants to be.