While Husband was in Dubai, The Mexican Piñata and I went to see The Dark Knight.
First, The Mexican Piñata. She is/was a friend of The Bro’s who met him on Facebook and was sufficiently ravished by his pixelated electronic charm (many times more potent than in person) that she followed her heart thousands of miles to be with him. Their story features elements of a tender romance along with intrigue, misdirection, double-crossing, suspense, subterfuge, straining skin-tight jeans, nail-biting denouements – three of them – and lashings of crass humour.
[NB: The Mexican Piñata is not her real name. It has been changed to protect the innocent. In deference to The Mexican Piñata’s first language, The Bro’s pseudonym is El Knobbo, which has been changed to expose the guilty.]
This story is complex as narratives go, with so many plot twists it could have been an opera had the screeching been more poetic and/or melodic. It is best summed up in a moral, which is: if you let a girl use your computer, make sure it doesn’t automatically logon to your Facebook account where you have slandered her all over the Internet. Or if you like a selection of morals, how about: if you operate several women on a rotational basis, try not to overlap their allocated timeslots.
You will be glad to hear there’s a happy ending. When El Knobbo dropped The Mexican Piñata to the airport, she said, “Thanks. It’s been . . . mm, I don’t know this word . . . is it . . . nice?” and stabbed him with a filed stiletto when she kissed him on the cheek.
Anyhow, The Dark Knight. I couldn’t wait to see this film, and since El Knobbo was suffering a toxic overload, The Mexican Piñata volunteered to accompany me. There were only two seats left when we arrived at the cinema; when we got to them, the screen was so close we had to cross our eyes to focus it.
Ever since my first disastrous celluloid misadventure, I have taken cinema excursions seriously. For The Dark Knight, I would not accept anything other than optimal screen distance, Maltesers and lightly salted, crunchy popcorn. At least two of those conditions were not met, so we asked for a refund (The Mexican Piñata had bought snacks, so I was hopeful of profiting from the arrangement).
As a compromise, the cinema attendant offered us Gold Class seats. If we were apprehended and interrogated, we were to say there was melted icecream on our allotted seats A126 and A125. I’m not sure why icecream is considered so antisocial, as opposed to, for example, fake cheese or razorblades in the seat lining. But here’s a top tip for getting a seat upgrade in the cinema: the magic password is ‘melted icecream’.
The Dark Knight is outrageously good. It is a thoughtful, multi-layered and intelligent depiction of good and evil – or at least, as thoughtful, multi-layered and intelligent as a movie about a man in a plastic bat suit equipped with pointy ears can get.
Most superhero movies present good and evil as straightforward, implying that if you cannot distinguish right from wrong, you are a psychopath and/or rather stupid. But in real life, many decisions are wrapped in moral quandary. For example, can you say that paying a hit man to rough up Tom Cruise and call him names is absolutely, undeniably wrong? Of course not.
The Dark Knight ackowledges this struggle. Should Batman save his girlfriend, or Harvey Dent, the man capable of redeeming Gotham City? What are the implications of either choice? Batman is a tortured hero, wracked with indecision, uncertain of whether his actions are motivated by good intent or potential acclaim.
Batman also struggles with his masculinity, his alter-ego Bruce Wayne poncing around with women dripping off his arms. While I appreciate that Wayne has an international playboy image to maintain, there is no similar explanation for the amount of mascara Batman wears.
Christian Bale’s Batman is excellent, but overshadowed by The Joker. Again, I feel vaguely embarrassed enthusing about a villain with green hair and more mascara than Batman, but Heath Ledger as The Joker is superb. His evilry outperforms even The Penguin in Batman Returns. In fairness, the worst The Penguin ever did was nibble off someone’s nose which, although innovative, is hardly the epitomy of pure evil. The Penguin did squeakily threaten to kill all Gotham’s firstborns; I suppose he might have done had the neoprene-nippled Batman not foiled his attempt, but I have my doubts. I always questioned the little fella’s capacity for spite.
In contrast, Ledger’s interpretation of The Joker is camp-free and completely chilling. The Joker’s background is never explained. In one early scene, he attributes his deformed face to an act of abuse by his stepfather, a description so crawlingly grisly it makes you temporarily wish you weren’t equipped with ears. For a while, you think, ‘Aw bless! No wonder the little scamp is misunderstood.’ But later, The Joker’s story changes according to his whim. Not only is The Joker terrifyingly intelligent, he can blow up a truck so that it cartwheels lengthways down a street.
If you haven’t seen the film, there are spoilers ahead so this is about as far as you want to read.
I have a couple of issues, which, although relatively minor, are worth mentioning. In the final act, The Joker reveals there are bombs planted on two ferries. Both lots of passengers can save themselves by blowing up the other ship; if they don’t, The Joker will annihilate both ferries at midnight. The passengers prove the inherent goodness of man by refusing to blow up the other ship.
Call me cyncical, but I refuse to believe that would happen in real life. One possible alternative would be an almighty brawl as people trampled each other to get to the detonator. But everyone sitting around debating the pros and cons of blowing up another shipload to save their wretched souls? Not a chance. On one of the ferries, at least three characters are accountants.
(I’m still not sure why the ferries didn’t just float like crazy to dry land and let everyone disembark. We’ll overlook that for the moment.)
Another problem is Rachel Dawes. Maggie Gyllenhaal is a welcome substitute for Katie Holmes, who should be roughed up along with Tom Cruise although to a lesser extent. Rachel shows hints of feistiness before she is careless enough to let herself get killed.
Otherwise, this is one of the best movies I’ve seen for a long time. That said, it in no way makes up for missing out on The Man From Snowy River