The Dark Knight

Nikil Saval in n+1:

Few movies have been so adept at providing easy metaphors for their own incompetence. But The Dark Knight, while doing this, eagerly does more: it presents itself as not just a comic book movie (though it is decidedly that); it is also an allegory, as thick as the Divine Comedy, for the present condition of America’s debilitated relationship to the world. The movie’s “deep structure” is a way, then, of absolving its curious lack of levity and joy, the sort of quality that makes a comic book comic. But The Dark Knight, as nearly every film critic in America seems to agree, is not a conventional genre film. It desires the status of art. And so, watching it, you can’t avoid noticing how it lays out its purpose in deadly earnest. Its chaos is expensively calculated, and it is not at all benign.

To take it seriously is to come up against the sheer silliness of the conventions it has retained. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), a billionaire who throws the most successful fundraisers in town, dates fantasy supermodel ballerinas with tremendous busts. (This is not how ballerinas look in the real world.) A languorous, overlong portion of the movie is devoted to Batman’s attempt—in a move made familiar by every second installment of a superhero franchise—to discard his suit and return to everyday billionaire life, so that lawful Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), a mob-busting DA like Rudy Giuliani, can run things. But of course it turns out legal methods and due process are never enough to combat anarchic evil, and so Batman must return to fight, using criminal methods of his own.