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    "A fast, complex, exhilarating roadster ride through history and time.... Kino is an intoxicating Euro-brew, written with enormous skill and dedication." — Frederick Barthelme

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    "A delirious melange of conspiracy, magic, sex, history, bad behavior, and cinema, Kino is a stellar entertainment, and Jürgen Fauth is a writer of rare, sinister imagination." – Owen King, author of Reenactment

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The Dark Knight



Christopher Nolan and Maggie Gyllenhaal just aren’t enough of an indie connection to cover this on Worldfilm, so I’ll just say this here: godawful. Two hours and twenty minutes, a gazillion dollars, a sterling cast, and an eight story IMAX screen weren’t enough for this movie to tickle a single thrill out of me. Instead, endless turgid tripe about vigilante morals, heaps of vicious violence, Gotham City politics that play a little bit like The Wire, only stupid, and muddled action sequences that are — and I say this without hyperbole — duller than the scenes in which Bruce Wayne is having dinner.

What else? Christian Bale doesn’t go anywhere near Rescue Dawn levels of intensity, poor Maggie is wasted, Aaron Eckhart pays for his sins in Thank You for Smoking with a nasty case of Visible Man, Morgan Freeman turns into a FISA-protected wiretapper, and Michael Caine will always be Michael Caine. Heath Ledger’s Joker, a sadistic freak with curious facial ticks, is the most compelling person on screen, but tragedy or not, he can’t beat Jack Nicholson dancing in the pale moonlight to a Prince track.

Tim Burton knew how to have fun with Batman rather than turning it into plodding, puffed-up kitsch mistaking itself for profound psycho noir that the source material won’t support. As Hellboy 2 amply illustrates, there’s nothing wrong with fun — but there’s none to be had here. Previously: Batman Begins.

Prince, Jack, Keaton, Burton:



The Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan, 2008. *

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127 Comments

  1. Dave Kehr:

    Is the Dark Knight just George Bush with a better outfit, demanding that he be allowed all of the available ‘tools’ to combat terrorism, even if they include torture and eavesdropping?

    The thought certainly crossed my mind. The Dark Knight is heavy with post-9/11 allusions (starting with the poster, an image of a burning office tower that isn’t actually in the movie.) Armond White is wondering about some of the same implications in his review — everybody who likes this movie seems to be happy to point out the “complex morals” and “deep questions” raised by the movie, but I haven’t seen anybody else spell out quite what it actually means yet. (If it means anything, that is; like Keith Uhlich, I’m fairly sure that the film’s moral stance doesn’t actually add up.)

    Bonus question: How do the politics of The Dark Knight compare to Superman Returns, which I once related to Michael Winterbottom’s The Road to Guantanamo, provoking a similar fanboy shit storm? What does it say about us, and those movies, that Superman was considered a failure while this new movie is shaping up to be a mega hit?

  2. More from Keith Uhlich’s fine analysis:

    In The Dark Knight, Nolan and cinematographer Wally Pfister extend the incoherence to the movie entire. Despite being filmed on location in Chicago (along with a brief sojourn to Hong Kong), there’s little feel for the city’s dynamics, just random car-commercial shots of speeding vehicles, with inserts occasionally cluing us in as to who’s supposed to be where. More problematic is the tendency for characters to randomly show up as narrative twists-‘n’-turns dictate, such as when mob boss Salvatore Maroni (Eric Roberts) just happens to be waiting outside Harvey Dent’s hospital room so he can act as Jim Gordon’s on-the-spot snitch (the way Roberts plays the scene, he’s like a stone-faced, humanoid information kiosk waiting to be prompted with directional queries).

    Since all these characters can be everywhere at once (except when disfigurement or death is called for), it severely undercuts the tension, and thus calls more attention to The Dark Knight’s rickety allegorical skeleton.

  3. Alex

     /  July 19, 2008

    Thanx for giving away the plot for everyone who hasn’t seen the movie yet, buddy. Stick to proper professional criticisms. It was a great movie by the way. He was definitely better than Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of the joker.

  4. Jake

     /  July 20, 2008

    Keith Ulrich too, is being flamed passionately by nerds who don’t appreciate a whisper of contradiction against their new love.

  5. I don’t know about the Superman v Batman issue – but I can tell you that *I* considered Superman Returns to be a failure because it was flat out boring and The Dark Knight a success because there was plenty of tension & excitement.

    I haven’t read Keith’s review yet (I’m sure it is insightful) but I don’t think political allegory is Nolan’s bag here – this is just a Good v Evil police procedural – The French Connection or Heat with some batsuits thrown in.

    I plan to see it again in a few weeks – I’ll see if my enthusiasm (after all, I did get to see it w/ the stars in IMAX and I’m not immune to appreciation-by-osmosis) holds up.

  6. Michael Joshua Rowin: “Batman is the comic-book world we deserve, but not the one we need.”

  7. Michael Tully:

    I still find it hard to believe my eyes as I read review after review of gushing praise for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Or maybe I watched a different movie than everyone else? Could that be it? No, the movie I watched was called The Dark Knight too, and it also happened to be two-and-a-half hours long (I know because I checked the time on numerous occasions). But here’s the thing. The movie I watched wasn’t any different than the rest of the broad-stroke muck that permeates our nation’s multiplexes. It was just as long-winded, shapeless, formulaic, and deadening as the most generic big-budget buffoonery out there. You can call me a snob if you want to, go right ahead. I’m simply calling the movie out for what it is: a glossy, pseudo-’deep’ work of mass consumer-friendly torture porn.

  8. funny thing

     /  July 23, 2008

    wondering if poor jurgen has any further original insights of his own or if he’s going to continue cutting and pasting other people’s words and thoughts to speak for him. :)

    at this point, Jurgen, you’re only true fault is your inability to properly articulate in written form your chief objections to the film; which, i sense, is why you still feel that defensive need to have others write as your surrogate.

    in terms of criticizing the mainstream critics who loved the movie, i’d say: a. why were there so many critics comparing the style to Mann’s “Heat”? Because of one bank-robbery scene? (why not compare it to “point break” then?) because of overhead views of the gotham(chicago) skyscrapers? whatevs.

    also…critics seemed to love the dark, dangerous, sadistic, evil, greatest villain of all-time schtick. but, truthfully, i didn’t find him scary or terrifying. i thought he was a good deal of fun. i liked the performance. but it wasn’t scary. want tasty cerebral, sick, twisted villains? off the top of my head: Indigo in “For a Few Dollars More” (the man uses a clock chime to time his sadistic mano-y-mano shootouts and smokes a joint after killing to cool off), Coffin Joe (Brasilian horror villain with a decided philosophical agenda; the precursor to Hannibal Lecter some 30-40 years prior), John Lithgow from “Ricochet” (horrible movie, but his performance is the definition of sadistic, hateful, angry, and unpredictable from a trained thespian; if that’s what you’re into). also an honorable mention to phillip seymore hoffman as the baddie in MI:3 (terrible film and a wasted villain performance by Hoffman as the stone cold face of perverted cruelty).

    (and for all of the bluster from critics who disliked TDK, i still have yet to find one who’d admit a preference for Nicholson’s Joker over Ledger’s)

  9. funny thing

     /  July 23, 2008

    Jurgen, leave it alone all ready, bud. Seriously. You’re like the insecure boyfriend with a litany of, Am I good enough? Am I big enough? Am I bigger than your ex? Where do I rank? No, seriously, were you faking it?

    As an art film critic you are really out of place critiquing this film. I’ve read some of your material now and I find countless examples where you reveal how out of depth you are. Writers need to write what they know. And they need to know their limitations.

    On another note, I’m concerned that you’re considered a critic when there are clearly some deficiencies in your writing and analytic ability. As well as your understanding of pop culture and graphic novels. Worse yet, you actually let the fanboys GET TO YOU. You absolutely did! With your constant need to source the handful of bloggers who weren’t enthralled with TDK. There are certainly valid problems with the movie, but your fixation with maligning it, coupled with your absurd comparisons with Star Wars, is silly for a grown adult. Your TDK vs. StarWars article conceded nothing to TDK, was entirely one-sided, and belied a seething frustration with FANBOYS getting the better of you.

    “did Dent die?”
    please tell me you were actually present in the movie theater when you “watched” it.

    “Her funeral is enough to make Jar-Jar Binks weep.”
    Here is an example of a line from a writer who doesn’t have a feel for pop culture. Know your limitations. And what does that line even mean? Jar-Jar Binks DID weep. And your point is? Was there some great effort required to make Jar-Jar Binks cry? Was there anything to indicate that Jar-Jar was the sort who was reserved in his displays of emotion??

    “Christopher Nolan is now treated as the second coming of Alfred Hitchcock.”
    Could you please tell me a reputable film critic who has actually equated Nolan as the new Hitchcock? (You’re luck there isn’t a Plagiarism Police, because you’re obviously breathing heavy over Stephanie Zacharek’s Salon article where she makes the same mistake). You’re a free-thinking, somewhat intelligent human being: do you yourself see any authentic similarities between Hitchcock and Nolan as directors? Only a dilettante film critic would make such a comparison with any conviction.

    “Both films stretch their genre definitions; only one of them actually kicks any ass.”
    This is an opinion that doesn’t really hold up on close inspection. Watching you write ‘kicks any ass’, I’m thinking, you really need to stick to your day job and leave the mainstream, Hollywood, popcorn flicks for the masses to everyone else. Anyone else. You’re like the foreigner or immigrant who repeats the dirty joke of the natives, but doesn’t know his new culture well enough to really sell it.

  10. Thanks for your lengthy post about how I should stop discussing the movie, funny thing.

    As for my Sith piece, are those four quibbles you found the only arguments you have? There’s ample discussion about Dent’s fate all over the Internet, along with rumors that Two-Face will return for the next installment. Jar-Jar’s weeping was the punchline for an argument — the point is the preceding sentence, which I trust you read. “christopher nolan hitchock” returns half a million results in Google, and the bit about the ass-kicking is, I suppose, my thesis statement.

    If you’d like to argue about the movie some more, I’m game, but I’m getting tired of the personal insults and won’t allow another comment that’s riddled with ad hominems. Thanks.

  11. Robin

     /  July 24, 2008

    Jurgen,
    Finally! a review that goes against the overwhelming chrous of sycophantic praise for this very, very bad movie. Jurgen has revealed that the emperor in this case is buck naked. I especially delighted in the phrase, “puffed-up kitsch mistaking itself for profound psycho noir”. Bam, you hit the nail right on the head.
    It is absolutely scary how many people actually like being subjected to 2 hours and 20 minutes of pretentious, formulaic, pompous, smug crap. I hope Maggie Gyllenhaal got paid big, big bucks for that pathetic role and wooden lines she was given to deliver. She’ll need it to forget this low point in her career.
    The joker character and his emobodiment by Heath Ledger’s performance lend some dimension and interest; but, even so, I would still not recommend to anyone that I liked, to wade through almost 2 and half hours of tortuous drek that is this film just to see his quite entertaining act.

  12. jpstock

     /  July 24, 2008

    Worst review ever

  13. lessofthat

     /  July 24, 2008

    “Tim Burton knew how to have fun with Batman rather than turning it into plodding, puffed-up kitsch mistaking itself for profound psycho noir that the source material won’t support.”

    oh, *zing*. Just because the fanboys take it seriously, doesn’t mean it’s serious.

  14. Jon5nine

     /  July 24, 2008

    Mostly I agree with this review which doesn’t deserve the opprobrium it’s getting. The moral dilemmas are dull or forced (why should batman’s rep need to be sacrificed to maintain the illusion of a hero who’s irrelevant by the film’s end, because the selfless and heroic actions of hundreds of ordinary citizens utterly trump his own?

    And it WAS too long. And despite the good acting by most of the cast (and the great turn by Ledger) Christian Bale is dull as ditchwater. He can be great, as in American Psycho) but is just ordinary and unsympathetic here. An ok movie. The next needs a different director

  15. First of all, sorry for the grammar. I’m an spanish blogger and critic and here is happening the same. The fanboys attack every people that sees TDK as a very very weak movie with a lot of noise. I’m proud of reading these smart critic, and I thought that Armond White’s review was the first I’ve read that explains something of that the movie means and talk about movies, about the shots, and all this stuff.

    Thanks Jurgen for this great review, wich has considerations to what pop culture means, and if the movie is really somethin’. It has no power in his language. And I talk of language thinking ’bout Welles, Scorsese, DePalma. I don’t like Mann because I’m european, that means that I’ve seen the Melville’s cinema first. And this is just for american people.

    Well, this reviewers (Mr. White, you, Keith) consider the moral issues of the movies. I’m sure that Rosenbaum would hate it.

  16. Sean C

     /  July 28, 2008

    I saw TDK on Sunday with much anticipation and was as disappointed as I’ve ever been in a film that had been so widely and keenly praised. I completely agree with your brief review; and you’re far from alone – David Denby canned it in The New Yorker and he was right on the money, too. It truly is a tedious, wearying experience.

  17. StanleyK

     /  July 28, 2008

    you wrote:
    “heaps of vicious violence, Gotham City politics that play a little bit like The Wire, only stupid”

    Question: how were you able to write that line if you only recently saw all five seasons of The Wire…?? How would you know that TDK was more or less stupid than The Wire?

  18. b little

     /  July 31, 2008

    I don’t see the spoilers in the review. Other complaints of this short review fall apart as well. This movie in no way deserves the comparisons to Chinatown, The Godfather, or any other crime movie. It is not a crime movie. It is another adaptation of comic book stories. The problem is the comic books were better. They were at least consistent and coherent. This movie was good. Not great. Good. It could be classified as a flawed masterpiece if it weren’t for all of the failures to deliver. It is more of a failed masterpiece. It attempted to tell a good story but couldn’t always pull it off. Much of the movie was cluttered with too many asides and disappointing payoffs. I wonder if this movie would be as widely accepted if the actor who provided the best performance was still alive. It seems that his tragedy has skewed the perspective on a decent—though definitely not instant-classic—film.

  19. even i was terrified to say it.. that i was let down.. hugely let down… and yes, the emperor is naked indeed…i hated it.. hated it.. hated it.. and i must say im finally relieved to learn im not alone in this… as far as i was concerned, i could have spent the entire time watching the joker..

  20. jay

     /  August 9, 2008

    Jürgen, thanks for having the balls to say what a piece of shit movie this is. The emperor is definitely wearing his birthday suit. Truth hurts I guess. But if we listen to TDK, maybe we don’t need the truth! Down with your negative comments then! Stop this website! Call in the electronic sonar!

  21. tink'snemesis

     /  August 12, 2008

    Hoo Boy – here’s another unhappy camper – and I say camper because I felt like a weekend was going by in that IMAX instead of – what did you all say? Only 2 hours 20 minutes?! I looked forward to the occasional Actual IMAX scenes which were so amazing to look at – then – bam -back to partial Imax size and the damn story with the repetitive themes…dynamics….z-z-z-z-z
    Oh – not too many are commenting on this – is Batman channeling Bea Arthur or Kathleen Turner when he speaks?
    Now – was that supposed to be humorous? Because the movie needed a tiny touch of levity since it is a wall-to-wall downer from start to finish…

  22. Vinc M

     /  August 15, 2008

    Just suffered through the excrutiating Dark Knight and so relieved to hear others had a similar response. Heath was the beginning and end of anything vaguely interesting about this tedious piece of cinematic torture. Seeing all the raves and heaps of masterpiece praise made me wonder about my own sanity, but only for a moment. Oddly, not a single person I know liked this movie. How is it that there is such a schism between critics and real people on this one? …unless all the people I know that saw this thing may be too in the dark to get it.

  23. Phil Early

     /  December 20, 2008

    “Nolan’s attempt at lifiting the story… into the realm of Goodfellas, The French Connection, and The Godfather, is bound to fail.” Your subjective opinion; certainly it didn’t fail commercially, and critically the movie was provocative, and timely. I find the movie even better on repeated viewings, and perhaps this indicates this will be a classic that far outlasts some minority of critical intellectual quibbles. I judge the movie not close to kitsch, and I don’t think Nolan was trying for the Godfather, or Goodfellas, they were telling his story. That it has been mis-compared to those movies tells you how highly people hold Nolan’s accomplishment. There’s no comparison, but TDK stands on it’s own as a brilliant piece of film making.
    On a personal note the Joker was shooting, if it was me I’d have run his crazy ass over. In the movie it’s Batman’s non-compromising morals. But you can’t kill the joker. Out of respect for H. Ledger they’ll wait twenty years, then revive him on film again.

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