Suffocating Narrative Bursts in The Dark Knight

Watching Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight again (on Blu ray no less) has made it clear why this is no masterpiece, or even one of my favorites from an otherwise drab 2008. My main problem lies with but not exclusively to the first half of the film where Nolan frantically attempts to build the foundation of a changing Gotham City with an endless array of short scenes that overlap onto each other. No individual scene is given time to develop or breath. Martin Scorsese creates a similar narrative pattern in The Departed, but bases his breakneck speed on character, while Nolan’s version is entirely based on moving the plot forward, with exception of The Joker’s anarchic monologues. During these moments, The Dark Knight lacks depth and life, instead setting in with a pattern that nearly suffocates the film under loads of exposition.

If it weren’t for Heath Ledger’s dynamic presence, The Dark Knight would have certainly crumbled under it’s own girth. Nolan finally jumps into gear with the Bat Pod scene nearly 75 minutes into the film’s 2 1/2 hour running time, however, by that time the film has meandered into the realm of self-importance more often than not. The Dark Knight becomes more focused as it progresses and an incredibly fulfilling experience by the end, the standout moment being the hospital scene with Ledger and Aaron Eckhart.  But the suffocating narrative bursts remain, tedious and problematic reminders of a film hellbent on impressing everyone and indicative of a filmmaker with too much plot to unload and not enough interest in the underlining character interactions being addressed.

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7 thoughts on “Suffocating Narrative Bursts in The Dark Knight

  1. It’s weird – there could not be a film we disagree on more than this, and yet Happy Feet is present in all of your ‘Best Of’ lists, as it is mine, and that goes for a few others.

  2. John Jay – it’s not that I hated The Dark Knight, it’s just that I had many problems with its structure, and have attempted to clarify these issues with multiple posts on the film. That should tell you how interested I am by the material. As for Happy Feet, it’s just a full blown masterpiece.

  3. And, from a purely technical standpoint, I’m not at all on the same page with Adams, as far as the complaints against visual coherency go. That does hold more weight where his previous film, “Batman Begins” is concerned, but he’s by far improved here.

    While not technically a fight sequence or a set-piece, the interrogation room scene is not only cogently cut, but patiently for the subject matter, it almost seems. And, the Hong Kong sequence – especially when it gets inside the building, is almost entirely one shot. The only place I can harbor any complaint of this type at is near the end, as these things often are, with the inclusion of the Sonar – – the action itself wasn’t at all puzzling, but with the inclusion of that whizzing blue screen, it could get a little confusing, at times. Still, nothing too bad.

    The chase sequence is the great evidence of Nolan’s improvement, though – compare it with the sister scene in “Begins,” and they’re two different animals.

    Also, the film does benefit from having a better writer. Let’s be honest.

  4. >John Jay – it’s not that I hated The Dark Knight, it’s just that I had many problems with its structure, and have attempted to clarify these issues with multiple posts on the film. That should tell you how interested I am by the material.

    Well, that’s always been obvious, I think.

    >As for Happy Feet, it’s just a full blown masterpiece.

    No argument there, friend; and, I’m sure we’re not the only ones in cautious anticipation for the sequel. But, news for it is slow.

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