16 June 2021 1503 Views

Crime of the Scene: THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)

by James Murphy

Granted: I am in a minority for regarding BATMAN BEGINS and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES to be infinitely more charming than the trilogy’s middle chapter.

That said? Some scenes, even in good/great movies, once dissected, can make you see weakness in the perceived perfection..



I could have picked many an extract from this movie, to be frank.

  • A man with mental health issues crying because he hears voices and a bomb goes off inside his stomach? Totally suitable for under 18s. Yep. Oh and done better as a dino-gag in JURASSIC PARK 3 (2001).

  • The miscast Gary Oldman (yes he’s great in most other stuff; ok he looks like the graphic novel panel Commissioner Gordon here ..but..) explaining to a bemused wife that he faked his own death without letting her in on his plan. That sub-plot makes sense in THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987). Not here.


  • And so on.

One scene stands out for me though, as a hint to what is ‘wrong’ in the film. Bloated, overlong, unfocused: telling you what it wants to deliver as motif, rather than simply executing action to let audiences form a view.

And takes an established myth from pop culture yet subverts  expectations (the comics use the same scene but conclude it differently: how clever! etc..).

Many of these niggling traits permeate content today in same and other genres. But it all started here imho.

I refer of course to the Courtroom scene. 


There is zero tension, atmosphere, camera dynamism. It plays very flat imho. Minimal use of score /sound design. Awkward extras and bit players are left looking confused and lost.

Now, granted: those measures could be viewed as innovative in themselves. But it just feels like an elongated television scene and even there they would inject some kinetic editing.

We are meant to be ‘wowed’ by DA Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) playing it cool, turning up late and dismantling a gun. If he is THAT cool and competent? He’d be unlikely to get bested later in the film or lose his rag when the mob come after him, surely?

Yes, ok, it’s the loss of a woman he adores that turns him mad (spoiler but hey, movie is 13-14 years old so..deal with it). But since they have zero chemistry onscreen, I never quite ‘buy’ that dynamic.

Aaron Eckhart is a great actor. But he fails the kind of movie star test required here. So I don’t really feel any tragedy in the character’s rise and fall. 

The movie is not ‘bad’. A few scenes cannot undermine the many assets that one can see, on multiple viewings.

The action is first rate: immersive, engaging, visceral.


There are bold philosophical challenges posed to the audience, without losing the sense of spectacle.

Bale is brilliant and needless to say, Ledger redefined Joker.

And THAT SCORE..goose-bumps, every time I hear it!

But in the land of pop culture myopia, the pseudo-erudite blockbuster is king.  THE DARK KNIGHT owes as much to a kind of Mission:Impossible 2 /Fast and Furious as it does Empire Strikes Back /Godfather 2?

Basically, it’s a Michael Mann tribute with Batman in it, for teenagers who think they’re edgy and cool. Perfectly competent, but never quite competently perfect. 

Just sayin’, like. This movie is a game of TWO halves! 😉 




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