All Grown Up

‘The Dark Knight'

Before last summer the public seemed indifferent to fictional films about the “war on terror” and its putative extension, the Iraq invasion. Lions for Lambs, Rendition, Stop-Loss, the remake of The Manchurian Candidate, and several others all went down to defeat at the box office. But the hit of the summer, indeed what may turn out to be one of the biggest financial successes in Hollywood history, turned out to be a story about terrorism and the difficulty of combating it without turning into a mirror image of the terrorist. What summertime entertainment risked such gravity? The Dark Knight, another take on Batman and the Joker. Did people line up for sheer escapism or did the word spread quickly that Christopher Nolan’s movie wraps our very real nightmares in a shiny pop package?

Nowadays, “pop” doesn’t necessarily mean “lite.” The near-subliminal throbbing underneath the music that accompanies the opening credits promises dread, and the ensuing action keeps that promise. So does the very look of the film. The relatively realistic photography by Wally Pfister certainly gives Gotham City the requisite noir texture but doesn’t turn the metropolis into something amusingly cartoonish in the style of Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman. This new Gotham (shot in Chicago, though “Gotham” always stands for New...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.