Frank Miller reinvented Batman as the Dark Knight — the millionaire hero conflicted over Robin’s death, his own motives for vigilantism, and suffering the caped crusader equivalent of a midlife crisis. The Dark Knight was a subversive — counterpoised against the all-American Superman, who was hired by the CIA to take out the Batman, because he was making local law enforcement look bad and had the audacity to challenge their authority. His real subversion, of course, was that he represented an alternative American Dream — what? Something to be strived for beyond being a millionaire? What weird Commie garbage was this?????
That was the comic I loved. But is that the movie that got made? Nope. The gorgeously imagined Robin plot, in which a young female punk Batman groupie decides Batman needs a Robin successor, and she’s it, never appears. We got the performance of a lifetime from Heath Ledger as Joker. We get an incredibly brave intact replication of the opening scene of Jack Nicolson’s Batman movie. We got great explosions, dizzying heights, fantastic gadgets.
But most of all, we got an admirable attempt to move the relevance of the script away from the Cold War reality in which the Dark Knight was written to a post 9/11 context. And there’s the rub. We got only an attempt. One with a pulled punch, and a pulled punch that reeked of someone like Superman hovering over the script and demanding it come out with a heart warming message about the American Way.
If you haven’t seen the movie, stop here. Spoiler ahead. Continue reading