I first saw this movie in 2003 or 2004, shortly after Christian Bale was announced as the new Batman. I wasn’t familiar with him (I had seen American Psycho, but at the time he was a nobody to me), and this movie caught my eye in the video store. It’s an action flick, and I wanted to get a read on Bale to see if I could believe him as Batman. After watching it, I not only thought he’d play the part well, from then on I couldn’t imagine anyone else as the Caped Crusader. This review is based on my second viewing. The Dark Knight has been out for five or six weeks now, and it’s still bringing money in. I think it’s around the billion dollar mark worldwide. I wanted to watch it again to see if my opinion changed any.
Quickly: after WW III, it is realized that the cause of man’s inhumanity to man, which inevitably leads to war, is emotion, feeling. So anything beautiful, anything that would cause anyone to feel any type of emotion, whether it be joy or sadness or rage or jealousy, is banned, confiscated, and destroyed. This includes music, literature, art...even color judging from the shades of gray that permeate the movie. To ensure that the world population stays senseless, all are required to take regular doses of a chemical that inhibits the mind. Those who refuse to submit and secretly hoard these banned items are considered sense traitors and are either killed or...rehabilitated.
The first thing I noticed were the actors I wasn’t familiar with at the time, but know pretty well now. Dominic Purcell and William Fitchner, both now on the Fox hit TV show Prison Break, are here. We’ve also got Sean Bean, who I wouldn’t have been able to recognize had it not been for a little movie called The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and there’s also Emily Watson.
For something so dark thematically and visually, this was truly a beautiful movie to watch. There’s a term for a certain kind of comic book (and I think the name OF a comic book) called "gun fu." It’s the term I immediately thought of when I first saw the anonymous actor (which I found out was actually the director) doing what looked to be tai chi with an automatic pistol in each hand. Watching the Grammatons (sense enforcers) eliminate the sense offenders is like watching an evil, sadistic ballet. The grace and fluidity with which these soldiers kill is stunning, and it blows your mind a little when you realize that you just found the killing of another human being a thing of beauty, if just for a second or two. I’d like to watch a behind-the-scenes bit about the fight scenes, showing the actual speed that rather than the obviously sped-up speed we saw in the movie.
I thought the death of Sean Bean’s character was poetic. As Grammaton John Preston (Bale’s character) brings his weapon to bear on Bean’s face (after realizing that Bean, a fellow Grammaton, was a sense offender), Bean slowly raises his book (a book of verse by Yeats, I believe) to block out the weapon, ensuring that the last thing he’ll see is something so beautiful, which is now outlawed in the interest of world safety.
It’s frightening to watch Preston’s son. When you watch a dystopian future such as this, you expect to see the adults acting like this, cold and emotionless when a spouse is taken away and killed for sense offense, knowing it was the right thing to do. Burning books, records, and even the Mona Lisa doesn’t come as a shock. But when you see a seven-year-old boy interrogating his father after his morning’s dose is shattered, or turning in his friend for sense offense because he saw him cry...it’s horrific.
As far as movies dealing with dystopian futures go, the premise was pretty generic. The execution, however, was masterfully carried out. Any fan of Bale, especially as the Batman, should love him in this. Taye Diggs, who I thought was brilliant in Daybreak, the short-lived series on ABC, was also very good. Sean Bean wasn’t in the movie all that long, but his character was very important, as was Emily Watson’s, who did manage to get more screen time than Bean.
This is a movie I plan on watching again, and I would hope you would give it a try.