The Dark Knight (2008)

Starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Monique Gabriela Curnen, Ron Dean, Chin Han, Nestor Carbonell, Eric Roberts, Ritchie Coster, Anthony Michael Hall

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Expectations: High. Haven’t watched it since the theater.


[Editor’s note: I may spoil this movie, so if you’re one of the few who hasn’t seen it and you care, just watch it.]

Let’s just get this out of the way: Batman Begins is the better movie. I’m not trying to stir up controversy or anything, I’m just being realistic. Batman Begins sets up the world of Batman, sets up the character of Batman, sets up your attachment to this version of Batman. The Dark Knight plays off of that and builds on it, but the framework is already there. Also, The Dark Knight isn’t so much a Batman movie as it is a Gotham City movie, so with the focus shifted it allows for something completely different — and awesome — to occur, but I think it’s easy to be wowed by the machinations of The Dark Knight and forget how great that first Batman movie was. I know that’s what happened to me when I saw this in the theater, but watching them both at home in the space of a few days has allowed me to appraise them in a much more realistic way.

So as The Dark Knight is a movie about Gotham and its arc, it has a tendency to become detached from the things that made Batman Begins great. That character connection to Bruce Wayne/Batman is almost non-existent here, but it is replaced by the Joker’s wild brand of anarchy and the noble “White Knight” pursuits of Harvey Dent to finally clean up Gotham City once and for all. This makes The Dark Knight a harder movie to get inside of and feel connected to, but it doesn’t inherently make it a bad movie like it might in the hands of a different director. This is because Gotham and Batman are so closely tied together that in a way Gotham’s story is Batman’s story; Batman is an incorruptible symbol that will do anything necessary to help the city he lives in.

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The Rum Diary (2011)

Starring Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Rispoli, Amber Heard, Richard Jenkins, Giovanni Ribisi, Amaury Nolasco, Marshall Bell, Bill Smitrovich, Julian Holloway, Karen Austin

Directed by Bruce Robinson

Expectations: Low. Heard bad things, but my love for Hunter S. Thompson is enough to get me to watch this.


I can now fully understand the negative backlash to The Rum Diary. When it released into theaters I decided against heading out to see it, despite a high interest. I did that because I’ve read Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary, and I enjoyed it, but when I finally saw the trailer for this adaptation it looked as if they had taken the rather different source material and gave it a heavy dose of Fear and Loathing’s manic energy. I called bullshit and said I’d catch it on DVD. Well here I am a few months later, DVD in hand, and damn if the movie isn’t pretty close to the book. What we have here is a case of poor marketing. The film was marketed as a non-stop rush of waggling devil tongues and slurred words, so obviously people who bought into that in the trailer were disappointed when they saw the subtly chaotic piece on the discovery of a journalist’s craft. And conversely, I am pleasantly surprised by the shift in tone and focus from the marketing. So in effect the marketing is specifically targeting non-fans by drawing them in with empty promises, but turning off fans who know the book in the same stroke. The film is quite reverent of Thompson and his ideals, so I can only imagine the shitstorm that went down between the marketing department and the filmmakers. Or perhaps I’d just like to imagine something similar to the events of The Rum Diary surrounding the production of The Rum Diary.

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