A long overdue Doom and Doomer:
The Dark Knight

We never got around to doing a proper Doom and Doomer review for The Dark Knight. At the time, I think we were caught somewhere between being overwhelmed by what to say and overwhelmed by the sheer number of reviews floating around mainstream culture this summer. So now, as the film finally starts leaving megaplexes around the country, we here at Doomkopf thought we’d share some of our thoughts and snippets of discussion from around the time the movie came out.

Some of these quotes were in direct response to each other; others are taken somewhat out of context, but the context should be apparent from the question. A few guest commenters, P-DOOMY and DOOM – WHERE’S MY CAR?, joined us for the conversations.

July 18
DOOM DeLUISE: I didn’t feel it much during the movie, but after I left and realized we had about two hours worth of travel time ahead of us to get home, it dawned on me. That movie was really friggin’ long.

Still, though, that was really enjoyable. A great experience.

JIM DOOM: I’ve thought of a lot of things that didn’t make a lot of sense or were kind of flimsy in their logic in the 6 hours since coming home, but that was only after thinking about what I had just seen. While I was watching it, I was totally wrapped up in it. There were a few times I became aware of how long the movie was getting, but on the whole it nearly fulfilled my unrealistic expectations.

Something I absolutely loved about this movie was that the first hour or so felt like I was watching a horror movie. It was suspenseful and you really had no idea what was happening next, but it was because of how completely perfectly the Joker was introduced. There was this sense of impending doom, and I didn’t think it could have been any more perfect than it was.

It started dragging for me as it shifted gears into more of an action film. When it tried to then re-shift back into the horror element, with this chaotic force running wild, I don’t think it quite worked as well because the standard superhero action stuff made it a little less real for a while, for lack of a better choice of words.

Heath Ledger’s Joker was so amazing. He was so funny and so evil that I actually felt bad for laughing when he was bad. I mean how awesome is that? He’s a truly horrible character, but he can still make you laugh. So very perfect.

I’m guessing it was deliberate, but one really interesting theme in the Batman comics is how Batman sort of crosses the line with his paranoia, doing stuff that he wouldn’t tolerate from other people, but it’s okay because it’s him. There were hints at that in this movie, which I thought were subtle but good.

Normally, I really hate when comic book movies double up on villains, especially when the Joker and Two-Face were two of the last remaining “believable” villains that would work well in this universe, but I thought the Harvey story (which I think could carry its own movie) was done really well, and the storylines merged very effectively. It didn’t feel like the 90s Batman movies, where it was like “Hey, we need to sell more toys. Can you put this guy in here too?”

I want to make it very clear that most of this stuff is just what popped into my head as I was thinking about it later on. I still think this was a great movie.

I actually think the cheesy humor bits were drastically reduced in this movie. The only time I cringed at a line was when Batman says “I know how you got these scars!” And that gets to one major issue, that’s not really a complaint but just an observation, and that is how Batman was probably the least interesting character in this whole movie. He was just kind of a dork, especially with his weird light-bulb head. It’s important to note though that I didn’t really think about how uninteresting he was until after the movie, when I was thinking about what stuff was really cool. I was like “Wow … none of that was Batman.”

I thought most of the humor was really good. The vast majority of it was the Joker. There was only one of those “callback” lines that I noticed so often in the first movie, at least that I caught, and it wasn’t an awkwardly forced “Look how clever I am for remembering what you said an hour ago!” way, so it really didn’t bother me at all.

The only thing I can really think of that bothered me while watching the movie was when the Joker crashed the Harvey Dent fundraiser and Batman dove out the window, followed by a leisurely chat on the roof of a car. Apparently, once Batman and Rachel fell out the window, the Joker didn’t really care about finding Harvey anymore, so he just left. I was just like “Uh, guys? The Joker is up there with Harvey and with about a hundred innocent guests. He’s probably going to start killing some people.” Apparently he didn’t, though, which was nice of him. But as a viewer, I was wrapped up in the scene due to the threat posed by The Joker, and then they just kind of want you to forget that threat existed.

Also, I wasn’t crazy about the way everything wrapped up with Harvey and blaming Batman for the deaths. That seems so out of character for the spirit of the source material that I would hope they did that with a clear next film plot in mind, but this movie didn’t tease the next one the way that Batman Begins did.

I was just thinking again about how awesome those first three Joker scenes were — the bank, the mob meeting (with the amazing pencil trick) and that small gang meeting where he tells the guys there’s only one spot available on his crew. I’m normally annoyed by people who clap at a movie screen, but I couldn’t help but relate to that spontaneous display of awe. You could just feel it in the theater.

The sonar didn’t bug me at all. It did bug me when he was having trouble fighting and he wouldn’t just turn it off.

P-DOOMY: On another note, while The Joker is dead (it’s tough for me to still accept I won’t be able to see that wonderful incarnation of Joker again) I think the film still did a good job of leaving things open for Batman to work in the future. I didn’t really feel enough closure to say I wouldn’t want another edition in another three years.

Then again, how can you top this? What’s the next villain you could bring in?

JD: I wonder if they’ll do Hush. That’s another realistic villain that has a pretty self-contained arc that could be pretty easily told in movie form.

I think it’ll just kill the franchise if they bring in Catwoman, Penguin, the Riddler, Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, etc. That said, they very consciously laid the groundwork for more “unbelievable” villains via the Joker’s monologues.

PD: Riddler COULD be cool, but i think they’d have to take some pretty big creative liberties with him. I’ll amend Jim Doom’s list of franchise-ruining characters by adding Robin. This Batman works alone.

What did you mean by your last point, Jim?

JD: He said stuff like how Gotham needs a better class of criminal, that Batman inspires more theatrics (I’m paraphrasing there), but basically made the case that if we have a man dressed as a bat on the side of good, then we will have people getting just as absurd on the side of evil. So saying “Hey audience, it’s not the fimmakers’ fault if the villains are unrealistic — it’s Batman’s fault.”

I’ve long been an advocate of the one-villain superhero movie, but I think Hush is especially susceptible to needing a supporting cast, considering how the story basically involved every bat villain around. But I think the character of Bruce Wayne needs some rebuilding after this movie, and so something focusing on Bruce having troubles believing his past and starting to doubt everything he knows could maybe make up for the single-villain storyline.

It definitely wouldn’t allow for many Batman assault-vehicle sequences. I was thinking he could do a Bane-style Arkham breakout, but they already used that in the first movie. Hush would definitely be a stretch.

Well now that I say that, maybe that’s how they get the more absurd villains in there — Penguin and Riddler, let’s say — by having a more realistic puppet master behind the scenes. I dunno.

PD: I completely agree with some of your ideas about what the next film could take on. Now that the film has established Batman as “the Dark Knight” – a sort of necessary evil that is hunted and reviled except for those who actually understand him – there could definitely be some opportunites for Wayne and Batman to explore even darker parts of their existence and maybe flirt with the “incorruptability” factor Joker alluded to.

As for Hush, I think you’re right. I’m really into the idea of bringing Riddler in. I think you could really make him into something as mysterious and terrifying as Joker, though it would take a lot of work and i’m not sure how you’d do it.

JD: I think the danger with Riddler would be in having him immediately follow the Joker. There would need to be some major contrast so that the obvious Joke / Riddle thing doesn’t appear too similar to casual fans.

So if you just have this intellectual, too clever for his own good type villain, who maybe just robs banks or something extremely non-violent, that could keep Batman’s detective side going. He could even acknowledge the nuisance aspect of it. Have someone else play a more violent role, even have the villains think they’re teaming up against Batman, so that he’s kept super busy on all fronts, and meanwhile Bruce Wayne’s personal life is falling apart due to someone else’s machinations (that being Hush). It’s a way that you could exploit the weaknesses of potentially lame villains and use it to display the strengths of another villain.

This conversation is completely insignificant, obviously, since it’s not like any of us have any power, but it reminds me of back in the late 90s. Some friends and I were working on a script for a 5th Batman movie that we wanted to pitch to the studio. It was based on the idea of acknowledging the movies that had come so far, but returning the franchise to darker and more respectable roots.

It was kind of a combination of “A Death in the Family” and “The Killing Joke,” but basically very early on, Batgirl gets killed, Robin leaves to become Nightwing, and the Scarecrow ends up being the major villain. It served the purpose of getting the annoying character out of there completely, getting Robin out of Batman’s way, and then hopefully getting the series back on track. Unfortunately, it may come as a surprise, but we never did save the franchise.

DD: I really liked this movie. Heath Ledger was great, but I had a big problem with, arguably, the biggest action piece in the movie.

The big scheme to capture the Joker by saying that Harvey Dent was Batman? Maybe the dumbest scheme ever concocted. First off, not telling Batman about it was pretty dumb, since it took him a good few minutes (and a few dead cops later) to catch up to the whole thing. Secondly, Harvey said he was Batman in response to citizens yelling about, “No more dead cops!” and then, like, ten to fifteen die in that next chase scene alone. And faking Gordon’s death is one thing, but telling his family he died is pretty cold, and could really mess them all up for a long time.

Next, after they caught the Joker, and he gets locked up and left alone, uncuffed, with a buffoon, what was up with his escape plan? Does he implant exploding telephones in all of his henchmen, or was that just a backup plan in case he got caught?

I’m not denying that the scene was entertaining, gripping, intense, etc, but, logically, it doesn’t hold up.

DOOM WHERE’S MY CAR: I saw this last night at the I-Max and I can’t wait to watch it agail. This may have been a perfect movie. I like all the make up effects. There was not one wasted line in the whole movie. Every line that was thrown in there that I thought was just a funny moment ends up being called back and paying off big time.

I think one movie one villain is a thing of the past here. I expect Batman III to be bigger and better with a giant rouges gallery.

Heath Ledger was an amazing Joker. Now that he’s gone, it’ll be strange to see someone else in the row. But if I could suggest someone, I’ll say Al Franken because to me, the voice Ledger adopted for the Joker sounded a lot like Al Franken’s normal voice.

Wow. What a great movie. The way Joker scampered away after fiddling with the remote to get the final explosion to go off was priceless.

Who was the prisoner who threw the remote off the prisoner’s boat? He seemed distinguishable enough that we should all take note.

DD: He was the big dude at Jazz’s apartment in the episode of Fresh Prince where Carlton moved in with Jazz and became a thug and wanted to go to McArthur Park at night.

At least I think he was.

COLONEL DOOM: Holy crap that movie was just awesome. it was far, far superior to Batman Begins, of which I am a fan anyway.

Like Jim, I noticed a lot less of the misplaced comic relief. I loved that most of the humor came from the Joker. The nurse scene was hilarious, and the disappearing pencil was gruesomely funny.

I loved, loved LOVED how the played up the fascist/anarchist dichotomy of the Batman / Joker relationship. Batman wants to build walls of security and the Joker lives to blow them up. They nailed it especially when Joker torches the mountain of cash. And playing up the KILLING JOKE influence was cool, though obviously Dent was target instead of Gordon like in the comic (when Joker says “madness is like gravity; all it takes is a little push).

And also the transition of Dent into Two Face: first a man who feels in control of everything, who makes his own luck. Then his coin is scarred and he realizes there’s no point in trying to decide for yourself, that existence is random–and his origin really played that up because Batman thought he had a choice to save Rachel or Dent, but ultimately his choice didn’t mean shit anyway because of forces beyond his control.

My only regret is that they really made it seem like Two Face is done for this series. And as awesome as he was in the last third of this movie I still feel the character is underutilized.

I can’t wait to see this again.

Oh yes, and regarding the exploding boats scene, how much do you want to bet that the Joker had the detonators rigged to explode their own boats? I was expecting the convicts to be like “Screw this, we’re blowing up the citizens,” pulling the trigger, and having their own boat blow up instead.

DOOMINATOR: I tried not to read anything before going in. I accidentally caught the Rachel spoiler. GAH! But beyond that, it did an amazing job of making it a movie about the Joker. Because of how he acts, we’re lead into a constant state of paranoia about what’s going to happen next. We don’t know how he’s going to enact his next part of the plan, or if he’s the person that’s about to put us through the next twist. I thought for sure that the police envoy guy was the Joker … turned out it was Gordon. But it’s that kind of guessing game which made it a tense movie.

I could have done entirely without the Two Face part. It would have been more fun to give him his own movie, let it lead into the next one the way the Joker card got us excited in the last one. Maybe see the foundations laid, see the face, wait for a whole movie about the Batman / Wayne / Dent dichotomy. I was finally glad to see the villain not die when Scarecrow showed up at the beginning … and when the Joker just hangs suspended. But then they kill Dent. Maybe this is a red herring, though … after all, Gordon wanted Dent to remain a hero. Who’s to say he’s just not committed to a psychiatric ward somewhere? This is a pretty remote theory, but one to ponder nonetheless.

So what’s the next step?

CD: I don’t think they are straight and simple allegories–this isn’t a Guillermo del Toro movie about the Spanish civil war, after all. But I mean, speaking in very, very broad terms, Batman IS a fascist. He induces order through fear and beating the shit out of people. He creates a surveillance network of the entire city. Think about how Harvey justified Batman’s vigilantism in the dinner scene near the beginning: likening it to Rome suspending democracy when barbarians where at the gates. A person who feels conflicted about enforcing his worldview by beating people up can still be a fascist.

The Joker is interested mostly in creating anarchy. He specifically targets figures of authority, whether they’re criminal or civil or even financial (when he burns the pile of money with the Chinese launderer on top of it. By the way, a Chinese guy doing LAUNDRY! get it?). These themes are nothing new in the history of Batman, but i was just glad to see them portrayed so effectively on screen.

And also I’m hoping with all my heart that Two Face is alive in solitary in Arkham, because yes, they never show a body. I don’t think that’s too absurd.

Also, I don’t think Batman looked to Dent as an “absolute authority,” because to Batman there is only one absolute authority: Batman. I think in Dent he saw more of sock puppet: This is someone the city can rally behind, because they won’t always support Batman because of his methods and the consequences. This is why Batman and Gordon blame the Two Face murders on Batman instead of Harvey.

I was thinking today that the Black Mask would be a good batvillian to use in the Begins universe, and it’d be a nice contrast for the next movie: he’s deformed, but not really supernatural. And he’s not really crazy, just kind of a archcriminal mob boss. And at least during Judd Winick’s run on BATMAN right before Infinite Crisis started he was pretty funny and would get hilariously pissed off at Batman.

Also, i love how in Dark Knight people refer to him as The Batman. Because having an article is AWESOME

I think penguin would work in the same kinda context that he was in Azzarello/Risso’s short run on BATMAN: Oswald Cobblepot is a short, rotund Englishman who likes to wear tuxedos and probably sells arms or launders money for Gotham’s crooks. He actually hates being called the Penguin but everyone calls him that anyway.

FIN FANG DOOM: I think Catwoman is probably the best choice for the next villain. She could be a good love interest and a good villain. Or maybe Talia al Ghul for the same reason. Of course, you can’t really have Batman beating up on ladies.

Ooh! I just came up with an idea: Introduce Jean Paul Valley as a new close friend/confidante of Bruce Wayne. Talia al Ghul shows up looking for revenge for her father, and she brings along Bane to do her dirty work. Bane breaks the Bat, and Bruce entrusts his secret (and his cape and cowl) to Valley. Valley ends up going crazy and killing Bane, then he starts to target Talia. Bruce is forced to come back and take out the man he chose to replace himself as Batman to bring the reign of terror to an end.

All right, so that’s not exactly all MY idea, but Batman: Knightfall would make both a good premise and a good title.

DWMC: I’m surprised how many people believe Two Face to be dead.

Yes, there was a funeral, but that was a funeral for the public so they could preserve Dent’s memory without the tarnish of Two Face. It took place under narration about how sometimes it’s necessary to lie because truth is not enough.

Two Face will be in the next movie.

JD: Here’s why I think Dent is dead:

Batman was willing to take the fall because the people needed to believe that Harvey couldn’t be corrupted. It was so crucial to lie to the public to let them believe in this complete falsehood that Batman would be willing to ruin his reputation to do what he felt needed to be done.

Why would you do that if Harvey is still alive? Do they think they’re going to control him? Just lock him away forever? If they’re worried that the public will lose trust in the system if they find out Harvey snapped, what is the public going to say when they find out Harvey’s being hidden away in Arkham or something? And that their new police commissioner was hiding the secret of Harvey’s downfall?

“Oh, well, yeah, he did go nuts, but we didn’t want to tell you because we thought keeping that massive secret from you would help protect your belief in the system!”

I would be far more inclined to believe Dent was alive if not for the machinations that followed, which seemed so bent on creating some fabricated reality for the purpose of feeding the public this lie that Harvey Dent never cracked. All of that can come crumbling down with virtually no effort if the man is still alive.

So if he is, why even do that?

CD: But this theme is central to the movie. They lie when they fake Gordon’s death. They lie when Dent claims he’s Batman. They lie about Dent’s status when the hospital blows up. They lie that the department cooperates with Batman. They lie that Batman committed the Two Face murders. Why is this potential lie so absurd in that context?

JD: 1. None of those lies were to protect the public’s faith in the system. They were tactical lies for the sake of bringing down the Joker. They weren’t propaganda.

2. Because I think this lie is much bigger, and much easier to dispel, than those. (And the lie that Batman committed the Two-Face murders is part of this Dent situation) I mean, do you not see the difference between these situations:

“You guys said Jim Gordon was dead!”
“You’re right, we lied and misled everyone, but his injury gave us an opportunity to gain a strategic advantage over the Joker.”


“You guys said that Harvey Dent was a good honorable man, and you completely covered up his meltdown and subsequent violent turn!”
“You’re right, we lied and misled everyone, but we were afraid that if we didn’t pull the wool over every Gotham Citizen’s eyes and feed you a cover story, you might lose your trust in the system!” This lie fulfills that which they feared the truth would do. It’s a lose-lose situation.

I ask this next question having very much enjoyed the movie and recommending it to everyone who’s brought it up since,

but did anyone else think Batman just kind of looked really stupid? I might’ve already mentioned it, I don’t know, but his head was shaped like a lightbulb with ears.

I saw parts of the 1989 Batman on TV this weekend, and it reminded me that 1) Batman can actually look cool, and 2) Batman doesn’t have to talk with that godawful cartoony growly voice. He’s like David Caruso when he puts on the costume.

DOOMINATOR: YES. His second costume wasn’t as bad, but the first one was pretty lame. This gripe I had with the first movie. I guess “realistic” Batman means looking like a Halloween costume. I think Bruce Wayne is Bale’s real strong suit in this movie. At least Two-Face looked better than the awful Tommy Lee Jones shit. But they definitely need to think of a different mask for Batman next time around.

DD: I really don’t think they should make another one, but when you got a movie that grosses $155.34 million opening weekend, it’s an inevitability.

I just don’t see where they can go from here, villain-wise. They should just pull a Phantasm and make something new up. That’d be sweet.

JD: Re: Joker’s origin, I actually really liked how they covered for the lack of origin by having the Joker tell conflicting origin stories. I thought that added a fascinating and unnerving level to the character. almost made you wonder if he even remembered what really happened.

July 22
DD: Saw it again yesterday. Great movie.

Caught something interesting. Just a theory. The guy who wants to out Bruce Wayne as Batman or else blackmail him? What’s his name? Mr. Reese. Mysteries? Riddler, anybody?

JD: Oh wow, good catch.

July 29
DD: Saw it for the third time yesterday.

Taken alongside Iron Man, this represents the high water mark for human accomplishment. We’re not capable of creating something better than these movies.

I don’t care if we create a cure for AIDs. This movie trumps that.

I was talking with a friend on the phone yesterday afternoon, and we both agreed that the only way this movie could’ve been better would be if the normal citizens had blown up the boat full of convicts and Two-Face had killed Gordon’s kid to end the movie.

Complete sucker-punch with no salvation save Batman and his incorruptibility.

JD: After seeing this again, I realize my problem about the Joker leaving the Harvey Dent party once Batman left was somewhat addressed — Joker tells Batman that he thought Batman was Harvey Dent because of the way he dove out the window after Rachel. So if the Joker thought that was Harvey and his gang was all beat up, he probably figured he’d lost his leverage and his target so he left.

The only lingering problem is that Batman wouldn’t know that, but at least it makes a little more sense in the context of the movie.

CD: Best Batman line in this movie: when Maroni says “A fall from this height won’t kill me” and Bats says: “I’m counting on it.”

Best Batman line from movie 1: when he’s interrogating Flass and Flass says “I don’t know nothin’ I swear to God” and batman says “SWEAR TO ME!”

God, I love you, Batman. Or rather, Batman, I love you, Batman.