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Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Two-Headed Coin is Still One Coin

I've been reading a lot of reviews of Dark Knight and there's one criticism that pops up that I really must argue with.

It's not the Rachel thing or the Gordon family thing. (How's that for vague. :-P). I don't actually agree with those arguments for a lot of reasons which are spoilerific in nature, but I can see where they are coming from.

The criticism that I very very strongly disagree with, to the point of frothing irritation, is the one that insists that Dark Knight should have been two movies.

Be Warned for Massive Spoilers.

Serious, here be spoilers

The argument basically is that the story should have been separated into two movies, one featuring Joker as a bad guy and then one featuring Two-Face.

While I respect many of the people making this critique, I have to say that it a remarkably stupid argument.

The Joker's story and Two-Face's story are symbiotic. One can't exist without the other, and trying to separate them into two movies would change one very good, if long, movie into two complete and utter crap movies.

Without Harvey Dent's story, the Joker's story lacks horror. It has terror, sure. Most of his plots would still go as they did in the movie, wreaking havoc and destruction in their wake. But the horror element, that visceral, personal connection to fear and disgust would be lost.

Harvey Dent was the human face of the Joker's rampage. We saw him at his height and we saw him torn down and broken. His fate is the fate of Gotham. He takes the abstract fall and makes it personal.

Rachel Dawes can't fill this same role. Her death was quick and with relative dignity. She was obviously afraid, but she was holding it together. And when Bruce found Harvey, she didn't give into despair but kept calling out for his benefit. She died a hero. In the end, the Joker couldn't touch her.

But Harvey? The Joker took Gotham's Golden Boy and broke him body, mind and soul. The man who was the best of Gotham died holding a gun on a child, so mad that he needed a flip of a coin to determine death or mercy. And through his death, Batman became a reviled scapegoat, Jim Gordon, the most honest man in Gotham, became a liar, and Gotham itself is only being held together by a web of lies. The man who was supposed to be Gotham's savior became its doom.

The fate of Harvey Dent/Two-Face is culmination of the Joker's plan. It's his ultimate joke.

Moreover, as much as the Joker's story can't exist without Harvey's, a Two-Face movie is simply unfeasable.

The reviewers who suggest otherwise, I think, are missing one very important point.

Harvey Dent/Two-Face was not the villain of this movie. He was not even A villain of this movie. He was the victim. Yes, he did evil things, but he was also in unspeakable physical pain (considering Gordon established that he didn't take the medication and there certainly wasn't enough time for any real healing to begin), who had been personally terrorized after losing the person he loved, who from the way he described her as "his family" and the lack of any other indication of a relative, may well have been the ONLY person he really had. He wasn't an evil mastermind coldly scheming about bringing the city to its knees, he was just a broken man lashing out at everything he percieved as causing his pain.

It's not admirable and its not an excuse, but it's not the same as villainy either.

A movie starring Two-Face as the villain could not work because Harvey Dent's story is OVER. It was a tragedy. He was tormented, fell, used by the Joker and died. Yes, they could probably resurrect him, on account of this being comics, but it would not make any sense with regards to his character development to make him a villain. There really isn't anything left to do with him that wouldn't feel contrived or tacked on. His story is done.

The movie's long, but ultimately it's still one story. Not two.


  • At July 26, 2008 10:01 AM, Blogger Anthony Strand said…

    I agree one hundred million percent. It's a movie about Gotham City descending into chaos after the arrival of The Joker. As you say, for it to feel like a complete descent, we need to see The Golden Boy fall. That can't be Batman - he's no Golden Boy - and it certainly can't be Gordon, who was (and remains) Gotham's true ray of light in the darkness.

    It had to be Harvey. And for him to truly fall, he had to become Two-Face. He couldn't just be "Harvey Dent, a guy who used to believe in something but is now kind of conflicted."

  • At July 26, 2008 11:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think the whole theme of the movie was on which side of the line between hero and villain does one fall.

    Dent was the hero who fell over the line and couldn't get back.

    Alan Coil

  • At July 26, 2008 3:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ah. Ok.

    You are right, I was wrong.


  • At July 26, 2008 11:25 PM, Blogger Centurion said…

    Two-Face isn't dead.

    Confirm the body is dead?
    Negative. No one confirmed on screen, and Bats survived the fall.

    Ceremony for fallen hero?
    Symbolic. It's part of the salvaging of the public's hope.

    Two-Face should be back in #3, but he'll not be the main villain. His story is over, and all that's left is for him to continue picking up the pieces - and now Batman is to blame.

  • At July 26, 2008 11:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Centurion -- He had to be dead, otherwise the whole ruse wouldn't work. They'd have had medics to see that he was alive, and cops.

    There was a body, in front of Batman and Gordon. Dead as a doornail. Story is over.

  • At July 27, 2008 12:40 AM, Blogger Centurion said…

    Ragnell, honestly I do hope his story is finished. It was too great of an arch to be ruined by being continued for a silly story.

    My little bit of worry comes from Eckhart saying he isn't dead, thus my previous message.

    Bring on the Bat-Mite for #3!

  • At July 27, 2008 10:58 AM, Blogger Unknown said…

    Okay. Point one. Kalinara I agree completely. Could Dent's story have been made in a seperate movie? Of course. But it worked so well here that why would you want to. And clearly Nolan and company know how to do multiple villians right. Harvey's story felt very organic and not forced unlike all the other two fer one villian fests of the prior Batman movies.

    On to number two. Personally I believe Harvey is alive. I think that it is being forgotten the kind of town that Gotham is where a great many people are corrupt and I don't see Gordon as being above using that when it suits his purpose. Plus I don't think we are going to get a happy ending. I think that when Nolan and Bale leave the franchise we are going to see pretty much what we have in the comics which is a man who has accepted that he will never win but will not give up fighting as long as he is alive. My hunch is that the "death" of Harvey Dent ruse will come back to bite them in the ass in the next movie. Just my personal opinion to be sure, but based in part on the fact that largely Nolan doesn't seem to think that every Bat movie should end with the a villians death (I'm using villian in the sense that Two-Face is considered a Bat-Villian even with his more sympathetic portrayal in the movie)

  • At July 28, 2008 4:25 AM, Blogger Joe said…

    I'm not convinced Dent is dead either. I think someone with the resources and ability of Bruce Wayne/Batman could easily tuck him away in a clinic somewhere under a false name. If Batman and Gordon claim that Dent died in the hospital explosion as part of the ruse that can account for the lack of a body.

  • At July 31, 2008 12:48 AM, Blogger Ununnilium said…

    IMHO, having Two-Face return wouldn't work -- it wasn't set up at all in The Dark Knight, and would feel like a cheap cop-out. Sure, they'd be able to explain it away, but look at all the undeaths in comics that have perfectly logical explanations, yet suck.

  • At July 31, 2008 9:19 PM, Blogger Diabolu Frank said…

    Since I made the "remarkably stupid argument" here, I'd like the chance to defend it.

    I liked "The Dark Knight," but feel it had a great many flaws. Length, most specifically the attempt to shoehorn in too many elements, was one of them. My interest left once Dawes and Dent were dealt with. The Joker claims an ultimate victory while remaining in jail, Dent is clearly unfit to continue as D.A. and Batman is left to pick up the pieces. A second film could then explore a slower descent into madness for Dent, while Batman continues to disregard the rule of law in his crusade, and is ultimately confronted with the corruption of his ideals physically manifest as Two-Face. Still one story, but now two better developed films.

    Instead, the endless production becomes such a jumbled mess. Conservative editorialists are now trying to claim it as validation of the Bush Administration. The movie mixes its metaphors and overstays its welcome. The escape and visitation weren't necessary in this installment. The boat/hospital sequence was an utter bore, badly directed and edited. Dent's turn to evil was rushed and unconvincing. A potentially great film becomes a trying movie. Rather than two "utter crap" flicks, we have one movie that aspires to much but ultimately disappoints. The last thirty minutes are what feel "contrived and tacked on," especially Gordon's painfully awful speech at the end. A sign of failure is when theme become text, and this movie ended with laughable reams of it.

  • At August 03, 2008 3:11 AM, Blogger Marshall Ryan Maresca said…

    I totally agree. The movie actually highlighted for me an underlying problem I have with the character of Two-Face, as he is in the comics. In short, I can see a horrific event and a physically scarring trauma sending someone off the deep end, someone who once believed in justice now changing his view of justice to something random but "fair". And that's the thing this Two-Face did... he was doing something he felt was intrinsically right in how he now viewed the world.

    What I can't see is that guy then gathering up a gang of thugs and pulling off a bunch of heists and other crimes revolving around the number two.

    So, yeah, having his story end here worked just fine.


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