Is The Dark Knight Really That Gritty?
Christopher Nolan‘s Batman films- including the still-unreleased Dark Knight Rises- have become synonymous with the word “gritty.” But a friendly debate recently made me wonder: were Batman Begins and The Dark Knight really that gritty? And does that really matter?
The problems seem to arise when considering “gritty” to mean “uncompromisingly realistic.” Sure enough, the producers of the films and their marketing campaigns all seemed to emphasize Nolan’s insistence on realism. Yet Chrstian Bale‘s Batman always finds a way to fight without killing people, and the violence seems miraculously blood-free.
As I thought about it, I saw some other concerns: the costumes, the dialogue, some of the causeless evil of the villains- especially in the weaker of the two, Batman Begins- they do seem to counter the idea of grittiness.
But then I reminded my self that this is a relative question to some degree. Compared to the realism of the Joel Schumacher‘s Batman films, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, Batman Begins is practically a documentary.
Aside from the over-the-top spectacle of the visuals, both Val Kilmer and George Clooney played Batman all smooth-Bruce-Wayne playboy, with little tortured orphan/society’s savior to back it up.
But even with dark psychology and bone-crunching fight sequences, do I really need The Dark Knight to be realistic? Realistic is Rainn Wilson bashing in the head of an obnoxious moviegoer with a wrench in the funny and disturbing superhero deconstruction Super. A little of this messy, questionable vigilanteism might heighten the conflicts for Bale’s Batman, but ultimately, it would probably just bog down the trilogy.
Some of the things I loved most about The Dark Knight were it’s artistic, heightened aspects. While some criticized the overt philosophical debating in TDK, I thought it grew organically from the troubles of the caped crusder and Gotham, and elevated the level of discourse one could expect from a superhero movie.
In addition, the cinematography and camera work of Nolan and Wally Pfister have been stunning, and promise to be even more so in The Dark Knight Rises. Nolan’s world is vividly realized and presented in epic proportions, but it also bears the signatures everywhere of a master manipulator; that’s how you get perfectly choreographed, sound-mixed, and scored action sequences. This blatant artificiality is practically the opposite of grittiness- but it provides the scale that have made the films such stunning experiences to watch.
Could a real person dive down a parking garage ramp and land on a van, crushing it? No. But Batman can. Instead of complaining about what the movies could be (or what their marketing campaigns say they should be), we should celebrate what they are. I know I will on July 20.
What do you think? Are the latest Batman films gritty? Does it matter?