I have made no secret of my great dislike for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. I’ve written extensively on it both on my own blog and here at Biff Bam Pop!. I still don’t like it. And therefore I can’t think of a better candidate for the next installment of If I Did It. Meet me after the jump for just a few ideas of how I’d do The Dark Knight differently.
The first thing I get from someone when they hear I hate The Dark Knight is “B-b-b-but what about Heath Ledger?” Well, I’ll tell you, there’s nothing wrong with Heath Ledger in TDK, he is perfect as the Joker. He deserved every bit of that Oscar he got. I could have done without the nurse drag, that was hard to watch, and the thing with the boats, but that was more of a writing problem than anything Ledger did.
Ledger, a method actor, lived that role, and became the Joker. He was subtly terrifying, he was manic, he was positively demonic. Not just his voice, his gestures, but the whole package radiated menace. Jack Nicholson can be menacing, yes, but his 1989 Joker was more of a mad parody of himself, than any version of the character we had seen previously. Ledger was the villain.
Heath Ledger’s incarnation of the Joker is more like the comics version than some might think. I like the way he tells different versions of his origin. Other than the Red Hood origin from 1951 we knew next to nothing about the real man behind the Joker’s face until Tim Burton tried to answer those questions in the 1989 movie. Even the additional details of Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke are apocryphal. I would keep my Joker mysterious, possibly inhuman, as in the comics. After all how many times has the Joker seemingly died only to return later?
What The Dark Knight does right is all tied up in the Joker. This is a character that poses as a clown, someone who should bring joy, yet brings terror. He is laughable until you see what he is capable of. Witness his introduction when the crime bosses are meeting. The Joker is not just a killer and a monster, he is a new breed of criminal. He is a costumed super-villain. This is a new world.
The New World
Post-Batman Begins, the world has changed. The terrorist leader of an organization of assassins and a masked maniac freed the lunatics from the asylum and tried to dose the entire city with a hallucinogenic that would instill fear and violence in the populace. And a costumed vigilante dressed like a bat saves everyone. No matter how rooted Christopher Nolan’s Batman films are in reality, if that doesn’t change your worldview, I don’t know what will.
The parts of TDK where there are Batman imitators in the streets are dead on. There should have been more of it in this changed world. I might go so far as to say that Catwoman should have appeared here first in this atmosphere. Maybe a Riddler, Penguin, Black Mask, or Deadshot too might have shown up to demonstrate how the game had changed. A Robin or Batgirl, while not necessarily the comics versions, might have even been welcome.
Madness and unpredictability are only two of the factors that make Two-Face such a dangerous opponent for the Batman. Another is that as District Attorney Harvey Dent, he is one of Bruce Wayne’s best friends. Dent’s unwilling transformation into a mad super-villain represents a major weakness to Batman – it’s failure. Bruce failed Harvey, just as Batman continues to fail Two-Face.
The three-act structure of Nolan’s Batman trilogy dictates that the hero must fall in this installment, what better way to fail, than to fail a friend or comrade. I did however dislike that the Joker creates Two-Face as a distraction. There’s nothing wrong with the comics origin of the villain, so why not use it?
Blow Up the Boats
The boat choice garbage with the Joker late in the film should be jettisoned. It’s stupid and brings down the story. Joker promises to kill Batman, so let him try. He doesn’t need plans or elaborate schemes. As written here, the Joker is a contract killer, a metaphorical agent of chaos, and Batman’s opposite number – let him be that. Get right to the confrontation between the two.
Make the Joker a real threat, let him do his homework and figure out who Batman is. It was assumed for decades in the comics that Joker knew Batman was Bruce Wayne, but he didn’t care. As long as he got to ‘play’ with him. Joker doesn’t care, but it would bug the hell out of Batman. Use that, and don’t make it public as the film does, make this a private threat. Make our hero enter Superman mode, constantly worrying over the safety of his friends.
Like the boats, the grumbling mumbling growling voice has to go. Laryngitis Batman went a long way toward ruining this movie for me. Christian Bale couldn’t just change the tone of his voice like Adam West used to do? What is so hard? This nonsense was so bad that in The Dark Knight Rises they had to make the villain even more difficult to understand so we might root for Laryngitis Batman.
In the Silver Age of comics, Green Arrow stole everything from Batman, he was Batman with a bow. Green Arrow was a millionaire with his ward as a sidekick, he had an Arrowcar, an Arrowcave, a Utility Belt in his quiver full of dozens of gimmick arrows, and he even had a villain who dressed as a clown. It’s time for Batman to steal something from Green Arrow. In both live-action versions of the character, in “Smallville” and in “Arrow,” he has electronics that alter his voice, but it’s still understandable. Batman needs that.
Rise and Fall
As I mentioned, The Dark Knight‘s place in the trilogy is to show Batman’s rise and fall. In his rise, let him take out a few villains in quick sequences like Riddler or Penguin. Let’s see more interaction with James Gordon. You’ve got Gary Oldman, one of the best actors on the planet, use him! And I loved the Hong Kong scenes, use them to their full potential – hey, don’t mess with Batman, he will track you down no matter where you run to.
The fall is hokey. Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox quits Wayne’s employ over the use of a device, which now kinda makes Facebook’s new Instant Messenger app seem tame. There may be good reason behind his decision, but we don’t see it. It looks more pouty than anything else. And the whole bit where Batman takes the blame at the end, and Gordon goes along with it is just so out of character for both. I would have the fall be private as suggested above.
Changes in the Sequel
My changes might affect The Dark Knight Rises, which like Batman Begins, and so unlike TDK, I liked. This would place Bane and Two-Face in the position of dual threats in the sequel, with perhaps Catwoman as more or less an ally. I really don’t see anything wrong with that.
And that’s how I’d do it if I had the chance to remake The Dark Knight my way. I know I’m in the minority as most folks loved it, but I’d still like to know what you think of my TDK. Hope you enjoyed it, and if not it made you think…