RadioBDC Logo
| Listen Live
< Back to front page Text size +

The "best movie of all time"? Who wants to know?

Posted by Ty Burr  July 21, 2008 07:17 AM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article


Yesterday morning I went to a memorial service in Mt. Auburn cemetery for the sister of a family friend. Afterwards, as the group milled around drinking iced tea and eating finger food under a small tent next to the chapel, word got out among the teenagers and college kids that there was a movie critic present. One by one, they came up to me and asked the same question, with almost the same wording.

Is "The Dark Knight" the best movie of all time?

I cracked wise in most cases, saying, no, it's the best movie this month, or this summer. I talked about how much I liked the movie, with reservations, and Heath Ledger's performance, without reservations. But, of course, what was really being requested of me here was validation -- a professional media-guy's acknowledgement that "Knight" was in fact the pop tsunami so many moviegoers, primarily young ones, saw it as and needed it to be.

We knew the movie was going to be big, but not this big. Records fell like blades of grass: Biggest opening day and one-day take ever ($66.4 million). Biggest Friday midnight-show gross ever ($18.5 million; take that, George Lucas). Biggest three-day opening weekend ever ($155.3 million). Most theaters ever -- 4,366 -- which helped offset the 152-minute film's comparatively fewer showtimes.

But even that doesn't convey what happened this weekend. Audiences applauded the opening credits, cheered every one of Ledger's lines, shrieked with delight at the action setpieces. Standing ovations at the end, packed houses full of instant friends. As happens only once every decade or so, the entire moviegoing population of America became welded into a single breathless entity, and the result was a pop event on the order of the Beatles appearing on Ed Sullivan. Go ahead and scoff at the analogy, boomers, but one of the kids at the memorial service likened the opening of "Dark Knight" to the JFK assassination and the Challenger disaster as quintessential where-were-you defining moments of his generation.

That says much, about both this movie and the callowness of smart young men -- the correct analogy is to "Titanic" or the final installment of "The Lord of the Rings" -- but a pop event has always created its own sense of necessary immensity. "The Dark Knight" has to be the best movie of all time because it feels that way right now, and because it feels impossibly exhilarating to share that thrill with everyone you know and millions of people you don't.

Although hype played a critical part, this is less about hype than the gentle madness of crowds. The response to "Dark Knight" represents a perfect storm of studio publicity, public mourning, epic seriousness of filmmaking purpose, and the unspoken need for something in this crass tinsel culture to mean something. Without Ledger's performance -- and more properly, without the tragedy of his accidental death lending a glow of belated triumph to that performance -- I doubt the response to this movie would have been so impassioned.

But that's okay. In a strange way, the past weekend saw the kind of cultural mass wake usually reserved for deceased rock stars: Kurt Cobain, say, or John Lennon. Because the grief and amazement were tied to a commercial artifact -- a superhero movie -- they built and built over the months from Ledger's death in January to the release of both the film itself and all our withheld emotions. The tragedy lent gravitas to the movie but it worked the other way around, too: I don't think people would be mourning the actor nearly so deeply without the movie (and his performance) to focus their sense of loss. So did Warner Brothers manipulate us into theaters by trading on our feelings? Of course: that's their job.

In any event, the weekend allowed a mass audience to file past the casket of a very good actor's career and pay its respects, and it's clear that being at the front of the line counted for more than just bragging rights. (Although, in its lurking sense of rubberneckery, it counted for that too.) It doesn't matter right now whether "The Dark Knight" is the best movie or action movie or superhero movie of all time. (It isn't, but it's pretty darn good, and, anyway, time will sort that out.) What matters is that it matters and that over the past few days it mattered to almost everyone, young and old(er), male and female, jock and geek, Republican and Democrat.

One final thought: There's relief to be found in such pop-cult unification and also the elation of not having to think for yourself -- the joy of being picked up in a boundless groundswell of excited, committed response. That this has been brought about by a movie about people in tights blowing things up (all right, a thought-provoking movie about people in tights blowing things up), rather than any of the vexing issues of our actual world, isn't accidental. Not in the least. "The Dark Knight" is over in two and a half hours, and would that you could say the same about climate change or the presidential election. I know: bummer, Captain Bringdown. But it does make an interesting question to mull over when the glow finally fades. Why do we rally around a movie rather than the things that actually do matter? Because it helps us forget what we feel powerless to change? Or because it allows us to agree on something, no matter how ephemeral?

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

59 comments so far...
  1. Wow! I really got to go see it!

    Posted by Anymous July 21, 08 11:45 AM
  1. Heath Ledger died?

    Posted by Bob July 21, 08 12:09 PM
  1. "Why do we rally around a movie rather than the things that actually do matter?"

    Americans have been doing this with movies since the first movie houses were built. Not to get too political, but the last 8 years have been traumatic for some and now in the midst of bad economic times and two unpopular wars, people just want to go somewhere to escape and to hear that "grey skies are gonna clear up". THE DARK KNIGHT is a sophisticated enough movie to do just that. It doesn't pander its audience (HELLBOY) nor does it get caught up in tedious technical superhero nonsense (HULK, IRON MAN). Batman is a human, not a superman and therein lies the appeal.

    Posted by dave-o July 22, 08 12:30 PM
  1. I saw it on sunday, and am going again this week. It is easily in my top five of all time. I understand how critics may be hesitant to give a superhero movie such praise, but must disagree. Ledger is outstanding, the supporting cast as well. This is Batman as it should be. Dark, troublesome, yet hopeful. Great movie.

    Posted by Andrew July 22, 08 04:02 PM
  1. I haven't seen it, and I don't quite get the Heath Ledgermania. Nobody was flocking to see Heath Ledger movies when he was a living, above-average actor.

    Posted by John July 22, 08 04:13 PM
  1. I saw the movie. It was good. That's about it. I won't spoil it for anyone. I enjoyed myself don't get me wrong. People, including myself, did clap throughout the movie. It made me laugh and cringe and maybe once almost come to tears. But it is NOT the best movie of all time. Most likely the best movie of the summer. I will say it brings together a diverse audience. And yes I probably will go see the next one. There is always a next one. I love Christian Bale as Batman. But with all due respect to the late Heath Ledger - he gave an excellent performance. Not Oscar worthy not even Golden Globes worthy. He gave a great performance for what it was - a summer action blockbuster. The Joker wasn't even in it that much to blow everyone else out of the water. He wasn't Nicholson and I mean that in a good way. Nicholson's Joker was campy. Ledger's was almost real but you know he isn't. I really can't say too much. I don't want to be a spoil sport. I think everyone should see it if they want to but I wouldn't expect to be blown away.

    Posted by Anonymous July 22, 08 04:14 PM
  1. Does anyone else think that Heath Ledger's death is actually going to HURT his oscar chances? You never hear a mention of his amazing performance without also a mention of his death. Even in this article, Burr says "and more properly, without the tragedy of his accidental death lending a glow of belated triumph to that performance." Personally, I've never been more drawn to a character than I have to Ledger's Joker. I'm going to go see the movie again just for his performance. And isn't that what amazing acting is all about? His talent as an actor can't be understated (what do Ennis Del Mar, Patrick Verona, and the Joker have in common? Nothing!), and that has nothing to do with his death. And yet, doubters who don't believe that a superhero movie should be taken seriously enough to be considered for oscars will point to his death as reason for such speculation and therefore deem it illegitimate. But that's what this new Batman franchise is all about: It gives a real-life take on a superhero story, and it's all the more powerful because of it. And Ledger's interpretation of the Joker was dark, demented, unpredictable, but serious, and so very real. But I'm afraid that the nay-sayers hold a trump card in his death. It gives an air of illegitimacy to awarding one of the best performances I've ever seen. I hope Ledger wins the oscar, but I also understand that there are a lot of other performances out there that need to be considered first. However, anything less than a nomination is absurd.

    Posted by Zach July 22, 08 04:29 PM
  1. If live theater - which at its best provides a real-time, in-your-face, sensory experience with all the subtlety (more so) and emotion than does mass-media film, could somehow capture 1 fledgling % of the crowd that attends these blockbuster movies, those of us who ply our wares on stage would actually be able to make a living and provide a public service, which ultimately is the purpose of any art.

    And I think what these kids were buying into is an extreme, 21st century form of what Adorno railed against back in the 30s - as mass media consumers, we carve our identities and bind ourselves with others through the aesthetically limited channels of corporate-controlled media outlets. Let us not forget that someone is making a buck (quite a few!) off of this collective enthusiasm. Aren't the truly independent thinkers the ones who don't buy into the system? How many of the audience members who scrambled to be first in line for "Dark Knight" would know anything at all about say, Shakespeare? Or any other book outside of the massively popular ones like "Harry Potter?" Is this to be celebrated? Do we care whether our art actually stands for anything at all, outside of comfort and complacency?

    But call me an idealist. :)

    Posted by Jason McCool July 22, 08 04:30 PM
  1. ... and "Standard Operating Procedure" can't even get a theatrical release.

    Posted by Cyclops July 22, 08 04:42 PM
  1. you suck ty burr.

    Posted by bob July 22, 08 04:46 PM
  1. Good column to put it in perspective...I saw it, liked it; nobody cheered in the aisles, a couple lines got laughs, that's about it. Best movie I've seen in awhile, way better than Indy 4, or any of the Pirates of the Carribeans...not as good as any of the LotRs. Thought provoking? Why? Because of the phony moral dilemma at the end? It wanted to be thought provoking, I'll give it that, but wishing doesn't make it so...

    Heath Ledger is the best Joker ever, and at least deserves an Oscar nomination...THAT was acting....I didn't feel like I was watching Heath Ledger playing the Joker, which is how I always felt about Nicholson..

    Posted by NST July 22, 08 05:31 PM
  1. Eraserhead was better - Are you kidding me with this moronic article???? Its a 'blockbuster because a co-star has died????

    Posted by b. iikk July 22, 08 06:25 PM
  1. I bet producers are kicking themselves for not putting Estelle Getty in a movie, this year.

    Posted by John K July 22, 08 06:25 PM
  1. The craziest part about Ledger-mania is how overboard some of the fans have gone. If you read some of the posted replies to blog reviews you see fans profess that they LOVE (not love, but LOVE) Ledger, they miss him every day and he's always in their thoughts and prayers. uh, folks, he's just an actor. A good one, but not brilliant by any means. Nope, not even as the Joker, sorry, but the psychotic mind is one of the easiest roles to play since the average person has no genuine frame of reference to compare it to. it's like playing a martian, nobody has ever met one so how can you say an actor did a poor job of portraying one? That, btw, is the power of the Hopkins' Hannibal, that he did portray the true psychopath, not an over the top caricature (such as Ledger or Nicholson's Jokers).
    ledger is dead, and that's unfortunate, but it's no more unfortunate than any single other person whose name appears in the obituary on a given day. Fame does not equate worth and someone being famous doesn't mean that you know them, no matter how many times you watch and rewatch their films.

    Posted by Brendan Dillon July 22, 08 07:02 PM
  1. It's very good. But the best movie of all time? No.

    The story is a bit of a mishmash & it could do without the entire Two-face subplot.

    At 2:30 it's a great 1:45 movie.

    Posted by John B July 22, 08 07:22 PM
  1. this movie was an epic thriller/tragedy of the highest degree. storyline, underlining moral, social, and political battle fibers woven so tight into a blockbuster comic book movie. such incredible display of acting it almost felt real like we could be in gotham at that very moment feeling familiar pain but separating yourself and realizing the joy this film brought to the masses. pure brilliance all around. rip heath

    Posted by Alex July 22, 08 08:09 PM
  1. the movie is good, but the only reason why it is this big is because Ledger is dead. Let's be honest . . the Emmy talk was out way before the movie as released . .

    Posted by Brrrr July 22, 08 09:03 PM
  1. BEST MOVIE EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted by Hector July 22, 08 09:30 PM
  1. i thought it was hands down the best batman film yet. Batman Begins was really good, and this blew it out of the water. Ledger was terrific and the rest of the cast, even Maggie Gyllenhall's nose, did an excellent job.

    couple things that bugged me:

    1. when did Batman become Dirty Harry? Christian Bale poured on the Eastwood accent and raspy voice and made me want to throw milk duds at the screen. i don't recall it being this bad in "begins" but i'll have to check now.

    2. morgan freeman does a great job of playing morgan freeman. can he ever play a different role besides "wise black guy that you need to respect"?

    Posted by madvibes July 22, 08 09:35 PM
  1. I liked it, it was entertaining throughout, and great at times. But I thought it ended too late, because the last 20 minutes seemed added on, like they tried terribly hard to avoid a cliche ending -- and it all came out very contrived. It spoiled the previous 2 hours.

    The Joker was definitely the best, but that too was a bit ruined by his speech to Batman toward the end which reminded me in an odd way of Dr. Evil telling "You complete me" to mini-me.

    I don't pretend to have a better idea about how it should have ended, and I am not a screenplay writer. It just seemed like there was a huge dropoff in energy and imagination toward the end, as if there had been so much inspiration throughout the movie, but then the writer ran out of coffee or ritalin in the middle of the night with the morning deadline to deliver the script.

    Posted by Tarik July 22, 08 10:20 PM
  1. Let me get this straight. This is fiction right? It never happened? Hmmm, We are a sad bunch with all that is going on in the world today and don't give me that "escapism" crap. People need to wake up to reality..( oh and right on madvibes, can Morgan Freeman ever play anything else?...: )

    Posted by jbrunr July 22, 08 10:39 PM
  1. The best Batman is still Batman The Animated Series (before they jumped the shark after episode The Demon Within prod#018 from Volume 4). mark hamill's joker is even more psychotic and much better honed than ledger's joker.

    TDK is "ok" at the end of the day, but far from the BEST movie evah. i think TDK suffers from the same problems that Batman Begins has and that is a word called introspective. even in a film as hectic as fight club, the movie takes a break in the form of cancer support groups for texture. both Batman movies move from one plot point to the next relentlessly without pause. i acknowledge that nolan is trying to create the 'agent of chaos', but you think that's a bit cheeky to do so in such a manner. nolan's come a bit off course as a director from memento. as an illustration of my point, TDK's joker even SAYS the line, "i am an agent of chaos." which drove me bonkers. WE ALREADY KNOW THAT, you did NOT have to TELL us, you have already SHOWN us that.

    Posted by JediFonger July 22, 08 10:59 PM
  1. This just a way for America to feel that all their enemies are evil and insane.
    It is not a thought provoking movie.
    It is thought deadening...

    Posted by notafan July 23, 08 12:05 AM
  1. I would feel confident in saying the best SUPERHERO movie ever, and one of the maybe five or six movies in my life that I would pay to see more than once in theaters. But the best movie overall is a bit too far.

    Posted by Ethan July 23, 08 12:50 AM
  1. It isn't the best movie ever
    but damn is it good!

    I LOVE IT!

    Posted by linda July 23, 08 01:18 AM
  1. Movies do make you feel better and at times unite the masses. In the end of the film you see the world turned upside down and future danger seems inevitable. In the end of all great movies some parts get lost or die. Nolan doesn't want allegories galore, he wants you to enjoy. You want allegories go see "There Will be Blood". If you don't think this movie questions the major theories of a democratic society or the importance of a presidential election then you are mistaken. When you elect a person into government office you are looking for the person who you have a feeling about. When faced with adversity you have a feeling your hero will throw the detonator out the window or sacrifice everything they have even when a gun is in their face. You actually see everything good and bad about the human race in this movie. If not just you can just take it for the art that it is. Maybe then your world will no longer be upside down but instead it will be a better place with The Dark Knight.

    Posted by Eric July 23, 08 01:39 AM
  1. It's a sad day in America when "ENTERTAINMENT" is ripped apart and broken down so viciously. Heath Ledger was a BRILLIANT actor, and now he is gone. Why can't people just enjoy an outstanding performance and a wonderful movie (not the best.. That belongs to Darabont's Shawshank Redemption which happens to include Morgan Freedman playing the sophisticated black man who needs respect as someone above put it.) However, to Jason McCool who posted on July 22, 08 04:30 PM, I like to see my self as an intelligent person, I just graduated from a top 25 university Magna Cum Laude and I was recently invited to become a member of Phi Beta Kappa maybe you have heard of it???? But seriously, bringing up Adorno?? Why not talk about commodity fetishism?? Dude, relax it is a movie. Entertainment, nobody is shaping their realities around gotham city. This I can promise.

    And as for Brendan Dillon who Posted July 22, 08 07:02 PM I am about to start my first year in Med school and apparently you never heard of John Wayne Gacy. Sociopaths come in all shapes and sizes, so yes we the general public may not know a real life sociopath, but I have had the privilege to work at a psychiatric ward, and let me tell you sir, that Ledger's dissociative personality was spot on. Why the hell do you think he died? To act as well as he did, he had to slightly become dissociated from reality, and in a way he became the Joker, and for that Heath Ledger should in fact win an Oscar. It's the least the world could do for such a tragic yet brilliant performance!

    Posted by Dr. Anonymous July 23, 08 04:08 AM
  1. People in tights blowing things up? Who exactly was wearing tights while blowing things up? The Joker wasn't. Two Face wasn't. Batman wasn't. Nobody was wearing anything resembling tights in this film. Nolan's Batman is unlike anything before it.

    Posted by NP July 23, 08 04:58 AM
  1. I may be one of the only people out there who was TOTALLY disappointed by this film!!!! It was not worth the hype and about and hour too long. Heath Ledger did an amazing job but that's about all the credit I can give to this movie. Too many changing plots and it felt as if there were about 3 movies in one. Just when I thought the movie was about to end, a new plot picked up. The best movie ever? Definately not in my book. Perhaps the best movie of the weekend.

    Posted by sa July 23, 08 08:24 AM
  1. It was a movie, that's all. I saw it last night and the audience was entirely quiet except for a few one-liners from the Joker. No applause at the end.

    I didn't even think the first half of the movie was very good, personally. Heath was exceptional, no question - he really did a fantastic job as the Joker. But overall it was just an entertaining movie that didn't provide many goosebumps or emotions.

    The first Matrix and the LoTR films were far better, IMO

    Posted by GMS July 23, 08 08:27 AM
  1. Everyone overrates movies, film, sports stars etc when someone involved dies is tragic that he died - but in no way suddenly bolsters a film into "best of all time status" - I heavily doubt when the smoke settles it will even be in the top 100 all time critically - box office smash yes - great film - no.

    Posted by sapblatt July 23, 08 08:35 AM
  1. Be serious... BEST movie of ALL TIME?!!!

    No way.

    And who cares, it's only entertainment for today.

    BTW, stop rating movies as biggest gross. Popularity is by tickets sold, not by hugely inflated ticket prices.

    Posted by otis July 23, 08 09:01 AM
  1. Re: Dr. Anonymous' July 23, 08 04:08 AM comment:
    Actors, like Ledger, are professional liars who temporarity make us believe something that is not true or real. It's the same resume requirement for any con man or sucessful sociopath.

    That Hollywood gives yearly awards to career liars says something about the basic skill required for acting success in the Entertainment Industry.

    As a side-note, perhaps that easy idolization of those skilled making us believe in untruth points out something clinically useful, or even self-revealing, in determining who is more likely to become a victim of those sociopathic inmates you alluded to.

    Posted by BlackChip July 23, 08 09:09 AM
  1. good movie, Ledger was very good as the Joker, but best movie ever? nah, for shock value the original "Planet of the Apes", with it's cool ending remains the king.

    Posted by Richard July 23, 08 10:02 AM
  1. Where was Robin?

    Posted by sammy July 23, 08 10:14 AM
  1. When movies mean something I recommend substance over hype to be considered "best of all time" Tragic that Heath Ledger died but so did James Dean and I don't consider GIANT to be the best ever either.

    Schindlers List
    Saving Private Ryan

    are far more richer to me in content and substance.

    Posted by Peter July 23, 08 10:22 AM
  1. Look It is not the best movie ever...There are lots of classics out there..but in all 32 years of my existence on this earth I have never been so hyped to go to watch a movie at the theater like this. TDK brought back the kid in me and I enjoyed every minute of it. Yes it was 2 and half hours but IMHO it was blazing fast from beginning to end. As for some hates who posted that the movie is too long or that they could have done it without the two face subplot. All I can say is there is a reason why Chris Nolan, Jonathan Nolan and David Goyer wrote the screenplay and non of you guys did not :) My Top 5 movies of all time is still The Godfather, Casablanca, Shawshank Redemption, Lawrence of Arabia and Dazed and Confused (Hooray!!!) Where does TDK rank in my favorites??? In my top 10 yes it is that Damn GOOD!!!!

    Posted by Armando July 23, 08 11:34 AM
  1. The numbers are skewed until they start doing a head count and when will they roll Ceasar Romero out to show the folks in Hollywood how Joker is supposed to be played?

    Posted by Big Ed July 23, 08 11:48 AM
  1. If the title was intended only as a draw, then it worked. In any case, I won't bother reading the article, as I saw the movie and, contrary to some reviews, it did NOT live up to the hype. Worse, the violence was so over the top, that it detracted from my fully enjoying the movie. Needless to say, this may be one of the biggest grossing movies, but it is no where near the top 50 or all-time best films. Personally, with all due respect, don't think Heath Ledger is worthy of an Oscar.

    Posted by Van July 23, 08 12:47 PM
  1. To Dr. Anonymous...

    Yes, yes, commodty fetishism certainly, but I happen to be teaching pop music and was just discussing Adorno, so the two came together in my mind. And I happen to have attended "Wall-E" the other night and was just blown away by how many young people are attracted to the movies as an entertainment outlet. It's just dwarves any other performance medium.

    It's easy to say "relax, it's just a movie" - but when you step back and see the overwhelming force that mass media-produced entertainment plays in our culture, I don't think it's helpful to always let the corporates just skate by on the weight of public complacency. I think "relax, it's just a movie" is precisely what they want us to say, because then we never ever question their power over our culture. (Same goes for corporate controlled music, by the way.) Where are the voices demanding that our art stand for something outside of just "escapism?" They're just seen as idealists on the fringe of the culture... I, frankly, feel that America has more potential than this!

    Nice discussion though.


    Posted by Jason McCool July 23, 08 12:47 PM
  1. "The Dark Knight" is an all-around great film, it is a thought-provoking film, and it is definitely a film for our time. But "best movie of all time?" Even if it is a valid question, it's not to be answered before the test of time.

    Posted by D. J. Smith July 23, 08 12:50 PM
  1. Why does a movie need historical, non-fiction context to make it good? Important for future generations, yes. Brillian popcorn fodder for the weekend? NO! It might make the movie MEAN more to someone. For example, anyone involved with the Holocaust will say "Schindler's List" is the best movie of all time and I will most likely agree. "Saving Private Ryan" may be the best movie to a WWII vet who was on the ground in Germany and again, I would rate it highly as well. But to take away from the performances of this movie because it has no relevance to history is downright silly.

    This is far and away the best movie of the summer, this coming from someone who normally despises comic book movies. Comic books to me usually don't sit well in the reality factor. With Batman, he is a rich, good looking human who has his faults but also has some of the most amazing technology at his disposal to ever grace the big screen. Ledger was phenomonal, dead or not. Two face (whatever the actor's name is) played an important, albeit, cheesy role in the movie but it did help glue the storyline together.

    IMDB's ratings will balance out over time, but I still feel this movie easily qualifies as one of the top 25 of all time. Best? Likely not as time passes but in most peoples, at minimum, top 100 imo.

    Posted by Jeff July 23, 08 12:53 PM
  1. As with all previous Batman's... this one was mediocre... Heath's performance was outstanding... but the rest of the movie, acting and effects were lame.

    Posted by GPearce July 23, 08 01:16 PM
  1. Take it easy guys.. If it wasn't for Ledger's death this movie will be average at best.... A movie never broke any records thanks to the performance of one character and this is what is happenning here! All we hear and read is that the movie is great BECAUSE Ledger's role as the Joker was great... Never before did a WHOLE movie get so much success thanks to the performance of one actor! They get it for originality, story, plot etc.... It is a shame to compare this movie to Lord of the Rings, Jurrassic Park(s) or even the first installement where we went through the making of BATMAN...

    It's another Spiderman, Batman that got "lucky" when one of the main character killed himself... That's a great recipe for success..

    Posted by Joe Pena July 23, 08 01:19 PM
  1. Best Movie Ever.I loved it!!!! Im def. going to see it again in IMAX..Everyone should watch this movie.
    RIP Heath Ledger......

    Posted by Kerri July 23, 08 01:20 PM
  1. It was a good movie, considering what comes out of Hollywood these days.

    Ledger played us an excellent performance. So did Eckhart.

    But it was too predictable, even with a smattering of small twists.

    And can anyone really play Batman without getting a little campy? I don't think the role is made for a really good performance by anyone.

    And the ending just plain sucked!

    As usual...

    Posted by Red July 23, 08 01:30 PM
  1. Not even the best movie I saw that weekend (that would be "WALL-E"). I frankly found a lot of the movie pretty tedious, except when Ledger was onscreen; his extraordinary performance almost makes it worth sitting through. Otherwise, you might say, "Much better than average all-around for a blockbuster comic-book movie", but it doesn't belong in the same conversation with all-time great movies.

    Bloated, with criminally underlit and badly-shot fight sequences, an intrusive score, and predictable plot twists. I'm clearly not the 13-year-old this stuff is pitched at, but given all the glowing reviews, I expected a lot more. Burr's review hit it on the head for me: watching Ledger, you're just reminded what a waste it was for him to die at his age, the way he did.

    Posted by Spanky Alamogordo July 23, 08 01:32 PM
  1. Movie way too long. Could have shaved 15-20 minutes. Rather predictable, but nicely done. Ledger was terrific, but I think it's much easier to make a splash with the make/get up. He just purposefully forgot to take his Ritalin each day and acted out of his hyperactive mind...Too bad he didn't forget the other stuff. Michael Keaton is best Batman ever. I thought Bale was humorless and stiff. And every time I see Maggie Gyllenhaal, I want to give her a spanking.

    Posted by jkstraw July 23, 08 01:46 PM
  1. "Why do we rally around a movie rather than the things that actually do matter?"

    So... the thousands of years humans have told mythological morality tales to abstract the actual issues confronting them... that isn't what's seen here?

    Terrorism, corruption, organized crime, the moral question of how principled the "good guys" can be when confronting anarchy and hatred - these are all pretty pertinent concerns in the real world. The teammate-yet-rival duality of Harvey Dent and Batman reflects the political debate (albeit a bit simplified) about how to approach terrorism.

    Also... seriously: stuff blows up. And that's freakin cool.

    Posted by David Camell July 23, 08 01:57 PM
  1. How many of the audience members who scrambled to be first in line for "Dark Knight" would know anything at all about say, Shakespeare? Or any other book outside of the massively popular ones like "Harry Potter?"

    I really find it funny how, just because this is a "Summer Blockbuster", there are elitist snobs out there assuming that only mindless "followers" are filling the lines to get in. While I in now way think that "Dark Knight" is the best movie ever, what does it say about these people that they simply dismiss out of hand any redeaming qualities the movie may (or may not have) while making it seem that acting on stage is the most noble endeavor one could hope to engage in.

    Don't take yourself so seriously. This was a great movie with an incredible performance by Ledger (and to the person that says playing sociopaths is easy, I would agree that playing them over the top like Nicholson did is easy, playing them understated, which Ledger's Joker for the most part was, is decidely more difficult).

    Posted by Drew July 23, 08 02:00 PM
  1. Thanks, Ty. You nailed it.

    Posted by Eugenia July 24, 08 02:42 AM
  1. Again, and these are my final words here... one is seen as an "elitist snob" once one questions the SYSTEM that encourages such conformity, and this is EXACTLY what the equation between corporates and the public DEPENDS on. Please, call me elitist because I choose to question it and not grovel to the billionaire masters! As I said previously, it's almost impossible to address this issue without immediately being labeled "elitist" - it's like there's no other place for the frustration one feels when someone actually advocates looking outside the strictures of corporate-provided entertainment. If all you've ever eaten is Cheez Whiz and McDonald's, how the heck would you ever appreciate something better? And wouldn't you be upset with anyone who told you there MIGHT be something better tasting and better for you?

    And, no, I'm NOT "dismissing out of hand" the movie. In a sense what I'm talking about has very little to do with the film itself - which for all I know could make for 2.5 hours of nonstop fun, and actually have lots of "artistic merit." The point I'm trying to make is that the "hype" engulfs the discussion of whether or not these things are a DESIRABLE quality in our society - mindless conformity, obsession with celebrity, always looking for our neighbors tacit "approval" when we're selecting our "entertainment" (after all, what good is entertainment if we can't chat about it at the water cooler?) But again, the corporates so OWN the airwaves and the channels of discussion, there's almost no way to suggest another way (like, for instance, we think for ourselves and develop our own tastes) without seeming elitist.

    And, sorry, I do take myself seriously. And won't apologize for that. Life is short. Emerson pretty much saw this coming 150 years ago - a sea of conformity in which dissenting voices are chastised for not buying into the system. And things have gotten much, much worse in mainstream American culture.

    Anyway, just my two (elitist) cents. Now maybe I'll actually go see this movie. ;)

    Posted by Jason McCool July 25, 08 08:15 AM
  1. Okay . . . the best movie of all time . . . and remember when everybody thought the Iraq War was the best idea since sliced bread? Funny how the conventional wisdom changes . . .

    Me, I think the kids who thought it was the best movie EVER should really go out and see some better movies! "The Dark Knight" wasn't even the best movie this summer - WALL-E and "Iron Man" were both better. It kind of creeps me out, in fact, that anyone could have found Christopher Nolan's turgid, brutal mess of a film entertaining, much less compelling.

    Meanwhile, statements like "What matters is that it matters" followed almost immediately by "Why do we rally around a movie rather than the things that actually do matter?" make you sound a little confused, Ty - almost as confused as "The Dark Knight," in fact, which constantly celebrated what it insisted it was questioning. As for its "epic seriousness of purpose" and "the unspoken need for something in this crass tinsel culture to mean something" - you're kidding, right? "The Dark Knight" was about as deeply meaningful as "Battlefield Earth."

    Posted by Thomas Garvey July 27, 08 09:55 PM
  1. There's no way of saying that only one movie can be the best movie ever. The Dark Knight is definately considered one of the many though. A great cast was put together and everyone played their parts amazing. Everyone is saying that Heath Ledger is only getting so much credit because he died. I completely disagree. Yeah, there's always gonna be that sympathy, but Heath Ledger had an amazing performance and did the most amazing acting job that it even affected his own life. And America doesn't know what a true sociopath is? Well take a look at the world. In reality there are plenty of sociopaths and they do exist, therefore we have an idea of what they are. Heath Ledger did an amazing job on presenting one. And Alfred's amazing line explained "Some men can't be negotiated with, Some men just want to watch the world burn." I'm not sure if that's word for word, but it's pretty damn close. so the dark knight the best movie ever? could possibly be. if it shot up in the box office unlike any other movies for years, maybe it's that damn good that fans are seeing it more than once. I did. And saying that it's an "escape" from reality. If you consider reality just focusing on the scary world and politics and focusing on elections is something that we should be worried about, then you're wrong. There's more to it. It appeals to the human feelings unlike all the boring political things in the world. Therefore, people like something they can relate to, something worth seeing, something that teaches a lesson in life. So maybe it's not the best movie to anyone or any of the critics, but look at the ratings, comments, and statistics. You tell me if you're too awesome to join us all in saying that it was an amazing movie and is definately worth the title in "one of the best movies of all time" Sure we can stick Gotham into our real lives or superpowers for that matter, but this movie puts superhero prospectives into reality. Making it seem possible that it could happen. The moral values explained throughout this movie also put it into the "reality" category.

    Posted by Amber August 4, 08 02:35 PM
  1. Well, maybe because I waited a couple of weeks and heard nothing but great things about TDK, but I was very disappointed when I finally went and saw it. The movie is 30-minutes too long, and it's obvious that Nolan didn't have time to edit it properly. There also seems to be missing scenes, perhaps because of Leger's death (for example, did Joker just leave the celebrity ball because Batman jumped out the window?) The action scenes seem disjointed, maybe because they were filming them with gigantic IMAX cameras, and they just fell flat. The movie also suffers from the too many villains syndrome (does Batman have to fight three villains in every movie?). And did we really need to switch gears to include Harvey Dent/Two-Face story? The Joker was doing fine by himself. The whole sub-plot about the cell phones was too outlandish. And Chicago, standing in for Gotham City, just looked plain dull. All in all, TDK was just your typical summer movie.

    Posted by Dan Zee August 7, 08 04:23 PM
  1. Um, TDK for my money is the best film (so far ) this year - neck & neck w/WALL-E (I've seen TDK 5 x now and a 6th on Fri. -second time on IMAX). No it may not be the best/greatest film ever - come on people we know that's PORKY'S (JOKE!)
    I think there is way too much 'thought process' in overanalyzing a film's appeal in general - hey to each their own, why should someone care either way if someone likes one thing and they don't the other; it's freedom of choice (and not just for Americans ok; God I really hate all this "USA is the Devil" crap or anything that gets political)
    as for JMc Cool (yeah, I'm sure that's your last name - more like McDouchebag) - he should chillax bro! You think your'e so damn superior looking down your nose at the masses; get in a time machine and go back to Proust and those other of that ilk if that's what's getting your nose out of joint.
    In fact go down to the bank...make a withdrawl...and buy a clue.
    Oh yeah and you should actually see something before you have a 'viewpoint' - jerk!
    Can't anyone have an opinion and say "Yeah I liked this and in my opinion it's great" w/o someone else pissing all over that person's viewpoint.
    And as for MASTER THESPIAN (or whatever the hell that guy's name was) thinking 'the masses' only read HARRY POTTER and never read Shakespeare; whatever man, it's the 21st century! Get w/the program; not everyone is a cretin.
    Hey just my opinion, and opinions are like ****** and in my opinion you're both ********.
    Ledger nailed it and the film was a lot of fun; makes you appreciate the magic of the movies to vault you out of the b.s. world we live in for 2 1/2 frickin' hours!


    Posted by BobBatChrist August 25, 08 11:08 AM
  1. Ty, :)

    I do think its probably one of the best, at least for pop culture relevance and for, as how you said it "epic seriousness of filmmaking purpose, and the unspoken need for something in this crass tinsel culture to mean something" which pretty much nails a lot about it as it is still very masses oriented. By when this movie premiered, it could have been thought of by many to be on the top 3 of 2008, not by all of course. If this movie had been out on a year like 2007, it still would have been great above the likes of bourne ultimatum for contemporary appeal and, but hardly among the top 3 of the year which such masterpieces (which of course don´t have the same mass appeal) as No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, and even Ratatouille which is a movie accomplishment that surpases by far that of the Dark Knight did. It still would have deserved recognition, even before Ledger´s death for being so powerful for the public even with all its flaws. The Dark Knight is still quite an accomplishment considering its overwhelming ambition, but if falls way short of it even if what it does right alone makes it quite worthy of some respect and a lot of this attention it is getting beyond ledger. Would Bourne Ultimatum be the size of batman if damon had died months before the premiere? Would Ledger be so revered beyond the glbt community if had died right before the premiere of Brokeback Mountain. With all its flaws, and taking in consideration that extreme excessive praise and respect the movie is getting, The Dark Knight has its worthy merits.

    Posted by Alex September 20, 08 03:38 PM
  1. hey it is the best movie its opinions of many

    Posted by goti October 25, 08 06:30 PM
  1. What did Shakespeare do? He wrote for the masses of his time. He was well paid to entertain people with far less education and knowledge of the world than even the dimmest of our contemporaries. But he made it count. He wove in deep understanding of the human condition and made his plays work on so many different levels at once. That and sex jokes.

    Live theater is great, but right now, in our time, there is a shared art form of cinema. You don't need to shun the rest of your fellow human beings to find individuality. There are quite a few who talk about individuality in exactly the same arrogant way; I always was amused by the irony of that. What you really relish is not your individuality, it's your self-assessed superiority. And maybe you are more intelligent and educated; maybe your tastes are truly more refined. But does that entitle you to be a higher class? Do you think any of the great authors of the past could have connected with people if they held such disdain for the common man?

    And also: "Corporate masters"?? In contrast to Queen Elizabeth? I mean, really. How different are we really all these centuries later? That's where art/entertainment comes in. It take the same themes and reinterpret them as they apply to their audience.

    Posted by Dave Camell March 26, 09 03:25 PM

About Movie Nation

Movie news, reviews, and more.


Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.

Janice Page is movies editor for The Boston Globe.

Tom Russo is a regular correspondent for the Movies section and writes a weekly column on DVD releases.

Katie McLeod is's features editor.

Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at

Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer for

Video: Movie reviews

Take 2 Movie Reviews
Take 2 reviews and podcast
Look for new reviews by Ty Burr and Wesley Morris at the end of each week in multiple formats.

Browse this blog

by category