Thursday, August 7, 2008

Challenges of The Dark Knight

I know, I know, here I am talking about the record-breaking Dark Knight again. But now I've actually seen it. I would have seen it opening weekend, but my family had agreed to wait to see it until we all got to Hawaii, so our first day there, we didn't hit the beach, we hit the theater. And yes, the hype isn't just hype. It's that good. And yes, Heath Ledger is, indeed, very creepy and very good. And this is the same guy who did Ennis Del Mar and Casanova? Such a shame to lose such a talent. Anyway...

The moral dilemmas presented in the movie really stood out to me. How Batman was in part at fault for the drastic measures of Gotham's criminals, the Joker's deal to stop killing if Batman revealed himself, the morality of killing one man to save many, the choice to save one of two people, a variation of the Prisoner's Dilemma, plus the questionable tactics that the good guys were willing to use to bring down the Joker, including invasion of privacy, telling horrible lies to loved ones...

(SPOILER ALERT this paragraph only, for the last 3 human beings on the planet who haven't seen the movie; also a Mass Effect spoiler for any who haven't yet visited a beautiful little paradise called Virmire but intend to at some point): The situation in Dark Knight that resonated most with me was when Batman had to make a choice to save either Harvey Dent or Rachel. He only had time to make it to one of them, and the police were obviously not competent enough to save the other one (there can be only one Bat-Pod). Mass Effect recently put me in a situation like this: the enemies are closing in both at the perimeter of the Virmire base, where one of your dear friends is staked out, and in the base landing zone, where another of your friends has just set a nuke to blow the entire base and perimeter area to Hades Gamma. Both of these NPCs have been with you since the intro mission. You only have time to save one of them from attackers while Joker (um, a different Joker entirely--your pilot) flies your ship in to whisk you off before the nuke blows. I was shouting at the game in disbelief as I realized the choice I had to make. Ultimately, the choice was no harder for me than Batman's choice--I was romancing one of the characters, so naturally, I had to save him. This did not, however, make me feel any better about my decision (I become very attached to my NPCs), especially since said love interest just had to point out that now we had to live with the fact that Ashley died because of our feelings for each other. Just tear my heart out, why don't you? Anyway, Mass Effect luckily had no Joker twist where you save the WRONG ONE (though in a video game, this wouldn't be a problem: just RELOAD; movies, like Real Life, have no reload). I don't know why I didn't expect that Rachel would be the one to die and Dent the one saved (I did know, of course, that he would live, but that didn't mean that Rachel would necessarily die!), but when Batman burst in to the room with Harvey Dent, it just about killed me. Can you imagine?! It must be one of the most unbearable tortures to live with the knowledge that you could have saved a loved one but instead unintentionally signed their death sentence. The Joker knew exactly what he was doing.

Anyway, Dark Knight was an amazing movie. It has so far repeatedly blown away all records: biggest opening weekend, fastest to $200 million, fastest to $300 million, fastest to $400 mil... The big challenge will be beating Titanic's total box office take. They say it all depends on repeat viewings. Unfortunately, this puts Batman at a disadvantage. While fanboys are one of the most fanatic audiences out there, nothing compares to teenage girls in love with Leo. I was in middle school at the time, and I remember girls boasting about how many times they'd seen it, like it upped their cool factor or something.

"I saw Titanic 8 times."
"That's nothing. I saw it 10 times!"
"Well, my cousin said she saw it 16 times."

I am pleased to say that I saw it only once. Which made me some kind of freak. No joke: I remember seeing a cartoon around the time, can't remember what comic strip it was, but it had these mock freak show displays, where in place of the bearded woman and such it had "freaks" that each provided some silly commentary. One of them was a girl sitting in a chair with a book (and wearing glasses, of course) who was labeled "Teenage girl who saw Titanic only once".

It is unlikely that Dark Knight will best the Titanic domestic box office receipts, but here's hoping. It certainly deserves any titles it gets.

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