Dark Knight Scene by Scene

(Spoiler warnings in effect. Do not leave your homes unless you absolutely have to. Be careful out there.)

So I've seen The Dark Knight and enjoyed it (more to come on that front), but as we all know, it wasn't the first big Joker movie, and I was at times struck at the similarities between TDK and Tim Burton's original (but since degraded) classic and Nolan's latest effort, inviting comparison between the two Batmania-inducing films. I can't help it.

The opening logo shotBurton weaved the camera in and out of grooves that turned out to be the Batman logo as Danny Elfman's wonderful score brought us into this world. Nolan just has a couple seconds of the bat-logo coming out of the fog. No credits. Not even the title. "You know what you came to see. Sit down and shut up." Advantage: A draw.

The rising star of Harvey Dent
Billy Dee Williams or Aaron Eckhart? While Two-Face was better done in TDK across the board, Lando got the shaft when Dent was recast as Tommy Lee Jones whose Joker-clone performance in Batman Forever was the worst thing of a very bad movie indeed. Advantage: Lando. He's definitely got the bigger picture.

Crooked cops
Burton had this fat lard, while Nolan had the more charming Montoya stand-in, Ramirez. Advantage: Nolan.

Origin of the Joker
Burton went for the classic toxic chemicals dunking tank, but mangled the origin by making him the new Joe Chill as well. Nolan goes the Jonah Hex route of having the Joker change his story all the time, which really adds to his insanity. I was waiting for him to blame it on a toothpick accident, but no go. Advantage: Nolan.

Meeting the dons
Both Jokers had a meeting with Gotham's crime bosses, and both times, someone had to die. Nicholson's Joker joybuzzered a guy to death. Ledger made a pencil disappear. Advantage: Definitely Nolan, even if the Joker hadn't made that comment about talking to the television. Speaking of which...

The Joker in the media
The Joker has to announce his crimes, that's part of his modus operandi. Burton allowed him great production values, sketch comedy and even funky animation. Nolan took his cue from Al-Quaida. That was fucked up. Advantage: Nolan.

The chase
Burton's Joker-Batman car chase had two things going for it: The bat-turn and the purple and green hard tops. Nolan's version is a lot more kinetic, with an entangled semi flipping over and the bat-tank going all Transformers, but I never really saw TDK as an action movie. The old school bat-turn still wins. Advantage: Burton.

Henchmen trying to unmask the Batman
Burton's thugs can't do it because Vicki Vale takes a picture. Nolan's thugs can't do it because the cowl is electrified. Advantage: Nolan.

Everybody loves a parade
When Burton's Joker throws a parade, it's got huge balloons filled with Smile-X gas, money being thrown around, and Prince music. Nolan's has snipers and staged assassinations, but sometimes, you gotta give it up to style. And a mayor with eyeliner ain't got no style. Advantage: Burton.

Money to burn
Burton's Joker throws money around like it ain't no thing, bait for the proles to get gassed in the throes of greed. Nolan's Joker outright burns the biggest pile of money ever put to film. Because it's not about the money, folks. Advantage: Nolan.

A new vehicle
Burton unleashes the Bat-wing on an unsuspecting world. It's got machine guns, missiles and a convenient pincer attachment. Batman flies around and makes loop-de-loops into the moon until he's good and ready for the climax. Nolan makes the Bat-tank turn into a Bat-bike in what is quite a fun reveal, actually. The thing has machine guns too, even if this is a kinder, gentler Batman, and if he gets to the party late as well, it's because the tank is pretty near destroyed. Advantage: Nolan.

The Joker's love life
In both films, the Joker is instantly attracted to the hero's girl whether she is a glamorous photog or a girl-next-door DA. Vicki Vale gets dinner and dancing and at worst, some lint in her mouth. Rachel does not. Advantage: Nolan.

"You've got me? Who's got you!?"
Both girls also take a bad fall when the Joker flips her (them) over the edge. Both times, Batman throws himself after her (them), makes the catch and... in Nolan's case, falls on a car, cushioning Rachel's fall, but not his own. Not that quick on the decelerator, eh? Advantage: Burton.

The Joker's fall
I was rather disappointed by Burton's Batman when he turned out to be such a killer. I understand why the Joker would die the movie (they wouldn't want to pay Jack Nicholson for a requested sequel), but it takes off even more away from the original source. In the comics (or cartoons), the Joker could never die. In TDK, he doesn't. Batman DOESN'T let him fall. The Joker's contention that they are destined to play this game again and again, forever, is a great touch. We may never see him in the movies again (just like he isn't in every issue of Batman and Detective Comics), but that is exactly the relationship they should have. Advantage: Nolan.

Ending on the bat-signal
Burton lights it up, Nolan's busts it up. Knox's domination of the journalist pool vs. Empire Strikes Back ending? Advantage: Nolan.

Bike versus man
Wait, hold on, that's from Daredevil, not Batman (1989).

Sonar vision
No, that's Daredevil again. Stop that! Bats emit sonar. It's thematically sound.

Yeah, I wasn't convinced either. Advantage: Not Nolan. (It's ok, I think he's got the overall advantage...)


Sea-of-Green said...

Oh, but what about the 1966 Batman movie? It still has TWO advantages over the most recent entries:

1. Vehicles. Don't get me wrong -- I actually LOVE the current Bat(tank)mobile, and the Batpod. But NOTHING beats the old, original TV Batman Batmobile, in addition to the other Bat vehicles. And in what other movie have you ever seen a Penguin submarine?

2. Sheer quotability: "Some days you can't get rid of a bomb," or "They may be drinkers, Robin, but they're still human beings," etc., etc.


FoldedSoup said...

Pencil trick trumps all.

CalvinPitt said...

See, I much prefer the Batwing to the Bat-Cycle (which kept making me think of Akira, for some reason, which was distracting).

But I've always been more interested in flying combat machines than their grounded counterparts.

Siskoid said...

I agree that the Batwing is the cooler vehicle. The Batcycle was better used however.

mwb said...

I'm resisting seeing this in the theaters right now. I'd rather wait until the mania dies down.

But I am tempted.

rob! said...

at this moment at least, i can't picture any actor ever playing the joker ever again, since its BEEN DONE, definitively, by Ledger.

i liked Nicholson's Joker laying there dead with that creepy joke box still going, but NOT killing the Joker off in TDK was one of many surprised the movie laid on me.

Dwayne "the canoe guy" said...

You forgot to compare the Joker-nurse to the Joker-artist. As much as everyone talks about the pencil, the entire scene with the Joker in the hospital was what will live forever for me.

And the Jonah Hex reference with the toothpick accident had me in stitches! You're the first person to compare the Joker and not Two-Face to Jonah Hex.

Siskoid said...

That was the best Hexcuse I ever read!

Nice point, Dwayne. I was keeping the nurse scene for my more developped reaction to the film (Friday).

Mwb: Saw a matinée. Maybe 10 people in the theater. It's not wall to wall mania (if you have a flexible schedule).

LiamKav said...

I don't think you can have a "definitive" Joker portrayal. The guy can be played so many different ways (as per Morrison and his "constantly reinvented personality) that any actor can bring something new to the table. Nicholson's Joker is just as valid as Ledger's which is just as valid as Hamill's.

(I always thought that "Batwing" was a much cooler name than "Batplane" as well.)


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