I saw The Dark Knight the other day and found it too disturbing of a film for me to really think that it was worth watching. I'd give a review of the film (unlike some other critics, I certainly wouldn't give it 4 stars, even on the basis of whether it's mismarketed), because I think there are a couple more pressing issues.
One thing that worries me heavily about this film, is that it's a PG-13 rating, it's basically the silence of the lambs or seven disguised as a comic book film. It's more a horror film than it is a crime drama, and it's certainly not in the spirit of a comic book film. And I can understand people applauding the film for being a good film, but i get the sense that people are applauding the film for succeeding in pushing the boundaries of the comic book genre to make it dark, scary, psychopathic, etc., but has anyone ever thought that perhaps those boundaries were there for a reason? I think people who are not used to seeing violent films and parents taking children should be plenty forewarned about it.
At the same time, I'm concerned about potential violence that the film could spur and I know I'm now one of those anti-violence-in-the-movies advocates, but I maintain what I'm saying:
Remember back in the days of the Hayes Code when Hollywood didn't want a portrayal of unglamorous lifestyles because they wanted to promote a moral society? Obviously, we think that that's far-fetched and restricted a great number of artists back in those days from telling things in stories, but I do believe that there could be a such thing as too much. There are some examples of how some films have promoted copycat crimes, and issues like that. Studies have shown that on some occasions, the line between reality and what you see in the movies gets blurred and I can see that being blurred here because the film is real. We are influenced by what we see.
I am profoundly worried that with all the excessive praise lavished on the Dark Knight, and the cult following that has grown around the character of the Joker, that the message might be lost on impressionable youths with violent undertones that the Joker's actions were completely reprehensible and disgusting in this film. I could see some guy who's treated like a freak in some high school somewhere get inspired by this film to get the idea that if only he inflicted twisted and sick enough terrorist acts of violence among those who picked on him, than he'd have their respect.
This is what happened on screen in this film: The Joker was a freak, one that a select few might have empathized with when he walked in the room and the mob was picking on him and not taking him seriously, by unleashing reprehensible acts of violence and practically torturing people, he became highly revered and respected. As implausible as I found this, the mob swore allegiance to him and Harvey Dent chose not to shoot him after some small little diatribe. I raised the point in one discussion thread that I think one flaw of the film was that unless there was a direct threat on your life at that very moment, it would have never been in any character's interest to follow him, for any character to have truly wanted Joker to have been in charge, except the mentally derranged people he had at first. I think the mob would have really wanted to see them gone and would have turned on him at any opportunity, especially when he was in prison, they wouldn't have underestimated him, and they would have not cared about what he could do for them if he represented a direct threat to their establishment. They would have gotten to work on bringing him down. The joker is also portrayed as somewhat omnipotent, he knew more details about what and when things would happen in each plan that would have been plausible, and if the script was true to life, the Joker would probably have been killed quicker. It's not relevant whether you agree with the plot holes or not that leads to the Joker getting away with as much as he does, but what is important is that the film makes the Joker such a dangerous and scary villain because it presents us with that illusion that simply unleashing sinister enough acts of violence will get you anything you ever wanted. The film portrays everything in a very realistic setting.
What I think makes this all worse, is the celebration that's going on in response to the Dark Knight's success and the way that some disturbed people might misinterpret all of it. As a result of what we think is a good performance, we've sort of championed the character of the Joker a lot. We have kind of treated the character of the Joker as we would traditionally treat the hero of a film, a lot of us have adopted imdb names with the Joker in them. Maybe we'll all be wearing joker costumes on halloween or wearing joker costumes at one of those conventions. The truth is that what is being glorified is artistic freedom: The fact that the film broke free of the conventions to sugarcoat the violence inherent in comic book films.
At the same time, that's not being explicitly stated: What someone could get the message from it is that not only do you all love the Joker, you love the character, you would secretly love it if someone in real life decided to kill and torture people, and take a town hostage. There's not enough of a message I'm getting out there from all the whirlwind of media and every other source that some young person can be exposed to of "We love the character as a moviegoer but we'd hate for someone to act in this manner in real life." The viral marketing kind of makes it even worse.
I'd be eager to be proven wrong, but I think that's at the heart of what worries me and I'm afraid for some violent school shooting that could potentially happen because of this film. I think the magnitude of response to this film might make it a bigger disaster than any other film.