I finally got around to seeing The Dark Knight over the holiday weekend, and I have to say, I wasn’t bowled over. Despite being completely mesmerized for the past year by the images of Heath Ledger’s depraved Joker, I don’t make it to the theater as often as I’d like these days (two-year-old daughter) and sometimes have to wait, even for movies I really want to see, until they come out on DVD. Maybe that was my mistake. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed The Dark Knight, and I was not disappointed in the slightest by Ledger’s freakish, lip-smacking fiend. But at the same time, I was let down given the movie’s gargantuan box office haul, the almost universal critical praise, and the Oscar buzz surrounding it and its fallen star. I could see Ledger taking Supporting Actor, but while I haven’t yet seen all the other Oscar contenders this year, I would be a bit surprised if The Dark Knight took Best Picture.

By the time I finally sat down last week to see The Dark Knight, I’d already heard the arguments that this very good movie is a great work of art because it reflects the chaos in our real world today — corrupt politicians, brazen villains, heroes who sometimes seem like villains, and so on. And perhaps it does appeal in that way on some level (though it’s certainly not the first or best film to do so), but the movie also kind of drags in the second half thanks to theTwo-Face storyline, which makes the running time at least 30 minutes too long,and Christian Bale might make a good Bruce Wayne, but he’s no more than an adequate Batman.

Mostly, I think this movie was successful –- as well as hugely popular –- because it featured a character that we couldn’t take our eyes off of played by an actor who recently died way too young.Before it appeared on a single screen this summer, the movie was already larger-than-life because of Ledger’s passing, and six months of the hype machine working at full steam had no doubt set my expectations way too high. So maybe this really is an Oscar-worthy movie and I just need to hire a babysitter more often and catch movies earlier and with less context. But if I’m to be honest, I was disappointed with The Dark Knight and hope for more from this year’s other Best Picture contenders.

What about you PopWatchers? Is The Dark Knight worthy of a Best Picture Oscar? Would it have become the sensation it is had Ledger not died just after shooting it? What movies disappointed you after a massive build-up had set your expectations too high?

The Dark Knight

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 152 minutes
  • Christopher Nolan