Batman megafan Maggie McMuffin ate some cannabis-dosed crab cakes benedict and rewatched The Dark Knight with fellow 10YA contributor Jacob Farley. Buckle in.


Does anyone else remember when The Dark Knight came out and it was heralded as the greatest superhero movie ever made? It was gritty, realistic, and had a career making/ending performance by Heath Ledger. (Note: I will always remember where I was when I heard he died.)

Boy do I!

It was the summer before I went to college. I was living with my mother, grandmother, and some of their worst relatives. We spent our days up at the ranch my grandmother (and more of her relatives) worked at (I think borderline illegally) which was highly Baptist and full of people I didn’t want to engage with. I would sit in the lodge with my laptop and books and just read until it was dinner and then wait to go home.

The summer was all about saying fuck off to everyone because I was going to be a proper adult.

That summer would also be the summer I wound up diving deep into the Batman fandom, reading comic books for the first time in my life.

I did that because of The Dark Knight. I also did it because that summer was hell. When I say I didn’t get along with my grandmother’s brother, I mean I’m still surprised there were no physical altercations between us. I spent two and a half months watching this man lord over my grandmother and mother, make demands of his wife, and try to molest me until he gave up and started calling me a lazy bitch instead.

Batman saved me. Batman gave me something to focus on. Unable to drive myself the 45 minutes to the nearest theater, I went with my grandma’s religious employers and their grandkids. I sat down in the front half of the theater away from them and spent the whole movie enraptured by everything. None of my favorite characters exist in The Dark Knight (even though one of them fucking should have been; #justice4babs). The storyline does not really astound me. But at the time it was the most magical escape. Gotham is filthy, depraved, but it’s bigger than real life problems. It had danger, sure, but I’d rather get killed by the Joker than deal with an old man threatening to shoot my cat.

I remember being driven back home, trying to educate the car about Batman mythos I had learned all of four days ago. They had the Bible but I had The Killing Joke. We’re all fanatics in our own way.

I remember the women of the group complaining they had liked Katie Holmes in the first film better because even though Maggie Gyllenhaal is a better actress, they thought Katie was prettier. As a baby kinkster who had also just watched Secretary for the first time that summer, I was personally offended and made a comment implying that these good Christian women weren’t as straight as they thought they were if they were judging women based on appearance. It flew over their heads, thank god.

I remember immediately wanting to go back the next week but not finding anyone who would drive me. So I downloaded more comics, found more episodes and animated movies on YouTube, and wound up deep in the Harley Quinn fandom on livejournal.


When I hit college, being a Batman fan became a core facet of my identity. It made me feel like I knew things, belonged to something, and I was loud enough that it took years for me to experience sexist gatekeeping. Seeing it alone in the dark the first time was freedom but rewatching it with friends was what I truly needed.

And yet I hardly ever think of The Dark Knight anymore. I haven’t seen it in a few years and actively bemoan its existence because now we have grimdark DC EVERYWHERE. Because if you make all the money, everyone is gonna try to rip you off. The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises came out within months of each other, but The Avengers feels timeless to me, whereas DKR feels like a relic of some long ago fad (probably because the MCU is going strong and DC has rebooted twice since then on big and small screens). The Dark Knight itself feels like part of my childhood now, one of the last stages of my youth. And with that, it lends itself not just to nostalgia and a strong sense memory, but also the fear that it won’t live up to the memories I have from watching it when I thought it was new and exciting.

(Note: You may recall from my review of Batman Begins that I maintain Mask of the Phantasm is the greatest Batman movie of all time. I STAND BY THIS)

So instead of trying to capture that first-time experience, I’ll be doing this college style! Me and Jacob Farley will be getting high as fuck and writing out our thoughts as they come up. So strap in and get ready because if you didn’t know by now I am not a reviewer with a plan.

(Note: I was expecting to just smoke the cannabis, but Jake and his love wife/my friend Sara made us a delicious salad followed by crab cakes benedict with salmon lox, poached eggs, and dosed hollandaise sauce. In the past ten years I have gotten better at choosing friends who know how to treat a trash mouth such as myself. Also, who are better at getting me high. Regular text is the live blog. Italics is sober me coming in two months later like that gif of Troy on Community. You know the one.)

Bat signal in smoke! No title card!

And then we do a slow pan into that opening sequence that still haunts my dreams.

The Joker is being talked about by his henches. The legend is already being spread, which shows some intense planning. The henches off each other as they fulfill their purposes.

Oh, and you can totally spot The Joker on the rewatch because a) purple suit and b) never talks.

OH SHIT THE BANK MANAGER. I FORGOT ABOUT HIM. A Gotham City bank manager just rolling with a shotgun to protect mob money is so on point.

Also on point: Gotham has their own license plates



And now it’s night and the mayor is talking and everyone is talking about Batman the way goons were talking about The Joker earlier. We also meet fake Renee Montoya who is more unforgivable a bastardization than Bane was in Batman & Robin.

Scarecrow is just selling petty drugs and it’s kind of hilarious. Okay, it’s really hilarious and I’m not even high yet. I am also so glad that Cillian Murphy got to come back for a cameo even if he’s just a pathetic dude in a van.

The other mobster, however, is sending dogs after the fake Batmen and the real Batman sends in the Batmobile on “loiter” and then he fucking bends a gun with his suit hand because unlike Burton, Nolan understand what NO GUNS means.

“What gives you the right? What’s the difference between you and me?”
“I’m not wearing hockey pads.”

(Okay we need to talk about that because Batman in the comics does that ALL THE TIME including to a young Barbara Gordon on her first outings as Batgirl, and it’s bullshit. Batman has pissed a circle around Gotham and he really does, even after adopting a few sidekicks, refuse to let anyone help. He is so bad at not only asking for help but allowing people to help. Not even just him! The entire city! No one person can take on all the crime in Gotham, even or especially with the help of the GCPD. I can understand not wanting anyone to get hurt but, like, Batman doesn’t let Alfred stop him, even though Alfred cares about him and, okay, this is good characterization. It is a Batman problem but 100% good Batman writing.)

Batman is helping Gordon with the mob thing. He deprioritizes The Joker because Batman needs some hubris. The real kind. Not the hip kid that comes from a secret lair underneath some shipping crates.

Oh, my favorite part! Alfred and Bruce having moments of jokes and watching footage of Harvey Dent. Oh, and Bruce denying that he’s not still upset that Rachel dumped his masked ass.

Sara is currently yelling ‘GO FUCK YOURSELF’ at Harvey Dent hitting on Rachel in the courtroom. It’s expository banter to show that they are dating, Harvey has his lucky coin, and that Rachel is capable, but really why the yelling, Sara?

“I’m sorry. I just really hate Aaron Eckhart.”

Apparently, he spoiled the movie for Sara and her BYU classmates before the movie came out. I have let her resume her yelling.

Meanwhile, Jake would like to remind everyone that this courtroom scene is badass. I for one am confused by how quickly Harvey Dent can disarm a mobster and dismantle/identify a handgun but, again, Gotham.


At this point we are also noticing how quiet the movie is. If there’s any bit of continuity between the production of this trilogy, it’s the shitty sound mixing. It’s especially unfortunate here because Gordon and Dent are arguing about protocol. I mean, they’re really arguing about Batman, but they can’t say Batman. It’s a good scene where both men display their moral codes regarding what they feel is right and how to achieve that. Gordon is willing to bend the law if it gets results, while Dent is straight up lawful good.

From there we go to dinner with Rachel and Dent and see it get crashed by a very catty Bruce, who is clearly jealous. But he is also asking Harvey leading questions, gauging what he would be like as the DA for Gotham and if he’s on the level. Harvey talks about disagreeing with Batman but seeing where he’s coming from, and also noting that he can’t do this job forever. Bruce is sold.


The Calculator (Mr. Lau but he’s the Calculator just like Mr. Reese is The Riddler, fight me) took all the mob family money to Hong Kong because jurisdictions but that’s not important. What is important is that the Joker shows up to do the magic trick and say that he wants to kill the Batman. This scene is…god, it’s good. It’s so good. He plays up being crazy, but Ledger is calm. He’s shaky and off, but he’s not a big theatrical figure like previous iterations. It WORKS in this Gotham, but he’s still hiding grenades and leaving a playing card with no contact info as his business card. It’s still The Joker but actually reimagined and I am into this all over again.

Also, he’s not just into killing Batman. His real goal here is to rule the mob, even if he’s not saying it. But we know he already stole from them; he flaunts it. While the previous scene has Gordon and Dent arguing over who is in more denial about there being crooked people on their team, the Joker recognizes that everyone is connected to the systems that make Gotham a shithole. No one is free from responsibility. He’s a big picture sort of guy and it’s amazing that ten years ago on a first watch that wasn’t clear. But on a rewatch, after years of think pieces of analysis, the span of this plan shines and it’s just really fucking good.

Blah blah, Lau is going to China and Bruce is gonna get him. But in order to cover for this, he absconds with the entire Russian Ballet and ruins Rachel and Harvey’s date. Bruce Wayne is a petty bitch and I am here for it.

Fox helps him Batman up and go pick up Lau from the sky at night because FUCK JURISDICTIONS.

Jake: “I hate guns unless guns shoot explosives. Then guns are awesome.” Why yes, Jake, that is a common thread here.

(Sorry we paused for ten minutes to discuss our feelings on the Batvoice. Our general consensus is that it’s not the worst thing in the world and having a Batvoice worked for Kevin Conroy so it’s not an inherently bad idea. It’s just not always executed clearly. Bane Voice is way worse.)

(And when we came back we were still in China because the skynapping hasn’t actually happened yet. Wow I am really not into espionage Batman. I have learned about myself today.)


Okay, but three minutes after the explosive gun use, Batman grabs a gun from a goon, looks at it, shrugs, and throws it away. HOW DID I NOT NOTICE HOW FUNNY THIS MOVIE IS.

(High me will point out jokes a lot. This movie is FAR funnier than I remember it being and the humor is making it more enjoyable than more recent DC flicks.)

Okay, this is picking up. Lau is playing Rachel, Dent, and Gordon. He keeps cool, makes a deal, and refuses to say more until he gets immunity and protection. He’s the calmest badass this movie ever sees and, because of him, the dream team winds up putting away THE ENTIRE MOB. Literally EVERYONE is getting hit. 541 criminals at once!

Too bad there’s a Joker card in the judge’s file that she makes no notice of. That’s probably not important.

Dent meets with the Mayor about how much going after the mob is probably gonna get him, uh, killed, and then a dead body dressed as Batman slams into the window! And there’s a creepy execution tape from the Joker with threats of more murder! Heath Ledger continues to kill it while Gordon and Fake Montoya figure out who Joker is targeting. They try to protect them but two are killed and Harvey Dent is at a party getting made fun of by Bruce (who shows up in a helicopter and models) but also supported by Bruce? Because Bruce believes that Harvey can steal his girl AND be a good choice for Mayor. He does this before Harvey proposes to Rachel, so I can only imagine how things would have gone then.

(Note: Not good. Nice Guy! Bruce Wayne never stops chasing Rachel even though she’s made her feelings on the subject clear.)

But the scene is about to be stolen. Not just by Heath Ledger, but by Christian Bale getting to be Batman outside of the suit. Him striding down that hall, taking apart a weapon, façade falling away is so good. Like, I am still thinking about it through the scene where Joker menaces Rachel while the Gotham elite do absolutely nothing. I love that Harvey is knocked out by Bruce so that it’s Rachel who stands up to the Joker. This is one of the dumbest, bravest things one can do in Gotham (though the citizens don’t know that yet). Also, it’s something that has been done by women in the comics. While she bears nearly no resemblance to Sarah Essen, she does share standing between him and those he threatens before being killed by him, and it’s done by a woman in a floor-length gown who stays up there even when she loses the ability to not look nervous.

(This scene is probably the second-best moment of acting by Gyllenhaal in the film. Rachel isn’t courageous; she is brave. You can tell she’s scared, that she’s reacting moment to moment, but she also knows what’s right. It makes it all the more obvious that she’s gonna die, because Nolan has a fucking Tall Poppy thing about strong women.)

And them Batman comes in and she gets dropped out of a window but he saves her and Harvey is safe.

Oh wow I am hiiiiiigh

The Dark Knight

The Commissioner is being funeraled (funerolled? funerahled?) and gets a terrible eulogy from The Mayor. The entire GCPD is trying to locate the window for a sniper’s nest but oh ho! The Joker washed off his face paint and stole an officers uniform so that he’s one of the 21-gun salute guys and, oh man, what a misdirect!

And a misfire! Gordon takes a bullet for the mayor and then his wife and….son get told (while his daughter just sits off screen?) (NEVER LETTING THIS GO) and Batman goes out for blood.

Which, again, hilarity. Batman slowly appearing on a nightclub balcony, just beating his way through guys as the lights strobe, is just…how did I forget that magical image?

Meanwhile, Rachel has been threatened so Harvey starts beating down what turns out to be a paranoid schizophrenic who knows nothing. So Batman says he’ll turn himself in and then there’s some stuff and Rachel goes to the penthouse because it is safe and then Harvey says he’s Batman and…

In this movie, Alfred only appears in a way that makes it totally plausible for this movie to later tells us that Alfred died in the fire in the last movie and Alfred in The Dark Knight is just a ghost following Bruce around.

(Wow I did not remember that at all)

Okay, I came back and Alfred is talking to Rachel now so I guess my gritty theory is too real

But Rachel gives him a letter and they are just telegraphing that she’s gonna die

“Chapter 3: Morgan Freeman, or The Black Man as America’s Conscience”

(Yep. This is the point where my memory of the movie goes to shit. But luckily Jake was still making quips.)

Well, Rachel is not okay with Harvey being Batman

(Recap: What happens is that Bruce is dead set on revealing himself but doesn’t tell Harvey this plan because Bruce is not a team player. Then Harvey announces, “I am the Batman!” and Bruce is clearly upset that he got his thunder stolen. Again, petty Bruce Wayne is my favorite. Anyway…Rachel is not okay with Harvey being Batman…)

And uses himself as bait to lure the Joker out. That surely won’t go wrong. Rachel surely won’t die. Oh man, I thought ten years later I would feel better about that, but I can feel the rage a’comin.

(Oh, I forgot that there was that scene where Mr. Reese tried to blackmail Batman because Gotham is weird.)

(Gotham does not make any more or less sense when you are high. You just shrug more and go ‘Gotham’ whenever someone questions a character’s motives)

Oh shit. It just hit all of us how much Nolan is just burning America in this. Privatized surveillance for the good of the people? Military technology for crime fighters? Needless sacrifices from a single person? Masked figures taking political ideology too far online?

Jesus Christ it’s just…I’ve heard people say this movie presents a support towards conservatives because Batman is on their side in terms of how he does stuff. But, like, Batman is shown as being conflicted and questioned in this film. Batman doesn’t believe in Batman. And Nolan is British, so like maybe he was just critiquing America through the guise of our dark and brooding hero who fucking kidnaps criminals from other countries because OH MY GOD THIS MOVIE IS A POLITICAL THRILLER

(I thought about this A LOT in the month following my re-view and I stand by it. Nolan hates America circa 2008. I can only imagine how reactive his Batman would be these days.)



Before the chase scene, Harvey makes out with Rachel and gives her his coin and it’s like we get it she’s gonna die.

Chase scene!

There’s a convoy with Harvey in it and it all goes from downhill from there. People get shot at, things explode, The Joker installs an on-fire fire engine statue as a symbol of heroes becoming the thing they are fighting. It’s all very modern.


All criminals in Gotham are like Banksy. If Banksy lived in Gotham, that burning fire truck would have just been a totally coincidental installation piece.

Maybe Nolan’s real message here was that Banksy is terrorizing London


Oh, now Batman has a bike and keeps blasting cars out of the way with no knowledge of people in those cars.

(Siiiiigh we were doing so good about the guns)


Oh, there’s more guns.


Me and Jake are remembering where in our theater viewings people just cheered and whooed. Memories

God, Ledger is so good. I forgot how good he was because ten years of bad Joker cosplayers but every time he comes on screen my interest just goes full throttle.

(Ledger earned his Oscar. This whole performance is revelatory and I really did grow to sort of hate the Joker due to the aforementioned shitty cosplayers. You have one of those guys hit on you in character and it’s just…no. Never again. But Ledger is charismatic as fuck. Watching this film, re-experiencing the performance for essentially the first time again, I was overcome with a deep sense of loss for Heath Ledger’s talent. And that was before someone reminded me that Jared Leto Joker has happened.)

Oh, and then Batman catches him but so does Gordon because Gordon isn’t dead for….reasons?

“Nothing in his pockets but knives and lint.” A+ definition of the Joker

GORDON IS COMMISSIONER NOW and his wife is piiiiissed


(Seriously they MENTION Barbara and then pointedly do not show her and WHY)

His head is just floating in darkness and it is terrifying but maybe just the Blu-ray

(No clue what that means)


Joker is in custody and getting interrogated and Joker just wants to fuck Batman or something.

(I don’t even ship them)

We are back to the villains being artists in Gotham and it is so true. So true

(Not just important for the Rogue’s Gallery as a whole, but very important for the Joker. He’s a CLOWN. One of the reasons dark and gritty Joker doesn’t tend to work, part of why Academy Award-Winning Suicide Squad fucked him up, is that clowns are performers that serve a very specific purpose. They aren’t just chaos. It takes a lot of rehearsals to look like you’re fucking up, just as it takes this Joker probably years of planning to look like total anarchy)

Joker and Batman are talking about rules and police brutality. And here we get the peak Batvoice scene. Batman is also not having the Joker talking shit and beats him up hardcore and gets laughed at because Bats won’t kill blah blah

Oh no. The lovers are tied up around oil. Rachel is offering so much emotional labor and Harvey instead falls into oil. Rachel is just carrying that couple and says yes and then she go boom.

(The best acting moment from Gyllenhaal is the moment where she realizes that Harvey is getting saved and she comes to terms with her impending death and then decides how to proceed with her last few moments. It’s entirely in her face and in retrospect she also should have been nominated for awards.)

“I just want my phone call” is pure clowning. Just perfect. (Seriously. This movie IS SO FUNNY) Also, it’s a bomb. Joker put a cell phone triggered bomb in a person. And Rachel is being so calm even when she knows she’s gonna die instead of Harvey and she is literally the only one who sacrifices herself for what she believes in and she is the hero of this movie.

Oh, and Bruce thinks she was gonna choose him so Alfred burns her fuck-you letter so Alfred supports fridging I guess

Dent is also not happy and those effects do not hold up.

(They are just baaaaaad CGI. And considering all the well-executed practical effects in this film, it just stands out even more as a low point.)

Joker totally scripted this money speech. You see him cue the goons on the word GASOLINE.

Jake: What if America is too obsessed with money and can’t understand a guy who doesn’t care about money?

Mr. Reese is on TV and gonna give the identity away

Bruce saves him from the mob.

Hospitals are getting evacuated.

We’re entering the third act people!Oh, Gordon is being all paternal to a blackmailed cop and this is tense.

Joker is doing more mind fuckery on Dent. It’s the plans speech. He is chaos and upset and everyone else is a planner and he says no do not now burn things with me.

(Jesus, how much weed did I eat)

Joker is getting like communist and anarchist and nihilist. He’s standing up for the common man.

“I’m an agent of chaos”

And then he waddles out of the hospital and it is again a funny sequence. The last bomb not going off, the nurse shoes, the hand sanitizer

(One thing standing out to me is that this movie is not only funny but paces the jokes well so that it comes after the harder-hitting scenes that we all remember. It doesn’t just make for great Joker characterization; it really understands Gotham. You cannot exist in that city without subscribing to Gallows Humor Weekly.)


Evacuation Trying to go Oh my god no surveillance

America loves a well-done steak (WHAT)

(Stand by for clarity because this is where I get really hollandazed)

Oh man, let’s take the anarchist clown’s threats seriously and give him two fucking choices based on ethical behavior

Every mob guy tries to pass it off to someone else. (Infighting in the mob)

He broke his rule. Not fair! (Nope. don’t remember that)

This computer thing is like psychic. It is Cerebro (Batman like hacked every cell phone in Gotham? And now it sends our sonic surveillance or something and is a bunch of fictional science that still makes no sense.)

Joker is telling the boats to do a social (experiment. It’s convicts vs citizens)

ANNA RAMIREZ. She is not technically Renee Montoya (Oh man thank god they didn’t actually name the dirty Latina cop Renee Montoya because Renee Montoya is one of the finest police officers Gotham has ever seen)

Someone on the police was saying, “Two, three casualties max,” then he was saying he is willing to kill for justice or suffer losses. The police are corrupt! (I don’t know why high me thought that was news but good for her)

Gordon has to save Dent? Okay. (Yeah that’s a weird moment and it’s a touch of schmaltzy acting from Gary Oldman. But also it’s just…it’s not that Gordon and Dent weren’t in this crusade together but they’re suddenly way more wrapped up in each other’s fates)



140/346 civvies tellings criminals to die but the trigger guy (There’s this one dude who is just incensed that they aren’t gonna blow up the criminal boat and is like, “Well, someone has to be the hero and by hero I mean total asshole who sees violence as the answer.” Spoiler: He’s white.)

DOGS CAME BACK (and attack Batman)

Thank god he trained for this. I mean paid, the military for their ideas

(It’s actually unclear if Bruce pays the military for this tech or just steals it from his company)


The largest blackest inmate goes up to the white dude holding the charge and is like hey you’ve never killed (Also a good acting moment. Understated but still metaphorically heavy-handed)

“What does that wedding ring tell us. About America?”
“Family values but expediency above all”
(No idea what that’s about but we aren’t wrong)

Criminal throws out the remote. Uppity white guy tries to but cannot



(Also, sometimes it’s only once we’ve been villainized by society that we can do the right thing?)

“You wanna know how I got these scars?”
“No. But I know how you got these.” CLASSIC BATMAN

(Again: funny. Batman has a sense of humor!)

Joker laughs while falling off a building and gives a last speech about taking things up a level and how he’s a trendsetter and this feels like a religious experience to me. Like ’90s David Lynch. Like stop-motion. This is mythical.

(I do not remember this scene very clearly but I distinctly remember the feeling I had while watching it high as fuck. I was enraptured to a point that I understood the value of chaos and the Joker’s ideology more clearly than I ever have in my life. It’s still terrifying and not a code I want to adhere to, but it was a great experience, let me tell you.)


Harvey is saying he’ll kill the whole family and Barbara has her face covered the whole time.

I don’t believe Gordon’s wife would crumble this easily. I just don’t. They know better.

(I talk a lot about Barbara Jr. getting shit on by Nolan, but Barbara Sr. is also made into a useless wife. Like hell Gordon’s family don’t know some self-defense techniques)



Harvey’s gonna kill this kid but nope here comes the bat yeaaaaah

“Did Batman kill Harvey Dent? Probably.”

“This movie is like the Killing Joke…but the Joker is right”

Bruce is like me. I can do it. I can have everyone after me.

(I do not know who ‘me’ is in this line of thought. I am not Batman.)

Rottweilers are wronged by this film. They are better than muscle dogs

This ending is sudden

Jake does not like it.

There is no closure with the Joker

This is a movie where scenes are good. And the rest is whatever.

It’s a party movie.

We’re now watching a Joker episode of Batman ’66

He pulled her hair out with the magnets

“This show is at least as funny as The Dark Knight”

The ending is a bit sudden and also the source of one of the most lasting critiques against this movie: the short use of Two-Face. Two-Face is hardly in this film at all and considering how much mythology there is to draw on in terms of Bruce’s guilt about it and his need to save/redeem Harvey, it’s a waste. Though I also think they made the decision to kill Two-Face and not the Joker before method acting killed Heath Ledger.

That said, the rest of the movie is quite good and far better than a decade of shitty cosplayers and dorm room posters made me believe. It’s a testament to how evocative it was that it swept through the culture enough to have fans then make it less palatable by association. I’ve had similar reactions to other nerd properties.

But this movie, much like it did ten years ago, made me hunger for more Batman. It made me start watching Gotham even though I have no interest in AUs where we see what characters were up to as kids. I read all of DC: Bombshells last month (no Batman in that but lots of Bat Family) and finally finished Gotham Central. The problem isn’t this movie itself; it’s that producers and executives looked at the more superficial parts of what made it enjoyable and decided to carbon copy all of that into shittier and shittier films, trying to chase the success of this film. But Nolan struck a balance between taking comic books seriously and having a story of ethical dilemmas played out by costumed fighters. He found the heart under the body armor, the brain beneath the grease paint.

If DC could find those things again, maybe I’d go see their new films in the theatre instead of staying home to rewatch The Dark Knight.