Poor Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes. All they want to do is go see the Russian ballet. You know, take a much deserved night off, unwind, relax, etc. Alas, Bruce Wayne, that monopolizing playboy, has gone and absconded with the entire Russian ballet so they can indulge in a bit of yachting on the high seas.
Ah, but as you may or may not know Bruce Wayne doubles as Batman and, in fact, this little pleasure boating excursion is merely a glamorous cover for Batman to fly off and find villainous Lau, the Gotham mob’s ace accountant, who is holed up in Hong Kong.
This is to say that every moment in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight is a set-up for something else, one piece of a tapestry so elaborate you could probably lay the whole thing out in Gotham’s own Chinatown and still not have enough room.
Harvey and Rachel go out for dinner and Bruce Wayne drops by with Russian ballerina Natasha and what could have just been a night of gab (did the Gotham Black Canaries make the NBA finals or didn’t they?) and too much wine turns into soliloquies about Julius Ceasar in order to set up the money line toward the end.
Harvey shows up late for court and before he is set to launch into a cross examination he discusses his lucky coin with Rachel. But hey, he’s not just talking about his lucky coin because it’s his lucky coin and he sort of digs the thing, he’s talking about it so later when he transforms into Harvey Two Face we are all up to speed on the status of the Lucky Coin.
We are introduced to Detective Ramirez, right-hand woman of Lt. Gordon, and Gordon asks about her mother and Ramirez advises her mother was just put back in the hospital and while this appears to just be a friendly chat, nope, it’s set-up for later when The Joker needs to kidnap Ramirez’s mother for a bit of leverage.
The Police Commissioner can’t even enjoy a nice glass of scotch without finding it poisoned!
And we haven’t even discussed Alfred, Bruce’s faithful Butler, who manages to spend an entire film speaking in platitudes that either 1.) Explain entirely the situation at hand (“Perhaps both Bruce and Mr. Dent believe Batman stands for something more important than the whims of a terrorist, Miss Dawes” or 2.) Set up events for later (“Know your limits, Master Wayne”). Couldn’t Alfred get an afternoon off to just lounge around the Wayne loft, drink an espresso and read a little Chaucer? Yeesh.
On and on and on and on and on and on.
I’m not saying this necessarily a problem. You can say anything – good or bad – about The Dark Knight but you can’t say Christopher and Jonathan Nolan didn’t take a screenwriting class. These two dudes know their set-ups and payoffs. I can’t be certain – and I don’t necessarily want to do the research to find out – but The Dark Knight may contain more set-ups and payoffs than every single movie made in the 1980′s combined.
Thus, I issue the following challenge to auteur Nolan on the forthcoming The Dark Knight Rises: give us one throwaway moment. Just one. That’s all. Nothing else. A teensy, tiny, five second scene or line of dialogue, something, anything, that doesn’t have anything to do with anything else.
Bet he can’t do it.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? CAN HE DO IT? YES? NO?