NOTE: In order to respect the trust and confidentiality of the work I’ve done for other analysis companies and the authors who submit to them, I’ve chosen not to submit any analyses done through that work. Instead, I’ve written a speculative analysis on one of my favorite movies which, while highly entertaining, has in my opinion more than its share of flaws in writing: The Dark Knight. The length of this analysis is indicative of most work I’ve done previously. Had the Nolan brothers and Goyer submitted their script to me for analysis, this is what they’d have received: The plot for this movie is thrilling as it develops in complexity with each scene being a natural and inevitable, yet often surprising, result of the scenes before it. In this way scenes add up as foundational building blocks, creating a solid base for the story to rest on and push forward. As an example, the extraction of Lau by Batman exists and can only exist as a consequence of Lau fleeing Gotham, which itself exists as a result of Harvey Dent’s assault on the criminal element in Gotham, and so on, while also being predicated on the events of Bruce Wayne utilizing involvement with a Russian ballet dancer as cover for the extraction and of his R&D development with Lucius Fox. Multiple plot threads come together and resolve throughout the script while opening new avenues for the story to continue new explorations. Where the plot falters is in its structure and consistency. The overarching plot itself is highly disjointed, and reads more as several separate self-contained mini-plots, each evolving from the previous but standing independently of it with their own conflicts, goals and resolutions. The Lau extraction and prosecution plot, for example, takes up a significant amount of the beginning of the story starting with Gordon and Dent’s cooperation in a raid on the crime banks and Lau’s action in protecting their money, but upon Lau’s deliverance to the Gotham PD, this plotline is entirely resolved, with the conflict overcome and the goals achieved. The consequences of this resolution open a path for a new plotline: Lau’s cooperation with Harvey Dent’s office and the further investigation and prosecution of Gotham’s crime families (which in turn leads to the crime families’ desperate hiring of the Joker, moving the plot in yet entirely new directions and creating new goals). Oftentimes what appear to be early significant plot threads are quickly resolved and forgotten entirely as the story moves into new territory, leaving the audience potentially confused as to what’s important and what’s only set-up for future events or explanation for potential plot holes, like the instance of the crime boss’s declaration of a hunt for Joker being resolved with a quick retaliation scene, serving no purpose besides an unnecessary patch for why the crime leaders don’t simply kill Joker. Thi is more easily and sufficiently explained by their need for him in light of Batman’s tactics, leaving Joker’s retaliation against the crime boss exciting but redundant. This script makes excellent use of foreshadowing and instances of set-up and pay-off. This includes instances of immediate set-up and pay-off, such as the early scene with the clowns referring to Joker, saying “They say he wears make-up” and a cut to another clown asking “So why’s he wear make-up?” allowing a natural lead-in to explaining and foreshadowing the nature of the Joker without getting bogged down in heavy-handed dialogue. Set-up and pay-off is used well over longer instances as well, like Harvey Dent often mentioning “making his own luck” and using his coin to make bets, with the pay-off revelation of his two-sided coin (which itself creates a new set-up to be paid off when Dent’s coin is scarred). The dialogue in this script is an absolute highlight, showing subtlety and complexity with every character being given their time to shine. Context and duality is on full display with the Joker, as his dialogue reveals him as a character who strives for acceptance in normalcy and fights against his own reality with his insistence that he’s “not a freak” yet later telling Batman “don’t talk like one of them, you’re not... To them, you’re a just freak like me” showing Joker internally at odds with himself: he both wants to believe he’s a normal result of society while also acknowledging he’s set apart. This is seen again in his arrival at Wayne’s fundraiser, where textually his dialogue is almost spot-on for a normal party-goer: “Good evening ladies and gentlemen,” and “Where is Harvey Dent? Do you know where he is?” which, under other circumstances, would be entirely mundane and polite, but in the context of crashing the party through force while firing a gun, creates a strikingly intimidating scene. The dialogue shows dimensionality in how it reveals character as well. In contrast to Batman, whose character is almost entirely defined by his actions, and Joker, whose character is shown through dialogue in the specific context of his actions, characterizations of others like Lucius Fox are revealed strictly through their dialogue, as in Fox’s insistence that Batman’s sonar surveillance machine is “Beautiful, unethical, dangerous,” and “too much power for one person,” revealing his morality and ethics through his genuine statements. The tone for this piece cements well into an exciting action-thriller with major set-pieces and genuinely clever moments like Joker’s initially meeting with the crime families, but its strength lies in more dramatic moments like Joker’s interrogation scene or the exploration of opinion of Batman and of Harvey Dent’s character with Bruce Wayne playing a role-reversal, debating against the merits of the Batman to test Dent and showing excellent use of subtext and complexity in the dialogue to reach a deeper meaning by the author. The tone moves away from its often campy comic book source material and feature film predecessors in an attempt to ground the story closer to reality, with heavy effort put into explaining high-tech gadgetry like Batman’s mass-surveillance device based on real-world principles of echolocation, or the real-world effects of an underdog prosecutor’s office fighting widespread and powerful crime extending into corruption of both the prosecutorial and law enforcement offices. These strong efforts at adding realism to parts of the story allow the freedom to push suspension of disbelief in other areas, like in the character of the Joker, who seems impossibly well-planned (or excellent at improvisation, depending on interpretation), and Harvey Dent, whose trauma leads to an unprecedented psychosis. This tone of realism is significantly undercut, however, by the rare but notable absences in logic in service of story, such as Batman’s sudden appearance to fight the Joker in the Wayne fundraiser scene, with Batman having apparently slipped completely unnoticed into the middle of a crowd of highly alert victims and criminals, or more minor logical inconsistencies like Gordon’s explanation to Dent that the bat signal’s operation is an “equipment malfunction”, a lie which, while intentionally obvious, represents such a strong departure from realistic proceedings that it stretches the believability the tone has worked so hard to establish. The characters and characterizations in the script provide opportunities for some of its best moments, like the culmination of any given one of Joker’s unpredictable plans, but their utilization and depth is very uneven. Most striking is the lack of depth and development on the character of Batman/Bruce Wayne himself, whose only personality traits (implied to be his “real” persona as shown in his interactions with Alfred and Lucius Fox, and subtle moments like his reaction to Dent’s defense of Batman) is of a touch of wry humor, mixed with his Batman’s characterization of practicality (“I’m not wearing hockey pads”). He shows the requisite reliance on justice in the face of adversity, but never enough to make it a true personality trait beyond an expectation given the genre. There are missed opportunities to develop Wayne’s characterization, notably with the death of his unrequited love, Rachel Dawes. While Wayne is initially severely distraught over her death, it seemingly takes only moments before he’s back to his old self, joking with Alfred about the batmobile being “not exactly subtle”, with no noticeable change to his character through the rest of the story. Even with the realization of Dent as Gotham’s true “white knight” and subsequent destruction of Dent’s character, Wayne remains relatively unfazed, starting out as a hopeful optimist for the future of Gotham and retaining those qualities through the end. This presents not only overlooked potential in deepening Wayne’s character, with the chance to bring the spotlight to the story’s titular character, but also gives the relevance that these important, emotional moments don’t really matter, lacking impact and relevance on the story. The theme is one of the weakest parts of the story. With so many independent and self-contained plotlines throughout the story, no central theme ever emerges, and where themes do emerge, they’re often taken for granted, underexplored or unresolved. The most consistent theme of the piece is stated directly by Dent: “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain,” creating a variation on the theme “power corrupts”, with the implication being that one who stays in the “good fight” too long will eventually let their morals wane in sacrifice of what they believe to be their goal, in turn losing sight of that goal. This theme is initially well-explored with the heavy instances of corruption in both the prosecutor’s office and the police department, and is shown more directly to the audience with Ramirez’s betrayal of Dent. It’s explored on a surface, textual level with Dent himself, whose line ultimately foreshadows his own fate of him ultimately becoming the villain, but the theme loses its meaning as Dent becomes the villain through external intrusion and happenstance, not through his work as the hero. If not for Joker’s mayhem and tricks, Rachel would’ve been safe (or saved by Batman), and if not for his spill into oil, Dent wouldn’t have been disfigured. Though Dent was targeted for being a hero, people from all walks of life were also targeted by Joker, lessening Dent’s work as a factor in his villainous turn, particularly with so many arbitrary variables also involved. Most notably, Batman himself never sees himself become a “villain” except in the eyes of others; he becomes a false villain, a scapegoat, rather than a true villain. This again undermines the theme, as Batman is specifically challenged in his morality in killing Joker and remains steadfast. These disparate elements of the theme, from corruption in the prosecutor and police departments, to Dent’s arbitrary turn to villainy, to Batman’s retention of his heroic ways, lead to an ambiguous and unresolved theme. There’s never affirmation that a hero who survives will become a villain, only that they may. Other themes emerge from time to time in the story, such as the innate monstrosity of man needing only proper context to reveal itself (explored and defied through Joker’s final plot with the ferries, proving Joker responsible for his own actions rather than the victim of circumstance), or the need to stay resilient through things getting worse in order to make them better (“It’s always darkest before the dawn”), but like the “die a hero/become a villain” theme, these are all similarly underexplored or unresolved, and tend not to carry the story for very long. The lack of a strong and consistent theme is a major element in the plot’s fractured nature, as nothing ties the various scenes together into one cohesive plot. The script never fully commits to one stance, instead changing its position as is convenient for the story, and leaving the audience without a clear, unified message. Ultimately, this is a clever and exciting story, showing many examples of excellent writing and a deep care for subtext, symbolism and foreshadowing, that is sure to thrill audiences with its set pieces and stay entertaining throughout. Its flaws in theme, characterization and consistency of plot manage to stay in the background and work largely in service of the story as a whole that, while real, they only detract from enjoyment minimally. While some of the more nebulous and less-grounded elements may lack appeal for those seeking something deeper, the complexity and cleverness in the script allow it to stand as a worthy entry in the superhero/comic book adaptation genre.