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"The Dark Knight" and the Star System

By admin Published: July 17, 2008

My review of "The Dark Knight" is now available online here.


Some notes about the mark I gave it, after the jump. One possible spoiler.

I gave it 3 3/4 stars (out of 4), partly because I had reservations about the pace in some early scenes, partly because I am uneasy about giving something 4 stars. In the roughly 20 months I've been reviewing movies, I don't think I've given anything 4 stars because that implies perfection. I've even been meaning to go back through my movie collection to see what there is worth 4.

So up to now I've topped out at 3 1/2 stars, using the system as I inherited it, but "Dark Knight" seemed to deserve a little more. Similarly, with "Mamma Mia!" I went to 2 1/4 stars, since it didn't seem quite good enough for 2 1/2, which I still view as a somewhat positive mark, but wasn't as disappointing as some things I've given 2. (I'll post a link to the "Mamma Mia" review, explaining my concerns, once it's online.)

I have considered going to a different system, such as letter grades, but I'm not sure that would work any better. Zap2it's Dan Fienberg uses a 1 to 100 scale, and has an interesting discussion, including in the comments, about the 86 he gave "Dark Knight." (Some spoilers in his review.) I should also say that Dan nailed the description of Ledger's performance better than I did, with his comparison to John Coltrane.

In the end, while grades or stars or scores are shorthand, they're no substitute for simply talking about the movie in some detail. Although, even there, you can run into trouble. In "Dark Knight," there's the whole Harvey Dent issue. That is, how much do you tell people who have no idea where Harvey fits in the Batman saga? I tried to be extremely circumspect.

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