I said in an earlier article that the Harvey Dent we see in The Dark Knight is the best one to come to the big screen. This is true. However, there are ways that it could’ve been made even better.
I read Eye of the Beholder and saw the 2 part origin episode in Batman: The Animated Series, both were great and are neck and neck for the definitive Two-Face origin story. I know that in order for the transformation to make any sense, Harvey needs to be riddled with psychological and emotional issues. Whether it be in the form of an alternate personality or just a dark side, there needs to be a monster lurking beneath the surface of Harvey’s psyche.
That being said, I was really happy with this issue free Harvey. The problem with the emotional issues is that they make him a time bomb. It suggests that no matter what happened, Harvey was going to fall. Nolan plays up the crusader for justice and takes away the dark past. There is the one line about his father’s lucky coin, however like Ra’s Al Ghul’s line about being immortal, this is a line that is simply meant to be a wink to the fans of the comics and doesn’t really have any weight behind it. Seeing an emotionally conflicted Harvey can, and has been, done very well. But when I say “I believe in Harvey Dent”, this is the one I’m talking about.
The biggest mistake made was that they didn’t sell the love. I’m ok with a psychologically sound Harvey Dent, but if you’re going to make the basis for his downfall the loss of his girlfriend you really have to sell it. There was a lot of talk about the love, but aside from a passing reference to an engagement they come off as really good friends who flirt a little. This could be in part to Rachel’s feelings for Bruce and Eckhart plays the type of guy you could see Rachel falling for perfectly, still there didn’t seem to be any clicking. Even if it gets sappy, you need to make the viewers look at them and go “awww”. They didn’t do that. The death and aftermath were handled perfectly, there’s not really anyway you could improve on that.
There was a lot of talk about 30 minutes of cut footage. I remember being confused by this as Nolan said on the Batman Begins dvd that there wouldn’t be any deleted scenes or director’s cut of his films as he gets all the editing done in the scriptwriting process so the version we’re seeing is what he wanted the film to be. It makes sense from a film making perspective, still I hoped that he changed his MO for this film. As epic as it was, I could see him cutting some out in order to shorten the time a bit. It would’ve been nice if this footage had existed. They could’ve used it to show Harvey going after other mob bosses besides Moroni. It could’ve also shown that even after going after Joker, Moroni, and the corrupt cops involved, Dent was still consumed with anger and grief. Bruce called in in Batman Forever when he said that killing someone out of revenge isn’t going to make the pain go away; you would just find another person to go after, and another,and another. It wouldn’t have taken much really. Just show Harvey sitting alone in the dark, hugging his knees, watery eyed and seething with anger while Dance of the Seraphim plays in the background. This would’ve made the attack on Gordon and his family much more logical. I got it, maybe because my brain filled in the blanks. But a lot of people were confused as to why he went after them so quickly.
The best thing they could’ve done was save Two-Face for the third movie. If they had shuffled things around, you could’ve had the Joker/Harvey (still with his bandages on) scene be the last we see of him. You could’ve taken away the “You live, you die” line (though it was a great line) and just had Harvey sitting quietly stewing in anger. Joker leaves, hospital goes boom. Then, when Joker says he kept Harvey as his “ace in the hole” after being captured we cut to the bar where the corrupt cop says “Jesus, Harvey I thought you were dead”. The camera would pan up to show Two-Face when he replied “half”. Cut to black, bam there’s your hook for Batman 3. I don’t know if it would’ve topped the Joker teaser from Begins but it would’ve been glorious in its own right.
The third movie could’ve shown Harvey going after the corrupt cops involved as well as every mob boss as opposed to just the one. You could’ve featured cameos by the Penguin, Scarface, and Black Mask, Rupert Thorne and other various crime bosses. Harvey would still be the vigilante who crosses the one line Batman won’t, you could even have the same final confrontation with Gordon at the end as I thought it was an extremely powerful scene with strong performances from everyone involved. Heck, you could use the whole ending to Dark Knight as it would act as a good ending to the trilogy. We viewers would know that Batman will keep fighting even though he is an outcast.
This was a great take on the Harvey/Two-Face character but there was still room for improvement. It’s unfortunate as there was potential for it to be even more than it was. As Nolan has come out and said that Dent is dead, and even Eckhart says that he’s either dead or in a coma, we probably won’t see Two-Face again in this franchise.