Friday, July 18, 2008

A Hard Day’s Knight: It’s No Joke, You’ll Go Batty For “The Dark Knight”

Ok. If you’re reading this then it’s very, very likely you’ve seen this film (I hear three times seems to be the magical number) and you have formed your own opinion on it. The general consensus is that it’s the most amazing movie ever made. In my opinion it is a very very very good movie, probably one of the best movies so far this year. Is it one my favorite movies? No. but it’s definitely turned the superhero comic book movie into an art form that deserves cinematic respect. Is it as good as Tim Burton’s vision of Batman? Technically yes, although I prefer Burton’s films only because a) I grew up with them and nothing can really replace them and b) they don't take themselves too seriously and are just plain fun. But I find it unfair to compare them as Christopher Nolan’s vision of Batman is rightfully different and is much more aligned with the Frank Miller comics. If you’re a comic book fiend you will need to wear a diaper to this movie because you’ll most likely be peeing your pants due to excitement. Although I guess this warning is a little late, since you’ve probably seen the movie about 32 times by now...

First things first. The opening scene, in which we’re first introduced to the Joker, is brilliant. The film, and not just the opening, has a look and feel of a Scorsese crime saga. I imagine if Scorsese had directed it I imagine it would be a lot like this, except with more F bombs and few more squirts of hemoglobin. But let's face it, the main reason we're seeing this movie is why we wanted to see the first Baman in 1989: the Joker. Health Ledger is menacing as the Joker if not particularly scary. I mean he didn’t give me nightmares or anything but he still frightens. And he can take something as simple as a pencil in the eye and turn it into a sick joke. I love Ledger’s little mannerisms like his tongue darting in and out of his mouth as if he were part lizard. Seeing as how the rest of the year pans out, all this Oscar talk may not be far off.

And as great as Ledger is as the villainous Joker, we can’t forget Aaron Eckhart as DA Harvey Dent who just may be some evil tendencies as well. Oh who am I kidding! You’ve all seen the friggin’ movie, he turns into Two Face! The marketing of the movie has been very hush hush about Harvey Dent’s character because everyone knows he eventually becomes Two Face, but when and how is the big mystery. So wait no longer. Eckhart is definitely in his prime here as is the rest of the splendidly watchable cast. But probably best of all, is that Harvey/Two Face doesn’t feel shoehorned in. Two Face’s fate-determining coin actually represents good and evil which is personified in the film as Batman and Joker.

One of my favorite aspects of the film was the music. The collaboration between composers Hans Zimmer and James Newtown Howard is simply magic. They conjure so many emotions and thrills just in a few simple notes. The Joker’s scary theme is haunting and almost anti-melodic, but its still catchy. And while there isn’t really that standard “hero theme” like other superhero films have, that’s not really needed as this isn’t like other superhero movies.

Christian Bale, as Batman, almost sounds like Dirty Harry mixed with Bea Arthur with a chest cold. This really isn’t a complaint just an observation. I mean how much is there really to complain about here? While it may not be as “fun” as say Spider-Man or even Iron Man, it certainly transcends what is thought of as the typical superhero film.

Nolan goes for seriousness in that the set is unstylized (although the film does have its own style) the action is plausible and the characters are realistic. As realistic as a movie can be where someone goes by the name of Joker and a guy who dresses up as a giant bat to fight crime. The film doesn’t rely on CGI. The effects are there to support the story not to tell it.

This is a fascinatingly well-made film. I don’t know whether I really enjoyed quite as much as other people (it’s currently ranked number one on imdb.com!) but it is certainly a fun and worthwhile ride. The performances are memorable and the direction fantastic and all the technical aspects are spot on. And best of all, it isn’t nearly as boring as “Batman Begins.” I’m not joking. GRADE: A-

Note– And I must personally thank Tom Cruise for locking Katie Holmes in the basement and not letting her out to play Rachel Dawes because Maggie Gyllenhaal is excellent here as well.


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