Saturday, July 19, 2008
Blue Sky Review: The Dark Knight...
I know, you're thinking what does this have to do with the Mouse? Well, what is a bat but a mouse with wings?
Seriously though, when I mentioned my top ten movies for summer in my "The Endless Summer" post, "The Dark Knight" was my number two movie that I wanted to see. Indy was my number one and I've said all I intend to say about Harrison, Steven and George's fourth outing to tear apart my childhood hero... sigh.
But what about the Batman? Uhm... "The Dark Knight", I should say.
I could leave it there and not say another word and it would be a perfect enough statement for my feelings after seeing Christopher Nolan's latest work of genius.
The follow up to "Batman Begins", arguably the best Batman film so far lives up to the staggering amount of positive hype. That in itself is hard to believe. This is without a doubt, the best comic book movie ever filmed. I've always loved "Superman the movie", but it has flaws. "Spiderman 2" comes very close to beating Superman for me, "X-Men 2" almost reaches it... "Batman Begins" was great, but it didn't come close to being the best adaption of a comic book. "The Dark Knight" shatters the presence of all those films. It really is that great.
And it's not just a comic book movie. It's a great crime drama. When all the comparisons were made to "Heat" or "The Departed" I was skeptical, because not only were those great movies, they just happened to have been my favorite movies the years they came out. This is a film that someone who has no interest in men wearing tights could sit down and enjoy... and completely forget that it's a super-hero movie. This movie is intense and bleak... do not bring your kids to it. You should know that before going in. I'm convinced the only way this film didn't get an "R" rating is because of the lack of showing blood, otherwise it couldn't have excaped the MPAA's decision to do go with a PG-13.
Christian Bale is amazing at his second outing as Bruce Wayne/Batman. His haunted portrayal of a man whose existence is devoted to a lifetime of interactive therapy, involving beating his own demons by beating the crap out of the criminals that represent what was taken from him at childhood. Heath Ledger isn't a reinterpretation of the Joker, he's a revelation. Something not quite human, a being that thrives on chaos. He creates one of the most disturbing, chilling and interesting screen villains in screen history. Some people thought that all the buzz about his performance was because of the tragic death that happened earlier this year. It's not... he's going to get an Oscar nomination from this, not because of sympathy but because he deserves it... and he deserves to win. Aaron Eckhart's portrayal of Harvey Dent presents a contrast White Knight to Batman's Dark Knight in that he's the legitimate representation of good in Gotham city. Eckhart makes you believe in Dent and want him to succeed just as Bruce Wayne does. In a world lacking in bold heroes, Dent is a shining example of what we need and aspire to be. This makes him all the more a compelling character when the fates deal him a very bad hand and he winds up being turned into Two-Face. This is the way his character was meant to be played, not the goofy Cesar Romero-Joker ripoff that Tommy Lee Jones tried years ago in "Batman Forever".
All the supporting cast are equally good with Gary Oldman returning as Jim Gordon... he's great as the one person in the Gotham Police Department that Batman is able to trust. His humanity is portrayed with earnest compassion. Michael Caine takes his portrayal to another level as Alfred, the butler and surrogate father figure that Wayne needs as the echoing voice of conscious in his ear. Lucius Fox portrayed by Morgan Freeman is the perfect person to run Wayne Enterprises in Bruce Wayne and his father's absence. Maggie Gyllenhaal's Rachel is actually a much better character in this film to the paper-thin role she was in the last movie. All in all, it's a fantastic cast with everyone getting what seems like equal screen time. It almost doesn't feel like a Batman movie, it's an ensemble movie with many great performances.
Nolan's direction is great, but the script by his brother(Jonathan Nolan) and he is even better. The story is so good, so fleshed out you just can't believe you're watching a piece of pop-culture. It rises so high above anything that's come before it. The story you watch is so emotionally gripping. The city is held hostage by one man with no regard for rules and no fear of repurcusion and it shows you what someone like that is capable of doing with very little else. This film exudes in exploring the humanity of our nature and almost every scene exudes the moral complexity we have to deal with when confronted with such dark, stark situations...
This film goes into much murkier and more challenging territory that the last film. You would think that a movie that clocks in at two and a half hours would drag, but I never looked down at my watch, I never felt like I wanted the scene to move on... in fact it was the opposite. I wanted more. Like life there is no conclusion at the end of this tale, there is resolution, but no finale, only the end of another chapter. This movie sets a tone that moves down a more somber path which makes you wonder how another film can be made(much less get a PG-13 rating). It sets up for another film, but for Nolan and others to make a film that can equal this one seems like a herculean task. Without a doubt this movie is my favorite Batman film, my favorite super-hero film and my favorite film to date this year... I don't know if there's another film that could come close to providing the experience you get from watching such an almost perfect reason to go to the movies...
But when it's all over, "The Dark Knight" isn't perfect. Sadly, it has one fatal flaw...
It had to end.