on December 9, 2008
What has been said about the Dark Knight cannot be elaborated on - so I won't. The film is muscling its way into my #1 favorite comic movie adaptation of all time.
The reason for my review is in hopes of saving you some money. This double disc Special Edition doesn't deliver the price you pay for it. There isn't even deleted scenes!!! I would save your very hard earned dollars and buy the single disc version and wait for the inevitable ULTIMATE re-release that will come later on down the road.
But nonetheless, a great film - you will not be dissapointed; I just wish the studio would have given a better Special Edition release than what we have here. So enjoy!
on October 11, 2008
Christopher Nolan has a vision. And whether you agree with it or not, he undeniably completes it in "The Dark Knight"--a vicious, engrossing, overwhelming, intelligent event- film that re-defines 'comic-book-flicks'. In Nolan's grim, dark-depiction of Gotham-City (the crime-ridden hell protected by legendary superhero Batman), the director strives to make everything real (something he began in the well-received "Batman Begins"). He makes it plausible, possible. And yet there's more to it: just as 'Begins' was a dissection of myth, the nature of symbols and heroes, 'Knight' is the escalation of that notion. It's a biblical- confrontation of 'good-and-evil', yet as 'good-and-evil' really exist: a conflict of ideals, something that can't be purely-defined but that is relative to a viewpoint. In Nolan's world, the line of villainy and heroism isn't crossed... it's non-existent. The bad-guys don't see themselves as bad-guys, and as such something so unnervingly-real comes across it might fly past some people's minds (no insult to anybody, it's just common that people don't look deep into 'popcorn-flicks'): the battle is a complete ambiguity.
The film runs at nearly 2.5-hours, yet never ceases to lose interest or momentum. It doesn't waste a scene or moment; every event is utilized and necessary. 'The Dark Knight' tells a story worth telling and it takes the proper amount of time to tell it. Action-sequences are frantic, old-school, eye-grabbing stunts (vastly superior to 'Begins') and in their chaotic intensity we see that they serve purpose to the story, yet more interesting are not played for pure entertainment-value: we are meant to watch, petrified, simply hoping that the outcome will go the hero's way. Attention is never lost because we are immersed in a breathtaking, almost completely-unpredictable story (it packs many a shock), that makes us think and more importantly gains our emotional-investment. We come to care for the characters, because they are believable, developed, and personified fully.
Everyone has great-chemistry together. Maggie Gyllenhal is a more mature Rachel Dawes than Katie Holmes. Morgan Freeman provides his authoritative presence to the role of bad- gadget-inventor/Wayne-Enterprise CEO Lucius Fox, and under anyone else's portrayal, the part would be less-memorable. Gary Oldman underplays his world-wearied lawman with such honest-nobility, you never feel for a second any of its forced-acting. The irreplaceable Michael Caine makes a gentle, reassuring, father-like presence as Alfred, and the movie would surely fail without his strong-presence and interjected-moments of light-humor.
And while everyone (rightfully) pours the praise unto Bale and Ledger, I think most are glancing-over Knight's breakout-performance. As Harvey Dent, Aaron Eckhart does more than hold himself in the company of such a renowned-cast. He makes his presence known, whether he's playing on the easy-going charisma of Gotham's 'White-Knight' or the broken and damaged, twisted-soul of Two-Face. He achieves a full-impact with the tragedy that comes unto his character, and so closely connects with Dent, that he makes his pain tangible for us: we sympathize even as we become terrified. He captures both facets of each personality flawlessly.
Now, some people cite that 'Knight' has a potential fatal-flaw in the supposedly wooden- acting of Christian Bale. Admittedly, his development is not as grand as in 'Begins' (yet that film gave us such a good psychoanalysis of Wayne, we hardly need more), yet what Bale pulls off is admirable. Wayne is not an eccentric personality. He is a disillusioned man who can hardly find any joy in having no family, giving up his love-interest and spending his life fighting a battle that may never end. He's dark and conflicted, and Bale plays up on that brooding-mood by making Wayne look as though a thousand dark-things were on his mind. He's not wooden...he's a humorless, quiet individual. Even when Wayne is acting as a frivolous playboy for the public, every now and then Bale offers us a powerful glance that reminds us its all a façade; that deep down, something more disturbed irks him. Occasionally he offers a broken-smile when exchanging banter with Alfred, letting us know that beyond the dour depression of the Caped-Crusader lies a damaged human-being. It is only in the guise of a growling masked-man, that he can unleash his true, ferocious personality.
Finally, who could forget Heath Ledger. Now, when he was first-announced for the part, I was (along with many other people) asking myself: "Why?". Mr. Ledger had proved with 'Brokeback Mountain' he could deliver a potent performance. But he hadn't before. It is only, after seeing this film, that I know the answer to 'why?': I see the significance of his loss.
When Heath appears in this movie, he is completely unrecognizable. His voice is distinctly-altered; a near-whiny, pedophile-like tone that sends shivers down the spine. His face is completely splattered with makeup that renders him both freakishly-nightmarish and strangely-funny. And when you see him, you don't think it's him. In this, his final performance, Ledger proved he was a chameleon. His two iconic performances in this, and 'Brokeback', could not be more different. I am convinced he could have been anything in his career. He commits so intensely to character that the line of actor/portrayal dies. His every tick and gesture only further-enhances his character. Heath never hams the role up or goes for something cheap: he delivers a fully-immersed display of psychotic madness...or do we just label him that to feel safer? The movie writes the character brilliantly; blending terrifying truth into his every social-accusation, and making us question why we laugh at his sick-jokes.
'The Dark Knight' has had an incredible-amount of hype running for it, from the get-go, mounting ever-higher, until Heath Ledger's too-soon death. And the finished-product does more than exceed all of the near-impossible expectations placed on it. It becomes something much richer than a super-hero-franchise-saga. Christopher Nolan has opened a new door in cinema: allowing action-flicks to become more serious, capable of intelligence. He has transformed this into a piece of artwork, full of beauty, terror, moral-conundrums. This movie has changed things...forever.
There's no going back. 10/10
on July 22, 2008
First of all, this is a GREAT film, not just a great Batman film.
Others have compared Christopher Nolan's two Batman films to the Tim Burton Batman films, so I won't repeat their observations. Let me simply say that everything about this movie, from the script to the casting to the CGI to the acting and ultimately the directing is superb.
Now to Plato. The meta-message of The Dark Knight is a meditation on the nature of good and evil, the veneer of civilization, the virtues of principle and the necessity and the danger of bending principle in emergencies, the differences between evil for gain or power and evil for mere destruction and chaos, and the tension between public duty and private loyalty. Finally there is the question of the place for facts and the place for "sacred" myth.
(Caution: this review refers to specific scenes and characters.)
The mafia in Gotham is evil for gain and power. They want money and they want influence. They also want order. When the manager of the bank objects to the robbery he complains that the usual rules and courtesies among criminals are being violated. The corrupt police officers are evil for gain as well. They too need general acceptance of rules and procedures.
The Joker is evil for evil's sake. He sows chaos and disorder and wants to expose the thin veneer of civilization. He seeks only to unmask what he sees as contradiction and hypocrisy in human nature and to demonstrate that so-called good citizens are really evil underneath.
Scarecrow, who was featured in Batman Begins and has a minor role in the drug bust scene in The Dark Knight, is a deranged psychiatrist whose evil comes from desire for power over others as he uncovers the weaknesses in the minds of others.
The Mayor is out for power but does not resort to evil. Police Lieutenant James Gordon represents incorruptible good. This is ultimately stressed when Gordon must make a choice between public duty and personal relationship. Batman faces that same dilemma when he must decide whether to rescue Harvey Dent or Rachel Dawes. Likewise, the passengers in the ferries must choose between what they are told will be personal survival and the deaths of others, in another of The Joker's nefarious experiments. When the Wayne Industries accountant is about to reveal the identity of Batman, The Joker announces that the accountant must die, and citizens try to assassinate him. Personal safety trumps adherence to the good sometimes, but not all times.
Batman seems weaker than The Joker because he adheres to rules. The Biblical injunction, "Justice, justice shall you pursue," has been understood as demanding that justice be pursued justly. Evil, especially evil for its own sake, makes no such demand. We see this every time terrorists deliberately target innocents and hide themselves behind children knowing that those in pursuit will not purposely aim at innocent bystanders. This gives evil a huge temporary advantage.
Yet sometimes the good must bend and even break the rules. Abraham Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus during a critical interval during the Civil War. Batman asks Lucius Fox to preside over such a broken rule to locate and catch The Joker. When and how can we know when good can break rules to catch evil? Batman answers by creating a mechanism to restore the rules as soon as the crisis is over.
Alfred Pennyworth indirectly poses the question, "Knowing that evil, if attacked, will double its efforts and create even more destruction, is it really wise to go after evil?" The bad guys cause huge destruction after Batman and Gordon squeeze the mafia, creating enormous conflict and guilt in Batman. But without disturbing the hornet's nest, evil would prevail anyway. So the battle must be joined in any event.
Harvey Dent is extremely complex. He berates Gordon for compromising his police unit by accepting some corrupt officers to his staff. Gordon answers by claiming that sometimes those who know corruption can be the most effective in fighting it. Dent is identified as the "White Knight" whose public persona will rally the public against evil. But Dent himself participates in an untruthful diversion to help trap The Joker. Even he compromises good for the sake of fighting evil.
When Rachel and Dent are being held in danger Batman and Gordon each race to save them. Batman declares he is going to save Rachel but is tricked into going to Dent's location. Rachel dies and Dent is severely injured. In a brilliant make-up creation the right side of Dent's face remains normal and the left side is severely and dramatically changed. He has physically transformed from a White Knight into his derisive nickname, "Two Face." Reminiscent of Jekyll and Hyde, Dent's nature is now permanently divided.
The death of Rachel has destroyed Dent's belief in good and has dissolved his commitment to the public's welfare. Now he only thinks of his own personal pain and loss. But he is not a creature of pure evil. His hurt and grudge turn him into a near nihilist. The lucky coin with two heads has been transformed. One side is now ruined and becomes for him the oracle of ethics. Life and death depend solely on chance; solely on the flip of a coin.
Furious at Gordon for the actions of the corrupt police officers in Gordon's unit who betrayed Rachel, Dent finds Gordon's wife and children. Recognizing that Gordon's young son is dearest to him, Dent demands that Gordon reassure the son as Dent flips his coin to decide the boy's fate.
Batman, for whom good and evil, life and death, are not decided by chance, intervenes. In their fight Dent and Batman both plunge to the ground from a height. Batman survives and tells Gordon that the myth of Dent's goodness must become the rallying point for the city. Dent remains the White Knight, while Batman allows himself to become The Dark Knight, spurned by the public, identified wrongly but necessarily as the source of evil, who can then secretly work for the good. Only Gordon and his son know the true story behind this myth. Gotham thus gets the hero it deserves.
The Joker is captured but his fate is left hanging, literally and figuratively. We do not even know for certain whether Dent died, or unconscious, has survived his fall. All we know for sure is that the complexity of fighting evil and the compromises permitted for good are unsolved. Civilization continues but only barely. The Joker has destroyed Rachel, transformed Dent, and caused everlasting turmoil and doubt within Batman.
The need to resort to myth over facts after arguing previously for the absolute value of Truth, ends Plato's Republic, with the famous story of the myth of the cave. We too are left in the dark, in the company of The Dark Knight, at the end of this superb film.
We can only wonder what the sequel might have been, with The Joker and Two Face challenging Batman, had Heath Ledger survived.
Speaking of Heath Ledger I want to mention a few things about his performance as The Joker. There is a small pantheon of presentations of psychiatrically deranged individuals in film. Among the best are Olivia Thailand in Snake Pit, Gregory Peck in Spellbound, Jack Nickelson in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, and Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. Ledger's perhaps surpasses them all.
For those with a psychiatric or medical background like myself, the use of his slight head tics and the seemingly random movement of his tongue suggest that The Joker has been in a psychiatric institution and medicated with drugs that left him with a case of tardive dyskinesia, a rare but serious and irreversible movement disorder that can be a side effect of certain psychotropic medications. This touch, which I believe was meticulously and masterfully added to the portrayal by Ledger, makes The Joker both more convincing and more dangerous.
I am told that Ledger immersed himself in The Joker's state of mind before and during the filming. It is not unknown for an actor to have difficulty extricating himself from such a wrenching and demanding role. Joaquin Phoenix and Faye Dunaway have each spoken about this as they worked to emerge from Johnny Cash and Joan Crawford. If this was so for Ledger then The Joker got an undeserved bitter laugh while we have only tears.
Addendum July 23, 2008: One of The Joker's henchmen must have gotten into my spell checker to change Olivia De Havilland into Olivia Thailand. Sorry for that.
I want to expand on one point distinguishing Batman from Dent. When The Joker reveals the locations of Rachel and Dent, Gordon asks Batman which location he is going to. Batman says Rachel's but I believe he is aware of The Joker's double crosses and switches, and knowingly goes to Dent's location. That Batman expresses no surprise at finding Dent rather than Rachel confirms this view. Bruce Wayne would have rescued Rachel but Batman, a true hero, puts his public duty above his private preferences.
After Rachel is killed Dent loses his sense of public duty and loses faith in goodness. Batman, equally in love with Rachel and equally convinced she will marry him, retains his public duty and goodness, though he is burdened with grief and guilt. Perhaps a White Knight cannot endure crushing disappointment. Perhaps only a Dark Knight, who has already experienced the crushing loss of viewing the murders of his father and mother, and holding himself responsible for that tragedy, can make his way through darkness without losing his way.
A final note, in response to a commenter who took issue with my portrayal of Gordon as incorruptibly good, I agree that Gordon made pragmatic choices, and refer to them in the essay. But as a person he is beyond bribery and never loses sight of his duty to the citizenry. So how about personally incorruptible but one who made some seemingly necessary but ultimately unwise alliances.
Rarely has a film left me speechless, much less a comic book inspired film. Christopher Nolan's rendition of the DC comic character has. "THE DARK KNIGHT" may well be the best comic book film I have ever seen. Christopher Nolan, along with Jonathan Nolan has crafted a screenplay of nearly unbelievable proportions. The duo has taken the "Batman" mythos and has turned it into their own; what results is a film that captures the essence of the comic book and combines it to a truly gripping and engaging psychological crime drama-action-adventure. You heard that right, a psychological crime drama and an adventure.
I'll get right to the point, you don't need to read any reviews, (including this one) just watch this film. It stomps Burton's rendition of the caped crusader to the ground and MAY well eat "Batman Begins" for breakfast, lunch and dinner; all the more evolving the concept of Gotham City's "Dark Knight".
Still here, no trust? Ok then, here we go...
Gotham City is the battle ground. The mysterious "Batman" has the crime element by its ear. Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) is an incorruptible force in court and Lt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman) has his special unit to combat crime. Seems like a good time to be in Gotham, doesn't it? Wrong.
A mysterious "Joker" (Heath Ledger) has surfaced and seemed poised to take Gotham's soul by creating mass hysteria and chaos. Gotham's population is at the mercy of this madman--and what does he want? To prove a point.
Christopher Nolan has impressed me before, with his films; "The Prestige" and "Memento". But never as much this time around. The director has abandoned the idea that "Batman" has to have a comic book feel. The film goes for the comic book's soul. Nolan is armed with a near flawless script that exudes the spirit of Gotham City as well as its Dark Angel. If there are any holes in it then I cannot see it. The movie is unstoppable, the direction it went is awe-inspiring that it nearly gave me goose bumps. The movie not only portrays the usual Batman vs. Joker main event, it also defines the meaning of the word "hero" as well as the morality that surrounds the idea.
"The Dark Knight" has a lot of characters and the film develops each one. No one is a plot device, everyone has a purpose in the screenplay. Heath Ledger gives the performance of his career (Rest in Peace, Heath) and trumps Nicholson's portrayal. Ledger's "Joker" is very reminiscent of the Joker in the comic book "The Killing Joke". The maniac is not after money, he has no grand scheme but he wants to prove a point. This Joker isn't joking around, this villain is frighteningly twisted, maniacal and homicidal. Ledger performs as if he saw the adage: "Crazy people don't know they're crazy" and brings all to bear. There's no "origin" as to where he came from, although his past is suggested by his quippy remarks. The Joker will remain an enigma in this film, and I think it's a very smart move to do so. Christian Bale is still a great Bruce Wayne and as his cowled alter-go. Bale changes his voice to a raspy one when he is Batman. Aaron Eckhart is an intriguing Harvey Dent, the district attorney is charismatic, heroic and the embodiment of Gotham's hope, until he--well, has a very bad day. Yes, Two-Face makes an appearance and not to worry, the character won't be one-dimensional.
The film's success is that the plot has attained a life of its own. The characters can breathe and everything has a purpose. The film's main premise is not limited to our two nemeses. Even Gotham City itself has become a character in the movie as well as its inhabitants. Gotham is portrayed as a melting pot of chaos and disorder and one nudge towards the wrong direction may unbalance the city's moral fiber. Yes, the film has its bit of morality in it and explores the decency of everyday folk. Before, in "Batman Begins" James Gordon and Bruce's lost love Rachel (played this time by Maggie Gyllenhaal) embodied this idea, but the concept is more widely expressed this time around. The Joker's target is the soul of Gotham and never more has the stakes been this high. The Mantle of the Bat is by itself a separate entity from Bruce and the concept is even given more depth, just what it means and what it is.
The movie still has the tank-like Batmobile and a newer version of a Bat-cycle or in this case, a "Bat-Pod". The mantle of the Bat has undergone some updates to make it lighter but for me, it looked bulkier. Tim Burton's rendition of the Bat-suit may have the edge over this one but none are more accurate than the Bat suit in the fan film: `Batman Dead End". If the film had a fault, is that the fight sequences need some smoothening up. They're not bad, it's just that it's not as hard-hitting as I would've liked and the camera work needs to hang back a little bit so the audience can see the fight a little more. The action sequences itself are exciting, the movie does have some very cool car chases which are intense and adrenaline-pumping; further complemented by Hans Zimmer's very powerful soundtrack. The proceedings have that somber but intimidating "dark" feel that the film's cinematographer needs to be commended. The visuals are great, the CGI doesn't look they're CGI at all.
There are cleverly placed bits of humor that help the film's pace. Alfred (Michael Caine) supplies the sarcasm that is reminiscent of his character. The sarcastic exchanges between him and Wayne give a lot of depth to their relationship. Morgan Freeman reprises his role as Lucius Fox and his character has a humorous exchange in sarcasm with a Wayne Enterprises employee. Fox also serves a significant role as a man who serves as Bruce's conscience almost as much as Alfred. Even "The Joker" adds some twisted bits of black humor--"I have a magic trick..", boy, what a way to add an exclamation point to his character. The bits of humor help the film balance its darkness towards its gripping build-up to its end game.
BATMAN is a dark character and he is arguably the most interesting character in DC's line of comic books. The man is an enigma and very mysterious. Obsessed? Crazy? a Genius? This man is an urban legend and Nolan and company has successfully represented all these factors. Ledger's performance may have taken the spotlight since this is his last film and he does somewhat steal the show from Bale--from Bale not the character itself.
I'm not exactly sure how Christopher Nolan will be able to top this film. The promise of things to come and its climax has such an impact the way everything was structured through its storytelling. Comic book fans have a reason to rejoice, the director has taken the Batman myth to new heights. "The Dark Knight" is epic, deliciously exciting, unforgettable, groundbreaking, scary and manages to put the audience in the middle of the struggle between Gotham's Dark Knight and his arch-nemesis; The Joker. The film is very sincere and precise in its execution.
HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION! [5-Stars]
This review is Dedicated to the Memory of Heath Ledger.
on December 2, 2008
Ok, the movie is a 5 star, this is a little info on the case and bat pod if anyone is curious about it size. We have it at work and I have already seen it. It is actually VERY small, the case and the bat pod. The bat pod is maybe 4"-5" long, and the case is just a bit larger then the blu rays. I was expecting a bat pod the size of the one available at in the toys at most stores which is 10"-12" long.
AT $50+ dollars, I would get the Bluray 2 disc and the $20 12" bat pod, which s a much better bat pod and value in my opinion.
on December 9, 2008
This is just some information regarding the Bat Pod. Please be aware, the Bat Pod and the display stand are 100% plastic. The Bat Pod is also not removable.
In my opinion, they are not worth the extra money.
Get the film, but don't splurge on this plastic toy.
on December 28, 2008
There is nothing more to be said about this movie - probably the best superhero film ever made, with a mesmerizing performance by Heath Ledger as the embodiment of chaotic evil - this is a 5-star DVD if ever there was one. But there is a LOT to be said about this awful, feature-free, completely inadequate 2-disc set.
On Disc 1, the movie itself provides no alternative soundtracks, no director/cast/technician commentary, no "music only" version, no alternate versions, no deleted scenes, nothing. You may as well watch it on Amazon Unbox given the utter absence of extra features.
On Disc 2, things get much, much worse. There are exactly two mini-documentaries - one on the design and implementation of the new Bat-suit and the quasi-motorcycle Bat-pod, one on the evolution of the Joker's "theme sound" for the movie soundtrack. Both are interesting as far as they go, but in the immortal words of another Warner Brothers hero, "That's all, folks!" Everything else on the disc is worthless. I'll list here and you can decide for yourself:
- A gallery of movie posters, production stills, and trailers. The posters and stills are not even presented full-screen - pathetic.
- IMAX scenes - The major action set pieces for The Dark Knight were filmed in IMAX, which I had the opportunity to see for myself at an IMAX theater. The effect in the theater was interesting - when the action took off, the somewhat over-sized widescreen image suddenly exploded into full IMAX. But what exactly is the point of this feature on DVD? It's NOT IMAX, obviously, so all we're really seeing is how these scenes looked in their original IMAX-style framing (which is, um, pretty close to 3:4 "full TV screen", kids) before being trimmed down to the "widescreen" format of standard movie screens and newer televisions. I guess this "feature" might be of interest to fanatics who worry about what they missed at the top and bottom of the screen during those scenes, but to the rest of us, this is a complete snooze-fest (unless you just like the idea of watching all the action scenes back-to-back).
- "Gotham Tonight" - the most inexplicable feature of all is this collection of 6 episodes of the fictional "Gotham Tonight" show featured throughout the movie as background and/or commentary on the action from the perspective of local TV news. Not sure where these came from, or why they were produced, but whatever value they might have had as "deep background" (if that is indeed why they were made), in this context they're just DVD shovelware.
Folks, THAT IS *IT*. The above is *everything* on Disc 2. Not even a *mention* of the late Heath Ledger, much less the sort of documentary a lot of us would love to see, perhaps featuring recollections of cast and crew about how he created the character that made it onto the screen. Given this, the fact that the picture used to label Disc 2 is a close-up of the Joker's face just adds insult to injury.
I share the opinion of many other customer reviewers I've read here - this is clearly a holiday season rip-off, a quick-and-dirty scheme to rake in a few extra bucks from unsuspecting clods like me who expected WB to release a package worthy of this great movie. Instead, what we have is an insult to the fans and the film makers. Save your money and get the single disc if you must, but better still wait for the proper "deluxe edition" that's sure to come next year. As it stands, the current "special edition" is really, really sad.
UPDATE: I hope we ARE getting a true deluxe edition of this movie on DVD, but you might want to take a look at the product description of the Blu-ray disc. Apparently, WB has decided (at least so far) to save all the decent supplemental material for Blu-ray customers. There's no technical reason for this - a 2-disc DVD set has all the capacity needed to carry the extra documentaries, etc., included on the Blu-ray edition.
Blu-ray and its flaky BD+ anti-piracy technology have given many of us pause. 1080p's nice, but not if it doesn't work, and until I'm convinced that the dust has settled on the stability and compatibility problems, I'm sticking with DVDs (assuming I still have a choice). If WB's handling of "The Dark Knight" is a harbinger of things to come, if the studios are going to try to force us to buy Blu-ray by needlessly withholding material from DVD editions, the most significant effect may just be to kill the "deluxe" DVD business. I know that from now on I will wait to read some detailed reviews to see if "special edition" DVDs are worth the premium before buying - no more pre-orders!
on December 9, 2008
Let's get one thing out of the way: this movie is terrific. Easily the best superhero movie ever made. Yet my basis for this review is the Limited Edition Batpod case. Although it's pretty small, the batpod does look cool while the logo behind contains the discs itself. However, the batpod cannot be removed from the stand since it's attached permanently, and the logo case is actually mandatory. Not major faults, but I would've liked to have the standard Blu-Ray casing, which features a "Jokerized" description of the movie such as the words "HAHA" written all over the case as well as a smile drawn over Batmans picture. Overall, this is a unique item, but it's one I could've lived without.
on January 5, 2009
I loved Batman Begins. It was fun, with wonderful characterization, cool Bat gadgets, and fun bad guys. A thrilling run from start to finish, and most certainly a movie I hope to someday own. So, needless to say, I couldn't wait to see The Dark Knight.
I quickly discovered that The Dark Knight does not have the same spirit as Batman Begins. It is not a fun movie; it is a dark, "heavy" movie. Heavy themes, heavy thoughts, enough depth to drown in, carried by excellent actors and sharp dialogue and deep ethical questions. That's great. I usually look forward to movies like this -- movies coupling art with entertainment, one of the highest callings entertainment can aspire to and one of the hardest to achieve.
That said, this is the only movie that I could not say simply, "I liked it" or "I hated it" after watching it. I simply felt drained after watching it, like I had just sprinted down a steep road for 2 1/2 hours and hit a wall face-first at the bottom. I thought that perhaps after a few days I'd figure out whether it was my thing or not. At the end, no. It's not my kind of movie. I must add one thought to this: I could also not say it's a bad movie by any means. In fact, in some ways, rating it below 5 stars is a crime.
There's great acting here by everyone, even secondary and tertiary characters. Batman does have some unintentionally humorous moments with his rasping, slurring "bat-voice" -- sometimes you can't tell what he says, and it borders on over-acting -- but overall, he does a fine job. The Joker is downright perfect (perhaps a little too perfect) -- a character you'll love to hate.
The characters are great, the plot is excellently crafted, and the dialogue is great. It's not just solid, it's a masterpiece.
But do not be fooled by the title of this movie. This is the Joker's film from beginning to end. In fact, that's my main complaint. Where's Batman? Why is everyone so powerless in Joker's schemes? Why is Batman such a failure? Joker is a psychic; everything goes according to his plans, and I mean everything. He foresees every movement, every feint, and every plot. After a while, this gets very, very silly. As another reviewer so aptly stated, when he DOES get proven wrong, it seems more contrived than anything else -- merely a way to end the movie. The Joker gets more screen time than anyone else; Batman and all the other champions of Gotham City fail time and time again before his onslaught.
Because of this constant struggle, with the "good side" never giving up and often so close to victory, the tension never drops for a second. Every moment the Joker is alive is a moment you can't relax. It's like a nightmare that never ends -- every time you think there will be a moment of brightness, the Joker backhands it and everything falls black again. It's tiresome. No, you can't stop watching it, but it's terribly draining and depressing.
Harvey Dent is another con for me. He is Two-Face for such a short time that he doesn't deserve the moniker. That wasn't Two-Face; that was just a scarred up guy who killed, what, two people? Not scary, not very impressive, not worth a "super villain" title.
Pacing is yet another con for me. As I stated before, it is constant, draining tension from start to finish. There's not a single moment of reprieve, not one -- false starts, sometimes, but never truly a moment to breathe. And there's almost never a positive moment to be had!
In the end, this isn't entertainment. This is an experience and an exploration of the natures of good and evil. What I wanted, and thought I was going to see, was a fun ride with an uplifting end; what I received was a riveting, dark thriller that essentially states that evil is all-pervasive and nigh insurmountable. Even with the Joker captured, one has the sensation that he has won anyway -- every second he is alive, he wins. Indeed, according to The Dark Knight, there is no good -- only different kinds and different "strengths" of evil.
In the end, The Dark Knight just not my kind of thing -- not for its lack of quality, and not because I deny the fact that "evil's" successes are more prevalent than "good's" -- but because I go to the movies to see evil smacked in the head at the end. I want to see something work for once. I want to see good triumph; I want to think there IS such a thing as good. I wanted Batman to win completely, without question.
This is certainly no feel good movie; it has most certainly raised the bar for super-hero movies. There are more philosophical and ethical questions to ponder here than in many of the dullest art movies. However, I do hope that in the inevitable sequel, there are a few more bright points and positively charged thrills... and more of the Batman himself.
on December 9, 2008
When I first saw The Dark Knight last summer, I couldn't take it all in. This was one dark, violent, scary, intense and emotionally draining experience. Obviously I had to see it again to absorb it all. Such is the nature of Christopher Nolan's follow up to 2005's Batman Begins. This is no mere comic book/superhero flick. The film is as layered and complex as it is tense and entertaining.
Much of the praise the film has received has been centered around the posthumous performance of Heath Ledger, and rightfully so. This is Ledger's greatest performance in a career that was cut tragically short. His portrayal of the Joker is one for the ages. With his smeared clown makeup, greasy hair and scarred smile, the Joker dominates this film like few other villians have ever done. Ledger loses himself deep within the skin of this character. So convincing is his performance that you may find yourself wondering if it really is Ledger giving this performance. What makes the Joker so memorable is his lack of motive. With no backstory or psychological profile to give the audience any idea of who he is, he shows up in Gotham and starts wrecking havoc. His only motivation seems to be the sheer anarchist kick he gets out of his actions. As Michael Caine's Alfred puts it at one point, he just likes to watch the world burn. Even more disturbing about the Joker is that he realizes that Batman is his counterpoint, the yin to his yang. At one point he declares to the Caped Crusader that "you complete me". It's funny....for about a second until you realize that the Joker is completely serious. He needs Batman to challenge him and push him to new levels of depravity. It's almost as if the Dark Knight is his muse.
I could go on and on about the brillance of Ledger's performance, but the movie has a lot more going for it as well. Nolan's direction is flawless. He balances explosive action sequences and deeply emotional moments with the greatest of ease. The screenplay grounds the film in realism and lends it an incredible amount of moral ambiguity and complexity. The performances are stellar from the entire cast. Christian Bale actually has the thankless task of keeping the hero from being completely marginalized by the film's fascinating villian, and he does a fine job. There is also strong work from Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman and Maggie Gylenhall.
When it is all said and done, Nolan and company have rewritten the rules for superhero films and Hollywood blockbusters in general. This film proves that big budget films can be challenging, dark, disturbing and leave the audience with no easy answers. And they can do this while being amazingly entertaining. The Joker might have longed to give Gotham a better class of villian, but Christopher Nolan and company have given us a better class of commercial of filmmaking.