Monday, July 21, 2008

Movie Review: The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight made $155 million this weekend. That means a lot of people saw it. So, I'm not really censoring myself spoiler wise. I'm not going to blow the whole movie, point for point, but there are some things I want to touch on that might ruin certain surprises to the movie that those who have not. So I'm warning you now. Read ahead, or go see the flick then check this out.

Considered by most to be the most anticipated movie of the summer, The Dark Knight opened under a ton of fan excitement and critical buzz. Pushed to a new level of fandom via a hardcore viral campaign. People became so enthralled with the idea of this movie that many were ready to proclaim it a masterpiece based on the trailers alone. While I was excited about Christopher Nolan's follow up to Batman Begins, I held any judgments until I actually saw the flick.

Needless to say, the writer/director did not disappoint. After all is said and done about this film, the one thing that left me the most pleased and surprised was the script Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan put together. The story encompassed everything from Batman lure and suspenseful action along with references to Star Wars, The Godfather, politics, religion, philosophy, and probably some more modicums of intellectual grandeur I'm not smart or fortunate enough to know about. Seriously, some of the story points and visuals Nolan uses in this film is the kind of stuff people write books about. You can interpret the entire scope of the film by these categories and probably make a pretty interesting argument.

Just for example, from my own education, is a theme of the philosophical theory of utilitarianism. Without referencing my college notes, utilitarianism is the theory that one should act in the manner that is in the greater good of everyone, and not for personal gain. Therefore, the outcome of an action is judged by the affect it has on the greater good. In short, the ends justify the means. There are numerous nods to this concept in this movie, and as I mentioned, this is only a small part of the overall interpretation. The Nolans really deserve a lot of credit for creating such a deep and complex script out of a comic book movie of all things. Also, Christopher Nolan shot about 20 minutes of the movie on IMAX film for a grander scope. It worked out incredibly, and if you have an IMAX theater in proximity to you, you must go see it in this format. It isn't even close compared to regular projection.

The acting was stellar as usual. Most importantly, the Rachael Dawes character was recast from Katie Holmes to Maggie Gyllenhaal. While maintaining the weird faced attractiveness of Holmes, Jake's sister definitely added an acting punch. The other notable addition not named Heath Ledger (more on him later), Aaron Eckhart picked up the role of Gotham District Attorney Harvey Dent, who of course eventually becomes Two-Face. Eckhart really portrays Gotham's white knight wonderfully. The Two-Face makeup didn't exactly do him any favors, seeing as it was quite cartoonish, but he is able to show Dent's darker side before the eventual Two-Face transformation takes place.

The returning actors benefitted from expanded roles since the audience was now familiar with their characters. Michael Cain, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman all enjoyed a greater impact in TDK over BB. The one person that sort of lost a step was actually Christian Bale. He spends most of this movie as Batman, not Bruce Wayne, which left him in a one dimensional phase, but when Bale was allowed to be Batsuit free, he is able to hold his own as an emotionally devoid and lonely billionaire attempting desperately to find his normal life.

Of course a lot of the hype behind this film came from the late Heath Ledger's performance. Tasteful or not, the studio execs really made Ledger's Joker the focus of the film. His performance is certainly something special, and will surely take the stage as one of the best villains ever put to film. Everything you hear about his performance is an understatement until you see it for yourself. Foregoing any sort of back story, The Dark Knight introduces this new version of The Joker as a pure menace. A personification of fear and panic, The Joker is all together a criminal mastermind, funny, scary, unpredictable, charismatic, likable, intimidating, and strange. All of these aspects highlight Ledger's performance and there truly isn't enough screen time spent with The Joker. For the Oscar talk, Ledger definitely deserves a nomination, but in the Best Supporting Actor Category. He carries the same presence as last year's winner, Javier Bardem, did in No Country for Old Men. He won't win Best Actor, but he will definitely be a front runner for Best Supporting. Who would have guessed the guy from 10 Things I Hate About You had the potential to be a great actor? Guess you never know.

Sadly, it was pretty clear by the end of the movie that The Joker was due for at least one more go around with Batman, but that will only happen with another actor taking on the role.

With all those good things to be said, there were some negatives. There was a main story arch that carried the movie up until about the 1hr 45min mark, then the last half hour or so felt disjointed and dragged a bit. The situations seemed out of nowhere in relation to the beginning of the film, and dare I say, some of the film felt a bit Batman Foreverish...not Batman & Robinish, but Batman Foreverish.

Also the way the film handled the transformation of Harvey Dent to Two-Face seemed rushed and rather simple as The Joker manipulated Dent to go from a symbol of good to a symbol of evil. Without giving away too much, Two-Face is motivated by his love for Rachael Dawes, and well, things don't really work out for them. For this to be a believable motivation for Two-Face, there has to be more longing and time between when things fall apart for Dent/Dawes, and when Two-Face goes around killing people. I mean longing makes the heart grow fonder, plus let's face it, even in the fictional city of Gotham, these two were probably due for a divorce anyway. He's the DA for one of the most crime-riddled cities in the world. He has to work long hours and deal with the scum of the Earth, under unbelievable amounts of stress. Then Rachael is either working with him, which is never good when married people work together, or at home taking care of their kid while Harvey is out giving his all to the city. You don't think she'll feel neglected, or he'll grow tired of the hassle of being married? Their marriage would have been doomed from the get go.

That last segment of the movie could have been edited to be the first half or even the entire third movie, with an easy ending added to The Dark Knight instead. This would have solved some of The Joker issues, and allowed Two-Face to take the necessary amount of time to make his character progress as need be. Now the third movie is really in limbo. Any multitude of things could take place, and it could go really good or really bad.

That is several years away, so no need to think too much about that at this point. Just enjoy this truly intense and surprisingly dark film that will have you engaged from the opening heist to the final scene.

Acting: 9.5/10
Plot: 9.0/10
Re-Watchability: 10.0/10
DVD Purchase: 10.0/10

Overall: 9.3/10

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