Saturday, July 19, 2008

Oh, What a Knight.

The Dark Knight lives up to the hype. Most people won’t need a review to convince them to see it, but if you do, then… go see it. Don’t miss this in the theater. Go see it in IMAX if you can. This movie is an event. It is huge piece of entertainment, but it’s complex, heavy and dark. It’s not a happy movie and it is not a kid’s movie. It is however, a GREAT movie.

Marvel Comics recently began to create a film universe that mirrors their comic book world. It’s a fantastic place where super powered beings exist along with extraordinary technology that make the impossible possible. Director Christopher Nolan does the opposite with his world of Batman. This is grounded in reality, with just enough fantasy to make it a superhero movie. This movie is more of a crime drama, kind of like Heat with a touch of James Bond thrown in for flavor and some No Country for Old Men for spice.

Heath Ledger is at the heart of the story of this film. His death casts a shadow on it, and it got the film’s legend growing before it was even released. His Joker is amazing. This version of the Joker will change the character forever, much like Frank Miller’s graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns, reinvented the Batman character. He’s taken the character to a new place, and it’s somewhere in hell just south of Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs and Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men. Give him the Oscar. He deserves it. Heath is gone, but this performance will live forever.

I don’t think you need to ever ask who the best actor to ever play The Joker was. Each actor was right for their time. I’ll just say the Ledger stands on the shoulders of Caesar Romero and Jack Nicholson and establishes a more terrifying and intelligent interpretation of the character. You will be riveted by his performance.

The writers are at the top of their game and the actors take the material and run. The entire cast is excellent, with Christian Bale handling the mantle of Batman and Bruce Wayne as well as ever. His character is layered, so you see all the sides of this man; the gruff masked avenger, the frivolous playboy facade and the private, driven Bruce Wayne. Bale definitely lives up to the reponsibilty of portaying the Dark Knight. Aaron Eckhart plays Harvey Dent, the D.A. that we all know will eventually become the villain Two Face. As Nolan did with The Scarecrow in Batman Begins, Two Face is slightly reinvented for this universe. He is the pivotal character in this movie.

One of the strengths of this movie is that it puts the characters in unpleasant situations and forces them to make very tough choices. And sometimes even the right choice turns out to be wrong. I have never seen a superhero move tackle serious issues like this, and handle them so deftly. Like Empire Strikes Back, this movie beats the hell out of its characters, and no one lives happily ever after. But as Harvey Dent says, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

The knocks on The Dark Knight? It is two and a half hours long. There might have been a few things they could have shortened, but I was not complaining. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll just say that people who have seen the movie have one or two minor complaints, but most people I know want to see it again, which is probably the best endorsement there is for a movie. I know I’ll be seeing it again. And again. And again.


Anonymous said...

Great review Jack. I do have one comment I'd like to share. I was a bit disappointed with the lack of BAM!, POW! and WHAM! in the Dark Knight. Wouldn't you think they'd want to keep some of the campy TV series in there? Poor Adam West...

Steve said...

Great summation and endorsement of the Dark Knight. I saw twice in one weekend. I'll probably go see it again on the Imax this time if I can.