7/21/08

The Dark Knight (2008)

Heath Ledger as the Joker
Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine

Directed by Christopher Nolan (Memento)

IMDB: Batman and James Gordon (Gary Oldman) join forces with Gotham's new District Attorney, Harvey Dent, to take on a psychotic bank robber known as The Joker, whilst other forces plot against them, and Joker's crimes grow more and more deadly.

Yes, Keven and I went to see a movie on its opening, um, afternoon. No midnight showings. No late-night date. But at least we were there! I think the last time we did an opening day was for The Phantom Menace, although we saw the other two Star Wars prequels and The Lord of the Rings on their opening weekends.

Huh. Apparently The Dark Knight is the best film of all time. Even IMDB's weighting system, which gives more credit to votes for older films, can't compensate for more than 37,000 voters who give it a perfect 10.

Me? I'd give it about a 9. Because even though it was fantastic, I did have issues.

Minor plot-related quibbles I can't really discuss.

Except for one. Keven brought it up, and I'll have to agree, that although Maggie Gyllenhaal was a vast improvement over Scientologist automaton Katie Holmes, the character of Rachel Dawes lacked continuity. I didn't believe the angsty love triangle between Bruce, Rachel and Harvey, which meant some of the choices they made lacked emotional punch. This movie was much more about the nature of humanity and the choices we make for good or ill, so the romance lagged a distant fourth in the line-up of well-executed arcs.

The effects were top, top, top notch. The decision to use Chicago external shots for a sizable chunk of Gotham made for an interesting choice, making Gotham a real place--not Dick Tracey land, some fictional town where no one cares if it survives or burns. But that did mean I occasionally said, "Ooo, Wacker Drive!" Or, "Michigan Avenue!" Or, "Dude, he's riding the Batbike down the Millennium Station tunnel! I've been there with the girls." A teeny bit distracting.

I heart Jim Gordon. I've loved Gary Oldman's work for ages, with his turn as Rosencrantz (or was it Guildenstern?) as a shining exception to a long, long line of amazing villains. Stansfield, anyone? Drexl? Blimmin' Sid Vicious? But Jim Gordon was pure good. Apparently Oldman was thrilled with Rolling Stone, which said his performance was so good it made virtue look exciting. Awesome.

Christian Bale as BatmanChristian Bale did a great job of embodying three different characters: Batman, Bruce in private, and Bruce's public, exaggerated playboy face. Quiet moments with Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman reveal Bruce's doubts, his frailty--a softer side that Christian has the chops to portray without losing any of the strength and darkness needed for Batman. I particularly liked when he went all superhero intensity in the penthouse, while still wearing his tux. Bale as Bond? Works for me! He's the only reason I might see Terminator Salvation. Helllloooooo, John Connor.

Can Morgan Freeman be my grandad? Or Michael Caine? kthxbai.

Aaron Eckhart as Harvy DentI think Aaron Eckhart must be a really fun guy. He just seems so nice. His turn as Dent/Two-Face proved the most dynamic character arc, because Batman and Joker both filled roles--order and chaos--with Dent caught in the middle. The public face. The face of humanity that could be swayed to one side or the other. I found his progression to the Dark Side believable, especially after he confronts the schizophrenic. There's potential there. There's ego and anger. Good stuff.

Speaking of dualities, I couldn't stop finding them. EVERYTHING in this movie had a flip side. Good and evil. Justice and crime. Man and woman. Shadow and light. Harvey's two sides. You could write a whole thesis on the topic, srsly. And I love how the hype about Batman's ultimate decision--just how far will he go to defeat the Joker?--was a subdued examination of rights and the pursuit of justice. Not what I expected. Kudos.

Heath Ledger as the JokerDid I forget Heath? Of course not. How could anyone, with the fascination about his performance and his death driving everyone into a frenzy? But after about four minutes, I forgot I was watching a dead guy named Heath. His Joker was a demon. He walked like a demon, smiled like one. He was Puck made of pure evil. Absolutely none of the praise heaped on his performance has been overblown. And I would like to say that I've been on board with this casting decision since it was announced in July 2006. Ha! Eat that, naysayers! Poor guy always had it in him.

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