Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Dark Knight

This is likely the best comic book adaptation ever. I was of two minds about Batman Begins. The first half with Bruce Wayne's (Christian Bale) transformation into Batman was wonderful, but it kind of fell apart once he got back to Gotham. The Dark Knight, however, is fantastic from beginning to end. This is with little doubt the most anticipated movie of the year, and it did not disappoint.

The Dark Knight starts immediately after the previous movie. Batman is cleaning up Gotham City, and organized crime is on the run. We are introduced in the first scene to the city's newest scourge, The Joker (Heath Ledger). He teams up with the mob to hunt down and kill Batman, but has deeper rooted plans to simply bring Gotham City to its knees. He wants nothing short of anarchy. The only thing standing in his way is the Triumvirate of Batman, Lt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman), and the newly elected DA, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). As The Joker's terrorist attacks get more more severe, he seems to always be one step ahead of the law. The heroes must then compromise their own morals to do what's best for the city.

I don't want to sound like I'm just being influenced by Heath Ledger's recent death, but he managed to dethrone Jack Nicholson's Joker from the 1989 Tim Burton Batman. It wasn't just that he brought a more intense and unstable performance to the character, it was the entire package. Nicholson's Batman, despite being uncomfortable crazy was still more mischievous than terrifying. His plan of using makeup to poison the city, and clean looking clown makeup were both outlandish and kind of goofy. Ledger's Joker makeup is grimy and frightening, and he engages in much more direct acts of terrorism. This marks the full transformation of the character from cartoony to truly frightening. Just as an example, my favorite Joker moment (I can't say what without giving stuff away) was completely improvised by Ledger.

I felt the most important relationship was between Batman and Dent. The new DA is willing to whatever it takes to clean up the city. He teams up with Batman to do the dirty work, while Dent makes sure they're prosecuted legally. He is even referred to many times as a white knight, in contrast to Batman's Dark Knight. Tension arises between them, however, because Dent is in a relationship with Bruce Wayne's former love, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal).

The Joker makes it his goal to bring Dent down from his pedestal, and undo all the good he's done. In fact, this is one of the most prevalent themes with the Joker. He's a master at bringing out the ugliness in people. The battle becomes a fight for Dent's image, with Batman shouldering the weight of all the dark deeds. This truly paints him as a tragic hero more than any other movie. He does everything for Gotham, and bares the brunt of their hatred.

There are some fantastic action sequences. Somehow director, Christopher Nolan, manages to hold your attention and not overwhelm with the almost three hour running time. A few if the more action filled scenes got a little confusing and disorienting, but these were made up for by some other fantastic ones. A car chase between a semi, a SWAT truck, and the Tumbler (the new Batmobile) was wonderful. And a sequence a little later with The Joker in jail was just as good.

The Dark Knight seems to capture perfectly the revitalized franchise. Gotham is as dark as it's ever been, and Batman has to act accordingly. The movie explores the complex morality of sinking to the level of those you're trying to capture. There's even a fairly direct commentary on government surveillance and what happens when one person gets too much power. The action, the character, and these themes of relative morality tie in perfectly together. I have little doubt that this will be the biggest film of the year.



Ann said...

I really love this movie, good action, but had to look away when Harvey two-face came on camera..

RiP666 said...

great movie...
realy enjoy the joker act