Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Dark Knight (2008)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: Why So Serious?

Plot: Batman and James Gordon 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.

My Rating: 9.5/10

Would I watch it again? Bat-Fucking-Yeah!

I've just had my ass handed to me for the second time in almost as many days. HOLY FUCKING SHIT!!! And I thought IRON MAN (2008) and THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008) were great. WOW! I'm going under the assumption that everyone and their kid sister have seen this already so there are going to be spoilers.

Who would have thought that a major Hollywood studio would have delivered us such a delightfully dark and twisted film that's this good? I wouldn't have but I'm certainly glad they did. First of all, Christopher Nolan is just a badass director. I've seen all of his films since MEMENTO (2000) (a MUST see) and they've all been stellar with the exception of INSOMNIA (2002) to which I prefer the Norwegian 1997 original. This guy's a talented film maker and he gets fantastic performances out of his actors. Besides directing, he also co-wrote this with his brother, Jonathan.

The acting all the way around is superb. Heath Ledger is getting the lion's share of the praise which is unfortunate because, while he is outstanding here, the rest of the cast delivers outstanding performances as well. Ledger's portrayal of the Joker is deliciously sick. I couldn't help but feel he was channeling Paul Giamatti the entire time. Giamatti could have pulled this off with the same amount of daring gusto that Ledger did. Anyway, he steals every scene he's in and it's a lot of fun watching the little things he brings to the character. He was handed a well-written character and he ran with it.

I particularly like that we don't know his back story or origin. You think you do when he tells a gangster how he got his scars but later in the film he tells someone else a different story so we really don't know. He's just making this up as he goes and he's enjoying it. Nice.

Then there's Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent. He totally sells his character, his motivation and his actions. So much so that you really buy his tragic transformation into Two-Face. I thought that the film would end with that transformation, giving us a lead-in to the next film but it gives us much more and I was completely satisfied with it. Usually something like that would have seemed forced and sloppy but not here. His death (and with the first view I thought maybe he's not dead but after the second I don't see how they could bring him back UNLESS he's secretly put into Arkham Asylum) works.

Then you've got the rest of the cast that really elevate this to being a truly great film. I dig how Bats is just a man with great support, training and gadgets. In BATMAN BEGINS (2005) we get to see a lot of his billionaire playboy side. They established all of that then so there's not much of it on this trip but when we do see it, he's terrific. The bit near the end when his Lamborghini is crashed into is hilarious when he's confronted by Gordon and Wayne tries to explain he was just trying to catch the red light. It's a nice little touch that makes its point without beating you over the head with it.

Katie Holmes was terrible in BB. Fortunately, they replaced her with the much better Maggie Gyllenhaal. And despite the fact that she's killed, there's a part of me that would have liked to have seen Holmes killed instead. But don't think for a second I would have enjoyed that more than not having her appear anywhere in the franchise to begin with. Oh, she was so, so bad. Tom Cruise can keep her.

Joker's disappearing pencil magic trick was a fucking classic. That was one of several "clap out loud" moments for me. I even found myself choking up a few times which surprised me. I loved the prisoner's decision on the ferry with the bomb detonator. That was touching. I loved that the Joker was always one step ahead of everyone else and that everyone was there for him to manipulate. Then there's the nice little scene where, after he's escaped, he's riding in a car sticking his head out of the window much like a dog. There's nothing but minimal music and it's brilliant.

The score is also great but while it does suit its intended purpose, it's not really that memorable. It's written by James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer. As a film music aficionado I can tell who wrote what and I really appreciate the sensitivity that Howard brought to his portion. Comic Book movies have been short changed over the years with the scores. It's sad that the last comic book movie with a truly memorable score is BATMAN (1989) by Danny Elfman. I don't recall seeing a comic book movie since then that had a score I was whistling after leaving the theater.

Nolan and company have delivered a film that doesn't talk down to its audience and gives us and its characters deserved respect. There is so much packed into the 152 minute (!) run time that you feel compelled to see it a second time, and not because it's such a great film, but because there's something deeper that you want to uncover. You'll know what to look for and you'll see much more than the first time. Here is an event movie that compels you to come back for multiple viewings. I've already seen it twice. I'll wait another week and catch it at least once more.

1 comment:

  1. Steven "Hollis Wood" HiggsAugust 9, 2008 at 12:19 AM

    Look for (in the tunnel sequence) the giant white truck-- on the side, it 'advertised' that it was a Circus-type truck...with the big word "Laughter" plastered onto it in black lettering....but look closer, and the Joker's spray-painted a red "S" right next to the "L" in laughter, making it... that short a step away from the word "Slaughter" Nice visual gag, appropriate to the character. hahaha This movie ROCKED in IMAX. That shot of the joker that you mention, head out the window, that little sequence was in IMAX... beautiful imagry.