Friday, July 18, 2008

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight is everything is has been hyped up to be. Any perceived flaws in the film were invisible to my eye, which may have been looking through rose colored lenses. But, I think it only speaks to the film’s story, characters and grip on my attention that I could not see past what was directly in front of me.

And I saw it in IMAX.

I know that I have helped in building this film up before even seeing it, but I can honestly say that it was the greatest movie going experience of my life. Better than seeing T2, Revenge of the Sith or The Departed. Never before have I wanted to see a film so badly and held such high expectations for it, only to have those shattered by the film giving me everything I hoped for and more. The Dark Knight delivers in ways that I have never seen in my life. It is The Godfather Part II and it is The Empire Strikes Back. It will be the film that turns the generation behind me into film makers.

I have to start with the sheer technical brilliance of the film and Christopher Nolan’s incredible job of directing. There is not a split second, not a single frame wasted in the movie’s entire run time. He directs the film brilliantly and effortlessly through the story, really making it much more of a crime drama with a few action sequences, rather than the other way around. The story informs the manner of storytelling and Nolan makes sure that we are given everything we need to understand our characters and their motivation. I used to say that Nolan is a master at what he didn’t show you. I still think its true, but he pulls the curtain away in this film and brings us even deeper into Gotham. It is true that the city becomes a character itself and for good reason. Like anyone else in the film that we are meant to care about, Gotham City is what Bruce, Harvey, Gordon and Rachel all love so much that they are fighting with their lives to protect it. The city is their home and by showing us so much of it, Nolan would have us identify with it and care about whether or not it would be burned to the ground by anarchy.

We will never be able to say enough good things about Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker. Yes, it is brilliant, yes, he steals the movie and yes, he deserves every award he will and will not win. I still cannot say for sure if his death has affected my judgment in anyway, but I could not take my eyes off him and marveled at his talent. I never forgot that Heath was underneath that makeup, but I did forget that he was gone. I celebrated that man’s life tonight and I think he would have preferred that to the alternative.

Everyone in the cast is outstanding, but will be overshadowed by Ledger. I’m sure they’re fine with that, but kudos to Christian Bale for giving us real heart and pathos to Bruce Wayne that are usually only reserved for scenes of him as a child. Never before has Bruce been so tortured by his deeds and so willing to pull of the cowl and lay himself bare for the good of others concerned. He is the best Bruce Wayne. Likewise, though they are given much smaller roles than the first time around, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Maggie Gyllenhaal are superb in their roles, supporting Batman. We know that they empathize with Bruce, but cannot even come to grips with the best way to help him or to show him that he is not alone. As for Aaron Eckhart, he comes across as a revelation. He plays Harvey Two-Face as he was always meant to be. A twisted man hell bent on his own sense of justice. He is perfect, making us truly empathize with Harvey and so regretful when he becomes Gotham’s fallen white knight.

I walked out of the film slightly unsure of it. I knew that I had seen one of the greatest films I had ever seen. I knew I would be back the next day to watch it again. And I knew that Heath’s Joker had become the new Jack Sparrow. I was delighted that a huge summer blockbuster ‘comic book movie’ had not only become a masterful example of the true capacities of the medium, but had really, truly had something to say about our own world. Gotham City was a mirror of our own society and everything that was said about its citizens, about us as a people rang true to me. Sadly, I think most of this will be lost on a younger audience who will not see the forest for the trees. Nolan has been amazingly subversive in using his huge Warner Bros. franchise to explore our morality, our darker side and ourselves as well. I hope as many people go to see it as I plan to, because maybe then, they can discover the real meaning behind the title. Perhaps when we can see what we make of our heroes and the people brave enough to defend us, we can begin to change our world into one where those people can take off their masks and live a life in which the risk they put themselves in is no longer necessary.


Fletch said...

Hooray! Glad it lived up to your expectations. I tempered mine, and it blew them away, and though I'd really like to post a review, I kinda want to see it again before I do. 2 1/2 hours is a lot of film to digest...

The Mad Hatter said...


I'm still in awe of the tension, excitement, and darkness that this movie contains. wasn't *quite* as blown away as you were, but truly loved it.

Great review - great film!

Michael J. Mendez said...

Remember in The Prestige when Hugh Jackman comes back after seeing Bale's Transported Man trcik and he can't speak, he sits down and just says, "It was the greatest magic trick I've ever seen."

That's how I felt the second time I watched it.