Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dark Knight

Lauren and I went to see "The Dark Knight" on Friday, opening day, which is unusual as I rarely see the superhero movies until the crowd dissipates ever since I was stuck in the front row for X-Men 2.

But we went to a quiet theater outside of the downtown core and got good seats easily.

Simply put, the movie was awesome.

Seriously. If you haven't seen it, you should. It won't let you down.

You should also stop reading here as I'll be getting spoiler-y from this point on.

The feel of this film follows very closely to that of its predecessor, Batman Begins, and with the exception of Katie Holmes, the cast is reunited with director Christopher Nolan. The solid transition of creative vision from the first film allows it to skip ahead of the introduction of the principal characters, and in order to keep the pace high, Nolan also decided to skim quickly over who Harvey Dent and the Joker are, trusting the viewers to figure it out as they go.

Everyone gets their moments in the movie. Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox get some great one-liners, as does Michael Caine as Alfred. Bale is better as Bruce Wayne in my opinion, still flaky and extravagant, but not as over the top as in the first film. Ledger's Joker is iconic, and scary, and will redefine the character in other media undoubtedly (much in the same way that Hugh Jackman changed the look and feel of Wolverine after the first X-Men movie), but Aaron Eckhart really has the choice role in this film, getting to stretch his chops in a wide range of emotions, and culminating in his transformation into Two-Face.

There's been a lot of talk about Heath Ledger and academy awards, and while I agree that he was a great Joker, I think more credit should be given to scriptwriters David Goyer and Christopher Nolan for giving him choice lines and creepy plots to work with. The Joker that they wrote was dark, disturbing, and actually funny at times, in a way that made you uncomfortable in laughing along. Kudos to them.

Joker's plans are genuinely upsetting. He is beyond reason, and he works on the theory that was presented in Alan Moore's "The Killing Joke", that everyone is one bad day away from losing their mind. The idea of saying on television "Someone in Gotham will kill this person in the next hour or I will blow up a hospital." is frighteningly effective, in that the public, now full of fear, weighs the life of one man against that of their loved ones in the hospitals, and they proceed to riot and several people decide that the life of one is not worth the risk.

Harvey Dent wins you over. His campaign slogan of "I believe in Harvey Dent" is true, and as he progresses, you do see in him the chance for Gotham City to turn the corner. So it makes the fall of Dent and the birth of Two-Face truly tragic, as you see the true loss of a good person to the dark madness that he was driven to, and more darkly, you understand him when he goes and murders five people. Eckhart has a really solid role here, and he shines through it, playing both the shining knight and the broken man equally well.

Harvey Dent loses everything, and you can see why he's lashing out. As he struggles with what has happened to him, you ask yourself what would you do if you were in his place, if the events of your life spiraled out of control and you were to lose all that you loved. How long could you go before you snapped too, especially in a world like that of Gotham City. You ultimately end up believing in Two-Face.

The movie itself is fast paced, very tense, and keeps you anxious and nervous about what's going to happen next. It takes from the comic books what it needs, and when it makes changes, it does so carefully, adding to the quality of the story without taking away from the mythos. I can say that it is as perfect as a superhero movie can get.

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