Saturday, July 19, 2008

She Said: The Dark Knight


We waited (in the front) of a long snaking line for an hour and a half just to procure a "prime" seat to view the latest Batman film, and then we sat in the darkness  for nearly 3 hours, sandwiched between people in a completely packed house. Was it worth it?

 You bet your ass it was.

If you have limited gas, snack, or ticket funds and have to decide where to throw down your cinematic dollars, well folks, go spend it on the epic that is The Dark Knight. You get no better Batman flick, or "superhero" tale than this one. The film unfolds with enrapturing yet methodical pacing. It strives (and achieves) to weave a more complex saga, one that allows a full arc of character development and nuanced themes. Typically, when a character goes 180 degrees into the light or into the dark (whichever the case),  audiences are left scratching their heads or wondering why the "bait and switch." The Dark Knight, in the more than capable hands of Memento director Christopher Nolan (and his co-writer brother, Jonathan), spins enough breadth and depth to make you believe every dark, visually stunning moment and to feel invested in the moral complexity of its tale.

The Dark Knight achieves what Spider-man 3 could not. Both films have their fair share of "villains" and of story arcs, but  Spidey 3 reminds me of a kid who couldn't decide between the snacks offered and gorges until on the verge of bawling and vomiting. On the other hand,  The Dark Knight crafts the story lines until we have the next great crime saga. This film is not just for those who like the caped crusader, its for any person who enjoys crime drama and elegantly mosaic expensive film shooting.

The only negative for me is that with such ample and well played  screen time and depth doled out to Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent, Gary Oldman's Lt. James Gordon, and Heath Ledger's The Joker, there is very little time left for the title character, Batman himself. Christian Bale, arguably the best actor of our time, gets only a few brooding moments (albeit beautiful), a few raspy utterances, and far too few intimate moments. The title really is misleading, for this film does not belong to him but to the entire gi-normous ensemble cast. In a way, that was a pity, for I cannot get enough of Christian Bale.  

Even Maggie Gyllenhaal's, Rachel Dawes, slices off room to stand out in a film which, like all other "hero" movies, relegates its women to the sidelines. Does she shine like the men, of course not; what male director takes the time to ever really develop women in such a manner? Answer: none, but the point here is, under either Gyllenhaal's presence or the writing for Rachel, this male love interest is allowed to have depth and to exist as important to the tale's structure and message of sacrifice.

Stealing the screen from Bale (a feat I never knew could be accomplished) is the indescribably incredible Heath Ledger with his clever, cunning, merciless Joker. Never have we had such a delightfully creepy villain as we do with Ledger's Joker. He reduces Nicholson's version to, well, a  cute "joke." Rarely do we get a glimpse of ruthless genius behind villainous schemes, but with this Joker, we get a sense that his brilliance is his motivation. Many critics have argued that he has no motivation, that his sinister, "lack of a reason" is what is scary about this Joker. I disagree. Everyone has a story, and for Ledger's Joker he is chillingly smarter than every single person alive, can relate to no one, and wants to matter to the Universe... even in if a decidedly chaotic, destructive way. 

I have heard others say the film tries to accomplish too much, its plot is muddled, and/or it fails to deliver what it could have, but I completely disagree. This mesmerizingly grand narrative kept me riveted and embraced in tension and beautifully moody tones for the full 2 1/2+ hours. Some critics have falsely called this movie, "loud," and it could not be further from the truth. Nolan knows when to steep the film in silence and he does so brilliantly and often. Finally,  The Dark Knight solidified what I have always thought true heroism to be even as every other "superhero" movie pretends it knows: selflessness and sacrifice.

If you go see no other film this summer, The Dark Knight is the one to see!



1 comment:

the WIZARD, fkap said...

Although I've added my comments on Batman to J.'s review, I want to let you both know I much I appreciate both of your reviews......

This site rocks.