Friday, August 22, 2008


The Dark Knight - a review of sorts

So, I finally got to see The Dark Knight. Loved it. For so many reasons.

If there has to be a love interest ... - It's no secret that I didn't like the creation of Rachel Dawes just for the sake of there being a love interest for Batman in the first film. However, Maggie Gyllenhall beats Katie Holmes hands down in this role. She may still be mostly a token female, but she's a better actress, more complex (mostly), and aside from a bit of waffling in her relationship with Harvey Dent, a stronger female presence. And the scene where she realizes who's being saved ... she played that remarkably well. I'm not sure I would've been so composed when you expect someone to save the day and he doesn't come.

Alfred - OMG, Alfred. Michael Caine is my favourite Alfred of all, and that's saying a lot because I adore just about every incarnation of the character from comic to cartoon to film. And yes, Michael Caine's gentle humour and support, his unfailing commitment to Bruce and what he stands for, being the person there for him to help him see the bigger picture are all qualities that really work for me. And the little moments - the canon nod to Alfred stitching Bruce up, the teasing that Bruce is going to say it was all Alfred's idea.

Lucius Fox - It makes sense to me that Bruce's "advisors" are men of a certain age. Morgan Freeman is brilliant in this role, especially in dealing with the blackmailing accountant: "Let me get this straight. You think that your employer, one of the richest men in the world, is spending his nights running around the city beating criminals to a pulp with his bare hands? And your plan is to blackmail him? Good luck with that." Yeah. Seriously.

Harvey Dent - Excellent casting. Harvey is personable, likable, determined, and charismatic. He's what Bruce Wayne could be if he wasn't playing the playboy with three models on his arm and a drink in each hand. The comparisons are clear, and yet, even before what happens with the Joker, what happens to Rachel, Harvey's already showing an instability, an inability to cope with the frustration of the system. He really does want to shoot the Joker's henchman ... and Batman stops him. He can't be seen to do these things, but he's thinking about them anyway. Because of this it's more believable to me that he ends up going down that road when something horrific happens to him; the seeds were already there. And the irony, of course, is that the White Knight of Gotham has a dark side, while the Dark Knight is pretty incorruptible, even in the face of losing someone he loves. Nice parallels.

Heath Ledger as The Joker - It's sad that we'll never have another Joker performance from Heath Ledger. He was perfect in this role. They finally got it right, that weird balance of psychotic and insane but brilliantly logical. The Joker's a psychopath - he does things just to see what happens. There's no clear motivation; he's driven by strange whims, the workings of his mind, and that's what makes him such a great villain. You can appeal to someone who wants money or power. How do you deal with someone who just wants chaos in the world? Who just wants to see what happens when you set ordinary people loose upon one another?

Multiple Origin Stories - I love that The Joker has multiple origin stories, and that the film didn't feel the need to either a) tell us what The Truth is and b) show us the creation. The Joker exists because he exists, and the reality is that the Truth behind the scars, the makeup, the psychosis ... none of that matters. Does an abusive father justify what he does? Does anything? Would there be a story that would make us more sympathetic? How interesting that our sympathy is lessened the second time we hear the story of how he got the scars and it's different ... how quickly we want to believe that there's a reason for bad people doing bad things, when the reality is that there isn't always a reason, and there isn't ever an excuse.

Two-Face - I've heard criticism that the burned half of his face is overdone. It did remind me a bit of the Mummy, but I think it served its purpose in generating a sense of horror ... especially the unblinking eye and the exposed teeth. The teeth thing ... can totally happen. Maybe I'm more forgiving of its theatricality because I like to remember that as "realistic" as they've tried to make the films, this is still a comic book world. Amazing feats happen without the correct number of broken bones (ie when Batman and Rachel fall off a building and land on a car with no apparent injuries!), and sometimes the villain is hideously scarred beyond what normal people might endure.

The Scarecrow - Cillian Murphy is still one of the creepiest hot guys ever. And his cameo was perfect. It links us back to the first film, it's not too long or drawn out, and it serves to introduce the idea that there are lots of people out there trying to be Batman. Also, that Arkham apparently already has a bad record of being able to keep the crazies locked up. I also like the delight that Batman's opponents take in meeting him in battle so to speak ... they really do see him as a challenge, as someone who's just as screwed up as they are but still calling himself "the good guy". You can see how amusing that would get. I'm the freak? Yeah, says you in the giant bat suit.

Ordinary People - In the Spider-man films, ordinary New Yorkers always come to the aid of the fallen superhero. In Gotham, more often than not, appealing to people's better sides gets you nowhere. It's a city that seems to bring out the worst in people, and the ferry conundrum is a perfect example. A boatload of prisoners, a boatload of regular people. Each has a detonator, supposedly for the other boat. Blow up the other people before they get you first. My first thought was that you have to throw the detonator overboard, or someone will make a move to do it. Honestly, are you really going to trust someone who's put explosives on two boats and wants people to kill each other? The Joker understands people, probably better than Batman who tries to believe that people will do the right thing. He honestly believes there will be a time when the city won't need him, when he can step away from this path. The fact that he can believe that is one of the most interesting things about his character. His blind spot, so to speak.

Batman - Christian Bale is my Batman. He truly manages to pull off both the playboy and the hero. I couldn't recognize him in that costume ... unlike Superman you can actually understand how Bruce Wayne could hide his identity. And little moments like his talk with Gordon when he "crashes" his Lamborghini ... cement how clever Bruce is about maintaining what he has to be to protect who he needs to be.

Commissioner Gordon - I like that we got to see a little more of the family, although it's interesting all the focus tends to be on the son and no mention of young Barbara, although she's there. Maybe it's true that it's always the quiet ones. Corruption in the GCPD abounds, and Gordon's truly fighting a losing battle. But he keeps fighting, he keeps making the hard decisions, even when it means denying those he's trying to protect. It's not only Batman having to make the hard choices here, and that's good.

Overall, I just loved the film. I thought it was well-paced, suitably dark, and very well cast. It was necessarily violent, but it's the kind of violence I can manage because it shows very little and hints at a lot. It gave us a sense of closure, while at the same time still opening up a vision of a pretty bleak future in Gotham. I can't wait to see it again.

(Oh, didn't I mention I'm a bit of a superhero geek? And you thought I was just a poet!)

Oh, I SO want to see this movie! No theatre in this neck of the woods, however. It is playing at the drive-in, but I've never been a drive-in type. Too many people walking in front of the car and all sorts of distractions.
No, drive-ins are not the best for watching intense movies. It's a good movie theatre flick, though, if you get down to Saskatoon while it's still playing. Hope I didn't spoil anything for you ... I haven't figured out how to put things behind a cut tab so things can be hidden. I know how to do it on Livejournal, but not here.
It's been almost 20 years since I've been in a theatre. The Dead Poet's Society. 1989. In PA.
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