Dark Knight Review

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markabaddon
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Dark Knight Review

Postby markabaddon » Wed Jul 23, 2008 7:57 am

(SPOILERS! - mod)


Saw it last night, and here is the review. Unfortunately I could not see it in Imax, as it was sold out but may head back to see it this weekend or next week.

Batman: The Dark Knight: Starring Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart and Heath Ledger; directed by Christopher Nolan

Comic book movies are tricky things to bring to the screen. Quite often what works on the printed page cannot translate well to the big screen, often because the traditional comic book concepts of good vs. evil seem somewhat cliché when portrayed in the movies. Stripped to its core, this film has nothing to do with good and evil, it is an examination of order vs. chaos.

The film begins with a bank robbery and quickly introduces the Joker as a character who is capable of anything. The movie then transitions to Bruce Wayne, who is feeling pretty good at the start of the film. He has cemented his relationship with Jim Gordon and has a strong ally on the police force; Gotham has a new District Attorney who seems honorable and dedicated to cleaning up the streets; and he has a fancy new penthouse apartment since Wayne Manor was destroyed at the end of Batman Begins.

This good feeling of his does not last long, as the local crime element brings in the Joker to help rid themselves of the Batman. The Joker is unlike anyone Batman has ever faced before. Batman’s mantra had always been that criminals are a cowardly, superstitious lot and the Joker defies that belief. All he wants to do is, to quote Bruce’s butler Alfred, “watch the world burn.” He is not a true terrorist in the traditional sense because he has no ideology or goal other than to be a self-proclaimed “agent of chaos.”

The character against which Joker will be most often compared will be Hannibal Lecter from “The Silence of the Lambs.” To a certain extent, the comparison is an apt one. Both view themselves as artists and attempt to transform things to fit their twisted world view. However, while Lecter works on an individual level, Joker works on a broader scale. He truly believes that, deep down, everyone is as twisted as he is and if he gave them a reason, a symbol if you will, that they would become as he is. To me, that is an infinitely scarier villain.

I mentioned earlier that this film was not about good vs. evil but rather order vs. chaos and that struggle is explored most clearly in the character arcs of the two symbols of order, Batman and Harvey Dent. Both characters engage in actions while trying to stop the Joker which would generally be considered evil or at best completely amoral. Yet they feel these actions are justified as they attempt to save the lives of the innocent and stop the Joker’s rampage. Joker’s manipulations are designed not to kill Batman and Dent, but to have them betray their own beliefs and abandon order for chaos.

Much of the discussion in reviews of this film has focused on the Joker and with good cause. Heath Ledger completely immersed himself in this role and unquestionably deserves the Oscar nomination he will likely receive posthumously. Yet the work that Aaron Eckhart does as Harvey Dent is equally worthy.

The Joker is someone without a past and is not constrained by any rules or ideas; an actor has a lot of room to work with a character like that. Harvey is someone who has a history with several of the more minor characters in the film and is a fully three dimensional character. Yes, he starts out as a Dudley Do-Right type character in the beginning, trying to rid the streets of crime but then he is shown to be nervous when meeting Bruce’s trust fund crowd and his love for Rachel Dawes comes through during a harrowing sequence when they are captured by the Joker. Since the filmmakers took the time to establish Harvey as a good guy (the “White Knight of Gotham”), when his fate is revealed you feel pity for him even while he is committing horrible crimes. In the end, Harvey becomes the Joker’s ultimate revenge against a city which rejected him.

And what of Batman himself, Christian Bale? He continues his exemplary work in this role, balancing Bruce Wayne’s playboy style with Batman’s detective skills. One minor quibble was that his voice as Batman sounded like Kim Carnes after a night out drinking and smoking, but that is nitpicking. It is a somewhat illogical point, but the Batman films have always been defined more by their villains than by the Batman himself. Bale does an excellent job as Batman, to my mind becoming the definitive Batman, but any Batman film will rise and fall on the strength of Batman’s antagonists and this one succeed tremendously in that regard.

This is one of the best films I have seen in the theaters in a long time and is probably the best comic book adaptation ever brought to the screen. I strongly urge you to go see this film.
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Postby rich » Wed Jul 23, 2008 9:46 am

I kinda thought the Joker in the film was a nastier Tyler Durden. Wouldn't surprise me if the Nolans were fans of FIGHT CLUB, movie and book.

By the way, not to belittle Steve's edited note above, but I think we're getting a little goofy with the SPOILERS! alerts. If we're going to talk movies, and certainly in threads where the title is "review" and the name of the movie, then I'm going to guess there are spoilers. I understand the Pavvy spoiler-free request, but over here we should use the very same reasoning that Ellison used in his own film columns: discuss the film as if everyone saw it.

(Discussing films in other threads would necessitate SPOILERS! alerts or whatever, but not in their own threads is what I'm saying.)

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Postby markabaddon » Wed Jul 23, 2008 9:59 am

Rich, I understand your comment, but the reason the review was essentially spoiler free had nothing to do with the discussions we have had here. I do reviews for a couple of newsletters and they generally like to keep their reviews spoiler free. Not completely, mind you, but avoiding some big reveals.

With so much that I wanted to say about the characters in the film, I ended up cutting everything spoiler-related, simply because I was working within some space constraints.
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Postby Moderator » Wed Jul 23, 2008 10:26 am

Guys, I plan on putting "SPOILERS" at the top of each thread that contains "spoilage", but not each post. Yeah, if the thread's about a movie you have to enter with the assumption it's gonna contain secrets, but...the instant I don't put it there someone will lob a grenade at the person who posted comments without a warning.

(And Mark, the part that, to me, was spoilage was "I mentioned earlier that this film was not about good vs. evil but rather order vs. chaos and that struggle is explored most clearly in the character arcs of the two symbols of order, Batman and Harvey Dent. Both characters engage in actions while trying to stop the Joker which would generally be considered evil or at best completely amoral. Yet they feel these actions are justified as they attempt to save the lives of the innocent and stop the Joker’s rampage. Joker’s manipulations are designed not to kill Batman and Dent, but to have them betray their own beliefs and abandon order for chaos.")


It's a good review, but whether deliberate or not some could interpret the discussion of motivation/amorality as a major spoiler. Particularly that the Joker's manipulations aren't designed to kill Batman...
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Postby markabaddon » Wed Jul 23, 2008 11:22 am

As moderator, you certainly have the right to edit my posts as you please.

I guess I did not view the revelation of Joker not intending to kill Batman as a spoiler, since in the comics continuum he has never seriously tried to kill him. Turn him insane or turn him evil, yes. But Joker's entire psyche is devoted to tormenting Batman, he would never kill him because, as Ledger says in the movie, "What would I do with myself?"
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Postby Moderator » Wed Jul 23, 2008 11:47 am

Well, yeah, I have the right, but not the desire.

You've been following the comics, I haven't -- so for me I'm still locked in the old timeline where the Joker is trying to off Batman in creative and devious ways.

I'm not taking exception, and as I said it's a good review (any decent review is gonna have to, by nature, contain some info about the plot, etc.).

It ain't you I'm worried about -- it's the kid with the mud who rushes in and screams "but you told!" before hitting you right between the eyes.
- I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

rich

Postby rich » Wed Jul 23, 2008 1:47 pm

Actually, Mark, I thought there were a few spoilers in there. Certainly the part about the Joker using Dent the way he did (his eventual fate, is how I think you put it), and anything else that can get to the meat of the plot.

But, honestly, I'm not decrying the "spoilers" or lack of them. I'm just saying I'd love to discuss a film in a thread without someone coming in getting pissed off 'cause of a random comment that "spoiled" the movie for that person. Buyer, or, in this case, reader beware. If it's got the title in the thread, it's gonna spoil a few things, intended or not.

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Batman as Written by Shakespeare

Postby kevinkirby » Wed Jul 23, 2008 2:20 pm

This movie was so murky, yet hyper-real, that it was almost a surprise when Batman's scenes were underway.

I'm imagining, on the off-chance that a sequel gets considered, a cool-jazz Riddler on the South Side. Somebody who can really give Fox a run for the money, while making a mockery of Wayne's high-tone world of class elitism.

Riddle me this, Batman. Did the vast fortunes of some of your colleagues originate in the Rum/Slaves/Molasses triangle, way back in this country's foundations?

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Postby Douglas Harrison » Thu Jul 24, 2008 1:35 am

markabaddon wrote:As moderator, you certainly have the right to edit my posts as you please.

But not mine, mother[lover]!

D.

rich

Postby rich » Thu Jul 24, 2008 7:11 am

There definitely will be a third movie with Bale, but I'm not sure how they can top this one. My hope is that they don't try; just make it a good action flick.

Though I actually do like kevinkirby's idea with the Riddler. I mean, it couldn't top the emotional/moral content of THE DARK KNIGHT, but you could have the 3rd flick more about Bruce Wayne, the rich white guy who's projects have displaced a large percentage of Gotham's black population. Maybe even get Fox more involved (especially if he really did resign), trying to get away from the Uncle Tom accusations against him...

I don't know. Dicey and could be heavy-handed, but what the hell else you going to do with the 3rd one? Maybe action-oriented is the way to go, a nice 2 hour Jason Bourne flick except with Batman.

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Postby Ezra Lb. » Thu Jul 24, 2008 7:39 am

I think Batman's momma and his sister are going to be the villains in the next one. :oops:

Sorry.
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Postby markabaddon » Thu Jul 24, 2008 7:59 am

While I am sure that a third film will be made, it will be very hard to top this one. The Riddler is not a bad idea, but I may have a better one:

Bane

No, not the cartoonish character who appeared in Batman and Robin, I mean the Bane who is one of the few individuals to ever beat Bats in one on one combat and broke his back.

Seeing a broken Batman could bring an element to the character that has not been seen on screen before
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Postby Moderator » Thu Jul 24, 2008 8:50 am

"In just five days, The Dark Knight has grossed about as much as its 2005 predecessor Batman Begins grossed during its entire five-month run." - Boxofficeguru.com


Yeah, there will be a third film.
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Postby alexanderthesoso » Thu Jul 24, 2008 7:24 pm

the problem with bane is, as i recall, he was part of the robin storyline, batman getting his ass saved by robin dragging him out of there. IIRC, which i may not.

Bale has said that if they bring in robin, hes out. Which makes no sense to me. I want to see Shia LeBouf as Dick Grayson.

And if we are going to bring in Riddler to push the big wasteful corporation hot point, lets double up. Poison Ivy on the environmental end.

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Postby David Loftus » Fri Jul 25, 2008 12:42 am

Just saw it.

Too long, overcomplicated, has a plot hole or two and a few unbelievables . . . but not to be missed. Exhilarating and rich, in character and ideas. Ledger is amazing. I also wanted to put in a good word for Maggie Gyllenhaal, who underplays well; after all the crazy things she's done onscreen in the past ("Secretary" ... mmmm!), she didn't try to go for either glamor or over-the-top dramatics. Pretty crazy to see Anthony Michael Hall turn up again, all these years after "Sixteen Candles" and "The Breakfast Club."

Hard to believe now that the franchise seemed exhausted by the end of the Nineties.

The folks on the ferries was a nice touch.

Had a question for any of you who have followed the DC arcs more faithfully than I: Was there a Lucius Fox in the comics at all, or is he a creation unique to the movies?
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