Friday, July 18, 2008

The Dark Knight (2008)

Though it is safe to say that I see a movie everyday, I very seldom see a film.

The difference? Reflection.

While it may be easy to be entertained by a Myers or a Ferrell, too often do these movies fail to stimulate all but the adolescent qualities of the mind. A film, by definition is an art form, a cultural artifact able to serve as a vehicle for symbolic representations of social zeitgeist fears, or as commentaries shedding light on important aspects of life the general public might overlook.
While a film may sometimes be referred to as a movie, it is never o.k to refer to a movie as a film. There is a definite distinction.

I saw The Dark Knight last night at the midnight show on an IMAX screen. At the time of writing, approximately 7 1/2 hours have passed since we left the theatre, and conversed with several jokers in the auditorium before retiring to bed.

And I still really have nothing to say. And perhaps therein lies one of the most important aspects of film. Immediately after the picture, I was stunned, speechless. It has only been in the hours after the film that I have had the chance to reflect on everything I had seen. To say the film is multi-layered would be like calling The Real World a documentary. Sure it is, but there's so much more to it.

My affinity for the characters aside, The Dark Knight is literally a three-pronged gauntlet in the face of any movie you have ever seen. A sweeping epic that sets the bar again and again before breaking it in the very next act. Christopher Nolan has grown into such a commanding, visionary director, that if he deemed it necessary, he could convince the population that the moon is actually green, the sun is actually a tomato, or that Adam Sandler movies get better with age. The writing team of David S. Goyer, Jonathon Nolan and Christopher Nolan have written what is simply one of the best crime stories of all time. It has the David/Goliath feel of The Untouchables, the style of The Godfather, and the puhzaaz of Casino.

And while it remains a very consistent film in the eyes of a potential franchise, The Dark Knight has matured greatly from Batman Begins. There is less of a noir feel to the film with much of it taking place in the daylight, and the unmistakable absence of rain helps solidify the crusader's arrival as an established force unto himself. Nolan has repeatedly said that the themes of the film were escalation and chaos, and things having to get worse before they get better. And do they.

While everyone deep down knows that this or that character simply can't be killed off, the movie flirts with each characters' mortality again and again and again. When Mr. Joker enters the frame, you find yourself afraid of what else he might do - there seems to be no restrictions on his action, which in this day and age is priceless. The movie is as unpredictable as the people who drive it; a borderline psycho, half a psycho, and the Joker.

The Joker. If there was ever a role to be remembered by, Heath Ledger chose it. Perhaps the most iconic, nuanced performance any actor has given in recent years, the character of the Joker is like a slap in the face with a wet rhinoceros - sure it doesn't make any sense, but it's dangerous. Sorry Jack-o, but Heath made it his own. There is no origin story for the character offered, only differing accounts of a madman who prefers that if he must have a past, he would like it to be 'multiple-choice' - a nod to the Alan Moore classic 'The Killing Joke', to which it is said the Nolan brothers found their inspiration. Heath's characterization of pure anarchy and chaos is found in the slightest facial tick, or the way he saunters across a room, dragging both the camera and the audience's gaze with him.

And therein lay my biggest fear going into the film, that Heath's performance, as great as it certainly is, would over-shadow the hero of the film, a problem which also affected Nicholson and Keaton in '89. And yet it doesn't. The Joker forcefully slices and dices his way throughout the film, (dis)appearing at will, never spending too much time on screen interacting with the other stars - which in turn ensures that the film has more of a balanced narrative. It gives the extremely charismatic Aaron Eckhart a chance to fill out his character arc as Harvey Dent without the audience demanding to see mummy and daddy fight every five minutes they're not on screen.

The first time I've written...Batman. Christian Bale pulls in another solid performance (as has become expected of him) as the title character, growing more into all aspects of the role, while still retaining a certain innocence - which makes it incredibly intriguing as that innocence begins to be corrupted and the temptation of 'crossing the line' becomes more and more appealing. Bale plays this internal struggle very well, his interactions with Michael Caine serving as journal entries of a sort - effectively placing as much importance on the role of Bruce Wayne as Batman. By the way, the suit is incredible.

Still, Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard refuse to offer a tangible alternative to Danny Elfman's original theme for the caped crusader which is both monumentally frustrating and infuriating. They make up for it however with a very classic two tone rift for Joker's theme, the linear and almost simple tune reinforcing the characters' drive. The slight nods to fan boys within the film disappoint as much as they excite, and the fight sequences are still a little too choppy to effectively get their point across. The special effects on one particular person are not stellar, but at that point in the film you are so utterly invested in the character that you notice not what he looks like, but how differently he sounds, moves or talks. As you can see, for every short coming of the film there is a silver lining - and when it comes down to it, none of these tidbits can take away from what is surely now the blueprint not just for comic book films, but for films in general.

This film is T2: Judgment Day, on crack, in space, in the future and with seventeen testicles.

So really, it's safe to say that even if you do watch a movie or a film every single day for the rest of your life, there is and forever will be, only one Dark Knight experience. If you do not go out to see this movie, I will shoot you.

The Dark Knight (2008)
Dir: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger,
Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman,
Maggie Gyllenhaal


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