I know everyone else is writing about this film too, but there’s a reason why all us ‘Pens’ feel the need to wax philosophical about such an unbelievable piece of work. However, the bastard had some issues.
WHAT? SACRILEGE!!! OUTRAGE!!!
Calm the fuck down. Nothing huge, and most of which I suspect may ‘iron out’ with a second and third viewing. But before the issues, I have to say that I agree with pretty much everybody that YES!!! Heath Ledger was unbelievable as the Joker – in fact in the five days or so since seeing Dark Knight I’ve come to wonder with hindsight if some of my problems with the film couldn’t just be traced back to the utter meloncholia saturating the experience of watching someone so perfectly portray a character knowing he won’t be able to reprise the role.
And such an important role for the Batman too, right?
My guess is that the Nolans approach was not going to be that of the previous (cough! dogshit! cough!) franchise and have a new villain every chapter, but to weave everything together into a very ‘comic book’ type of manner, where the joker, the archetypal Yang to Batman’s Ying would be recurring constantly, whether breaking out of Arkham and physically causing chaos with his own hands or just laying seeds of chaos and deceit in the people around him – much the way he took Harvey’s explosive violence and essentially pointed it in the direction that created Two-Face. Now what are we going to have instead? Apparently someone involved has said they have enough footage to use the Joker in the next film, but really, this seems likely to only be in a ‘Hannibal Lecter’ type fashion – probably a strange confidence in an Arkham cell, possibly where Batman interrogates him about some other psycho who’s escaped with the Joker’s ideas running through his head.
I don’t know, maybe that’ll be awesome, but it’s still just uber fucking sad that we won’t get to have Ledger back again, in any real capacity.
At some point I found myself thinking of the old saying ‘be careful what you wish for’ or ‘put your money where your mouth is’ while watching the film that first time.
Because for as long as people have been trying to put superheroes on the silver screen I have been complaining about the reality of the techniques used, whereby four or six issue arc stories are stuffed into the three-act popular film format. Of course now that I have learned about writing screenplays I understand the mechanics behind this and why it is a preferred method, so as Dark Knight unraveled before my eyes I felt a little disheveled by its structure. In hindsight of course I came to see that this is the first example of exactly what I had been asking for all those years – a superhero movie that does not adhere to the three-act structure over the comic book ‘arc’ structure – the film’s three or four separate dénouements seemed a little taxing to me that first time, especially after a summer consisting so far with of Iron Man and the Hulk, both of which could arguably be regarded as the finest examples of the ‘scrunch-the-comic-into-three-acts’ technique yet. It is my theory that going into the second viewing I will be better prepared for this and appreciate it more, instead of experiencing minor disorientation and annoyance with it.
The two things I can definitely say I did not like were #1 Batman’s voice and #2 Morgan Freeman. I don’t remember the Bat voice bugging me in Batman Begins, but this may have been because Batman really wasn’t in the first half of that movie. I know there has to be a change in timbre for the character, and I realize it should be meaner and gruffer, and I don’t have a suggestion on how they could improve it, but I just don’t like the voice as it is.
Mr. Freeman did not bother me so much in the first film, but now, only three years later, he is so over exposed in Hollywood (most notably his voice) that he carries with him to everything he does the connotations of everything else he has done in close proximity. This can be compared to Lucas’ ill-fated decision to use Sam ‘I’m gonna be in everything filmed from this point on’ Jackson in the Star Wars prequels. I’m not saying that I dislike seeing either actor, but in stories built on such self-contained, unique Universes as Star Wars or Batman, well, let’s just say as absorbed as I was in Dark Knight, the second I heard Mr. Freeman’s voice I became lucid again of the fact that I was watching a movie.
It’s all about total immersion.
All that aside however (I know that seems like a lot based on paragraph length, but it’s not) this was an incredible film. As I stated ealier Ledger was absolutely amazing – the menace and anarchy he brought to the character of the Joker was real and terrifying, unlike the noble but ultimately cartoony stylings of Nicholson in the Burton version. The scene when he burned the pile of the mob’s money was a personal favorite, so to the one where the Nolan’s actually had The Joker speak the idea that he didn’t want anything, definitely not the death of the Batman, because they complete one another. As I said after Batman Begins, this franchise is no longer under the category of superhero movies for me. This is every bit real, disturbing and intelligent as Little Children or any other ‘drama’ I’ve seen in the last five years, if not longer.
So Iron Man remains the best Superhero movie I’ve ever seen, while The Dark Knight is just one of the best films I’ve seen in a long fucking time. Not to cut other things down, this is just a new tier altogether.
Oh, and I’m still not going to believe it’ll be good until I exit the theatre saying, ‘Oh my god was that amazing’ but the trailer for Watchmen gave me chills so strong my eyes teared up.