Records were meant to be broken, as the old adage goes. And the newest installment of the Batman saga sure lives up to it. Shattering all box office records including midnight preview showing and opening weekend sales, and if you haven’t heard, it is damn good. Christopher Nolan has outdone himself in this one. He astonishingly brought back the super hero with Batman Begins after a near destruction of the franchise a la Alicia Silvestone, Uma Thurman, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. This film sets itself apart from the rest of the superhero genre by pushing the envelope of realism. There are no outlandish super powers or ‘perfect people’ There are real people with real emotions.
What makes this film so radically different is that it does something no other superhero movie has done. It shows you the dark side of being a hero. In this film Batman suffers like no other superhero has ever suffered onscreen. While no one can really challenge him physically, The Joker is the one villain who really seems to understand what makes him tick, and by the end of the film- Batman has lost so much that one might even say he’s lost part of his soul. Pretty heady stuff for a PG-13 summer blockbuster!
Another element that sets The Dark Knight apart from the pack, is that that The Dark Knight is probably the first truly adult superhero movie I’ve ever seen. I’m flabbergasted that Christopher Nolan manged to land a PG-13 rating as Two Face’s appearance alone would get most films an R-rating. While Nolan cuts away from the most violent acts, the film is still fairly hardcore and uncompromising. I also liked the fact that the audience is not bombarded with long, over the top action scenes throughout the film. While the film does not skimp on the action quotient, the fights are fairly down to earth. There’s really only one huge action scene, which is a chase involving the Tumbler & the Bat-pod that occurs around halfway through the film.
In my humble opinion, what really makes the film worth watching is the brilliantly crafted storyline, and the terrific performances. Naturally- the most striking performance comes from Heath Ledger as The Joker. Compared to Ledger- Jack Nicholson’s Joker is about as threatening as a drunken clown at a children’s birthday party. Ledger is astounding- and gives an iconic, and at times truly frightening and disturbing performance (I especially love the way he licks his lips like a rabid dog). His Joker is one of the most memorable villains in screen history, comparable to Hannibal Lecter, and it would be a crime if he doesn’t posthumously win the Oscar. It’s a really a shame Ledger didn’t live to see the finished film- as it would have likely made him the biggest star in town.
While Ledger is definitely a highlight- The Dark Knight is by no means a one man show. Aaron Eckhart gives the performance of his life as Harvey Dent/ Two Face and throughout the whole film he never once lost my sympathy, even though at times he does some mighty questionable things. His character arc is absolutely perfect, and in many ways- Eckhart is actually the central character. More than anything- the story is about his rise and fall- and his storyline is tragic and meaningful.
In many ways Bale is going to be the unsung hero of The Dark Knight. While he definitely has the least showy role he really centers the film. Others have noted that Bale seems less buff in this outing- which I think is intentional as it shows how Bruce Wayne is essentially killing himself going out night after night as Batman. As far as I’m concerned Bale IS Batman and at this point I’d have a really hard time accepting anyone else in the role.
Also noteworthy is Wally Pfister’s cinematography. I like the way that Gotham City was made to look less like a futuristic metropolis, and more like a real city. Visually the film is not at all similar to Batman Begins and much the film takes place during the daytime which is unusual for a Batman film. I also really liked the score by Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard, which is similar to their work in Batman Begins. The Batman theme they introduced in the last film has really grown on me over time- and when the theme starts pumping during the big chase scene I got goosebumps.
I loved it, and it is one I would not mind paying multiple times to see.
One more final thing, Comic-Con 08 kicks off tomorrow and I will be there for every minute. Keep coming back to check for updates. I will be blogging daily on its happenings and posting pics on the forum. Keep chewin in the sewer!