Sunday, July 27, 2008

Dark Knight

So, I saw Dark Knight yesterday afternoon. I have to admit, I was really impressed. I suppose someone a little more steeped in Batman lore probably saw a lot of what happened coming, but as someone for whose entire knowledge of Batman is based on the cheesy previous movies and the old Adam West television show—not the actual comic book, I was continually impressed with how the tale turned.

Simply put, the action was great, the writing was crisp, the acting—aside from Christian Bale’s insistence on trying to use a tough guy voice which he clearly doesn’t possess, when he was the Dark Knight, was great.

My only protest is that the movie was too long, but that said, I’m not sure what they could have cut to make it shorter, so I can hardly complain. All in all, I was very impressed. I like this new, dark, psychological take on the comic book hero.

When you hear comic book people talk about comic books, they often talk about the psychology of the hero. They talk about some inner struggle that drives that hero. They talk about the great depth that these characters have.

Those of us on the outside see them as action heroes, and the original Batman movies were made to satisfy us. These movies seem to me, to be made to satisfy those who look at the comic book hero as a more multidimensional character, and in the process, win over, those of us, who never saw the comic book hero with such depth, mightily.

Dark Knight, like Batman Begins before it, is shot in a very gothic style and the architecture of my home city of Chicago is an apt backdrop for such a style. It sets the mood and makes for an amazing aesthetic backdrop.

Much talk has been made of Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker and I found myself wondering about halfway through the movie what the fuss was all about. Don’t get me wrong, he makes Jack Nicholson look cartoonish and like a caricature by comparison, but nothing really jumped out at me in the first half of the movie. Then the second act begins and he really steps things up—and coincidentally, his on screen time does as well. He is dark and maniacal and soulless. Michael Caine sums up the Joker best when he says, “some men just like to watch the world burn.”

I often scratch my head when the awards nominations are announced and awarded, so I won’t enter the debate over whether or not he deserves one. I’ll leave such pursuits to those more pretentious than myself. I will say that he was very good though. I hope I’m not spoiling anything for anyone when I tell you that his character survives—although incarcerated—and whomever the actor may be that is charged with taking up his role in future installments of this franchise will have his some big shoes to fill.

I don’t know that he quite makes it to the pantheon of the greatest villains of all time, alongside Darth Vader and Hannibal Lecter, but he comes close enough to be noted.

I find myself looking forward to the next one. Batman has always offered some of the greatest antagonists and with Scarecrow, Two-Face and Joker now used, I walked out wondering if perhaps it would be Cat Woman, Penguin or Riddler who we might see next—and more importantly, how these characters would be written to show them as dark and forbidding, instead of the cartoonish ways we’ve seen them portrayed to date?

Dark Knight was, very simply put, well done. It’s worth going to see on the big screen, with an overpriced popcorn and soft drink for company. I’m sure I’m probably one of the last to see it, but in case you haven’t already, consider it highly recommended.

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