Sunday, July 20, 2008

Film Review:The Dark Knight

Loved it.

I'll try to make this as spoiler-free as I can.

Let's get the bad out of the way so I can keep on gushing about the good. I found Heath Leger's performance to be exceptional, but not quite the "oh-my-god-movies-are-forever-transformed" experience that the hype has indicated. The Joker got a little preachy in places; he talked just a tad too much about his philosophy. I would have preferred that his motives were a little more opaque. Certainly not a deal-breaker, though. Two-Face was wasted, in my opinion. Why, oh why do they insist in squeezing multiple villains into these movies? They had set up the Harvey Dent/Two-Face character so well that he could have carried the entire next movie; if you didn't see any more of him after the scene in the hospital, it would have been just as good a movie. Better, perhaps. Alas. The soundtrack was good, but not exactly compelling. And I wish they could have dressed up Chicago (where the movie was filmed) a little more to make it less Chi-town and more Gotham. I like a more... Gothic... Gotham. This could have been any city, and the generic feel of the city detracted from the overall feel of the film. And why does Batman need to growl every line he has?

And now the good.

Heath Leger is as good as folks have been saying. He truly redefined the role from the Jack Nicholson interpretation. This is the Joker from "Killing Joke" rather than "Laughing Fish".
Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are brilliant as Lucius Fox and Alfred as they were in the first movie. It has a lot of commentary to make relevant to the current tension between individual liberties and the necessity of gathering information to thwart terrorism (as well as the practice of "extraordinary rendition" of suspects in other countries), and I think they managed to work it in without being completely ham-handed about it. They resisted the impulse to do a big special-effects-laden chase until 90 minutes into the film, and while it was obvious that it was an obligatory scene, it fitted well into the plot and feel of the film as a whole. The suspense was incredibly well set-up, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that they were able to make the audience really like and connect with the characters. I found myself really *caring* what happened to them in the final scenes, and that is a hard trick to accomplish. Very unexpected character death; well done. And the magic trick with the pencil is just... priceless. "Presto!" Hehehehe.

Perhaps what I liked most about this movie was the fact that Batman is hardly in it. It's not a "comic book movie" or a "superhero movie". It's a gangster / crime movie that happens to have a few extraordinary characters in it. It has that vibe, and I loved it.

Oh, and I saw a couple of people who brought their very young children to see it. I think, with my own seven-year-old daughter who loves both Batman and the Joker (ever since she "saw him" in person at the Shore Leave costume contest two years ago) as the benchmark, that it is definitely not a suitable film for young kids to see. The Two Face effect is creepy enough, but the Joker manages to pull off some definitely disturbing things, even if they cut away just before the blood, and I can really see it instigating some nightmares in young minds. I won't be letting my daughter see this for a few years at least.

I'll definitely be seeing it again, and I am officially spoiled when it comes to the Michael Keaton films. This one expands the milieu so much, and notches up the emotion and power inherent in the characters and setting, that the older films look cartoonish by comparison (and I mean the first ones, not the later more campy ones).

Give it four stars out of five.

4 comments:

Ripper X said...

I took the kids to this one, ages 8 and 4, and they had no problems with it. The violence is still rather cartoony, even the awesome job done with two-face.

I loved the story of Harvey being told, this was an important story to Batman, and they did a great job, but I highly doubt that he is dead. Without Two-face, I don't think that you can tell a good origin of Robin, which to me, is important.

Joker's humor was perfect, very subtle; stuff that he would find funny, such as the burning firetruck. Joker NEVER shuts up, and half the things out of his face was nothing but lies, so this was perfect for his character as well.

I would like to know why the original actress didn't reprise her character, personally I would had written her out. She wasn't important, and she never existed in the comic books, but hey, what do I know?

The real team that I enjoy is the writer and the directer, these two are awesome! Both absolutely love Batman, and know him well because they are fans as well, and that shows.

Greyhawk Grognard said...

I have to agree 100% with what you say about the Joker; I was especially impressed with the way he had a continually varying story about the scars...

IIRC, in Batman: TAS, they did the Robin origin story with no connection to Two-Face, and it worked pretty well. I would actually rather hope they steer clear of Robin for these films, though. It would detract from the serious crime-drama vibe they've established, I think.

Which brings up an interesting point; who would be the next villain? Clearly, they would want to avoid the more science-fictiony villains like Clayface (which is a pity, since he's not been done in film yet, and the CGI could be very cool) or Mr. Freeze (another pity; I could really see Patrick Stewart in such a role). The director has said he doesn't particularly like the Penguin. So that leaves... the Riddler? Catwoman? Too much baggage there, I think.

Maybe the Bookworm or Egghead? ;-)

Tala said...

Like Rip said, we took the kids to see it and they had a ball. The youngest is going to grow up to be the biggest comic book geek in the world. I think he would have had a stroke if we hadn't taken him. The oldest, while not a huge superhero fan, still thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

I would have to agree with you though, the pencil magic trick was totally awesome! One thing that I noticed that Ledger did, and I'm not sure if it was intentional or not, was the way he kept "tonguing" the scars. His tongue was almost constantly flicking the corners of his mouth or the insides of his cheeks. Nice touch if it was intentional. I thought his performance was excellent. Much better than I had expected. I figured it would be good, but not that good. The interrogation scene is one of my favorites I think.

I'm not so sure I liked Batman growling all of his lines either, but when I had brought that up to Rip, he said that is pretty true to the Batman. Tamaytoe, towmatoe, whatever I suppose. I guess that just depends on how someone reads the character. It's all in the interpretation.

I don't think I'd want to see a Riddler, and I think too many people are still cleaning out their pukebags after Catwoman with Hallie Berry, so I'm not sure of what kinds of options there are left open that would appeal to the masses. I'm like Rip and doubt very highly that Harvey is gone, Joker is technically still living, however with Ledger dead it would be really hard to change actors. I personally would like to see a well done Ivy. Only problem is it would take one REALLY hot lookin' female to do the role, on top of the fact she'd have to make her look sexy without being cheesy (ala Thurman). A bit of a dilemma isn't it? I would also like to see Harley Quinn. Again it would have to take somebody fairly talented to pull off that level of psychotic.

I suppose we won't know til the next one's in the works...

Ripper X said...

Everybody has their favorite comicbook character, mine is Dick Greyson's Robin. This character was awesome when I was a kid! You had to wait to grow up to be Batman, but you could be Robin today!!!

The 60's Robin is the funny one, the real Robin is just as angry as Bruce, he didn't have the intelligence or the resources of Batman, but his speed and Dexterity were far superior to Batman.

I could start my own Robin Blog, but lets just leave it at Batman needs Robin, when Robin came into Bruce's life he was suicidal and dangerous to himself, and getting to the point where he didn't care about himself at all. The darkness was caving in on him, then Robin forced himself onto the Dark Knight and all of this changed. He had to grow up, he had to think about his methods, and it made him a better superhero.

To this day, I'll take a Batman & Robin story over any solo Batman piece. They really do compliment each other. But the hard part about transferring this over to film is, I think that it is important that a boy plays Robin.

Villains: They probably have enough and it's sadly time to wrap the series up. Bring back Ras, with his daughter Talia (Batman's most dynamic romance), Joker, Scarecrow, Two-Face, and maybe just one more big time villain who can really shock folks. Soloman Grundy would be a good sympathetic choice, a true to the comic Salina Cat-Woman would be worthwhile, a good Freeze would be nice, as would the modern bad guy HUSH. Batman has so many great ones! I would like to know how long they want to go with it.