Sunday, July 20, 2008

Seriously Good

I'm happy to report that everything you've heard, all that hype, is true: The Dark Knight is awesome. More crime thriller than comic book movie, this film simply raises the game — for Batman movies, for movies adapted from comic books, for summer movies, for action movies, and maybe even for movies in general. And that's not even taking into account how cool it is to watch on an IMAX screen. The Dark Knight is just one great movie.

If you've been under a rock and need a quick plot summary: following soon after Batman Begins left off, Batman's now established his place in Gotham City as a crime-fighting vigilante, and his latest nemesis is the Joker (Heath Ledger, so so twisted and good), a guy not so much after money or power or anything in particular, as much as he's someone who just gets off on chaos. Add to the mix an aggressive new district attorney named Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) who is out to stop the mob's influence on the city, and also happens to be the boyfriend of Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal, thankfully replacing Katie Holmes), the childhood friend and eternal flame of Batman alter-ego Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale).

Watching The Dark Knight, it's almost as if director (and co-writer) Christopher Nolan has thrown everything he's got at the screen, and it all just works. Ledger gives a mind-blowing performance that is so different from Jack Nicholson's. Bale establishes himself as perhaps the best Batman of all. All the supporting actors — Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, etc. — get their chance to shine. The story, which includes elements of The Killing Joke (one of my favorite comic book issues ever), is totally engaging. The camerawork is great. The gadgets and gizmos are cool. The score (by both Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard) is epic. And on an IMAX screen, everything is amped up — the picture gets bigger, the sound gets louder, the movie just gets better. (Certain scenes were filmed specifically for IMAX, and those fill the entire screen. The rest is standard widescreen. Point is, when the screen suddenly fills up, you know something exciting is about to happen.)

Nolan has created a world that is very real — not cartoony or extreme like the Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher Batman films were, or like most comic book moves are. I dare say this is even more real than Iron Man was. And that only serves to ratchet up the intensity and make things more believable. The film was clearly shot in Chicago — a point I make not to say that it's distracting, but to emphasize the real locations — and the way the Bat Pod and other vehicles zoom down streets, in and out of traffic, you'd think you were watching The French Connection or some other classic crime thriller. Sure, the Joker is a guy with a permanent smile on his face who wears clown makeup (as opposed to Nicholson/Burton's Joker, whose skin was discolored), but he exists within the world of the film, not above it, and that's why a scene like the opening bank robbery one is able to play so well and be so suspenseful. And of course, it's also largely due to Nolan's taking the action so seriously and not winking as he's filming.

There may be movies I've loved more, but The Dark Knight is just really well-made and very impressive to watch. And there's so much more to praise. The question when the lights come up almost becomes, what's next? Because you know there's going to be a third film in the series. I'm not sure Nolan can top this, but I'd sure like to see him do it. In the meantime, I cant wait to see this one again. I'm giving The Dark Knight an A.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Patrick Roberts said...

i still wish Katie Holmes had stayed on board as Rachel Dawes for the Dark Knight... it was like the time spent getting familiar with her character in Batman Begins was wasted

August 28, 2008 6:06 PM  

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