A Film Review Blog

My Photo
Location: Dallas, TX
We Have A Mailing List! Subscribe Here!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Dark Knight (2008)

The Dark Knight is not exactly a lightweight summer blockbuster. At 152 minutes, the film is part action movie, part police procedural and part morality play. It is also everything that a Batman movie is supposed to be: dark, funny, scary and entertaining.

The film begins with the Joker (played with grungy, terrifying glee by the late Heath Ledger), knocking over a mob bank. His aim is not to get rich, but to piss off as many crime bosses as possible and then offer up his services as an assassin-for-hire. The Batman, he points out, is the real fly in their ointment. He’s right, as Batman (Christian Bale) and Lieutenant James Gordon (Gary Oldman) are planning to bring down the mob by tracking marked bills stored in mafia banks around the city. Of course, their plan for tying that money to specific big-time criminals involves a not-so-legal extradition of a mob accountant (Chin Han). Their shady dealings are scrubbed up and sold to the public by “white knight” district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), who opts to prosecute all the mobsters that proudly hold Gotham in the palms of their greasy hands. Batman is a Harvey Dent supporter, believing that he is a hero for the people that he himself can never be. That support is tainted, however, by the fact that Harvey is dating his ex-girlfriend Rachel Dawes (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, a welcome reprieve from the wooden Katie Holmes).

The Dark Knight is a dark film, indeed; a filthy odyssey into the worst aspects of human, punctuated by sudden, unspeakable acts of violence. Dent, the man who is supposed to serve as a hero, becomes the villain Two Face, resorting to his own brand of randomarchical justice. The Real Hero, Batman, retreats as his public turns on him. The Dark Knight is extremely nihilistic, constantly jabbing you in the ribs and daring you to look for a silver lining to life’s dark clouds. In the end, the film struggles to demonstrate that the world is still worth protecting; why does Batman still care about the hopeless denizens of Gotham City?

There is also a strong political streak in The Dark Knight. The Joker, a criminal whose acts strike innocent people at random and follow no logical course, represents Terrorism. Batman’s response to Terrorism—a computer that monitors ever citizen’s cellular phones—is a little bit too much like Homeland Security’s answer to our post 9/11 society. It’s not hard to see how Batman could become real metaphor for Cowboy Diplomacy. Like the most recent James Bond incarnation, he is a character who exists outside of the law, for better or for worse, and because he is crusading against “evil,” his vigilante tactics are considered to be “good.” Of course, being a superhero is never that easy, and the final moments of the film acknowledge that not every cowboy gets to ride off into the sunset.

All in all, director Christopher Nolan has set the bar for comic films very high with The Dark Knight. It is a superhero film with the gritty realism of Heat and the epic feeling of Gangs of New York. I barely thought about the fact that yes, I was watching a man run around in a rubber suit. Of course, The Dark Knight is less focused on the character of Batman and much more focused on the character of the Joker. Ledger, with his twitchy, lip-licking, serpentine performance, gets a lot more screen time than your average villain. I got the feeling that Nolan couldn’t bear to cut a single moment of Ledger’s work, allowing him to blithely spin his darkly comic venom in scene after scenery-chewing scene. While the film is about forty minutes too long (The Two Face origin story, beginning two-thirds of the way through the film, could well have been the end of The Dark Knight, allowing a third installment to pick up where it let off), it’s worth the blood pooling in your legs to see as much of Heath Ledger’s Joker as possible. Mr. Ledger was a true professional and a definitive Joker; he will be greatly missed.

The amount I would pay to see this film: $10! And I did. It was so worth it.


Blogger DW Bits said...

Love the writing, gal. Minor spelling error, "... couldn't bear to cut ..." Keep up the good works :D

1:25 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home