Friday, July 18, 2008

The Dark Knight - Kate's Perspective

See that poster to your left? Notice anything missing? Something tall and dark, with pointy ears and a strapping chin? Don't worry, it'll come to you.

The Dark Knight, which Jimmy and I saw at a midnight showing last night, was one of the more wonderful pieces of cinema I've seen in a long while. I won't say perfect--it certainly has its flaws, and with less stellar acting those flaws would've broken a movie like this--but it's so good, they don't even bother you. (At least, not while you're watching. I'll get to it.)

I'm not sure that I've ever seen a movie which depended so completely on its actors, except perhaps There Will Be Blood. Without the absolute badassery brought to it by Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart and Christian Bale (in this order, for me), it would've been average. Fun, adrenaline-packed mediocrity, but mediocrity nonetheless.

However, the film gods (or Christopher Nolan, I forget which) have chosen to bestow upon us a handful of pants-wettingly amazing performances, and so The Dark Knight transcends the superhero genre and becomes a genuine masterpiece of crime cinema. Gary Oldman, as Commissioner Gordon, is truly his own character in this one; you find yourself really caring about him. Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent is the perfect foil to Christian Bale's Batman: on one hand, the charismatic, good-hearted, blond district attorney; on the other, the brooding, gruff, dark vigilante. It's fantastic casting.

And Ledger? If Bale's performance was a little lacking for me, it's probably just because I was only waiting for scenes with the Joker. From his first swagger onto the screen, he absolutely owns the whole damn film. If I were one of the other massively talented actors in this movie, I would be feeling completely mediocre beside him. He's just so...cool. One twitching, sweating, greasy ball of concentrated crazy. He'll win you over ten minutes in, when he demonstrates a "magic trick" with a pencil. It's unforgettable.

One thing that always annoys me about villains is this: they often appear willing to die, but when death is staring them in the face, they snivel and whimper and wring their hands like everyone else, thus proving themselves not really that insane, just malicious. The Joker, on the other hand, really, truly doesn't give a bat's ass if he lives or dies, and that's sort of exhilarating to watch. He treats death like bungee-jumping or eating sushi; it's something new and exciting, and he might like it. He certainly doesn't treat it like a permanent condition.

Really, I could go on all day about Ledger's performance, which certainly ranks up with Hannibal Lecter as one of the creepiest, most deliciously freaky villains of all time. But I'm sleepy from getting just three hours of sleep, so I'll just urge you to see that for yourself.

Now, to the things that weren't so hot--or, rather, thing, as only one really bothered me. This may be a bit spoilerish, so you've been warned. The lead-up to Harvey Dent becoming Two-Face is long and slow, until the incident which actually turns him; after that, he immediately becomes crazed, bitter and remorseless. The elements were present before, so it's certainly not akin to, say, Anakin Skywalker's inexplicable transformation in Revenge of the Sith. It does work; it's just that it could have worked better, and it's too bad to see them rush that. One other small item I wasn't terribly fond of was a small cameo by Cillian Murphy, reprising his Scarecrow role; at best it was unnecessary, and at worst, a bit confusing. But it was short enough to fade into the background and be forgotten.

Finally, Batman as a character was not as important in this film; I think The Dark Knight was more about Gotham City than about Batman. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. From the intricate settings to the human moments (one involving boats and convicts is particularly touching), Nolan is determined to make you care about Gotham's salvation, and he succeeds, with flying...er...bats. There's plenty more that can be said about it, but instead, I'll just implore you to go see it yourself, and drink in the chilling, sadistic beauty of Gotham's darkest hour.

Final rating: A

4 comments:

whatistechnoagain said...

"I won't say perfect--it certainly has its flaws, and with less stellar acting those flaws would've broken a movie like this--but it's so good, they don't even bother you."

Wow, thank you! Pretty much anyone else who has written a review complaining of flaws in TDK just nitpick and act like those "flaws" are tremendous and thus ruin the movie.

And I totally agree with you about casting: I don't think a lot of people understand just how great it was in this movie. They just find something---anything---to complain about. It's tiresome.

"If Bale's performance was a little lacking for me, it's probably just because I was only waiting for scenes with the Joker."

Same here. I couldn't quite figure out why until someone said that that's the way it was supposed to be: The other actors' performances are great, it's just that the Joker overshadows them because he's meant to steal the show. And he does. Fantastic.

"The Joker, on the other hand, really, truly doesn't give a bat's ass if he lives or dies, and that's sort of exhilarating to watch. He treats death like bungee-jumping or eating sushi; it's something new and exciting, and he might like it. He certainly doesn't treat it like a permanent condition."

Lmao, so true. :D

Seresecros said...

Agreed about Bale, but f'me it was because I was waiting for more scenes with Harvey Dent, not Joker. I liked the way Joker just waltzes around the film, happy-as-larry without too much getting his hands dirty, but I just thought that watching Dent (especially cos I know who his character is beforehand) fall into evil was fascinating.

My favourite bit, though, came with the gigantic prisoner dude on the boat. He stands up, takes the remote, then calmly chucks it out the window. Fantastic.

Vinny said...

Agree 100% with this review.

And I'll add one - the movie was too long.

This could have been two great once-in-a-lifetime movies, instead of one great very long movie.

Heath Ledger, quite literally gave the performance of a lifetime and the whole Joker plot could have and should have been its own movie.

And there is so much in the co-dependent relationship between Batman and the Joker to explore - it is a shame we'll never see it.

As far as I am concerned, no one should ever play the Joker again - because they simply won't measure up.

And you hit the nail on the head regarding Harvey Dent's "transformation" happening too quick. And that issue again could have been solved with a movie all of his own.

Great review.

CULTURAL WASTELAND said...

Exactly how I felt about Dent's transition to Two Face. Conceptually it was brilliant - I was actually pleased that the story was more about Gotham than Batman - but in practice it was executed far too quickly. This rendered it's emotional impact a bit empty for me.

And yes, Oldman was brilliant. The Brits are excellent in The Dark Knight.