Saturday, July 19, 2008

TRH Movie - The Dark Knight

Our summer hours were a blessing yesterday as I managed to get home after getting my hair cut well before six, which meant we were at the movie theatre in time to buy tickets and then line up for decent seats for a 7 PM show of The Dark Knight. It's not something we normally do, and I felt a little like a teenager as my RRHB and his friend Nathan went off to pay video games and I held our place in line. (Don't worry, I had a book, on my Sony eReader, which is AWESOME!).

The film is long but doesn't feel that way, action-packed without being overwhelmingly violent (although it's not suitable for the 5-year-olds that were in the audience), and utterly satisfying on every level. There are unavoidable cliches, the romance-that-cannot-be, the stoic-good-guy-cop, the moral dilemmas of a superhero, that could have weighed the whole film down. But what The Dark Knight does that Spider-Man (despite how much I loved the second one) and Iron Man somewhat fail to do, is that it approaches the tedious, necessary plot and/or character developments with an unflinching sense of honesty and commitment that rises above the usual.

It's one hell of a good movie. The story is complex, riveting and engaging. The acting is superb. And the action is, well, really good without all kinds of CGI that sometimes turns other superhero films into cartoonish parodies of themselves. Christian Bale, as Jesse Wente said yesterday morning, might just be the best actor to ever have played Batman. But considering a) I never read the comics and b) I actually kind of enjoyed George Clooney, Michael Keaton and Val Kilmer each in their own ways, I think it's more than him being 'the best.'

He takes the role to a whole other place. He takes the character to a whole other place. He's just as believable as the playboy as he is the superhero. And there's a brilliant scene that I won't spoil between he and Gary Oldman (who I think is the undersung star of the film) toward the end that exemplifies both their skills. What's impossible, as well, is not knowing the tragic circumstances around this being Ledger's last role, and have that not be on your mind the entire time you're watching his tour de force performance. And man, is he absolutely frightening, entirely brilliant and not in the least bit hammy (Lords of Dogtown, that's all I'm going to say).

The movie picks up almost right where Batman Begins left off. With the caped crusader cleaning up the streets of Gotham, the citizens have never been so safe. Add to that the appearance of the new D.A., Harvey Dent (played to perfection, as well, by Aaron Eckhart), and crime might just be on its way to extinction. Enter the Joker (Ledger) whose particular brand of menace can't be understood. In short, he doesn't act like a regular criminal, but more like a terrorist. And he's holding all of Gotham hostage. Now the Batman, Dent and Gordon have more to contend with than an angry bunch of criminals -- they have one utterly unpredictable one who doesn't quite play by the rules. The battle between good and evil, right and wrong, sways all kinds of definitive lines, and the end result is a superhero film that's evolved to finally meet the times in which its playing.

That said, the only problem with so many of these movies is the tragically misused 'love' interest trope of a character. Rachel Dawes is no different. Sure, she's a lawyer and fighting for her own brand of justice, but like Gywneth in Iron Man and Liv in Incredible Hulk, their lives are there simply to be put in danger as impetus for the hero to either act or not act. Would it be that difficult to write a less contrived female character? What a waste of talent in all of those women to be playing such one-sided roles. It's almost as if the writers have worked so hard to update the male characters and bring them securely into this century and have simply left the women behind. Sure, they dress them up in pretty heels and give them jobs, but they're not really doing anything.

Regardless, The Dark Knight not only lives up to the promise of the first film, but utterly surpasses it. It could very well be the best film of the summer. I'm just sayin'...


scarbie doll said...

Dude! I think it could be the best film of the year. (But you know, I don't get out much and it was like, the third movie I've seen in 2008. Which, as you know me so well, is a tragic injury to my former self.)

See you tonight!

Carl V. said...

It is a great film. It is sad that they don't give the female characters more of a role to work with. I think part of it must be that these characters either don't actually exist in the comics or if they do they have such one dimensional roles that there just isn't anything to build on. And, as you pointed out, the writers are spending so much time on those main characters, who have a very lengthy history, that they don't take the time to examine how a more rounded female character might actually fit into the story.

Might not be the best example, but the role of Vesper in the film Casino Royale is a much more complex character. Not simply a damsel in distress, there is a lot more going on there.