Jul 21, 2008

[Movies] The Dark Knight

The Dark KnightAs a kid, I've always been a Spider-Man fan at heart. There's something about his character being a nerd who gets to fight crime with amazing powers that just enthralled me. It wasn't until my later years that I expanded my comic book interests outside of Spider-Man - also due to that horrible Clone Saga which just ruined things for me.

By this time, my mother had revived her own comic book interests and had built up a sizable Batman collection. Of course initially I was like, Batman? My mind inevitably recalled the old campy TV series with Adam West and their zany antics and cartoon sound effects captions appearing on screen. But of course, it was a long summer and I'm always starved for new things to read, and so I hunkered down and started exploring the world of the Dark Knight. Then I really got to understand just what made Batman great.

At the same time, I realized his rogues gallery was not your run-of-the-mill crew of criminals who follow particular patterns, at least not all of them. At the core was the Joker, quite literally a homicidal maniac that soon became the antithesis to Batman's attempts at restoring order to the city - the embodiment of chaos meant to eternally challenge Batman's view of order.

So when the buzz for the new Dark Knight movie started and people started talking about how Heath Ledger was interpreting the role, naturally I was pretty excited - finally we were going to see the Joker as he was meant to be, As much it was a shame that Heath died before getting a chance to see his finished work, it certainly was a worthy one for his legacy and perhaps the reason why so many people begin to wonder if "The Dark Knight" really should have been, "Joker" instead.

It would be inaccurate to say that Gotham is in a better place when the movie starts. Crime still happens and there are dirty cops fouling up the system. Organized crime continues to operate in the city and people still fear for their lives at tines. The one difference though is that one man continues to fight to retake the night - the Batman (Christian Bale). While officially the police denounce the masked vigelante, Lt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman) continue to work with the Batman.

There is a silver lining of sorts - the new District Attorney, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckart) is driving a strong campaign to stop Gotham's criminal underworld one case at a time. He's become a shining beacon of inspiration to all as a "white knight" in these dark times, a stark contrast to the darker role that the Batman plays in the city and one that many wannabe heroes have started to look up to. Many fake Batmans have also started to appear around the city - average citizens taking on the mantle of the Bat in attempt to show their solidarity with his mission in trying to make Gotham better.

Just as it seems the combined efforts of these three individuals - Batman, Gordon and Dent - is about to make some serious headway in the fight against the local mobs, a new player enters the field. Initially he's thought to be some bit player staging small-time crimes and random bank heists but in time they realize he's more dangerous that any of them could have considered.

This movie was just AWESOME. Words fail me. It was the truest embodiment of the Joker I've ever seen and I have to admit that now all the more I regret Heath Ledger's passing since we will not be able to see anyone pull this off again in our lifetimes. The original line of Batman movies was somewhat dark, but in the end pandered to younger audiences and remained a children's novelty. This film was well beyond that, not interest in compromising their vision in the interests of marketability and thus we've been gifted with this dark yet compelling tale of hope, tragedy and loss.

But then of course the actors can only do so much with the material given to them, and thus kudos as well to the writers who crafted this story so well and helping each character become as real as possible. These were not merely character portrayals on screen - this was them telling a story so well that the characters seemed beyond real to us in the dark of the cinema. And yes, I know that also has to be attributed to skilled directing, and thus my eternal gratitude goes to Christopher Nolan for such a stellar job that was light years ahead of his work with Batman Begins.

The movie attempts to deal with some pretty heavy concepts well beyond basic good and evil, and I personally laud them for their efforts. This is not kid stuff (and having children under the age of 12/13 watch this seems dangerous to me now given the content) but really heavy philosophical argument with the characters as our examples, explanations and perhaps answers? Here the Joker is a true anarchist and he isn't limited to plans involving killer grins or smiling fish, but instead just goes from one act to the next with no predictable pattern. This movie is really trying to tell his story and by the end you can see how he's managed to affect pretty much everyone in the film or in Gotham City for that matter.

Things will never be the same again.

I'd love to go on, but I know this review is already longer than most - it sort of tells you how much I enjoyed this movie. As much as I want to talk further, I know I'll risk bringing up spoilers and I definitely don't want to do that. It remains my policy not to ruin things for those who haven't seen the movie since I hate it when people do that to me in turn. Then again if you do want to talk more, you know how to contact me - this geek is more than up for a midnight discussion or two about this movie.

4 comments:

Dominique said...

Hi, Rocky: Surprisingly (or not), all the local reviews I've read are in agreement with this being the Joker's film. The Joker really brought this movie to epic heights by putting good in contrast against pure evil. My review.

rOckY said...

Hey Dom,

I know, right? I'm just worried this particular opinion is going to get muddied by folks who think it's just about Heath, when it's not about that at all. If he were still alive, I think we'd all still feel the same way.

Will said...

I wonder if they'll make a movie based on The Killing Joke. It will surely make the R rating. :D

rOckY said...

@Will,

That would be cool, although I think given how this movie drew somewhat heavily from book for inspiration about the character (in my opinion), I doubt they could manage that.

Oh yeah, it would definitely be an R movie. =D

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