Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Movie Review | THE DARK KNIGHT

[Cross-posted to my Facebook account] I'm a little late with this (I finally saw the flick on August 2), but I'll throw my few cents worth into the blogosphere. First, you have to know that right after I left the theater, I texted the following to my wife: Movie review = !!!!! Yes, you read that correctly. Five exclamation points. However, over on Facebook, I gave the film 4.5 stars out of 5. How do I reconcile 5 exclamation points with a "mere" 4.5 stars? I will attempt to explain... THE DARK KNIGHT is not a perfect Batman story. For one, it inherits a problem from its predecessor: Rachel Dawes. While Rachel is given a much better portrayal from Maggie Gyllenhaal than Mrs. Tom Cruise could ever evoke, this cannot eliminate the fact that Ms. Dawes has been grafted onto the Batman mythos just to give Bruce Wayne a childhood friend who can double as a potential love interest. Her presence also entices the writers to further the absurd idea that Wayne is somehow caught between his sense of mission and a desire for a normal life. According to all the source material, there is no such conflict in Wayne, at least not at this early stage in his career as The Batman. Another carryover from BATMAN BEGINS --Lucius Fox knowing that Bruce Wayne is the Batman -- is a minor quibble. There have been stories in the source material that imply Fox knew what was going on with Brucie. Besides, an aide who can manage the business while also providing access to high tech goodies is a plus. And it's much cleaner than having to deal with a whole host of experts (as suggested in "The Many Deaths of the Batman" from Batman #433-#435), or having Bruce personally muss with corporate records to hide his Batman purchases and research. Another minor quibble is the Joker's involvement in Harvey Dent's transformation into Two-Face. In the source material, the Joker and Two-Face were often at odds, but Joker did not help "create" Two-Face. I suppose this compacting is the result of finite time within the movie storyline. After all, in BATMAN BEGINS, we had Henri Ducard doubling as Ra's al Ghul and having a hand in the training/evolution of Batman. In the source materials, we do find Henri Ducard as having a hand in Bruce Wayne's training, but he was not in the employ of (let alone a false identity for) Ra's al Ghul. So, while I originally thought BATMAN BEGIN's collapsing/mixing of characters and storylines was a one-time occurrence, it now seems that Nolan's team has established a trend of mixing character origins for convenience. Now, having said all that, I think the film really works. Minor quibbles aside, this is a well cast, well shot, and extremely well exectuted (no pun intended) production. It seems more real and visceral than any "superhero" or comic book movie to date. Compare the Gotham City of THE DARK KNIGHT with that of BATMAN FOREVER. There *is* no comparison. The Gotham of the former comes off more like NYC in the film WORLD TRADE CENTER while the Gotham of the latter is like an amusement park ride. While THE DARK KNIGHT is a large and loud movie, with its roots in the popcorn blockbuster genre, it has one foot firmly rooted in the tradition of the morality play. Like great art, it entertains but asks uncomfortable questions of us. It has the exhilaration of a thrill ride, but it comes with a serious punch to the gut. "How much of your world is like this?" it seems to ask. "And what, if anything, can you do about it now?" The Dark Knight (2008) Director: Christopher Nolan MPAA: PG-13 Running Time: 2 hrs. 30 min. Release Date: Jul 14, 2008 Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Monique Curnen, Ron Dean, Eric Roberts

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