Monday, July 21, 2008

Film Review: The Dark Knight

I have to eat my hat. Pity, cos it has little beads on it and I might choke. Our resident film buff Renee A reckons Heath Ledger's performance in The Dark Knight is worthy of the hype - and I'm truly glad the rave reviews aren't just posthumous pandering.....

I know the world has gone kind of Heath Ledger crazy of late and I’m sure I’m not the only one to have thought this is only because the Joker was his final complete performance. In fact, I think Kat mentioned somewhere in a previous post the annoyance of the hype about Mr Ledger. However, having just seen The Dark Knight, I can say with absolute conviction that the hype is deserved. Ledger creates a complicated and nuanced character without ever entering over-the-top land. His attention to detail – the mannerisms, the way he speaks, the hysterical laugh – makes for a terrifying performance. Right, now I’ve gotten that out of the way I can move on, because as brilliant as the Joker is, he is by no means the only good thing about this movie.
In 2005, Christopher Nolan (Memento, The Prestige) threw Batman Begins from left field. Nearly a decade earlier, the fourth in the movie franchise (Batman & Robin) appeared to have ended Batman’s run; and on a ridiculous note. So to have this mythic, achingly beautiful origin story appear, completely free of cheese, was a joyous surprise. With The Dark Knight, Nolan has again created a cheddar-free zone, but has amped up the action and replaced Katie Holmes with Maggie Gyllenhaal as Bruce Wayne’s love interest Rachel Dawes. Where Batman Begins dealt with Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) overcoming his fears and becoming Batman, this film deals with him becoming comfortable with Batman’s place within Gotham City and becoming willing to lose his ego and do what is needed. The strength in Nolan’s Batman films lies in his focus on the people within the story and the struggle of good people against the increasingly more prevalent bad guys.

What I most love about this film is that it weaves action sequences into the story (really well choreographed ones, might I add) without sacrificing character development and without resorting to buckets of blood and gore. Nothing turns me off a film faster than blood and guts (hence my aversion to horror movies or crime shows of any kind). Sure, there’s a lot of implied violence, especially when the Joker pops into the scene, but usually the camera cuts away before the Joker, ah, cuts away...(sorry).

I mentioned the strength of Ledger’s performance before. But the other performances are not to be sneezed at (I love that saying. Why would you sneeze at a bad performance? It makes no sense. But I digress). Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart and Maggie Gyllenhaal have much straighter dramatic roles than Ledger, but all give strong performances. Eckhart in particular is interesting to watch; his character Harvey Dent beginning the film as an absolute good guy and finishing up as, well, a not so good guy.

The bar was set high with Batman Begins. I’m not entirely sure if The Dark Knight has succeeded in reaching it (it will require a second and third viewing to be certain), but I’d say it is pretty damn close. 4 out of 5 crazy Joker giggles.

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