Sunday, March 29, 2009

Why so serious?

It was over 40 years ago that Adam West (with a BAM! POW! SMASH!) introduced us to a live action Batman for the masses. Then, nearly 20 years ago, Michael Keaton, under the direction of Tim Burton, showed us a gothic, big screen version of the caped crusader. Before the end of the last century, we saw Michelle Pfeiffer dress like a dominatrix, Jim Carrey model the most fashionable question-marked spandex, and George Clooney educate us in the anatomy of bats (Nipples? On a superhero costume? Was that really necessary???). It felt like our favorite pointy-eared hero would never recover from the slump Joel Schumacher forced him into.

Then came Christopher Nolan. In 2005, with the help of David S. Goyer (screenwriter of the Blade Trilogy), he reinvented the franchise, bringing it back to it's dark roots. More realism, less cheese, Batman Begins gave Batman fans something to rejoice over. But this review isn't about Batman Begins. Oh no, far are we from the slower paced (but still overly entertaining) origin story. Now, Christopher is back to introduce us to the next stage of Batman's evolution: the Dark Knight... And oh is it dark.

The hype that has surrounded this film is awe-inspiring. Even before the tragic loss of Heath Ledger, this movie was one to be anticipated. After Ledger's untimely demise, the hype only increased. No, that isn't quite right. It fucking went off the scale. After tonight, I can say with complete honesty: it didn't do this film justice.

With tickets bought in advance, Tara and I made it to a completely sold out two-screen showing of The Dark Knight. The lights dimmed, the audience cheered. Silence ensued. I have never seen a crowd so enthralled with a film. Everyone was completely in the moment. There were screams, there was laughter, there was total enjoyment.

Where to begin? The acting. Yes, yes. Christian Bale played an outstanding Bruce Wayne/Batman, but, then again, who doubted this? An outstanding supporting cast was spot on. Alfred, played by Michael Caine, was the voice of reason in Bruce's ear, offering sentiment and wisdom to our conflicted hero. Gordon, played once more by the outstanding Gary Oldman, was Batman's traditional partner in crime. Harvey Dent was played by Aaron Eckhart and, in this role, we see this actor's true potential; great stuff. Maggie Gyllenhaal replaced Katie Holmes as Batman's love interest, Rachel, and did an outstanding job. As Q was to Bond, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) is to Bruce; spot on once again. But of course, the real man of the hour is the late Heath Ledger.

Ledger didn't just raise the bar for villians, he blasted that thing into orbit and spot-welded it to one of the satellites. The Joker is everything we geeks have always wanted. His humor, although at times laughable, is mostly repulsive. The lengths he goes to will make you cringe. This isn't just a power hungry bad guy out to make a little mischief for our hero. The Joker is so sinister (you'll love his magic trick) that you really do fear for Gotham. All throughout the movie, I just kept thinking "here is a guy who will do whatever he wants to without a second thought; no one is safe." The extent of the Joker's madness made me fear for every single character in this film. Heath Ledger truly showed me the caliber of his acting ability: the very highest. Still, these words (especially since they're being typed at 3:30 in the morning) won't even come close to doing his performance justice. It is really something all of you must see. Others have said it and I will agree: I smell an posthumous Oscar. Again, let me emphasize, go see this film. Ledger's performance is reason enough.

Nolan's directing and writing are also worth mentioning. Hell, it's some of the best around. I truly believe he is the only man who should handle the Batman franchise from this point forth. His eye, his creations, are spot on with the Batman universe.

The action sequences are great. Well thought out and amazingly executed, the action holds you at attention. Fight scenes, car chases, the thrills do exactly that. I will say that the fight sequences can be a little muddled at times. But, in the grand scheme of things, it's forgivable. Still, the action takes a backseat to the story anyways.

This is a plot driven film. More than a superhero movie, this is about right and wrong, politics, morals... Choice. Everything you think you know about a hero may change after watching this film. To quote the Joker: "Tonight, you're gonna break your one rule." You really start to see that Batman, underneath his suit, is still just flesh and blood. He hurts, physically and emotionally and those emotions will be put to the test.

All in all, Nolan has created a fantastic follow up to Batman Begins. What's more, this film isn't slowed down with the Batman origin. The pace starts strong and never lets up. This is quite possibly the best movie I have seen this year, but, since I haven't had a lot of time to digest it yet, we'll know for sure tomorrow (and even more so after my next viewing). My verdict: GO SEE THIS MOVIE! It's action, it's drama. There's love and loss and betrayal. There's humor and horror. It's a mixed bag of tricks that should work for everyone. See it. Now.

BTW, for a specific group of fanboys out there: the Watchmen trailer (directed by Zack Snyder) was attached to this film. Can you say "geekgasm"?

Sorry for how muddled and rambling this review is. If it doesn't make sense or if I missed anything, I apologize. In my defense, it is now 4 am.

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