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Monday, June 22, 2009

The Dark Knight (movie review)

Okay so my fiancée and I went to go to see The Dark Knight last night and I was QUITE satisfied and my expectations were met. Y'know, I have only seen about three new movies this summer, but this one definitely takes the cake as far as the acting, the action, the explosions, the story and maintaining the Batman mythos. Before I go on any further, I will end up talking a little bit about the earlier Batman films over the years, some of the comics that drew inspiration in the Dark Knight and the spoilers in the film. So you have been warned Batfans – I will spoil this film for you if you keep on reading……

So as some of you might already know, this film is a sequel to Batman Begins which is a reboot of the Batman franchise and pretty much throws out the previous "classic Batman films" that were predominate in the 90's including Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. Whereas the classic films were just ridiculed for the most part as getting progressively campy and silly and at sometimes totally ridiculous (like Penguins with rocket launchers), the Nolan brothers' films continue to show this gritty dark side to Batman that he deserves and they have created this universe where having a "Batman" looks like it could happen. They don't throw any "well he does it because he's a supervillian," schtick that you would find in comics in the old days, now they practically provide a science and/or methodology on how or why certain things happen in these films. What I like about these newer films is the believability this is represented in a comic book film. Instead of me getting lost into my criticizing tirades as I have traditionally done in the past, I will instead list my pro's and con's in a detailed and bulleted list that way you can just jump to the info that you would like to see. BUT, what I can tell you is that you need to watch this film, but be prepared to take out a good chunk of your day out to view it, as it is 2 ½ hours long.

What I liked about in this movie:

  • Heath Ledger was amazing. I found him terrifying, mesmerizing and hilarious all rolled into one. He is definitely someone to portray the Joker where you can find the character as absolutely terrifying and then laugh at something dark that he does.
  • Explosions and action. This film could satisfy any action genre nut's taste with the amount of gunfire and blazing fury displayed on the screen. There were at times I felt that it was a little excessively violent, and it made me think of my nine year old brother that wanted to see this film. Thinking back to all of the carnage – I would def NOT show this film to a young mind.
  • An inspiration from the maxi-series The Long Halloween. Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale do an excellent job on a line of books that are "in the vein" of Frank Miller's Batman Year One. Thinking of this book and the portrayal of Batman / Gordon / Harvey Dent working together to clean up the city AND showing the end of a crime era of organized crime into "super villains" made this film more believable for me that this would happen.
  • The introduction of Harvey Dent into the story. They show that he is a determined D.A. and his focus to finally take down the mob's hold of Gotham, but more importantly how a good man could "fall from grace" and turn into Two-Face.
  • Lucious Fox is Batman's "Q". I don't know how any can't see an influence from the James Bond series, especially since the pre-dominant crew is from jolly 'ol ..:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />England.
  • Showcasing not just the heroes of Gotham, but the people of Gotham that create a further extension of the character that is Gotham City. I think in previous films we have just gotten a sense of the city by how dark it is, the aroma of crime and the architectural style – but now I felt it was a little bit more personalized. Kind of like the first two Spidey films that we got to see the people of NY pulling together to help Spidey, I saw the people of Gotham loosing their minds and at the same time uniting to make their own choices and not be directed by and fueled by their fear and intimidation from the Joker.
  • The scale and scope of this film – I liked how it was not only confined to Gotham, but featured some stuff in Hong Kong.
  • The ascension of evil and control from the Joker character. Although they really don't show his origin story, nor do they mention anything that he fell into a bat of acid, I felt like we were just to assume that he was a very articulate and well planned criminal mastermind, deceptive, misleading, highly intelligent and his desire to just "watch the world burn." The film starts off with him bumping off each of his own men during a bank robbery and then he sells his services to the organized crime of Gotham in a promises he would kill the Batman. By starting off a sole criminal he slowly takes over one gang after another until he has a hold of the whole city and even tries to spread his disease to Harvey Dent by turning him into another super villain.
  • The symbolism that Harvey Dent is the White Knight and Batman is the Dark Knight (one of the last lines in the film).
  • The struggle and a bit of a love triangle between Rachel Dawes, Bruce and Harvey Dent. You really see and can kind of feel all of the extra issues and dilemmas that it takes to be a hero (both in the perspective of Batman and Harvey Dent). But the number one thing that Bruce Wayne sacrifices for the little people of Gotham is a simple life, especially being able to fall in love and have a stable life with a woman. You really feel for his dilemma.
  • The film opens up with the Scarecrow's gang being busted – to me this was essential and really makes a smooth transition from one movie to the next by just briefly featuring the last villain. I think connections like this, as in the opening of Rocky films, are what make sequels tight and flowing with one another.
  • You get a preview of The Watchmen which comes out in March. Def the next highly anticipated comic movie. But will the ambition of the Graphic Novel be just too much for the silver screen? Only time will tell. The images look great, especially down to the detail of The Comedian's smiley face button.
  • Setting up the Batman series for more continuing tales. The film ends on an extremely dark note (no pun intended) but within the last five minutes or so we have the following bad events: 1) Batman takes the blame for Harvey Dent's murders so that his good image is maintained. 2) Lucious Fox quits Wayne Enterprises because he doesn't like the idea of spying on people with their cell phones (but he has to type in his name first) 3) Rachel Dawes' final message that she was going to tell Bruce she was going to stick with Harvey and not wait for Bruce to give up the Batman mantle as burned up by Alfred. HONESTLY, I felt like the ending of the film was like in the same vein as The Empire Strikes Back, by having your characters/hero and their loneliest point in the middle act to pull them up into greatness for the grand finale.

What I didn't like in this movie:

  • This film was primarily shot during the day. I sure it might have been an angle to save a little cash on the production but I have always felt Gotham should be primarily dark to continue with that creepy/grimey atmosphere. But I always like to think about legendary Batman writer/editor Denny O'Neil who likes to say something along the line of "Metropolis is New York city in the spring, during the day in a rather rich and prosperous part of time. Gotham is in New York City during the fall, at night in one of the poorest parts of town." SO based off of that summarized quote from Denny, I felt this film was showing too much "Metropolis" and not enough "Gotham"
  • Introducing and bumping off the Harvey Dent character waaaay too fast. I really wish they took about a film or two to showcase Harvey, his tackling of organized crime, building of the relationships between Batman, Gordon and himself and perhaps hinting about his mental issues. I really liked how they treated the Harvey Dent character in the Batman the Animated Series that showed a strong friendly relationship between Harvey and Bruce Wayne, but that he also had a dark side that could snap into a violent mood swing at any time AND that he had a history of some psychological issues. In this film, we see Dent is a bit of a bad ass, but taking a guy's gun from him that tries to shoot him in the court room, he hints about his dad's "lucky coin" and then he really goes off the deep end after his girlfriend dies. I mean, I can kind of understand loosing your girlfriend in an explosion is a terrible thing – but then denying the use of skin graphs on yourself because "you want to be truly seen for what you are….Two Faced." It is nice when the Joker talks to him and basically manipulates the situation by telling Two Face that it was the police department's fault that his Rachel was murdered and then "pushing their White Knight" into darkness. But Hell, at least it is A LOT better than Tommy Lee Jones' interpretation in Batman Forever that treats him more like a third rate Joker.
  • I know this is totally out of everyone's control, but the Joker character lives in the end – but now unfortunately Heath Ledger is dead. SO, I feel some fans might want to see a return of this character, but probably others that will be resentful of someone trying to fill Heath Ledger's shoes (especially if he wins an Oscar for this role). But then again, I'm sure fans said the same thing about Jack Nicholson that "Cesar Romero is the only Joker" and other fans of modern time might have said "Jack Nicholson and/or Mark Hamill are the only Jokers for me – screw this gay cowboy – he can't pull off the legendary clown price of Crime."
  • Maggie Gyllenhall (yeah, Jake's sister who actually screws the Joker in Brokeback) replaces the rather cute Katie Holmes. I feel like Maggie's got a pretty damn saggy face that the Joker should have sliced on the corners to give her a prettier smile.
  • Batman's gruffy voice starts to get a little annoying. I wonder if Christian Bale couldn't talk normally after shooting his Batman scenes. I liked in the last film when he would throw in a few lines that will creep you the Hell out – now he is in these extended scenes of dialogue when you are like "Dude, take a throat lozenge or something – you sound like you just ate a carton of cigarettes."
  • Finally, the overall length of this film. Sure it might have helped that I saw this film at midnight and might have been a little tired but this film is 2 ½ hours long. What happened to the days when you can tell a story on the screen in 90 minutes. Now everyone in Hollywood needs to make Epics. I wish Hollywood would try to slim down their tales and stretch out storylines further so that they can focus more on the characters and details. I felt like this film COULD HAVE been just a focus on the end of the mob, the rise of the Joker and the friendship/camaraderie between Batman, Gordon and Dent. They could have done the whole Two Face thing in another film or two and focus more on the tension of friendships. But, we'll have to see what the Batman film has in store – cause I can't wait.

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