Archive for August 2nd, 2008


What I’m Watching: The Dark Knight

I saw The Dark Knight on opening night, of course. I saw it with my girlfriend, Erin, and it was a sublime moviegoing experience. If you didn’t hear it already, she and I recorded a review of the film for a special Showcase Podcast. Go ahead and listen.

Tonight, I saw the movie for the second time, and it’s safe to say this is a movie that holds up to repeat viewings. It’s an event, an achievement. Yeah, I’m gonna go this far — it may well be the greatest comic book movie ever made.

Set in the same stark, realistic world as 2005’s Batman Begins, the film picks up about a year later. Batman (Christian Bale) and Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) form an alliance with Gotham’s new District Attorney, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). The three men, together, decide to clean up the scum from the streets of Gotham City. but even as they’re making their plans, a new maniac is turning the underworld upside-down — a horrific, homicidal clown who goes only by the name “The Joker” (Heath Ledger).

The first two acts of the film are truly about the Joker’s efforts to toy with the heroes, and the heroes efforts to take him down. And it’s good. It’s downright great. But it isn’t until the third act that the film goes beyond just a really good movie to a flat-out masterpiece. This movie goes to dark places I never would have expected the movie to go, even after the darker tone of Begins. It’s harsh, unforgiving, and sometimes difficult to watch even as it is impossible to look away.

There is simply no weak link in this cast. Bale further cements his role as the greatest live-action Batman of all time. He’s a driven, dedicated man willing to go to any lengths, but the minute he puts on his Bruce Wayne disguise (and make no mistake — Bruce is the mask, Batman is the real person), it’s an entirely different character. The transformation is as complete and convincing as when Christopher Reeve transformed from Clark Kent into Superman. Gary Oldman has the tough task of playing my favorite Batman universe character, Jim Gordon. Gordon, to me, is the second-greatest hero Gotham City has ever seen. He’s that one good cop willing to stand up to the dark and corruption all around him and try to save the city from inside the boundaries of the law. Oldman’s performance is absolutely masterful. Maggie Gyllenhaal takes over the role of Rachel Dawes from Katie Holmes, and it’s a vast improvement. Gyllenhaal, simply, is a far better actress, and her performance is more convincing. Michael Caine, again, owns the role of Alfred, and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox — the “Q” to Batman’s James Bond — has a much bigger, meatier role this time around.

Then there’s Heath Ledger. I admit, when I heard he was cast as the Joker, I was skeptical. Really? The guy from A Knight’s Tale and The Order? (I’ve never seen Brokeback Mountain and honestly have no desire to. It simply doesn’t look like a movie that interests me, but it’s gained such an air of pretension about it that anyone who says they don’t like it gets branded with the “Homophobic” stick, no matter why they didn’t like it. Better to avoid the issue altogether.) Within seconds of his appearance on-screen, I understood exactly why director Christopher Nolan cast him. Jack Nicholson’s Joker in the 1989 movie was entertaining, but he was never scary. Ledger’s Joker is the brilliant, insane lunatic from comic book masterpieces like The Killing Joke. He’s frightening. He’s terrifying. The Joker, as I’ve said before, should be the reason kids are afraid of clowns. From the voice, the horrible laughter, the posture, the tiny mannerisms… heck, the way he flicks his tongue, Ledger created a character that could give you nightmares.

Then there’s Aaron Eckhart. I thought he’d do a decent job as Harvey Dent. I was utterly unprepared for how deep and powerful his character would be in this movie. Dent is often referred to in the movie as Gotham’s “White Knight,” the true hope for cleaning up Gotham City the right way. Meanwhile, he’s in love with a woman who was in love with his greatest ally, and he doesn’t know it. What’s more, the fact that he’s such a shining hero — and this is not hyperbole, Dent is a hero— is exactly what makes him a target for Gotham’s darkest nightmare. Dent’s character arc has the power and intensity of the finest Shakespearian tragedy, and Eckhart nails it. People have — deservedly — been saying that Ledger deserves an Oscar nomination for his performance. I don’t disagree. But I think Eckhart is every bit as good, if not better.

After Batman Begins, I had my fingers crossed for a sequel. This time, the bar has been raised so high that I’m almost afraid of a third movie, because I don’t know how they can top this one. But if anyone can, it’s Christopher Nolan and his fellow writers, David Goyer and Jonathan Nolan, along with one of the best casts ever to grace a superhero film. The Dark Knight has already shattered records: the highest-grossing opening weekend ever, the fastest movie ever to make $300 million domestically, the highest non-holiday opening ever, the highest 10-day total ever, the biggest moneymaker the perennial Warner Brothers studio has ever made. And it’s not slowing down. The theater I went to tonight still has it on at least two of the bigger screens, and the theater was almost full. People are even asking the question… can it sink the Titanic? The highest-grossing movie of all time made about $600 million in the U.S. box office. If The Dark Knight makes another $60 million in weekend three — a distinct possibility — that will put it at about $400 million.

It just may do the trick.

And it will be deserved.

I’ve seen it twice so far. I don’t think it’s enough. For once you can believe the hype — this is one of the best movies you’ve ever seen.

Blog Stats

  • 319,600 hits

Blake's Flickr Photos

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.