Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight is an amazing movie. It is lovely, dark, and deep, and, of course, badass to the core. While not as stylistically shot as another summer Blockbuster, Wanted, you can tell that they spent just as much money on pyrotechnics and CGI to make it obscenely and mindblowingly cool. But you'll be busy watching the Joker, Batman, and Harvey Dent (in that order) to be oohing and aahing over the image fest. This is a movie that is flawless in theater. That being said, it's only later that you begin to notice flaws.

Plotwise, it's been about a year after the appearance of Batman (Christian Bale). The gangsters (their numbers much reduced) now operate in daylight for fear of the vigilante. Gotham is now a brighter, safer place under the care of Batman, but also a mayor and a district attorney with zero tolerance for corruption. And then the Joker (Heath Ledger) arrives. First robbing the mob and the then quickly supplanting them as the baddest baddie of Gotham. Meanwhile, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), Batman's childhood sweetheart, has found a man is as handsome and morally up righteous as Bruce Wayne in the DA Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart).
The Dark Knight is somewhat misleadingly titled, because it focuses more on the villains than the hero. The Joker and Harvey Dent form the two pillars of the movie. Now imagine the two pillars to be the Eiffel Tower and a flagpole, with no offense to the flagpole. Not only does he have a vastly superior body count, there is something in Heath Ledger's presence that's extremely disturbing. Maybe it's the stiff legged walk, hunched shoulders, and the constant smacking and licking of his lips that makes you want to pee in your pants. Maybe it's the voice. One of my favorite scenes is when he has a knife to a man's mouth and is recounting how he got his scars. "Why so serious," he says over and over again.
I'm not that Aaron Eckhart isn't a good actor. He was wonderful in Thank You for Smoking and more than competent in the role. It's just that the perverted genuineness of Heath Ledger makes all the other characters slightly artificial. There is some sort of smarmy-ness and arrogance in Harvey Dent that just doesn't mesh with his White Knight of Gotham City status. [SPOILER BEGINS]He also did not have good chemistry with love interest Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who was by far the worst cast. While sweet and slightly headstrong, Gyllenhaal was never convincingly in love with Eckhart and even worse, she lacked the stage presence to drive him mad. I'm not saying that Katie Holmes would have been a better choice, but in the first film that wasn't required of her. Dent's transformation to Two Face hinged on Gyllenhaal's performance and she lacked the charisma to carry the role. [SPOILER ENDS].
The discrepancy in power between the two main villains makes for a really lopsided film. And with two leading men, the rest of the cast has to scramble to make the best of their parts. My favorite character is obviously the Joker, but tied for a very distant second place is Alfred (Michael Caine) and Coleman Reese (Joshua Harto), a Wayne Enterprises employee who tries to blackmail the Batman. Christian Bale and Morgan Freemen both delivered strong performances, but weren't given much material. I thought Bale was better in th brief snippets as the snobbish, selfish billionaire Bruce Wayne than Batman. he's perfectly self-centered and clueless when he totals his Lamborghini. Gary Oldman is also great as a goody two-shoes cop who stubbornly (and near stupidly) holds onto his morals.
And despite all the negative things I've said this was a really cool movie. And there's praiseworthy in the fact that the movie's strongest point also draws attention to it's weakest. It's almost too good.

1 comment:

movie junkie said...

i still wish Katie Holmes had stayed on board as Rachel Dawes for the Dark Knight; it was like the time spent getting familiar with her character in Batman Begins was wasted...