Friday, July 18, 2008

"The Dark Knight" - REVIEW


Gargantuan. Mysterious. Dark. Ominous. Menacing. Labyrinthine. Overwhelming. Wicked. Brilliant. All of the above words apply to The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan's follow up to the excellent Batman Begins. In the months building up to this film's release, the hype escalated to almost ridiculous levels, in no small part thanks to the buzz about Heath Ledger's performance. However, I would be lying if I told you that The Dark Knight surpasses Batman Begins. It does not merely surpass it...it obliterates in on every level, and does something almost unheard. The Dark Knight improves upon its predecessor and then goes even further so that it elevates itself above being "just a comic book movie". It transcends that status and becomes a full fledged crime thriller that more than lives up to its title (this one ain't for the kiddies). Instead of the usual formula where the bad guy and the hero simply keep meeting up and fighting, Batman (and his allies) is forced to be something of a detective, tracking down clues to prevent the next heinous crime by a self described "agent of chaos". This brings us to the film's central figure of evil: the Joker. If you think that all the hype for Heath Ledger's final complete performance will only leave you underwhelmed think again. Both his performance and the film as a whole surpass their HUGE expectations and deliver on all fronts. The Joker isn't just a token bad guy; he is a study of the randomness of chaos; a villain without motive who simply "wants to watch Gotham burn". Ledger is so hypnotic while on screen, that you will feel how for every syllable, even in the most insignificant word, how deeply immersed Ledger was into this character. It seems appropriate that as the film goes on, and the Joker's plots become more sinister, that his makeup begins to crack and wear away even more. However, it would be unfair to write off the rest of the cast. Christian Bale is in fine form as our hero Bruce Wayne/Batman, and thankfully his "Batman voice" sounds much better most of the time (towards the end it sometimes feels a bit too much). Gary Oldman as good cop Lt. Gordon, Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes, and Michael Caine as Alfred also turn in strong performances, along with Aaron Eckhart as the city's "White Knight". Director Nolan and crew have also made significant upgrades. Whereas Batman Begins' fight scenes were often too close , Nolan pulls back the camera a bit during the man-on-man fights to allow us to see who is who. Even better though, is the vehicular chase/battle, which consists of police cars, the batmobile, transport trucks, and a very destructive 18 wheeler. If things weren't already tense enough, Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard's score takes the tension to almost unbearable heights, namely when several shrill violins ring out in an odd rising motion continuously as the camera cuts between characters in multiple locations. Wally Pfister's cinematography is also worthy of praise, particularly when the camera goes for uninterupted takes and circles two people in the midst of a verbal confrontation. However, perhaps what really makes The Dark Knight stand out is its sense of humor. There are times when moments are so bizarrely dark, that they are funny (in a twisted sense of course). There is only one complaint I have about the film, and it's that I'm now in a bad spot. I have to choose between this and WALL-E for my favorite movie of the year, even though they're so wildly different. The Dark Knight is as brooding and dark and disturbing as WALL-E is beautiful, romantic, and charming; they're almost like Yin and Yang.......I guess that only leaves me with one option then..

Grade: A

Nominations: Best Picture(TIE #1 WINNER), Best Director - Christoper Nolan(TIE #1 WINNER), Best Actor - Christian Bale(#3), Best Supporting Actor - Aaron Eckhart(#3), Best Supporting Actor - Heath Ledger(#1 WINNER), Best Supporting Actor - Gary Oldman(#4), Best Adapted Screenplay(#1 WINNER), Best Editing(#1 WINNER), Best Cinematography(#4), Best Original Score - James Newton Howard & Hans Zimmer(#3), Best Makeup(#3), Best Visual Effects(#3), Best Sound Editing(#1 WINNER), Best Sound Mixing(#1 WINNER)

Number fo 2008 films seen: 20

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