Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dark Knight Movie Review

The one movie I wanted to see above all else this summer was The Dark Knight. When I first saw the trailer for The Dark Knight back in November of last year, I was stunned and floored all at the same time. The reason? Mainly because of Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker in a spot that ran less than sixty seconds. Come hell or high water I was going to see this movie its opening weekend. And then on January 22, 2008 I knew without a doubt The Dark Knight would be the most anticipated movie of the year because of the passing of Heath Ledger.

I will be honest, when I saw Batman Begins two years ago; I thought it was an okay movie but nothing to write home about. I think my bias comes from being such a huge fan of Tim Burton’s Batman. Even though Christian Bale gave a pretty good performance as Bruce Wayne, I still felt that Michael Keaton’s performance was the best.

After seeing The Dark Knight last night, my views have radically changed. I left the theater, literally shaking because what I had just witnessed was movie making at its very best. This is how movies should be made. There is enough action, twists and turns that your head just spins. The acting alone should make you sit up and take notice because the actors are no longer just players on a stage, but rather they are the embodiment of the characters they have become.

I now finally understand about the three separate movie posters that each show Batman, the Joker and Harvey Dent with half their faces being covered as they hold up something against one side of their face, while the other side has nothing to hide. These are three men with totally separate goals. One is goodness and everything righteous; the other tries to work for good but is caught between two different worlds; the third has no morals or reason for his madness, he just does what he does because he enjoys it. He is like a dog that chases after a car, knowing he will never catch it just because it is fun to do, or so The Joker tries to explain to Harvey his reasons for the chaos and anarchy he causes.

The Dark Knight begins where the last movie has left off. If you haven’t seen Batman Begins, no worries, because the director, Chris Nolan, has done a wonderful job of catching the audience up to speed. The first 45 minutes or so are a casual build up, and I admit I was a bit antsy during this time because I was expecting mind numbing action and explosions right away. They come later, and when they do, your heart will be beating a mile a minute.

Gotham’s criminals have pretty much been inactive mainly because of Batman. There are still some petty crime and the Mob are in control to extent, but things are pretty ho-hum in the villain department. But then a man with a maniacal laugh and a face painted haphazardly with clown makeup makes his entrance. Gotham will never be the same.

There is a new District Attorney in town and he is Harvey Dent who is a good guy, deep down to his core. Bruce Wayne is not sure about Harvey, in part, because Harvey has stolen away his old love, Rachel Dawes. Harvey is everything Bruce wishes he could be but can’t. In order for Bruce to fight crime as Batman, he must do some things that are not very lawful. Bruce has major issues because of his conscience. How far can he go and should go to keep peace and order? Batman is going to have quite the wake up call because The Joker will shake up the order of things in ways you will not see coming.

Whereas Harvey is the face of law and order and is willing to go as far as he can to a point, Batman is given an out because he is a vigilante. Others will turn and look the other way if he has to kill or cause his own chaos to save Gotham. But because Batman has a conscience, unlike The Joker, he will not step over that line even if it means saving the most important people in his life that he cares about. The Joker knows Batman’s weaknesses and will do his best to cause total and utter meltdown in Gotham, mainly to get Batman to admit that he has a very dark place inside, that he may have to reach down into, thus becoming The Dark Knight.

The Dark Knight is a very, very dark picture. There is so much death and destruction, and the funny thing is, The Joker is responsible for the set up, but he places the decisions in everyone else’s hands, and not his own. He may be the cause, but he is not the effect. Batman and The Joker are very much like the pieces on a chessboard. Because they are each other’s nemesis and essentially equal, they are always at a checkmate. Wherever The Joker goes, Batman will follow and visa versa. The odd man out is Harvey and again The Joker uses one of Harvey’s weaknesses to get him to do what he wants. The Joker is that little demon on your shoulder that tells you want you want to hear even though it may be so very wrong.

The Dark Knight is not your childhood Batman. Many issues arise where a person’s moral being comes into play. Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent are very moral people, but when a man like The Joker comes along, who has no rhyme or reason for the destruction he causes, how can these two men not sink down to his level? That is the main question asked and with the end of The Dark Knight, and future installments of this Batman series, this moral dilemma will be the main focus and a foreshadowing of things to come.

Visually, The Dark Knight is perfect, but the most important reason to go see a movie such as this, even if you are not a fan of superheroes or comic book action, is the acting. Forget about Michael Keaton; Christian Bale has really succeeded in this role where Michael hasn’t. I had hoped the direction of what Batman has to become would be a darker and more unstable individual, and Christian has tapped into Batman’s psyche wonderfully. Aaron Eckhart almost took over this movie with his portrayal of Harvey Dent. He even outshined Christian in a few scenes.

Last but not least, and I purposely saved the best for last is Heath Ledger. What an incredible way to leave this Earth and on such a high note. I never really appreciated Heath’s acting until Brokeback Mountain. I thought he was just another pretty boy actor. I was very much mistaken. If you put all of Heath’s scenes together as the Joker, his total on screen running time is about thirty minutes. But those thirty minutes show a true master at work. So many actresses and actors don’t have the skill or the inclination to stretch their abilities to the maximum in their work. There are a very select few who vanish as that individual we come to know outside of their professional capacity. They become their character to the point that they disappear in that role. Heath has done so with The Joker. Take the homicidal tendencies of Alex from A Clockwork Orange, with a smidgen of Dr. Hannibal Lector’s intuitiveness from Silence of the Lambs, and the face of Gwynplaine from The Man Who Laughs, and you have Ledger’s Joker.

I could go on with the praise about Heath Ledger’s acting mainly because of the tragedy of his death, but quite honestly, The Dark Knight is a group effort with the three men of, Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart and Heath Ledger. I have only touched upon a small part of why The Dark Knight is such a wonderful viewing experience. Some may this movie success lies because of the skills of director and his players. Perhaps it is the hardcore fans, or it may possibly be the death of an actor who died so young.

I say this is a damn fine movie by people who know what they are doing. It is refreshing to know that there are still professionals in the movie industry that want to give the public quality entertainment, and The Dark Knight is such a movie.
4 1/2 stars out of 5. Why not 5 stars? I wanted more of the Joker!

Katiebabs (KB)


little alys said...

Awesome review Kate! I hope you had tons of fun :D
Must see this movie soon. :D

Ana said...

You already know how much I loved your review - awesome job. I heart Christian Bale and always thought he was the best Batman

Sarai said...

OMG great review KATIE I'm seeing it tonight Oh yeah!!!

Sarai said...

Okay now that I have calmed down I have to say I read your review to my co-worker and she thought it was well written. We both got goosebumps. Great job.

Thea said...

WOW Katie, what an excellent review. You do The Dark Knight proud!

I LOVE the significance of the three posters, especially in the case of Harvey Dent, in retrospect as well.

>The Dark Knight is a very, very dark picture. There is so much death and destruction, and the funny thing is, The Joker is responsible for the set up, but he places the decisions in everyone else’s hands, and not his own.

Excellently put. This is the true power of the Joker (well, then we see at the end there IS light at the end of the tunnel, to keep it from being all out depressing--humanity does have hope and strength and is worth saving); but the Joker's twisted games play on human nature ruthlessly. He is the catalyst, and manipulates everyone chillingly. *shivers* Heath Ledger did a bang up job. I didn't even recognize him in this movie, his role was so complete.

>Forget about Michael Keaton; Christian Bale has really succeeded in this role where Michael hasn’t.
Welcome to the dark side, baby! Christian Bale is the ultimate Batman. It's not easy to sell a man in a rubber suit, but he DOES it.

And I second your praise of Aaron Eckhart. Damn he was good. This really is just a stunning piece of acting from EVERYONE involved, and a killer movie because of it. I'm making plans to take my sis to watch it again, in IMAX ;)

Mollie said...

Awesome review. I CANNOT WAIT TO SEE THIS! Hoping to get to it this week sometime!

Carrie Lofty said...

My review's up at my place. Come visit. Raving insane awesomeness.

Alyssa said...

I loved this movie too, for all the reasons you mentioned. I can't wait to see it again.

Aymless said...

I HAVE to see this movie.... No I NEED to see this movie...

Bridget Locke said...

Katie-Loved your review. You hit on all the high notes of the movie. I reviewed it too, but nowhere near as concisely as you.

As I was leaving the theater I looked at my brother and said that it was such a shame that Heath died because I don't know who could ever replace him. He completely & totally embodied that character.

Just about everyone who showed up in that movie was amazing. The end just killed me though. Gary Oldman was amazing as the Commisioner. This time around, you got to see his heart. :0

Lori said...

Fabulous review, and I have to agree with everything you said. All 3 of them were superb, simply superb. I absolutely loved this movie.

pidute said...

awwwww can't wait !
it's only coming out on Thursday here !

Karin Tabke said...

Hey, Kristi, great review! the hubster and I are going Wed night to see. I can't wait!

Katie(babs) said...

I am going to see this a second time come this weekend!
I was going to mention the great acting Gary Oldman did but then my review would end up being 5,000 words, rather than the 1,000 or so.
Is it sick to have a crush on the Joker?

Sweet said...

Wonderful review Katie :)

I love that this time they took it there, with the darkness that lots of Batman fans couldn't wait to see.

Ciara said...

It was...creeeeepy. But very impressive storytelling. I just wish there was a little more hope, one more spark of happiness to leave with the audience.

So you really have a crush on the joker? Cuz that's terrifying. really.

Katie(babs) said...

Ciara: I think I have a crush Heath who played the Joker so well.
And this was pretty dark! Makes you want to watch the next one.

Carolyn Jean said...

This is a truly awesome review, KB. I can tell you are so passionate about this movie, and apparently for good reason. I loved reading this.

Also, I'm glad to see your encounter with Batman at the convention (which you documented earlier in this blog) did not leave any lingering weirdness between the two of you.

Christine said...

Awesome review! I'm going to try to see it this weekend, even if I have to go by myself!!! Hmpf!

The Joker is responsible for the set up, but he places the decisions in everyone else’s hands, and not his own. I do recall the Joker being like this in the original TV series, too. Very clever.