Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Dark Knight

[Warning! This post will have SPOILERS!]

This was the one movie that I was holding my breath for this summer. Sure, Iron Man was pretty great, and the Hulk movie wasn't as terrible as I thought it's be. I liked Hellboy II better than the first, but all of my hopes and dreams were riding on the potential greatness of the newest Batman movie.

I waited until Sunday to see it, and successfully avoided having it spoiled for me. I watched Batman Begins Friday night to kind of refresh my memory, and I'm really glad I did that.

So... The Dark Knight was pretty f-ing awesome.

The film, in my own private list of greatest comic book adaptations, quickly shot to the top. Right up there with the 1978 Superman (which kind of holds that permanent number one status, for me. It came out when I was at the right age for it to influence everything that came after).

Rather than spell everything out, I thought I'd just hit on what made it great:
  • It was a big and more complex than most films of its kind. It had the appropriate sense of epic-ness for the franchise's debut of the Joker, and fully embraced a morally ambiguous battleground as opposed to "good guys vs bad guys". Everything in this movie revolved around character, rather than action set-pieces. Even the supporting characters got a good moral conflict or two.
  • That said, they didn't skimp on the action in this movie. I liked how the Nolan's have kept everything just on the side of credible, real-world physics. I liked the skyhook move in the Korea sequence the best, I think. It was so Bondian.
  • Speaking of Bondian: I think this movie hit on the best balance of disparate elements of Batman history. From the James Bond-ish international Batman, to the detective, to the tortured avenger, to the pseudo-deputized vigilante, to the urban myth, this movie took so many inspirations from so many different iterations of the character and blended them seamlessly. Also, it seems that they even looked to the Burton version, and slyly addressed that version as well; I'm not alone in seeing parallels between the two movies in that last fight with the Joker, and the specific choice that is made in this movie. There was also that throwaway line to Fox about wanting to be able to turn his head, which made me chuckle.
  • I liked that this film picked up the threads and themes from the first movie and ran with them. Watching the first one so close to the second really paid off. The first one dealt with one man becomming an idea, because an idea is harder to defeat than one man. The second one dealt with trying get that idea to stand on its own two legs without the man. We see Bruce trying to establish a structure that will perservere without him as Batman. It was very Empire Strikes Back as we see that ambition fail bitterly on so many levels. All that's left at this point is for Bruce to realize that he's not the Batman, that it's the other way around.
  • Every actor in this one is fantastic. Maggie Gyllenhaal was a good replacement for Holmes, as I couldn't see Holmes handling the emotional heft that this movie had. Ledger, it goes without saying, is brilliant and tragically the most perfect interpretation of the Joker we're ever likely to see.

There's more, but that's what sticking with me right now. I'm excited to see a third movie from this creative group. Since the last scene of the first movie set the sequel up so succinctly, I'm looking to the end of this one to point a clue as to where they're going to from here. It makes sense that the third would involve a lonelier Batman (no more Rachel, no more Lucius, no more Gordon). With Rachel out of the picture, it would make sense that they would introduce a new love interest*. There's been a lot of talk about Catwoman (which Warner's would be a bit gun-shy on using since her solo movie tanked so hard) which would make sense, since she moves in Batman's world as opposed to Wayne's, and would follow the theme of Wayne crossing over into his alter-ego completely.

I'd humbly submit that Talia, Ra's al Ghul's daughter, would be a better choice. It would give Wayne a chance to revisit his original mission, it would give Ghul's illusion of immortality from the first movie a bit of credibility, and could possible close the thematic arc. Plus, no slight against Selina, but Talia can kick some ass.

*I use that term, but it's something else entirely, isn't it? The inclusion of Rachel provides something more than just object of the heroes affection/damsel in distress stereotype.

Tags: ,