Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Dark Knight

Batman Begins was one of the better releases in the now quite popular comic book/super hero movement in modern action movies, although it wasn't perfect. The Dark Knight isn't either, of course, but it is probably the best comic book movie I've ever seen. I'd be lying if I said a big part of that wasn't Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker, but the movie wasn't one-note either, as it excelled in most areas. A problem with Begins was the action scenes themselves. The movie completely captured the grittier, darker mood that the Batman franchise took in the 80's, but when people were getting violent it often got confusing because darkness and the trendy shaky camera conspired to muddle what was actually happening. The Dark Knight still isn't perfect, but it's generally easier to see what Batman's doing as he pounds faces in. There are some excellent vehicle sequences as well, which were amplified in intensity by the great and incredibly loud sound design, with my seat in the theater actually rumbling when huge trucks were barreling around. It's not restricted to loud moments - there are plenty of times, usually involving the Joker, where it's impressive how well they got across the characters sickly violent nature without ever breaking the PG-13 rating.

Most of that though is all Ledger - the guy really dove into the character and created one of the most unnerving performances I've ever seen. Every tick, every line shows you the depth of his psychosis. Although I thought it was more impressive, the job he did really shouldn't be compared to Jack Nicholson's in the 1989 film, because they're very different. Nicholson's Joker was perverse and hilarious, Ledger's is just perverse. There are times when he will make you laugh, but that isn't really the goal. I haven't seen any of his other work, but his passing is truly unfortunate. He had quite a talent that we won't have seen enough of. Not that he was the only good member of the cast. Bale's Batman voice is still a little weird, but he does a good job of handling both ends of the character. I haven't seen Eckhart do much serious stuff, but he is great portraying the downfall of Harvey Dent. Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine don't stretch their talents that far but are solid playing familiar characters. I don't like how they had to recast Maggie Gyllenhaal in Katie Holmes' old role, but she probably does a better job than Katie would have. Nolan really impressed me with Memento, and whether he does another Batman or moves on, he's one of the more talented directors working right now. There were some surprises with how he handled all the different characters, but I thought they did a great job keeping everything in check and entertaining.

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