Sunday, July 20, 2008

Want to see a pencil disappear?

The Dark Knight. Sigh. Spectacular.

Shockingly pertinent and applicable to humanity, it raises troubling questions about good and evil, truth, hope and the life decisions we make.

The Nolan brothers offer a fresh interpretation of a hitherto playful comic book series whose main audience used to be children and so-called nerds. In this, possibly the best film of the year, the story and its characters toy with your heart while challenging you to consider some of the heavier questions of life.

There's meat to this movie; it's challenging. It's riveting, an emotional roller-coaster, and constant climatic tension. Usually, that's not such a good thing, but this time it's different. The tension between superhero good-versus-evil has never been so gripping. 

And in the middle of it all are difficult philosophical questions. Is it right to put the hope of an entire city in one man--a white knight? If so, whose life do you choose to save: his, or the woman you love? If faced with the choice, is it right for a "good" group of people to kill a "bad" group of people in order to preserve their own lives? Is there ever a time when concealing the truth for the greater good is the right choice?

This is not a light movie, but it's not supposed to be.

Unfortunately, however, there are some esteemed critics that don't share these sentiments.
You may emerge more exhausted than elated. Nolan wants to prove that a superhero movie needn't be disposable, effects-ridden junk food, and you have to admire his ambition. But this is Batman, not "Hamlet." Call me shallow, but I wish it were a little more fun.
Warner Bros. has continued to drain the poetry, fantasy, and comedy out of Tim Burton’s original conception for “Batman” (1989), completing the job of coarsening the material into hyperviolent summer action spectacle. Yet “The Dark Knight” is hardly routine—it has a kicky sadism in scene after scene, which keeps you on edge and sends you out onto the street with post-movie stress disorder.
I'm sitting here watching Batman--the one that Tim Burton made in 1989. Of course the Nolan brothers have drained the comedy. There's little about this interpretation of Batman that is meant to be comedic, and that's part of the beauty of it.

It's possible that I've just gotten fat off on the rich visual diet of today's cinema and can't appreciate the seemingly sophomoric approach Burton's Batman takes. Or maybe it's just not my style.

Denby does raise some good points about the action sequences--they could have been more artfully done--but he and The Dark Knight's other detractors miss the mark by not realizing the greater impact of the film. It's not meant to be a weightless action-only flick like Wanted. Instead, it tries (and achieves) a relevant commentary on deeper matters of life.

And Maggie Gyllenhaal! The look on her face and the composure she displays during that scene is heart-wrenchingly beautiful. You actually feel something walking out of this movie. But it's something less like Denby's "post-movie stress disorder" and more like a heightened sense of the highs and lows of humanity.

Some negative criticism has been directed at Christian Bale's acting as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Unfortunately for Bale, this was less because of his any deficiency of his own and more because of the late Heath Ledger's vast superiority.

He is a chaotic demon who can't stop tonguing his carved-on leer. He wields a chilly voice--modeled after ventriloquist dummies--that stealthily infiltrates your soul. But oddly, when he isn't on screen, you almost miss him. He is nihilism followed out to its extreme extent. He is likely the most wicked villain you've ever witnessed.

One thing that was interesting about Burton's version is that the fear created by Nicholson's Joker relies on a senseless public acting irrationally. Stay out of his way, and you'll avoid harm. Ledger's Joker, on the other hand, is truly frightening. If he wants to, he'll find you.

This was undeniably Ledger's magnum opus, and it's a shame that he left so soon.

Perhaps this belies a lack of understanding of the acting process, but it's difficult to pin the responsibility for Ledger's demise on the character he played. It is an undeniably ferocious, depraved character, and Ledger certainly becomes him. But would it be fair to say that the Joker killed Heath Ledger?

Flitting through this 10-ton expressionist murk is a diseased butterfly with stringy hair and a maniacal giggle. Played by a dead actor, he's the most alive thing here.


Jeff Kieslich said...

magnum opus.

Rachel Swetnam said...

Where is the Hot Giant picture of Christian Bale? Can you add it there for me? I mean he is BATMAN!

Also, I didn't really read your post because I was too excited to share with everyone through this comment that: Seth Putnam slow clapped once during the movie. When i looked over at Mary Kate, Patrick and Seth all the of them had their fist pulled tight against their faces with eyes as big as saucers....mine were too.

This goes to show that this movie was incredible and whoever believes differently should come to me and I will settle the matter and straighten them out.
bye bye!

patton.andy said...

well said. you sound like you are a journalist or something

Patrick Kingsley Miller said...


The New Yorker can suck it.