Friday, July 18, 2008

Of The Dark Knight

Directed by Christopher Nolan and running at close to 2 and a half hours, The Dark Knight is the 2008 sequel to Batman Begins.

Ok, with that out of the way let's answer a couple of questions. Is TDK the best movies of 2008 so far ? Yes. Is TDK the movie it was all hyped up to be ? Yes. Is TDK the Godfather 2 of super-hero movies ?

Hmm.

If you're going to watch this movie thinking you're going to get another whiff of Batman Begins then boy, oh boy are you wrong! This is an entirely different movie which is darker, grimmer and more complex than its predecessor. The first movie made it clear that Batman was not the all enduring hero that every other costume-freak is. No, Batman is human and a very vulnerable one at that too. And though TDK has some death defying moments that seem a bit too hard to believe, Batman is still very very vulnerable.

TDK takes place a year after the events of the first movie. The mob isn't exactly running scared but it is in its death throes and with the entrance of a charismatic DA - Harvey Dent - things are getting worse. But as the law and the Bat are concentrated on the final blows to the mob the ignore a creepy crawling danger - the Joker. And when he strikes, he strikes at the minds of everyone.

The pace of the movie is relentless. It's like jumping from one climax to the other in the entire movie and it's not like it's a couple of action scenes being bunched together. There is coherence to the movie, there is a firm plot along which the movie runs and the plot is further strengthened by formidable characters. There is the odd comic one-liners you found in the first film and here they serve to balance the frantic pace at which the movie flows. I cant find one moment where I wanted to tell the screen to hurry up. It's all deliciously timed and Nolan has achieved something entirely new in this genre. Right from the first scene where the Joker robs a bank to the end the movie is as fast as the Bat-pod.

Christian Bale is and always will be the Batman of our age. The suit and the character seems to have been made just for him. Morgan Freeman and Micheal Caine (who better than him for Alfred?) breeze through their roles with ease. Maggie Gyllenhall does a fine job with Bruce's love interest Rachel Dawes; much better than Katie Holmes. Aaron Eckhart does well with Harvey Dent. Gary Oldman is spectacular as Commissioner Gordon.

Which leads us to Heath Ledger ... and the Joker.

If you're a movie buff like me, you'll know that the Joker character was one of feathers in Jack Nicholson's cap ever since he played the role in the 1989 Tim Burton film. Now, the problem with Nicholson's Joker was that it was Jack Nicholson. You expect Nicholson to be eccentric. You expect him to be insane. You expect him to smile that god-awful smile. You just don't see the Joker there. You expect Jack Nicholson and that's what you get.

But you don't expect that from Heath Ledger. And that is why Ledger's Joker ... is without doubt ... one the greatest movie performance of all time. No, not because he's dead ... not because all the critics are raving about him ... but because it just is.

Part of this is because TDK's Joker is the original Joker. He plays with everyone's mind and literally takes the entire city hostage. After the first half hour the Joker makes his presence felt throughout the movie and you do feel his presence even when he's not on screen. Ledger brings a level of insanity to his performance that is unsettling and frightening. One of the best sequences in the film is when the Bat roughens the Joker up for answers and with each blow you slowly realize that it's no use. It's just no use. The man is mad.

Those are all the good. Let's get with the bad.

There's a moment in the movie which was just too much of James Bond. And that distracted me for a minute. If that is a hint of what Nolan wants to do with Batman in the future, then I'm not too sure about the future. This scene is so ... cliche that it actually looked ... and I mean exactly like James Bond and Q. Complete with the product placement. Very very distracting.

Two-face, although terrifying ... is not fully explored. Maybe, just maybe it's because the Joker is the hovering presence here, but no ... I just felt that wasn't it. Don't get me wrong - Two face is all that he can be, way better than Tommy Lee Jones but it just didn't quite satisfy as well as the Joker did.

So ... is TDK the Godfather 2 of the super-hero genre ?

Yes.

This movie is a gem. An actual gem. It's almost not a super-hero movie. You don't have the CGI being shoved into your face. You don't have the melodrama of Spider-Man. You don't have the boyish wit of IronMan. What you have is an emotional dark tale of morality and insanity. What you have is one of the greatest screen villains in history. What you have in TDK is the complete movie. Watch the movie, even if you're not a Batman fan ... or simply watch it for Heath Ledger. You will NOT regret it.

2 comments:

kingnutin said...

Good review

Still not got tickets :( . All the multiplexes are sold out.

Its got great reviews in IMDB, infact in the top 10 of imdb's top 250 (It started at 3, and will go lower but damn, no. 3 is high.)

hammy said...

The guy initially slated to play the joker was... Sean Penn... The first time I heard about that, I was like "What? Sean? I can't even imagine the guy smiling."

But Chris Nolan showed us good that the joker doesn't need to smile in the literal sense. The 'smile' that they went with... is AWE inspiring. Whoever thought that up for the movie IS a bloody genius! That set the tone for the entire character. And of course, Heath Ledger overshadowed them ALL...

When I went for the movie, I was already impressed by Heath through whatever was shown in the trailer. I loved Jack Nicholson's joker, which suited the mood of Tim Burton's movie. But the trailer was enough to show me that Heath had gone MUCH farther with the character. Even then, I certainly did not expect him to be THIS good. One of the best performances of all time. It's been a week since I've seen it, and the dialogues are still running through my head...

Why so serious?