Batman: The Dark Knight
This movie has had so much press and hype. I had to discover for myself 'what was the big deal?'. It was a Friday afternoon at the 12:35 showing. A friend and I were there with about 8 other people attending. The cinema was actually quite comfortable lacking the usual blaring sound and bone chilling refrigeration.
Sure this is the last possible screen appearance of a popular young actor... and that might be alluring enough. The tale of Batman has long been a staple of comic book culture. The ongoing exploits have filled the silver and small screens alike for decades, and that may have been enough to generate this fervor. The film is definitely big budget Hollywood in the epic tradition, so too that might cause a buzz.
This bit of cinema is truly alive with traditional movie making elements: motorcycles careening through heavy traffic ala 'Tomb Raider'; shaky hand-held cameras like 'Cloverfield' or 'Blair Witch Project'; smooth 'James Bond' style clothes and cars and of course girls; the drama of choice as in the 'Saw' movies... these have become cinema staples. There are many car crashes and explosions as you might expect. The use of cell phones is a cornerstone plot element.
But this Joker is no mocking clown as you might imagine from previous incarnations in the saga. This wretched Joker delights in toppling the moral centers of those who give battle. Heath Ledger has brought to his role, and so to the story, a joker of unimaginably dire proportions. A Joker who cares nothing for wealth. He is twisted and unredeemable licking his lips as a serpent. Amazingly, Ledgers make-up kept a striking uniformity despite what must have been multiple takes and sessions.
It isn't all good news. There are several plot themes that do not fit together so well. The mob, the hood, the Japanese, and a variety of mis-aligned dramatic elements seem to blossom with only a slim affiliation to the main story. Some vicious rottweilers, the Russian Ballet, a research and development audit, a bit of confused passion and revenge.
At days end this film seems to utterly blur the line between heroes and villains. The Batman allows pursuit into the night by outrageous allegations because he feels it's the right thing to do for Gotham City. He resumes his status as the lone outcast. Mortally wounded, lonely, unappreciated, his love lost with only his butler in whom to confide and conceal.
It should be said that this is a magnificent cast. The film would fare very differently without the fine performances of Maggie Gyllenhaal (Rachel Dawes), Aaron Eckert (Harvey Dent) and Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon. Michael Caine returns as 'Alfred' the butler/parent and does his usual fine turn despite sounding a bit like the GIECO gecko. I personally felt that Morgan Freeman was underused.
This film was intended to star Christian Bale. Mr. Bale gives a solid performance as both Bruce Wayne and the Batman. It seems he was pushed into the back seat of the Batmobile with the demise of Heath Ledger.
Don't expect to feel too much. The movie wasn't constructed to pluck at the heart strings. We never quite come to care about these characters. After all it isn't really a drama... it's a spectacle.