Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Dark Knight Movie Review

It took me two weeks, but I finally went to see The Dark Knight, the new Batman movie. We went to an afternoon showing in a large theater with about 20 of our new best friends--actually people we didn't know. I was amazed at how empty the theater was and how cold it was as well.

The movie continues the restarted saga of Batman as he faces crime and corruption in Gotham City. When he is not dealing with the mob, or crooked cops, he has interaction with now arch nemesis: The Joker, played by the late Heath Ledger.

A synopsis of the movie: Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) continues to eliminate crime in Gotham City with the help of Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). The Dark Knight wants to finally get rid of organized crime for good and be free of their corruption. Batman soon finds that a new psychopathic mastermind known as the Joker (Heath Ledger) has taken over organized crime. After the fall of Carmine Falcone, the remaining crime bosses try to pick up the pieces. However, the Joker is killing them off one by one. The Joker's plan is to terrify the citizens and throw the city into chaos, and then kill Batman. Batman takes the fight with the Joker personal, which makes him confront his own beliefs. The Joker is the most dangerous criminal that Batman has encountered, and he will need all his strength and vigilance to defeat him. Douglas Young (the-movie-guy)

OK--but how was the movie? Was it the greatest movie of all time as some (in my family) would suggest? Let's break it down.

Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker is something special and truly troubling. It is without a doubt an Oscar-winning performance that will be talked about in the same vein as Marlon Brando in "On the Waterfront" (1954). As troubling as his performance was, it was downright believable.

The other actors were good, some strong, but not spectacular. Yes, The Joker makes the movie--but if you take Heath Ledger's performance out of the equation you have an above average movie with solid but not sterling performances and which runs about a half-hour too long.

Christian Bale makes a great Batman, but a not so believable Bruce Wayne. He just didn't come off as a real person and even the scripting for Bruce Wayne was weak and trite. The acting didn't make me care about Bruce Wayne and his personal conflicts about right and wrong and good and evil. And his love life in the movie reflected this dissonance.

Gary Oldman, Lt Jim Gordon (and later the iconic Commissioner Gordon) is a strong character. The impact of being in his position in the police department on his personal life is clearly evident and believable. But--for a man in his position to be ignorant of so many dirty cops in his own unit--well it just baffled me. Again--an above average performance on a so-so script.

Aaron Eckhart as DA Harvey Dent was another good, but not great performance tied to so-so script writing. The character was over done and his internal conflict between good and evil almost became comical as I couldn't tell which coin he was going to flip before taking actions. Although he was supposed to be the "best of us" and The Joker brought him down--the movie made it clear that he never really was the best. He was idealistic--but he was a politician. And in the end the darkness that we see in politicians won.

Some of the other supporting actors in the movie--Michael Caine (Alfred), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox), and Maggie Gyllenhaal (Rachel Danes) give strong, but too brief performances. The best of the other actors was actually Chin Han (Lau) who played a Chinese businessman/crook. He was excellent in his role as a smug businessman who takes the mob for a ride and almost gets away with it. There is an aerial extraction scene associated with this character which is fun to watch.

So--what about the movie as a body of work. Definitely above average. Probably on the best 100 movies of all time--but only for Heath Ledger's portrayal of The Joker. Without his performance, the movie is just another "comic book" movie which is fun to watch--once. The movie is too long and drags in the middle and it doesn't transition well from situation to situation internally. The scenes are a bit disconnected and the movie lacks a fluidity of transition. At one point I even though--here come the clowns again for comic relief. There are a lot of loose ends--like what happened to The Joker? What happened to the people on the ferries in the middle of the river?

Does this movie make a great social statement about the course of U.S. national policy as some would suggest? Nope. It's another movie which documents the continuing struggle of good versus evil. The movie is not even helped along by the technology--in contrast to Iron Man where the technology both provided substance and comic relief. There are some good one liners though.

Rating: A must see--just so you can be in the know when everyone around you is talking about the movie and Ledger's performance. There is a lot of violence, good car chase scenes, a bit of destruction. The movie is definitely NOT SUITABLE for young (under 10) children. They WILL have nightmares. I looked at my watch to see how much time was left with about an hour to go in the movie--so there are slow spots.

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