As I’m writing this it is close to 2am where I am. I just felt like I had to post this review before I go to bed.
I didn’t get to experience THE DARK KNIGHT on opening night. This fact caused me to be a little disappointed because one of the things I deeply enjoy about big Summer blockbusters is fighting the opening day crowd and watching them with all the other geeks who show up for the movies. Ever since I started Geek Out Online, I have also felt a bit of an obligation to you the reader to have reviews like this one up as soon as possible because I seldom have the opportunity to see pre-screenings or sneak peeks of the big films. Therefore, I always feel like I need to get at least a written review of a movie up by the end of opening day.
You didn’t stop by to read about my feelings on blogging though.
I arrived at the theater to take in the late show of THE DARK KNIGHT about 35 minutes early as is my custom. The theater I frequent is relatively new, and this is the first movie they’ve shown where crowd control has been a problem. Normally, I can just walk up to the screening room door and wait until the show that is running is finished, the crowd has emptied out and the employees have had a few minutes to tidy up the joint walk right in and be the first or second person to sit down. Tonight, however, the staff learned from the mistakes of their opening night and did things in a bit more orderly fashion. So it was that I found myself in line next to a pretty cool guy named Nick. Nick and I struck up a conversation about movies, spoilers, seating arrangements, and as the crowd began to push it’s way into the theater we found ourselves to be allies in getting the perfect seats. Naturally, that led us to sitting next to each other, which can be tricky. As you may or may not know, someone can be a great conversationalist outside a movie, but that may not carry over to the movie experience itself. Fortunately, Nick was not interested in being a great conversationalist during the movie and we had a genuinely great time immersing ourselves in total geekdom before and after the showing. So, a big thanks to Nick for hanging out with me at the theater and helping make my viewing experience pleasurable.
You also didn’t stop by to read about new people I met. (But I’ve got a great story for Geek Out Loud [the official podcast of Geek Out Online dot com])
My super spoilery review of THE DARK KNIGHT (TDK) will come with my next episode Geek Out Loud which is scheduled to be out early next week. Here, I will try not to spoil the movie at all, but there may be some light spoilers, so you are warned.
Even a little over an hour removed from watching the movie, I am at a loss for words. I HATED IT!!!! Just kidding. TDK is, in my opinion, the best comics to screen adaptation ever of ANY super hero. Period.
We have all enjoyed the goodness that was THE INCREDIBLE HULK and IRON MAN, we have had our little debates about how good or not good HANCOCK is, and we have talked about how great we have it as comic book/movie fans. WE HAD NO IDEA!!!!
Several months ago, I heard from someone in the know that TDK makes BATMAN BEGINS look like BATMAN FOREVER. While I don’t like BATMAN BEGINS any less, I will say that I have to totally agree with that assessment. I had no idea the ride I was in for when I sat down to watch this movie.
The actors that were great in BEGINS were equally great if not better in TDK.
The exploration into a bit of Alfred’s history, Jim Gordon’s family life, and seeing Lucius Fox in his role as chairman of the board for Wayne Enterprises were small things that served to make the Batman experience as presented by Nolan and company even richer than it was in the first movie.
Then, there’s the addition of Maggie Gyllenhall as Rachel Dawes. I have made no effort to disguise my feelings about Katie Holmes portrayal of Rachel in BEGINS. She was the weakest part of that movie for me. While I understood the need for the character and I appreciated what the character brought to the table for Bruce and Batman, I felt like Holmes played Rachel either too self-righteously or too…prissy. Gyllenhall brings genuine pathos to the character. To see her torn between Bruce and Harvey without going the route of pining for one or the other shows her character’s strength without the self-righteous attitude that she seemed to have in BEGINS. Couple that with a more mature portrayal of the character, and I found myself genuinely invested in the character of Rachel Dawes. I feared for her safety. I wanted her to be ok. I wanted her to be happy.
Aaron Eckhart had one of the toughest jobs in this movie. He had to play the squeaky clean good guy without coming across as boring or too June Cleaver. He did that job expertly. While he’s not scared to get his hands dirty, he still chooses to play on the side of the law and all that is good. His goodness is matched only by his courage in the face of death threats and a wavering public opinion, and Eckhart rises to the challenge of playing the white knight in shining armor only to do an equally incredible job as Two Face emerges from the shadows of his psyche (a bit earlier than you may think).
Finally, there is the performance that everyone is buzzing about. Heath Ledger brought to the screen a version of the Joker we’ve never seen and are unlikely to ever be privileged to see again. If I had no known that Ledger was playing the Joker and watched this movie, I would have argued that it was not him on the screen. His voice, his look, and even his body language suggested someone other than Heath Ledger was on the screen. I didn’t want to jump on the Oscar for Ledger bandwagon. I even said to myself going into the movie, “When I write my review I will NOT say Ledger deserves a posthumous Oscar for his performace.” However, I defy you to show me another actor in any film this year that does. I know that the end-0f-the-year “Oscar-grabbing” performances are still a couple of months off, but I don’t know that anyone will be able to bring a performance to the screen quite like Ledger did in this movie. For the first time in my life as a fan of film, I honestly will be angry if his performance is overlooked because this is a comic book movie.
While the actors brought their characters to the screen in an amazing way, the script gave the characters the right kind of characterization to appeal to audiences. I’ve already mentioned that Eckhart did an outstanding job of making Dent an interesting character, but he was also written so well. I only hope we get to see more of Two Face in the future. The Joker was funny in the right ways at the right time, only to be menacing and scary right as you chuckle at him. He is the perfect foil for Batman and Gotham City. I love that his agenda was simple chaos and anarchy.
The story is full. There is a LOT going on in this movie. The film clocks in at a little over two and half hours, so it’s not too compressed, but things happen quickly. It’s rare to see the 150 minute movie that has little or no down time. Every scene means something. There’s no fat here, and it works. At the end of two and a half hours, I didn’t realize it had been two and half hours. That’s a well-edited movie with an engaging story.
The story explores the depths of who Batman is, and if he is needed in Gotham at all, and if so, why he is needed. The conversation between Gordon and Batman at the end of BEGINS is what this film is all about – escalation. Things get worse and worse, and though the movie ends on a hopeful note, things don’t work out perfectly in the end. The choices characters make have real consequences that must be dealt with. Basically, the message that Spider-Man 3 tried to get across, TDK drives it home and parks it in the garage without getting preachy or pointing a finger.
Finally, one of my other criticisms of BEGINS has been taken care of. While I understood the cinematography choice of being right up in the middle of the fights with a hand held camera, I still feel like that type of filming makes it hard to follow exactly what is going on. In TDK, Nolan chose to pan back a bit and make his cuts in the action a little more spread out (we’re talking half seconds more) to allow the viewer to see the fighting more clearly. I am really glad this was the case because there were some great fights that were fun to watch.
THE DARK KNIGHT is a great movie. Take away the gadgets, the suit, and the face paint, and you have yourself a great action movie that still has compelling characters and an engaging story. It works as more than a comic book movie. (Though, heavens knows thats good enough.) It’s a great story.
If you haven’t seen it yet, GO NOW!!! If you have seen it, feel free to talk about it here, just please don’t post any spoilers for a week or so.
All in all, I give this movie 6 Holy Monkey Spits out of 5. (That’s not a typo..it’s that good.)