Movie Review: The Dark Knight
Posted by Ryan on July 20, 2008
WARNING: No true spoilers, just a lot of “insider baseball” in regards to the fantasy genre.
Thus far, Christopher Nolan’s take on Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One series is leaps and bounds better than any of those goofy Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney movies, which all seemed too comic-like to be taken seriously. I never liked any of them because (this may sound strange) they seemed too much like I was watching a comic book movie.
But Batman Begins was entirely different from my point of view — it had heart, an interesting and deliberately developing storyline, characters you care about, and great action which didn’t strain the “plausible impossible” too too much, as some of the earlier versions of Batman could (think of Batman jumping out of a missile with Robin after ducking Mr. Freeze’s trap before reengaging the chase after dropping six miles on sky-surfing blades without a scratch in Batman and Robin: a little ridiculous even for fantasy!).
Nolan continues the series about a year after Batman Begins. The Dark Knight lives up to and surpasses its predecessor in terms of action and an intricately weaved storyline that leaves you with a sense of real danger for our heroes. I’m not ready to say that this movie was the best thing ever, as some have said, but it’s the best movie I’ve seen this year by far. Heath Ledger’s Joker is worth the price of admission; he’s both more creepy and lucid than Jack Nicholson’s rendition back in 1989 — they aren’t even on the same planet. Oscar-worthy? They’d give one of those things to anybody these days, so the late Heath Ledger will probably get one just for having died (that’s not to say his performance wasn’t worth an award, he was great, but the Academy is mostly out of touch with their audience and the insiders will demand the award be given to him nonetheless… plus think of the viewership at next year’s Oscars).
Comic books are really just morality tales, including “graphic novels” (the 21st Century way of describing a “comic book”). So, in Batman Begins we are treated to a tale about how to conquer our fears and using our strengths to do and be better than what we think we’re capable of. My take is that The Dark Knight simply continues that theme with an extended lesson. The enemies in Batman Begins were sinister but had rules: Ra’s Al Ghul and his minions had a shrewd but ancient warrior code, the Mobsters had one’s basic code about not messing with the Big-Guy, and the Scarecrow functioned in the real world as a psychiatrist and crony and let go of those rules only when with the psychotic inmates or his victims. Ledger’s Joker has no rules. Give such recklessness, the question is: how far will the good people go to defeat such evil? The Dark Knight explores this concept from everyone’s point of view. We’re beyond fear in this movie — it’s what to do now that good people are afraid: ally with the evil for a temporary benefit, bend the rules to slow the evil down, or become like the evil thing itself. No one in Gotham City can come to grips with the Joker: even the Mob looks weak and impotent next to the Joker’s recklessness. Our heroes need to look inside to defeat this menace, and not everything there is peachy or easy. That’s what makes this movie stay true to the magic of the original — it’s not about the car crash, it’s about handling the ride.
I also love sagas when they introduce the insidious third party. Like The Matrix series had the Merovingian and his crew of tertiary programs floating between the world of men and the machines, The Dark Knight’s Joker is a tertiary interest between the Cops and the typical Bad Guys who, unlike the Merovingian, is not just floating — he’s destroying everything on both sides (like the viral Agent Smith in this The Matrix analogy)! He’s destroying it for its own sake, not for any common reason like power or favor which normal people could understand. Sometimes that’s the problem with evil — there isn’t any understanding it, no matter how hard we may try.
I give this movie a solid A+/A (like a 96%) for entertainment value, storyline, and morality. You should see it, especially if you liked the first one or want to forget about those ridiculous ones from the 1980s and 1990s.
Pic from Movie Web.