Friday, July 18, 2008

I'm Batman

Well or at least I kind of feel like I am. It's almost an enabling sense of power I have having been one of the early one's to see the midnight showing of The Dark Knight. So I have been having about a bizillion people ask me what I thought, so I submit for you, my imaginary reading public, my review of Batman (of course maybe some of my friends might actually read this blog post because I'm not going to tell everybody and their grandfather what I thought of the movie, just reference them to this).

Ok so for those of you who are ADHD and can't stand to read my in depth blog analysis or are concerned that I might some how ruin the movie for you, I'll give you a quick one over on my quick impressions of it. It's an amazing movie. I can't see hardly anybody not enjoying it, although portions of it are certainly not for the faint of heart. I did really appreciate the fact that while it does deal with some rather gruesome, adult, mutilations it didn't really show any of that and you still very much got the point. I think my conversation with my roommate Matt this morning pretty much sums it up as far as my outlook on the movie.

Matt: "So how many stars would you give it?"
Me: "Out of how many?"
Matt: "Ummmm, 7. No, 100. Lets do it like Rotten Tomatoes."
Me: "That's pretty hard to say because it was such a movie that I really need to see it again to fully be able to rate it."
Matt: "Yeah, like you need to resee it to fully appreciate and grasp everything about it?"
Me: "No, just there's certain things that I would have to review to see just how great it is or may not be. But on as a whole, I'd probably give it a 92."
Matt: "Wow, that good, huh?"
Me: "It's probably now a top 5 movie for me."

So there you have it, that's the abbreviated version. And if you're interested in more of what I have to say, please do read on, I'd love to hear from those of you who have viewed it and get comments as well. I'm going to do my best not to put any spoilers in there and I'm pretty confident I won't. If you read it and feel like I spoiled something for you, then by all means I'm sorry. That being said, if you're that concerned about having something spoiled for you, don't read the rest of this blog please. But if you're interested in my critical analysis of the movie and what to expect, I give you my in depth analysis of The Dark Knight.

Basically I give mad props to Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan Nolan. Their vision of what this movie could be is phenomenal. I've seen nothing like it. To be able to have the vision and ideas that created this is incredible. Now I don't know completely where the founding for all of this came, so I guess I should also give props to David S. Goyer who is credited as writing the story along with Christopher Nolan. And what exactly is the crux that this story rides upon? The vision that is The Joker. Now I must say The Joker is a bit different of a character than I've typically envisioned or seen him played as. He obviously would be an incredibly deranged individual and I think Jack Nicholson definitely did that in the Tim Burton Batman. And maybe Nicholson's Joker has just been entrenched in my mind. I'd definitely say Nicholson reminded me more of what The Joker was like in the cartoon. The Joker that they brought to life in Ledger is more like Osama Bin Laden meets a serial killer. It's down right disturbing and amazingly maniacal. In other words, the overall vision of what this movie is and the plot is hard to beat.

As far as characters, this is top notch as well. Obviously this was largely a repeat cast. Christian Bale returns as Batman. And of course the job he does is yet again fantastic. He plays the dual role of Bruce Wayne and Batman wonderfully. So often much of the real acting ability is found in his character Bruce rather than as the great Dark Knight. Bruce allows him to express his emotion and we see the public veil, or "mask" as described in the first movie, he wears for much of his public persona. Now, I do still have two complaints that arose originally in the first movie that are still displayed here. First, I think Bruce Wayne is portrayed too much as a playboy rather than a mature socialite. I guess there may be some argument that he is still developing into the grandiose public figure that Wayne eventually becomes, so I can live with it. Certainly we see a great maturing of Wayne in this roll not only since the first movie, but also as the movie progresses. He starts understanding more of his role in the world and how the Batman fits in as well. Second, the return of the "Batman voice." Look I understand realistically he's a guy who wants to hide his identity and such so it makes logical sense that he would somewhat hide his voice, plus there's the fact that he wants to sound rough and tough, but my goodness does this sound stupid! I was able to deal with it a lot better in this movie than in the first, but it really just still sounds rather ridiculous and I wish they'd give it up or figure out something better. I guess it beats Halle Berry in the first X-Men movie. All I have to say is I don't know where that accent came from, but it certainly wasn't Africa. Overall though, the acting by Bale is superb and the creation of the character that is Batman and Wayne is top notch.

Now for the Joker. Now a lot of what I have to say about him I mentioned earlier. He is what makes the story more than anything else. He's cunning, maniacal, disturbing, and brilliant. Now I'm going to say something that I'm sure is going to upset many, but I feel rather strongly about. I don't feel like this was a brilliant performance for Ledger and so he definitely does not deserve the Oscar that he most assuredly will receive. Don't get me wrong, I by no means think it was a bad performance. I just don't know that it was anything especially over the top and unique mostly because I feel like the real genius of the Joker was found more in the script and the crazy actions he takes. I had a friend mention all of the fine little twitches or licking of lips that he does, but frankly that just didn't add much to the character for me. It was the genius plans, lines, and insane actions that really made him who he was for me and not the little fine points. Which brings up another thing I loved about the Joker: he was an amazing foil against Batman. The only thing I can even compare that to is Shakespeare's The First Part of King Henry IV in the comparison between Prince Hal and Hotspur. The Joker's motivation is completely driven by the existence of the Batman and his only motivation is to go step for step against the Batman. Without the Batman, the Joker recognizes he has no need for existence and thus the Batman really completes him. It's phenomenal the way this is drawn into the script and the profound truths spoken by the Joker relative to this concept. This is truly a magnificent character that is so amazingly unique to any movie I've ever seen. It's a shame Ledger is no longer alive because it would be fascinating to see a repeat performance in a later movie, even though that maybe would be unlikely.

Michael Caine returns with his role as the loyal butler Alfred. I don't know that I have much to say here. Michael Caine is a brilliant, versatile actor and so of course he comes through with another great performance. He still has his quick little one liners that have the sharp wit we're used to from the first movie and he brings back a lot of the great ability he demonstrated then.

Rachel Dawes role was taken over by Maggie Gyllenhaal. If there is one real weakness to the movie, I would say it is found here in Gyllenhaal. I didn't feel like she did a good job with the roll. She is a character so devoid of emotion and feeling it was really rather pathetic. How could this character that is supposed to have such a great love for Bruce be so stoic at almost all times? Also, Gyllenhaal looked awful. I by no means intend to discount her beauty or anything of the sort, but throughout the movie she seemed to lack any sort of attractiveness and she looked like she hadn't slept in weeks. She frankly just did not look very flattering at all. I don't find Katie Holmes to be a particularly attractive woman, but at least I can say as Rachel Dawes she looked quite lovely. I understand the ability of makeup artists and such and it just surprises me that they made (or maybe allowed) Gyllenhaal to look so grisly rather than making her out to be an absolutely beautiful woman.

Gary Oldman returns for his role as Lt. James Gordon. I really have to give Oldman props. They made Gordon a much more major character in this movie and I feel like he really comes through in his performance. We see a bit more of the real ability he has as Gordon shows a rather varied amount of emotion and he's displayed as a bit more intelligent and torn character than he was in the first. In the first movie, he was almost a nuisance and didn't seem to add a ton to the movie. However, he is a quite useful ally in Batman's war on crime in this movie and just kind of a clever character in general.

Morgan Freeman also returns as Lucius Fox. As far as this, I almost think it's kind of like Michael Caine. Morgan Freeman is a phenomenal actor. I don't think much beats his role in The Shawshank Redemption which certainly shows off much of his ability. Fox has a bit more of a role in this movie than the last, but really I don't know that we see much of anything too different from the last movie. Freeman does a great job and the character has a nice return.

Finally, there is Harvey Dent played by Aaron Eckhart. I really think Eckhart stole the show as far as a supporting character. You see such a wide scale of emotion and such an interesting character. Also, as far as many of the "heros" go in the movie, Dent has some of the greatest lines to share. Dent is a fantastic character that represents so much of the good and truth that Batman seeks to bring about in Gotham. Eckhart does a fantastic job of making you really believe the passion that drives Dent to clean up the streets and make Gotham a better place. I suppose to save any sort of spoiler I won't delve into the torn character that Dent really is, but certainly it is amazing how Eckhart is able to show some of that dark side that lies deep inside Dent.

The cinematography is phenomenal. Nolan has such a wonderful ability with the camera and the lighting to really see into the souls of the individuals he films and immerse you in the storyline and action. Also, it really is such a beautiful cinematic experience. I wish I could explain more about this, but frankly I'm not even remotely an expert on this kind of thing and I think this is something you learn to notice and appreciate with additional viewings.

So yes, overall, a phenomenal movie. I think one of the most interesting things about the movie overall was its sharing of profound truths. Many of the superhero/comic book movies have much to share as far as the profound truths shared with or by the hero. That is one of the biggest reasons I love the Spiderman movies, they probably set the standard as far as that and I don't know that anyone else has quite matched it. I must say that was one of the strongest things I liked about Batman Begins was the sharing of those great, profound, inspirational truths. Dark Knight definitely returns the salvo as far as that goes, but certainly with a dark twist. I really didn't find hardly any inspirational, profound truths that were shared in this movie, however, that's not to say it was devoid of those profound truths. On the contrary, the villians seemed to share the majority of those profound truths, however, they were obviously a lot more dark, cynical, and sinspirational. And I think that really captures so much of what this movie is comparatively. While Dark Knight has often been a title applied to Batman, it really is such an apt name for this movie due to its comparatively dark nature complexities. If you're looking for a happy joyful movie, this movie is certainly not it. However, there is enough of a hope given through the character that is Batman and the way he rallies much of the city so as to give it that finalistic happy ending that really doesn't leave you feeling the emptiness and depravity that is found in the core of the many villains.


h2oetry said...

I also saw it, and was left awe-inspired. There is something so ridiculously human in The Joker that he is someone to admire - even in his audacious and anarchistic/nihilistic ways.

I described the movie via text to my movie critic(real one) friend as such: "Holy S_ Batman! The Joker is the bomb! Mind tricks are much better than any other. It's amazing the way the story was constructed. I love The Jokers overall aura of confident manipulation. I need to see it a few more times. It didn't even feel like 2.5 hours."

It really seemed to me to be an amazing story/film, that just happened to be based on a comic book(since these types are usually frowned on by critics). As I'm writing this, it has a 94 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 9.6 average on IMDB, good enough for 3rd place all-time(for now).

I plan on seeing it a few more times, hopefully on IMAX this next time.

Ledger's performance was stellar, and I'm not just saying that in a "he just died so let's shower him with praise" kind of way.

Scott Earl said...

You know the thing is though, those are amazing numbers for IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, but you really have to wait a while to see what the general public really thinks. Us fanatics go to see these movies soonest and typically we're more prone to give it better reviews than those who are a bit more detached. Also, the main people that review movies are those that feel strongly one way or the other. It's hard to get a true gauge on it ever. I'm not trying to discount the movie by any means, my review is quite favorable, but really you have to give it a month or so to get a better feel for things as far as IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes goes.