How about a magic trick?
Well, I think it’s a fair guess at what all the kids will be hearing for Halloween this year…
This won’t be a full review of The Dark Knight, not in it’s entirety, not yet. This maybe be long and I may ramble, but I don’t think I’m ready to put the final word, at least not my final word, on it yet. I guess you could say that I’m still thinking about the movie. Was it good? Fuck yes, it was amazing. Was it overly thought provoking? No, not really. It was just awesome, and I don’t really want to rush into a review just yet. So this will just be… some thoughts, if you will.
"It's all part of the (marketing) plan..."
Oh, and I guess I should warn you here that it’ll be a SPOILER packed post? Should I? Let’s just say that from here on out, Counterforce will always be SPOILER packed, okay?
The movie picks up roughly one year after the first, and shows that some of Batman’s efforts have been an amazing success. The war isn’t over, but the enemy (the mob) is definitely afraid. And not just of Batman, but the kind of idealistic forces for good that could possibly be inspired by him… Like maybe the new district attorney and Gotham city’s resident “white knight” (a phrase you’ll hear until you’re sick), Harvey Dent…
This is good news for Batman and his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, because secretly, that’s what he wants: Someone to be inspired by him. Someone to take up his mantle. And someone who make it easy for him to possibly retire and settle in with (wanna be) lady love, Rachel Dawes. Of course, it doesn’t help matters that she’s dating Mr. Dent (her boss), but Bruce doesn’t really see that as a wrinkle in his plans. He is Bruce fucking Wayne, after all.
I smell bromance on the horizon.
For starters, in some bullet shaped thoughts, I just want to comment on the title character of this movie: Bruce Wayne/Batman. You remember the horrible analogy from Kill Bill, about how Clark Kent isn’t the real man, he’s just the alter ego of Superman? (It’s horrible because it’s from Tarantino, who’s hardly got what I’d call a keen analytical mind) That’s one of the things I love about these movies: Bruce Wayne is the character and Batman is the mask. Even the public persona of Bruce Wayne, crazy rich partyboy, is a mask, something he throws out and spreads around, always making sure no one would look at him and think in a million years that he’s Batman. But, possibly even more than Christian Bale’s constantly suffering Batman, I think you have to love his Bruce Wayne of the public eye. At one point, the millionaire (billionaire?) playboy throws a black and white fundraiser for Harvey Dent, the kind of which he’ll never need another after he’s done collecting checks, and then upstages him by showing up in a helicopter with not one, not two, but three beautiful young women in brightly colored dresses. And at another point, Batman needs to take a little trip to Hong Kong for some ass kicking business, but needs to cover his famous alter ego’s absense for a few days, so what’s the solution? Just abscond with the entire visiting ballet of Russian hotties for a cozy little cruise. And Bale does all of this brilliantly, with a panache and pleasant smirk constantly on his face. He channels all the best parts of Patrick Bateman into this aspect of himself, the parts it’s okay to idolize, the cool yuppie who enjoys being filthy rich, and he does it brilliantly. When he’s out with his date and runs into his ex and her noble chinned current boyfriend at a posh resturaunt, well, why couldn’t he push two tables together so they can all schmooze together? After all, he does own the place. The man is just one big smooth dick move in a suit.
But it’s not really his movie.
It’s Harvey “Two Face” Dent’s movie. In a lot of ways, he’s the star of the film as we follow his rise and his eventual fall. But we can always talk about him later. What you really want to talk about is…
Let's put a smile on that face!"
Heath Ledger as the Joker. Oscar worthy? Excellent question. But that’s really one for the wheeling and dealings of Hollywood come award season. It’s about what other performances are out there and how much sympathy we can pile on for his extinguished flame, but the man was undeniably good in this movie. He’s pure glee in his role as the city’s new anarchitect, bringing an explosive punk jihad to just about everything you think you know about this character or have seen before, and then changing it, somehow making it better, making it more psychotic and crazy, and making it make more sense. The actor we thought we knew, whose abilities we were only beginning to see them stretch themselves, gets completely lost in this role. You go into the darkened theater expecting to deal with the hype of Ledger’s last role and instead… all you have is the Joker. At times, he’s intensely child-like, and at others, he seems almost tired and old, something delicate, and from out of nowhere, a feral beat will emerge behind that dingy caked on makeup. His Joker gives you nothing about who or why he is, and only reveals himself to be both a liar and a man of his very scary word, and even when he’s terrifying you, a small part of you is smiling along with him. That’s something you notice if you pay close attention to his brilliant monologue that he delivers to the bed ridden Harvey Dent at one point, talking about the planners and schemers of the world. His logic is frightening, something you could see coming out of a terrorist on the news and he delivers it with a youthful gusto, at one point distancing himself from his own comments, describing himself as a dog chasing cars. “I wouldn’t know what to do if I caught one.” And from the movie’s prologue to the first real scene of the Joker introducing himself, with what is sure to be a much remembered magic trick involving a not so willing volunteer and a pencil, to his very last scene as he watches the world from upside down, you’re only left wanting more.
And then you remember… Oh, wait… Shit. That actually kinda fucking sucks.
It’s harder to find things to say that are wrong with this movie than to praise with the film. The reason being is that there’s just so much that is so good here. The writing, by Christopher Nolan and his brother, is strong and witty (how much input David Goyer actually had in the story is hard to say, and honestly, who gives a shit?). And the casting, as with the first one, is an all star and incredibly classy affair. Again, Michael Caine as Alfred and Morgan Freeman as the head of Wayne’s company, Lucius Fox, bring weight and grace and the occasional much needed big of humor to the movie, even when the world within the film is being burned to the ground. Bale, who doesn’t have a lot of scenery to choose, keeps it solid as Batman, and Gary Oldman shines in the expanded role Lieutenant (soon to be Commissioner) Gordon receives. And Aaron Eckhart (at his most Robert Redford-ish) is incredibly strong and plays perfectly into the recurring “white knight”/psuedo modern medievalry they give him… up until a point. But more on that later.
Making something like $66 million opening day? That's serious money.
You know who I actually missed in this movie? Katie Holmes. For serious. I’m not going to try to justify her existence since becoming a bride of Xenu (or her shitty career choices since), but I felt that she was perfectly adequate in the first movie. And Maggie Gyllenhaal is by no means bad in this movie, and clearly the character of Rachel Dawes wasn’t that strictly mapped out in the first film that you could say that Jake’s sister doesn’t match up, it’s just… I don’t know. A bit of an error in the writing/conception of her character? Yeah, a little. She’s always just there to be “the girlfriend” to somebody, or the woman thought and fought over. We know she’s supposed to be a good lawyer, but we never see that in this movie. She’s just the chick fucking the boss. Would that fly in this day and age? I guess so in Gotham City. She’s always well dressed, flaunting a wardrobe that’s classy and workable and wouldn’t be out of place in a more stylish Hollywood of yesteryear, but her delivery feels like it’s a young girl inhabiting these clothes and this place, and not the incredibly talented actress we’ve seen her to be in the past playing a well thought out character. In this movie, she’s the woman you put on the pedestal, then she’s the woman you cry over, and the one you scream “Noooooo!!” over.
Oh, and the action sequences. Would Commander Light approve? I should think so. The choreography and construction of the action in this movie is solid, all quick and brisk, and executed in a way that leaves you breathless. And not to mention, it just looks damn good, since they shot a lot of action in IMAX. Even the last major fight scene, with Batman taking on a shitload of the Joker’s goons and SWAT red shirts alike, gets a little chaotically frantic, but it’s quick and when you really get down to it, it holds up. But the action has to be quick, just like the rest of the movie, because Nolan has a lot to throw at you in this movie. This is a movie about watching your world burning to the ground all around you, and you’re strapped in, feeling the heat as it dances on your skin. The score, the acting, the direction, the writing, the editing: it’s all there. You feel like you’re getting kicked in the balls and your face caved in right along with a lot of these characters.
And it feels great. Like watching a tragically beautiful force of nature tearing down your house.
Epic smack? Welcome to a world without rules.
Now, if you were to press me for something that was off about this movie, while it’s not a huge talking point, it’d be the ending. After the big finale with the Joker (which doesn’t have a whole lot of resolution, alas), we have to cut back to our main character, Harvey Two Face. This is after his transformation from Gotham’s “white knight” (much like the fear theme was just a little overused in Batman Begins, so goes it here with the duality of characters and being the other side of someone’s coin, etc.) and into an angry, disfigured burn freak. And he goes on a little vengeances streak. It stays in character and it makes sense, but all the same, you’re left hoping for a little more from Two Face. And the very ending is dangerously talky (especially when utilizing Bale’s Batman voice, which still feels like it needs some work), almost bordering on the hideousness of Spiderman 3 level dangerously talky, but thankfully, unlike that trainwreck, Nolan knows when to bow out on a sad but high note, and how to leave you wanting more…
"And here we... go."
This was the most anticipated movie of the summer and quite probably the most anticipated movie of the year, and for once, Hollywood delivers. This movie is worthy of all the hype and more (even the lukewarm reviews have to cop to a certain level of mastery on display here). Not only does this set the plateau so much higher for what can be do well in a comic book movie, it sets the bar high for what can be done with a movie, period. (Even if it is just a little bit of a remake of Heat, but never you mind that.) I want to wrap this up, so I’m fighting the urge to sing much more praise upon Ledger’s take on the Joker. He’s the return of the criminal genius to a movie. He is a pure antagonizing firecracker of a character, finding the exact buttons of every character he comes into contact with and making them want to do much, much more than just punch those buttons. When Nolan was asked by he went with the out of left field choice of casting Ledger, he said simply, “Because he’s fearless.” And it’s all there on the screen.
Which leaves you wondering… What next? Sure, the sequel would be several years away at the earliest, but we’ve been told that originally Two Face and the Joker were intended to be a large part of a third film, and now you have to wonder where that leaves us. Nolan has indicated that he’d much rather not recast Ledger’s part and Two Face doesn’t seem like he’d really hold all that much water for another outing. Some have already gotten the shovel out to go into the dirt of Batman’s remaining rogue’s gallery (that hopefully haven’t graced the big screen yet), but I’m not all that concerned about it for the moment. There’s plenty of time and a great movie to enjoy just a little more still.
"I get the feeling you and I are destined to do this forever!"