The Dark Knight
- Christopher Nolan
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Writers David S. Goyer, Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan have taken obligatory and melancholy elements from the Batman legend and used them for a script that shows pure love of cinema, as well as screenwriting passion. The film is outstanding on its own, and itís also a Batman addition. But the latter is the least, incredibly.
The story explores the absurdity of a society accustomed to a vigilante, the impossibility of an anonymous hero doing the job that the police should do, and the obligatory spawn of psychopaths to confront the self-appointed crime-fighter. The opponent is no other than Batmanís most famous foe, The Joker, so successfully reincarnated countless times in comic books, TV shows and that notable film adaptation, Batman (1989), where he was so famously played in full-hammy mode by Jack Nicholson, who so made the character his own that guts were needed to dare include the character in the latest universe, not to mention the balls it shouldíve taken to play him.
I was most concerned about the credibility of The Jokerís motivations, but theyíre so well-defined that itís also the most successful of the characterís aspects: heís in to create mayhem, to practice the chaos theory to its full extent, and to prove that the worst can come from the best, and that freaks have many forms, even if the disguise is noble. The schemes he plays on the heroes, regardless of their implausibility, are successful in transforming the characters in ways that achieve catharsis of countless dramatic consequences, bringing to the film its greatest achievement. Itís all about dilemmas, and in the end, about power, and I bought it.
As is usually the case, the villain steals the show, and in this case even more so, for four reasons: the way The Joker is made the star by the script, giving him the most dialogue, the juicier scenes, and the control of the plot, which is welcomed because Bruce Wayne/Batman had all that in the previous film; the characterization, with unbearable makeup and amazing costumes; the controlled performance that explores full craziness without ever going over-the-top, by Heath Ledger; and Ledgerís sudden death, which came after the filmís production and before its release, bringing, sure as hell, much more box-office success to the film than it would have probably had, even though thereís no doubt it would have been, in any case, a super-smash. Ledger is scary and wonderful, seeing him is a guilty pleasure, and hearing him is the stuff that nightmares are made of. His death multiplies his chances for awards at the end of the year, but it would be unfair to claim he does not deserve them.
Christian Bale, on the other hand, has seen his screen time reduced, and this is not the kind of comic-book film that looks for any excuse to show him without his mask. Even though we see enough of him as Wayne, itís as Batman that we see him most, and most of that time heís not talking (thank God, because the husky voice he uses in disguise is laughable at times). We can always feel his struggle and dilemma, which is a strong asset, but thereís not much showcase for the actor, which is a pity. In fact, I regret seeing so little of his real self as Wayne, since thereís much of him as the playboy he pretends to be.
That great actor that usually accompanies him when not in disguise, Michael Caine playing his butler Alfred Pennyworth, embodies the conflict much more, as a sort of translator. His scenes though, as is a problem throughout, are largely explanatory. Thereís so much going on, and so much concern that it can get confusing, that everything is thoroughly explained. This makes much of the middle section tiresome; a lot of simplifying wouldíve helped. As it is, thereís the mafia, the government, the cops, the girl, the rival, the villain, the other villain, the chases, the fights, and itís all well and clear in the end, but itís a little bit too much. Sadly, to make it all fit, some little but crucial things are taken for granted or happen off-screen. Since Iím not the filmmaker, Iím not sure what I wouldíve skipped, but itís my job to say itís so.
Thereís a point in the film when itís all clear and advancing quickly though. Things have gone out of hand; chaos reigns, Batman is tired, The Joker canít be stopped. The DA, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), goes to extreme measures. His girlfriend, Bruceís ex Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), is secretly waiting for Wayne, though sheís quite unsure whom she should prefer, and which has the less risky job. The Joker is setting them all up. In the middle, there are unstoppable action scenes, as is expected, and theyíre incredible; nothing looks unreal. The locations of Chicago where many of them were shot are mesmerizing, but the focus, thankfully, is not on the production design, but on the unobstructed action. Who cares whether Gotham City is called that for a reason? Itís what goes on in it that matters. And what Dent goes through is credible because of that; and itís also a great showcase for Eckhart.
Completing the Grade-A cast are Gary Oldman, who also has his moments, Morgan Freeman, who performs mostly routine, and Eric Roberts, showing much panache in a short appearance. Itís so great to see so many known faces, and really believe theyíre the guys theyíre playing.
James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer again provide the music and again underscore, which works because their tunes donít get in the way, always finding the right moment to take center stage. Towards the end, I noticed the music most. In the last and great sequence, their music, the editing, and the last lines reminded me of a typical closing in a graphic novel. I, again, saw my teenage yearsí dreams come true, and Iím very thankful for that.
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Other reviews of The Dark Knight (2008): Morris