Monday, July 28, 2008

The Dark Knight

Batman Begins was a very special movie. Its one of those movies that is greater than the sum of its parts, which is especially impressive when each one of its parts is great to start off with. If you want to see how to make a great superhero movie, watch Batman Begins. The first hour and a bit is as close to perfect as it gets and by the time it descends into mere brilliance towards the end you're so caught up in the plot and the action that you hardly notice.

So, as you might have gathered, I had very high expectations of the sequel. What I have to say should remain spoiler free...

Like its predecessor, The Dark Knight is also a film made up of great parts. However, for reasons I still haven't completely worked out, the final film ends up being slightly less than the sum of those parts. That's not to say that its not very, very good, its just to say that it's not as awesomely, gob-smackingly brilliant as it should be. I think maybe it was a little bit two long, or possibly because there were a couple of non-brilliant links in the chain, but somewhere along the way The Dark Knight loses one star out of the five stars it should have had. But its still a four star movie - way better than average.

Perhaps it fell partially into the same trap that Tim Burton's original Batman movie did - its not a film about Batman, in many ways he seems to be a supporting character. Batman Begins was the first Batman film that was actually about Batman, everyone else in it was just scenery. This film isn't about any single character really. Its not even a film about the Joker (which Tim Burton's original movie was), he too is a supporting character.

It's a film about ideas, not people. This was demonstrated most when it got to the scene where two people were in trouble and Batman only had time to save one. This was two thirds of the way through the film yet, by this point, I didn't actually care enough about one of the characters (I knew what was going to happen to the other character because I've read the comics, seen the old films, etc.) to be bothered either way if Batman got to them in time, yet this was supposed to be the emotional core of the film. Likewise when we got to the bit with the two boats, I really didn't care either way.

But. Visually its stunning. It has so many fab moments that I can forgive its other weaknesses. The whole hospital scene was outstanding, full of humour and perfectly timed. Yes, it was a 'set piece' but so what, it was a great set piece.
  • Heath Ledger was brilliant - he produced a totally believable, utterly captivating, psycho. In fact, there was nothing of Heath Ledger there, I genuinely forgot (even given the hype) who was playing the part and just watched the Joker on screen.
  • Gary Oldman was excellent. Hopefully he'll get a bigger role if/when they do another Batman movie.
  • Christian Bale was side-lined a bit, but still gave a convincing performance as both Batman and Bruce Wayne. They did a silly thing with the Batman voice though.
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal was OK. To be honest, I preferred Katie Holmes in the role, but MG was OK. I thought MG was fab in the last film I saw her in ("Stranger than Fiction") and - after watching that film - would even go as far as to say that she has the sexiest smile in Hollywood, but sadly the smile was not used much here and we had the lip-trembling face instead, which just never really grabbed me. Sorry.
  • Aaron Eckhart was good too, although when he started getting nasty before his transformation, I didn't really believe it, it didn't quite work. He was in the role of the 'White Knight' after all.
I think I will return to the cinema to see it again, given the opportunity. Actually, I'd quite like to go and see the IMAX version - six of the big action scenes were shot in IMAX. Hopefully the hospital scene was one of them, that would be awesome. I'll also get the DVD when it comes out, even though I don't have much time for DVD watching these days. I'll make the time.

So, after one viewing, The Dark Knight is currently ranking as my 4th favourite superhero movie after Superman (1978), Batman Begins (2005) and X2 (2003).

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At 9:53 pm, Anonymous movie junkie said...

i still wish Katie Holmes had stayed on board as Rachel Dawes for the Dark Knight; it was like the time spent getting familiar with her character in Batman Begins was wasted...


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