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Gut Reaction: The Dark Knight (2008)

July 17, 2008

Being a particularly nerdy type, the Husband and myself managed to score advance screening tickets to see “The Dark Knight”. We’ve been home all of ten minutes, and I feel that my feelings on the film can be summed up thusly:

Holy freakin’ christ, go see this damned movie.

Allow me to expand: This is not a comic book film. Yes, it’s based off a comic book character, and yes, it uses elements of particularly excellent “Batman” canon for its story*, but this is not a comic book movie. This is a stone-cold-turn-you-inside-out-and-upside-down crime thriller with characters faced with hard decisions and performances that are, to be brief, stunning.

To be less brief, let it be known that we’re officially on the bandwagon of the amazing abilities of the late Heath Ledger. We were both fans of his before, and this movie, no matter when he would have made it in his career, would have simply made us appreciate him more. His Joker is definitive. Nicholson’s Joker was a sad imitation to the depth and breadth Ledger gave to the Joker in “The Dark Knight”. He’s not just some wackjob giggling away in a big dark room; Ledger’s is a Joker that wants to get his hands dirty, and that is the ultimate point of the Joker. He is crazy, and loves it, and Ledger brings that to the film with a sharp, sure edge that will make you shift and wince and crave to see just a bit more.

Ledger’s is not the only performance worth its weight. Aaron Eckhart is a strong, compassionate, understandable Harvey Dent. He is a man who wants to make his city a better place, and he means it sincerely. Everything he says is coated in a pure truth, and his evolution throughout the film is brilliantly paced. Maggie Gyllenhaal breathes life into Rachel Dawes in a way Katie Holmes never did. Gyllenhaal’s Dawes is a woman who doesn’t run scared, because Gotham is her city, and she knows all its dark corners. I felt throughout “Batman Begins” that Katie Holmes was a second from fleeing the set. Gyllenhaal’s Dawes is a much more believable character, if only because she appears to have a real understanding of the truth of the darkness of the city.

Christian Bale continues to own his role as Batman, and watching him hit the struggling philosophical moments just makes the journey that much sweeter. Batman, in his early days, should be shown weighing the pros and cons of what he does, and Bale does an excellent job of bringing that struggle out in a way that doesn’t seem forced or over-the-top. We should care about Batman because he’s Batman, not because the brooding onscreen forces us to do so. Michael Caine hands us an Alfred that Batman needs. He’s caring, he’s compassionate, and he knows when to look Batman in the face and call him on his crap. Morgan Freeman produces a Lucius Fox who is useful, highly intelligent, and sly in a way that is utterly necessary to the way the story fleshes out.

A brief paragraph for Gary Oldman, all on its own: There is not a better man to be playing Jim Gordon. Oldman gives a smart, tough, but ultimately idealistic man who you love because he’s just so damned decent, and that’s how Gordon should be. There is a moment in the film where Gordon shows up, and the audience burst into spontaneous applause, so in love were they with this plain, decent man.

Okay, enough about the acting, although it’s superb, let’s talk plot: The plot twists and turns and twists some more, but where some films would leave you scratching your head, “The Dark Knight” lets you keep up. You keep up by keeping on the edge of your seat, but you keep up all the same. This is a smart, well-written, beautifully paced film, and watching it bloom from the opening scene to the final title card will leave you gasping. There was spontaneous applause throughout the film; not just for Jim, but for bits and pieces as the various threads of the plot began to tie up. The action scenes are phenomenal. There are, at individual times, explosions, giant fires, plenty of fist fights, and, in case you needed it, possibly the top two car chases to ever be put on film. Yes, “The Matrix Reloaded” had a seventeen minute chase scene, and yes, they did lots of cool tricks, but the way the chase scenes end out in “The Dark Knight” make them better, plain and simple.

“The Dark Knight” is a film pushed forward by the strength of its performances and followed on its heels by the astounding feats completed by the stunt department. You will gasp, you will jump, you will laugh, just a touch, and you may even tear up a bit. See it. Now. Because you have any love in your heart of film at all.

*Ledger was given a copy of “The Killing Joke” to give him a starting place for the Joker he produced for the film. The Nolan brothers based quite a few of their plot points on “The Long Halloween”, which was written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by Tim Sale.

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2 comments

  1. kudos to the makers Dark Knight for their record breaking opening weekend… it’s no wonder there’s talk of another one coming out ASAP


  2. Waow loved reading this article. I submitted your feed to my blogreader!!



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