Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Holy Box Office Batman!

I know that the title has probably already been used by a million other reviewers and reviewer wannabes, but hey, it is useful!

On a serious note, and that's pretty much the only note in this movie, The Dark Knight is an amazing piece of cinema, to get right to the point. Let's start from the beginning.

Most of the cast was already in place from Nolan's previous installment Batman Begins. However, luckily Katie Holmes was busy becoming a scientologist (I'll let you form your own translation...hey who said brainwashed...that's not nice), thus freeing up the role for a far superior Maggie Gyllenhaal. No lie, at the end, my dad goes to me "That wasn't the same girl playing Rachel was it?" I said "No Dad, you must have only noticed the difference because Maggie Gyllenhaal is actually an actress, not a marionette waiting for the next string to be pulled". Again, sorry Katie, but I did LOVE you on Dawson's Creek! Anyway, aside from the upgrade, we do, in addition get to finally meet the Joker, played, of course, in an already oscar-buzzworthy-performance, by the late Heath Ledger. Does anyone else still have a hard time writing "late" it just doesn't make any sense.

Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are all fantastic, just restrained enough to let Heath Ledger's Joker shine in every scene. Let's face it, everyone knew that, with a Batman movie, if the Joker's involved who's really paying attention to that nocturnal homosapien?!

Christopher Nolan is enough of a genius to know that you can't alienate all of the Batman fans. There are plenty of people who love the camp of the tv series starring Adam West and there are small hints at it towards the beginning and middle of the film. One of the scenes at the beginning of the film has Batman rounding up friend and foe alike and something about seeing a certain villain from Batman Begins having quick-witted banter with his would-be nemesis is reminscent enough to conjure up a "Pow!" and "Whack!" and a "Holy Cow Batman!" But the conductor of the camp train is Eric Roberts' whose turn as a mob boss reminds me of a cross between a character in Dick Tracy and Pauly Walnuts. That's as crazy as it gets though.

From the opening scene until the riveting climax and through to the jolting end, The Dark Knight weaves a tragic, heartbreaking, and almost beautiful tale of humanity, insanity and the heroes that can pull us through. I love the fact that Nolan thought to himself "Hey doesn't even Batman need a hero?" and he delivers in this film.

Every scene is crafted with nothing left to chance, or so it seems. Nolan strikes me as the kind of director that already knows where the scene is going before he even co-writes the script. The setting of Chicago, sadly one of the cities in the U.S. that seems to be often overlooked, is a fantastic choice lending a more authentic feeling of isolation to Gotham as well as establishing a somewhat film-noir feel throughout the entire piece. The costuming, especially for Rachel, is straight from the 40s (Greta Garbo anyone?), with beautifully tailored, 3 piece suits for most of the guys. Humphrey Bogart would be proud. The effect is that these are real men and real criminals and you have to decide which side you're on, because they mean business. Normally, we would think that an easy decision, but Ledger's Joker makes the dark side look almost inviting, that is until he asks if you want to see a magic trick.

I really don't know what else there is to say about this film. People are lining up and buying tickets ahead of time, shows are selling out and all for good reason. This is the best film I've seen in 2008, thus far, and if you haven't seen it yet, please do, it's definitely not your Grandpa's superhero movie.

5 Batwings awarded for this standout summer blockbuster!

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