Friday, July 20, 2012

Review: "The Dark Knight" Rose Above All Other Batman Movies

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 32 (of 2008) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Dark Knight (2008)
Running time: 152 minutes (2 hours, 32 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and some menace
DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan
WRITERS: Jonathan Noland and Christopher Nolan; from a story by David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan (based upon the characters created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger)
PRODUCERS: Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven, and Emma Thomas
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Wally Pfister (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Lee Smith
Academy Award winner


Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Monique Gabriela Curren, Nestor Carbonell, Eric Roberts, Colin McFarlane, Joshua Harto, and Michael Jai White

Director Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, the sequel to his 2005 film, Batman Begins, is indeed as good as practically everyone who has seen it says. The Dark Knight is both loud and complex, sometimes as scary as it is over the top, but the heart of the movie isn’t loud explosions and violent confrontations. For all the attention paid to this film’s villain, The Joker as portrayed by the late Heath Ledger, Nolan uses The Dark Knight to examine the heart, soul, and guts (constitution) of a hero, in particularly both the character Batman and his alter ego Bruce Wayne.

The steadfast Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and the heroic District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) join Batman’s (Christian Bale) plot to destroy organized crime in Gotham City for good. The three are highly effective, as they track Gotham organized crime’s cash, the hundreds of millions of dollars that criminals hide in Gotham banks. They’ll follow the money even when it means Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) and his partner Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) must undertake a secret mission to Hong Kong.

However, their success is short lived, when The Joker (Heath Ledger), a rising criminal mastermind, inserts himself into the situation. The Joker practically bullies Gotham’s crime lords into hiring him to kill Batman. The Joker’s antics throw Gotham into anarchy, and his acts of terrorism force the Dark Knight and everyone one around him ever closer to crossing the fine line between hero and vigilante.

So many things stand out as being exceptional about The Dark Knight. The story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer, who wrote Batman Begins together, is quite fine, but the script by Nolan and his brother Jonathan Nolan is the cream on top. For one thing, it takes four of Batman Begins’ excellent supporting characters, Jim Gordon, Lucius Fox, Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred (Michael Caine), and Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal, but previously played by Katie Holmes in Batman Begins). Not only does the script emphasize their connections to Batman, but all four of the characters also genuinely contribute to the action, ideas, and philosophies of the larger narrative. When four fine actors (with Caine and Freeman being Oscar-winning legends) get this kind of character writing, they can work wonder – as they do here.

As for the much-talked about performance of the late Heath Ledger as The Joker, it is the real deal. Topping Jack Nicholson’s turn as the clown prince of crime in the 1989 Batman seemed impossible, but Ledger simply took the character someplace even darker. Ledger’s Joker isn’t just a criminal; he’s an anarchist, a terrorist, and a madman. He eschews society’s morals, rules, and excepted standards of behavior. To hell with society; he just wants to see the world burn. That kind of personality and behavior will always be the makings for a memorable villain, but Ledger takes that material and turns it into a Joker the he sears into the audience’s memory.

For all the fireworks of Heath Ledger’s performance, The Dark Knight is, in the hands of Chris Nolan and actor Christian Bale as Batman, about Batman’s battle for his own soul. Together, Nolan and Bale test the limits of endurance of a superhero. Batman’s bravery isn’t in question, but his honesty, integrity, morals, and honor are. Will he go to the “dark side,” so to speak, and thusly, himself become a villain in order to fight villains (Joker and his crime lord cohorts)? Is he a warrior sworn to uphold values of courage and honor or is he just like weaker mortals – people who are all too ready to drop their civilized ways and become monsters the moment something really terrifies them?

Like Batman’s conundrum, The Dark Knight is ominously complicated, but it is so damn entertaining and intelligent and thought provoking and better than most summer blockbusters and superhero movies could hope to be. The Dark Knight is by no means perfect; sometimes, it goes over the top trying to make its points. Sometimes, it’s way too loud and maybe just a bit too pretentious and heavy with its own self-importance. But it’s still so damn good.

9 of 10

Sunday, August 03, 2008

2009 Academy Awards: 2 wins: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Heath Ledger – Posthumously won with the award accepted by his father, mother and sister) and “Best Achievement in Sound Editing” (Richard King); 6 nominations: “Best Achievement in Art Direction” (Nathan Crowley-art director and Peter Lando-set decorator), “Best Achievement in Cinematography” (Wally Pfister), “Best Achievement in Film Editing” (Lee Smith), “Best Achievement in Makeup” (John Caglione Jr. and Conor O'Sullivan), “Best Achievement in Sound Mixing” (Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo, Ed Novick), “Best Achievement in Visual Effects” (Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Timothy Webber and Paul J. Franklin)

2009 BAFTA Awards: 1 win: “Best Supporting Actor” (Heath Ledger –Posthumously); 8 nominations: “Best Cinematography” (Wally Pfister), “Best Costume Design” (Lindy Hemming), “Best Editing” (Lee Smith), “Best Make Up & Hair” (Peter Robb-King), “Best Music” (Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard), “Best Production Design” (Nathan Crowley and Peter Lando), “Best Sound” (Lora Hirschberg, Richard King, Ed Novick, and Gary Rizzo), “Best Special Visual Effects” (Chris Corbould, Nick Davis, Paul J. Franklin, and Tim Webber)

2009 Golden Globes, USA: 1 win: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Heath Ledger – Awarded posthumously with the award accepted by Christopher Nolan on Heath Ledger's behalf)


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