Saturday, August 9, 2008

Shining Knights

Disappointment? I don't think so.

The Dark Knight lived up to all its hype. Heath Ledger's turn as the Joker is everything it's billed to be but the genius of the film is that it is far more than the normal superhero "popcorn" movie. It's like someone took an old Warner Brothers crime film and added superheroes and supervillains to it. You've got good DAs and cops and evil crime bosses with two costumed loonies added to take things to another level. The movie carries on the themes of Gotham's hope and redemption from Batman Begins but it adds so much through the character of Harvey Dent who is really the most tragic figure in the movie, an honest crime-fighting DA who succumbs to madness and becomes as evil as the people he's fighting.

The Joker comes off as a real "Super Villain", someone far beyond the normal crooks who just want to get rich. He seems to see himself as a freak whose mission in life is to spread anarchy and destroy all hope and dreams of normality. This is so much beyond the scope of the comics where all the villains, even Harvey "Two-Face" Dent", were glorified gang bosses out to mainly rob and maybe try to kill Batman if the opportunity presented itself. Joker even gets to indulge in a bit of psychological testing that comes off like a far less sadistic version of something from the "Saw" movies.

The pacing of the film is great with no dead or campy spots and you can't say enough about the acting. Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman all carry on as well as they did the first time. Aaron Eckhart and Gary Oldman are terrific. Maggie Gyllenhall more than makes up for the dead zone of Katie Holmes from the first movie and Heath Ledger makes the most charismatic psychopath I've seen since James Cagney in White Heat. It's sadly ironic that the Joker is still alive at the end of the film but Heath Ledger isn't around anymore. If they decide to use the Joker in any future films the poor guy who plays him will have some big shoes to fill.

Then again where would a third film go? Most of the gimmicky villains from the comics would seem to have little place in this Batman's world. Catwoman would be the logical choice for a foe but I don't know if you could build a film around just her. Anyway how the hell do you follow an act like this anyway?

This was my first time at a multiplex in years and seeing an ongoing reel of TV promos and ads even before the trailers started reminded why I never go to mainstream theatres anymore. Still damned if I didn't see two movie trailers that might lure me back in upcoming months, Watchmen and the next James Bond film, Quantum Of Solace. They both looked far better than I expected. I didn't think Watchmen could be successfully adapted into a film (Of course I haven't read it since it was first published 20 years ago) and this version of James Bond seems to be without any of the camp and smugness that turned me off the series long ago. Looks like I need to check out Casino Royale now.

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