Created on 25/7/2008
Whenever a film makes nearly a couple of hundred million dollars in its first weekend it is worth a look to see why. Over the last few days The Dark Knight, the most recent of the Batman film franchise, has done this, so I immediately journeyed to the cinema.
The Batman saga began with the comic book’s first appearance in 1939 and has undergone many a metamorphosis since. Apart from the comic books, there was the famous TV series in the 60’s which were high camp and a great deal of fun, then there was the mini series in 1986, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Commencing in the late 1980’s was the first of the big budget movies, with Tim Burton’s film Batman, which led to new life for this amazingly long, lived and fabulously successful character.
Perhaps one of the principal reasons for this huge and long-lived march on the record books is that Batman is sometimes morally ambiguous, and not a one-dimensional goody two shoes. Batman is the Rolling Stones whereas Superman is the Beatles. Boys and girls like an edge of dark danger and mystery. It’s interesting that this film makes no apology for being a film that would be very uncomfortable for any kids to watch. This is aimed at teens and older and it is good to keep to these rules if the children don’t want nightmares.
This film’s director is Christopher Nolan and he does a crackerjack job of cranking up the action and special effects, as you would expect. More than this his script, which he co-wrote with his brother, John Nolan is strong and original in the way it develops these characters.
Christian Bale reprises his role as the man behind the mask in The Dark Knight. He seemed to do a better job realizing that part of his character that is Bruce Wayne than he does the Batman, caped crusader shtick. Nevertheless, if you had no knowledge that these two roles are being played by Christian Bale you might not realize that it was the same man. He really sells both the parts. You feel the man’s pain.
Not so convincing was Maggie Gyllenhall playing the love interest between Batman and the DA. It’s always a little embarrassing when the script says lines like; she’s so beautiful, when clearly she isn’t. Maggie is, at best, cute, but she isn’t a beauty. I found it hard to believe that two such attractive men would battle for her favors when she isn’t even sexy. Perhaps this is very subjective and you will find her stunning?
The film reunites Bale with director Christopher Nolan; they both started with this franchise one film back on Batman Begins. Personally I preferred that movie, as it was a little less heavy on the action and more interesting in relation to the central character.
The story propels Batman around the globe in his never-ending quest to fight the ever-increasing criminal threat.
With the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), the new 'white knight', Batman has been making headway against local crime... that is until a rising criminal mastermind known simply as The Joker (Heath Ledger) unleashes a fresh reign of chaos across Gotham City. Ledger is brilliant in his role as The Joker, but the question of his being nominated for a posthumous Academy Award is a little strange. He does probably deserve it, but this is not a gallantry medal to be awarded after death, but an acting gong that should go to someone who can get some use out of it.
Returning to the performance you will be spellbound by Heath Ledger’s performance of an evil, psychotic, twisted and tortured soul as the Joker. This is method acting with a capital M. There has not been anyone as evil or well portrayed on screen since Al Pacino played the rabid mobster in Scarface. Heath Ledger is fantastic in this role.
To stop this devious new menace - Batman's most personal and vicious enemy yet - he will have to use every high-tech weapon in his arsenal and confront everything he believes. There is still plenty of work to be done for Batman is Gotham is ever to rid itself of its villainous underbelly.
The screenplay is by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, from a story by Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer. The screenplay does leave the audience in some confusion about who was doing what to whom and why, and there is a tendency to throw too much information at us. But, it does its job very well despite these minor faults.
Michael Caine is bloody marvelous as the butler, Alfred, and provides some much needed lighter touches. His delivery just gets better. In fact there has to be a nod to the fact that most of the great talent in this very American movie could not be more British. The director, writers, Caine, Bale, Gary Oldman are all Brits, and the late, and terrific Ledger was from Australia.
But the whole cast is terrific, with special nods to Aaron Eckhart as the DA and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Bruce Wayne’s long suffering but brilliant aide, like Caine, Morgan Freeman is always good to great, and always brings dignity and intelligence to every role he plays. The overall great level of acting has a lot to do with Chirstopher Nolan’s sure touch as a director. It isn’t easy to get such a good ensemble piece of acting with so much action and CGI work running throughout the film, but Nolan pulls it off. Whilst giving plaudits, this film certainly deserves an Oscar nod for its incredible make up, both normal and prosthetic, which is outstanding. Dark cinematography goes with this territory, as do amazing stunt work, unbelievable car chases and unsurpassed action work and pyrotechnics.
My one objection is becoming an increasingly common one for today’s movies; this film could have easily been cut from its somewhat bloated 152 minutes, by at least 20 minutes. It would have been even better if the filmmakers had done so.
If were going to award a score out of 10 this would deserve a very strong 9, for those of you that enjoy an action, popcorn movie with a brain go see it in a cinema with a great big screen and full on sound.