The Dark Knight
Back in 2005, Christopher Nolan re-imaged Batman into a darker, grittier, some how more realistic superhero. He picked Christian Bale for the lead role and he proved to be worth his weight in gold – as he does in most of his movies. Surrounded by a supporting cast that included Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman the Batman Franchise was brought back from depths of the campy ridiculousness of the 90s when a string of directors and terrible actors all but destroyed the man in black.
Three years later and Nolan has re-united the cast, and bought a new star to shine front and center, Heath ledger as The Joker. I’ll be honest and say that initially this worried me. The Joker was a character that had annoyed me immensely in the past – mainly due to Jack Nicholson’s less than serious portrayal in Tim Burton’s 1989 version of Batman.
Fortunately Nolan knows his stuff, and Heath embraced the role of a sociopathic killer who does everything, not for personal gain, but just because he enjoys anarchy. A character who could spread carnage throughout the entire movie with impunity.
The Dark Knight is a movie that focuses on The Joker; Batman is almost relegated to an also starred position. It’s The Joker who drives the movie, who gives depth to its darkness.
It’s in The Joker that we find a character so bad, yet so lovable. We almost want to embrace him for his tenacity, for his honest – if somewhat corrupt – motives. Fortunately we have Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent to remind us which path to follow.
Why so serious?
It’s a question the Joker asks of various people in the movie. The joker is out to cause havoc, and have fun doing it. But he has a serious theory behind his motives: he believes that everyone is inherently evil, that they, given the conditions, would do just what he is doing. That all anyone really wants is a bit or anarchy.
Batman however has a different outlook, he wants people to take a stand and for Gotham to clean itself up and put him out of a job.
The result is an action packed, adrenaline fuelled ride that that starts off in top gear and never lets up, pounding through the two and a half hours at a blazing speed and leaving you breathless by the end of the movie.
The darker more serious tone of the movie is supported by the visual direction and the tonnage of violence, indeed the movie begins with backstabbing, murderous, criminals on a rampage. But the violence never seems gratuitous or overtly focussed on – rather like Joker’s reason for being, the violence tells the story of Gotham – a City that is still enveloped in darkness, but a city that has the glimmer of hope that comes with the breaking of dawn.
What about the Oscar?
Recently there has been a lot of buzz about Heath deserving an Oscar for his performance as the Joker. It was indeed a great performance, but I’m not sure it had the depth required for such an accolade. It was a performance that made the movie, but in the end he was a character that never evolved. I’d certainly like to see The Dark Knight movie honoured with an Oscar or two, maybe for production values or make up, as I think it deserves recognition beyond the Box Office records it’s been smashing, but I don’t think one individual deserves the credit for The Dark Knight.
The best movie of the year?
Probably not. I’d be prepared to go out on a limb and say The Dark Knight is the best Hollywood Blockbuster movie of the year. I don’t think anything else in that category will be able to touch it, but having seen a number of stand out performances during the Auckland International Film Festival, I feel the need to remind people that good movies come in all kinds of different packaging.
IMAX or not to IMAX
I was lucky enough to see The Dark Knight on the big IMAX screen. The opening scenes are filmed for the IMAX and fill the entire screen. It’s mesmerising and dizzying, giving the opening a grand sense of scale. Most of the movie however is filmed in standard wide screen format, that looks impressive on the IMAX screen, and the transition between the two formats is seamless and there are numerous scenes throughout the movie that encompass the full screen effect. Not having seen The Dark Knight on a standard cinema screen I can’t compare the two, but this I will say; if you’ve never seen a movie on the IMAX, this would be the one to see.
Food for thought (spoilers):
With all the talk of darkness and anarchy, it would be easy to dismiss this movie as self-indulgent entertainment. And it is. That’s one of the purposes of the movie industry. But also, as with most movies, it’s a form of story telling, and many stories have stories within them. It’s in these stories that the discerning viewer can find hidden gems. One such gem to look out for is during the scene where The Joker has two ferries packed with people set to blow up, but he’s leaving the choice as to who lives and who dies up to the people on the ferries. It’s the ace up his sleeve to prove his point, but them something unexpected happens.
Reviewed by: Jonathan Read.
Rating: M – Contains Violence.
Duration: 152 mins.
Genre: Action, Crime.
Director: Christopher Nolan.
Actors: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman.
Release Date: July 24, 2008.