Monday, July 28, 2008

The Dark Knight


Among the superheroes, atleast the ones I'm familiar with, Batman is the darkest. Right from his origins to his city to his villains, he is more serious and darker than other superheroes like Superman and Spider-man. This darkness was reflected in the Batman movies when Tim Burton was at the helm but once Schumacher took over, the films went against the spirit of the comics, becoming campy, silly and light. Christopher Nolan restored respect to Batman with Batman Begins and he continues the job with The Dark Knight, which is more ambitious and more mature than its predecessor. Anchored by a scene-stealing performance by Heath Ledger and balancing character exposition perfectly with action, it is easily the best Batman yet.

Though called a superhero, Batman is human and has no special powers, unlike most of his peers. The movie works because it recognizes this and humanizes him. He might wear a batsuit and have some cool gizmos but he faces real problems and suffers real emotions. He is a tortured individual and the movie manages to convey this.

Conflict is what drives The Dark Knight. Whether it's Batman having to choose between unmasking himself and facing the prospect of the Joker killing more people or having to pick between saving Rachel and Dent, the film constantly puts him in situations where he has to decide between equally important options. And what elevates the film is that there is no easy way out. Superheroes always have conflicts(like in Spider-man where he had to choose between saving Mary Jane and a busload of people) but they are usually cinematic ones where we know the superhero will find a way to have his cake and eat it too. Not here. Batman isn't always able to accomplish both his choices and the consequences of his actions are real and tragic. So there is genuine tension, the one aspect missing from other superhero films.

The action sequences are picturized with flair but don't overwhelm the movie. The Batbike is a really cool, nice addition and the couple of chases featuring it are superb. Going against the norm, Nolan makes the climax rather low-key as far as action goes.

Even without the shadow of Heath Ledger's untimely death hanging over his role as the Joker, it is a stunning performance. His gestures and body language create a truly unique character who exudes a quiet menace. He performs the role without the grandstanding that marked Nicholson's interpretation of the same character and this makes him more real and scarier. Bale is perfect as Wayne and does the quiet, serious part well without coming off as snobbish. Aaron Eckhart is sincere as the DA crusading against crime while Maggie Gyllenhal takes over from Katie Holmes as Rachel. Michael Caine(as Alfred) and Morgan Freeman(as Lucius Fox), inspite of being supporting characters, have their moments.

13 Comments:

At 3:40 AM, Anonymous Rags said...

Very succinct....Good review....is there a media hype or does the movie really deserve the No 1 spot at IMDB top 250 (all time)?

Personal opinion: I believe this is the best superhero movie Ive seen...Breathtakingly brilliant

 
At 4:03 AM, OpenID G@|\\|E$# said...

I like the way batman is shown contemplating his next step rather than the devil may care attitude of other superheros. Here, he is human after all.

Iron man and Batman begins were good movies as they explored the birth of Iron man and Batman.Batman begins was much better than Iron man, though. But "The Dark Knight" beats all superhero movies hands down.

@ Rags,
The movie should move down to another position in some time, me thinks.

 
At 7:05 AM, Anonymous ram said...

It was a terrific movie...heath ledger tread the line between scene stealing and scenery chewing superbly...his was a magnetic performance. you're rite- the dilemmas were what really made the movie gripping...i thought aaron eckhart turned in a very impressive performance esp. in the final stages of the movie...
the action sequence in hong kong took one's breath away...

 
At 10:37 AM, Blogger S.Ganesh Kumar said...

Considering Fantasy/Superhero flicks won't get good acclaim from critics,
I'm surprised by the tremendous acclaim which this film is getting all over and the IMDB rating is even more surprising!Keen to watch it!:)

 
At 12:23 PM, Anonymous Prakash said...

rags, #1 on imdb! Wow! Newer movies usually rate higher, and then gradually slide down. But Batman already has 150K+ votes ...

bb/all, my 5 year old is a big superhero nut. He wants to watch the Dark Knight, but I heard it may be too dark for kids. Thoughts?

 
At 1:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not sure if its even correct to compare Superman (naturally gifted), Spiderman (artificially gifted) and Batman/Ironman (gifted himself with powers!). One has to view it from the way these stories were written, the director's decision on the how the movie was supposed to feel and just be happy if the director has been honest with his intent. In that sense, I would not rate Superman Returns very highly. A good movie, but just cant take the fact that humans save Superman!!!

Ironman actually took me by surprise. The character is developed very well from a intelligent maverick to a responsible person. The tone was pretty light and I enjoyed every minute of it.

I've not seen Dark Night but as much as I think I am going to enjoy it, I am sure I wud end up saying I liked Ironman as much as I liked the Dark Night.

 
At 7:28 PM, Blogger Ramki said...

The Dark Knight rocks ! I had to see this movie in tamizh - believe me , it still rocked !!

Ironically , HL has become a JOKER at the prime of his career .

Rags , i agree this is the best emotional , involving super-heroes with a great balance between characterisation,conflict , visual gimmicks.

Also the editing was word class. I wouldn'bt surprised if HL,editor gets an oscar for this.

 
At 7:30 PM, Blogger Ramki said...

I believe christopher Nolan is the director of memento

 
At 9:51 PM, Anonymous Rags said...

True that the movie is visually top class.....Nolan is a genius.....when I saw Jack Nicholson as the Joker, I was impressed.... I have my doubts now with HL's performance (although JN happens to be one of my all time fav, I am just comparing the same role performed by two actors)

@prakash....I am not sure if its ideal for a 5 year old, with the Two face character and deadly joker expressions

 
At 9:56 PM, Blogger Babu said...

Cant wait for the next sequel where joker is in the asylum and may be Angelina as Catwomen.

I like the way Nolan tries to bring realism to the character even though u can debate if its possible or not, etc etc...
Hence the topic whether this is really a super hero movie as it was portrayed before.

Brilliant movie, every scene was itched well..I loved it when he makes the pencil disappear in the beginning and says "taadaa its gone", instant classic...

Once u become a big gun director u have to make a Triology aiyee :-D

 
At 10:50 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

rags, new movies always earn a high spot on imdb as the fans vote in large numbers. not sure i'd rank it #1 of all time but it'll rank pretty high :)

ganesh, yep the crises he encounters are all serious and the way he is forced to choose instead of getting an easy way out is what made is so involving :)

ram, "heath ledger tread the line between scene stealing and scenery chewing superbly" - thats perfect. he was magnetic and still didn't dominate the movie the way nicholson did. u didn't cheer for the character :)

ganeshkumar, hurry up and watch it :)

prakash, i agree with rags. i don't think this one is for a 5 yr old :)

anon, i liked 'superman returns' but i think u're exactly right. the director handled it seriously and with some angst/darkness but thats not what we expect out of a superman movie. nolan here gave us exactly what we look for in a batman movie :)

ramki, didn't notice the editing in particular but don't think anything was bad in it :)
and yes, nolan directed 'memento' and also 'prestige' :)

babu, "Angelina as Catwomen" - is that ur dream or did u actually read it as a rumor somewhere? :)

 
At 9:22 PM, Blogger Babu said...

Balaji,
I did read somewhere but the production company did not reveal whether it was the spin off catwomen (Hally Berry) or this one. I wud prefer the latter ;-)

 
At 2:44 PM, Anonymous movie buff said...

i still wish Katie Holmes had stayed on board as Rachel Dawes for the Dark Knight; it was like the time spent getting familiar with her character in Batman Begins was wasted...

 

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