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Monday, July 21, 2008

Holy Crap, Go See Dark Knight



I try not to make ludicrous claims about movies. I don't think I generally buy into movie hype, especially those with the most hype of all: summer "blockbusters."

But if there's one movie that should be overblown this summer, without a doubt, it should be The Dark Knight.

The second film in the Christian Bale era is totally deserving of all its hype, unlike just about every superhero film ever. It's clear that the makers of the film sought to elevate the genre into something more than CG stunts and oversimplified central themes.

Let's talk about what separates DK from the rest of the pack:

- FULLY DEVELOPED CHARACTERS. In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne was really given the most attention and detail. Most of the other people in the film believed in singular principles and more or less followed them. Not the case in Dark Knight. In fact, Batman seems to often take a backseat to other characters in the film - Harvey Dent, Commissioner Gordon, Rachel and even Alfred are pushed into difficult situations and face choices that make them seem more real. An emphasis on what the common person can do in the face of evil is prevalent throughout the film, making it more relatable.

- COMPLEX AND VARIED THEMES. One of the most annoying things about superhero films to me are how their scripts seem to want to beat you over the head with one singular lesson. Whenever I hear "with great power comes great responsibility," I want to scream. Even Batman Beginswas restricted by this universal code. However, Dark Knight probes a few different issues - not only the powerful justice v. mercy theme from the first installment, but also about the government's ability to maintain semblance of authority in chaos, personal desires v. civic duty and the burden of responsibility. There are a lot of layers in this film, and the character arcs are dynamic, creating fascinating case studies in any number of issues that great films ponder.

- HEATH LEDGER'S JOKER. I can't tell you enough how I'm not just saying this because Ledger died. I'm saying it because this version of the Joker is not only the greatest superhero villain ever, he ranks with great villain performances in all film, such as Hannibal Lecter, Norman Bates, Bill the Butcher Cutting and other great ones. This is not the Heath Ledger you know and love, nor is it the Joker we're all familiar with. This Joker combines the sick madness of a Hannibal with the unstoppable energy of a Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers: He is disturbingly creative with his twisted calculations and you feel like he just can't be stopped, no matter what. I have a problem with the sadistic Saw movies, but I think this villain is a perfect balance of perversion and awe-striking power. He personifies anarchy, and he's more of a force of nature in the movie rather than a character. Best supporting actor without a doubt, and I don't even need to know who else is nominated.

Beyond length and some overly ambitious Batman gadgets, this movie has few flaws. They got rid of Katie Holmes, which was a dramatic improvement. Here and there, you might disagree with some of the logic of certain decisions, but overall, the choices are necessary to advance the plot.

The Dark Knight is more than just a great superhero film, it's a amazing drama as well. When I say it's deserving of an Oscar, I really mean it. Beyond the fantastic nature of some of the action, there's a load of really deep perspectives and ideas hidden in the relationships and choices characters make in this film. I would call it the Crash of the superhero genre, but I actually like this film more than Crash.

I don't care if you're waiting for it to go out on video: Don't wait. I don't care if you don't like superhero movies. Give it a chance. I don't care if you won't go because you don't want to go alone. I'll go with you. I'll even drive you there.

I went in expecting Batman Begins II, but Dark Knight is something wholly different. Hopefully, it will encourage filmmakers of the perennial superhero hits to aim high in areas other than profit.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cool - nice post - looks like this should be one helluva movie.


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patrick said...

kudos to the makers Dark Knight for their record breaking opening weekend... it's no wonder there's talk of another one coming out ASAP

Christopher Blunck said...

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Anonymous said...

I've seen it four times now. It shot right up to number two on my All Time Faves list (sorry, Batman, but Lord of the Rings is still #1). This review is right on the money.

Ledger was so good that it broke my heart. I went home after my first viewing and cried. :'(