Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The Dark Knight: "This movie kills ass. Hard."
More than two weeks ago, I became one of the first people in Los Angeles to see The Dark Knight in its completed form. I held back my impressions of the movie, at least to the general public, lest I get busted by anyone at Warner Bros. for jumping the gun - though that didn't stop the likes of Rolling Stone. And now that we're less than 48 hours from the megarelease and every outlet has expressed their opinion about Knight, I risk looking like a sycophant in revealing my feelings about the film. So call me a copycat for saying what's true - because this movie kicks ass. Hard.
And it's not just because of the presence of Heath Ledger as the Joker, though that's a large, large chunk of the movie's overall success. Ledger, whose acting talents obviously were no secret going on, is a revelation as this maniacal, malevolent evil doer who is literally capable of doing anything and everything for no other reason that he can, so he does. There is no trace here of Ennis del Mar or Ned Kelly or any of the other characters he played during his brief career. Indeed, there's no trace of Heath Ledger. When you forget that you're watching an actor play a role, the job has been done. All of the Oscar talk revolving around Ledger is more than true - it's a rock-solid guarantee that he will be among the final five up for Supporting Actor when the nominations are announced exactly one year after his death. (Ledger is so excellent that to watch him as the Joker is almost as heartbreaking as it is exhilarating, for obvious reasons.)
There's much, more to enjoy than just Ledger, though. All of the acting is top-notch, particularly Christian Bale as the tormented Caped Crusader; Michael Caine as his wry and wise butler, Alfred; and Aaron Eckhart as "white knight" district attorney Harvey Dent, who brings a whole new meaning to the term "split personality" when he is transformed into Two-Face with an assist from the Joke. Eckhart brings a different vision to the Two-Face character, but one that is just as chilling as the original. And the story woven by director Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan is dense with material and character development, along with some action set pieces that are all the more enthralling because of Nolan's use of IMAX cameras for about 20 minutes of the film, the first use of that technology in a mainstream feature film. The IMAX images do make a difference, even when seen on a standard screen. And the cinematography by Wally Pfister, which takes great advantage of Knight's locations in Chicago (and, in one sequence, Hong Kong), should net him a Oscar nod to go along with the one he received for Batman Begins in 2005. (That Batpod is killer, by the way.)
Overall, Nolan has created, if not a complete masterpiece, about as close as you can get to one. The Dark Knight is not just a great comic-book yarn or summer action movie; it is a superlative crime drama in the tradition of something that Martin Scorsese or Francis Ford Coppola would create in their primes. The only drawback - besides a lengthy running time that could interfere with Knight's chances of reeling in the highest-grossing non-holiday opening weekend of all time - is that it may set the bar too high for forthcoming superheroes flicks, including the inevitable third entry in Nolan's Batman trilogy.
Now go forth and see this film. Good luck getting a ticket, though!
Note: A warning for the grownups: Superhero movie,yes, but definitely not for the kiddies. There is mayhem aplenty here, and not the warm and fuzzy kind. I wouldn't be surprised if the original cut was an R. Parents would be wise to heed the PG-13 rating, no mater how much the tiny tykes in your house protest.
Note 2: I predict that The Dark Knight will gross at least $150 million in its first three days. I don't know if that will be the all-time record, but who cares? That's a lot of cash!