20 July 2008

Review: The Dark Knight

Genre: Action (Superhero) / Drama

Thank you!! THANK YOU!!!

O, I am so pleased to be able to write a positive review for a film this summer! So, truly, I thank Christopher Nolan and all else involved in this latest 'Batman' project for giving me one about which to do so!

Now, into the meat of it: The Dark Knight is quite starkly not your average or typical Action (Superhero) flick: Lacking all sense of purposeful abandon, gratuitous sexuality (usually veering towards near-medieval misogyny), and solitary drive toward the 'cool factor' (e. g., overblown special effects and absurdly 'cutting-edge' technology), the film reads more like an "Intro. to Philosophy", moral debate than a summer smash; but that, my friends and readers, is what makes it o-so-much better - o-so-much more than that menial two-word description. (O, I knew I couldn't be wrong about both estimations of actors in this past week's summer openings! [See my earlier posting regarding Mamma Mia!.]) The screenplay justly and deftly, not only works in and thoroughly around itself the set-up that was created by the film's chronological predecessor Batman Begins, but also envelops and develops a sense of moral purposefulness and only occasionally outright didacticism that elevates and lifts the premise of the 'Superhero et al.' out of its dated Keds and plastic wrappings into the shoes of a much more sophisticated adult who prefers Kant over comic. Pressing into questions of what may stand in preexisting moral quandaries and of what difficulties arise in attempting to create one's own moral universe and also, more generally, of whether elementally good or bad can ever be exclusively imparted or fixed into a person (though I do recognize the "so what?" motion on that last one because almost all other Action [Superhero] films tackle the same topic as a necessity of their collective genre), the film rides out moral experiments that are both actively and academically effective and engaging; quietly alluding to, or encompassing, questions - at least in this filmgoer's mind - brought to the fore earlier by intelligent films, as wide and as varied as WarGames (1983) and Bullets over Broadway (1994). And - not only does it press into such questions but moreover - it attempts to even answer them(!), as best as any of them can be answered, by so riding out its moral experiments to their (idealistic) conclusions, despite the typical 'Superhero' garble that such conclusions in this genre practically insert. (See the Two Ferries experiment of the later part of the film here.) O, what a thrill it was to see such attempts being valorously made and forayed on the screen in a film of this genre! A+, seriously, for this effort and its resultant, still readable(!), intelligent complexity.
But, sadly, the film is not all successive A+s and commendations: about the cinematography I on more than one occasion felt, "O, why, why did they light it this way?"; about the editing I on more than one occasion thought, "O, but what ever happened to [prominent plot part] in the end?"; and about the blocking/direction I on more than one occasion stopped, "Wait, they would never really arrange this way, would they?" No, the film does flaw itself up in these three areas, as well as perhaps it does in its slow slow build toward palpable moral-realization: Shafty unfocused lighting, untied unfinished storytrails, and incongruous potentially awkward configurations are woefully deletrious to any film but especially so to any one like this; but its handy argumentative screenwriting and capable acting, bolstered yes by the 'cool-factor' action-paced sequences, somehow overcome the worst of those deletions, which would likely have otherwise sent this film to the place where its sadder brethren, like 1997's Batman & Robin, have gone to die: Comic-Con retro. Mr. Bale makes for a cocky if gruff and stiff, new-worldly Bruce Wayne/Batman, Ms. Gyllenhaal more than aptly takes over for the abandoning Ms. Holmes Rachel Dawes, and Mr. Freeman as Lucius Fox places his smirks in all the right locations.
And Mr. Ledger - o, Mr. Ledger. Now, this filmgoer and filmreviewer know that there has been much talk and much buzz about the quality of this beloved actor's supporting performance as The Joker, as much as there has been about the possibility of his garnering at least a Supporting Actor Oscar nomination come next year, if not a win, posthumous for his work; now, it is not my place to make a wager similar either for or against such a claim or declaration, as (first) it is probably too early to make such a high-level call, (second) it could be potentially jinxing to that claim or declaration to do so, and (third) the erraticism of the Academy is really these days not something anyone can be said to truly lay significant claim on knowing or predicting; but I will say, it would not in any way be against my estimations for such a claim or declaration to be eventually proved to be the unmitigated case. Mr. Ledger was in a word remarkable in this rôle, as deftly, deeply, and originally invigorating himself into this famous character as well as did Mr. Pacino into that great beacon of a (comic-book-) villainous perfomance, his Big Boy Caprice in 1994's Dick Tracy (for which he himself nearly won the Oscar) - and saying so is really saying something: Any antagonistic performance that recollects the merits of that (Pacino) rôle is meritorious itself indeed. If it mean anything, I beg you, Academy, take notice and do not lose sight and memory in the six-month to come.
And, as for the set-up for the potential sequel to this latest Batman installment, Aaron Eckhart, take notice: slipping into Tommy Lee Jones' former role in this latest array of classic comic villains is a tall order that will likely take more than you had to offer in this preliminary filmline. The Batman, fortunally, will only keep getting better.

Grade: B+/B

Post a Comment