Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008) [7]

Let's not get ahead of ourselves here fanboys; yes, The Dark Knight is an enjoyable movie but is it really a great work of cinema? My gut tells me no, but still, it is about as good as you could ask for in a superhero summer blockbuster. Just because a summer blockbuster has a storyline with intelligence and is not solely filled with explosions and ridiculous dialogue does not make it a masterpiece. The film definitely goes deeper than its CGI exterior and attempts to have a dialogue with bigger issue but after all, it's just a comic book movie. If that's harsh, I really don't mean it to be; that's just the way I feel about this type of movie. Unless the Watchmen film can prove me wrong.

As for the film itself, Nolan certainly provides the story and characters with a richness and depth that has been sorely lacking from a film of this type (I haven't seen Batman Begins, so maybe I'm a little behind in the rejuvenation of the Batman franchise). The story deals with more moral ambiguities and gray areas than others. Yes, Heath Ledger's performance is mesmerizing, mostly because it's completely unexpected in the context of Jack Nicholson's Joker. It all works and makes an entertaining film, but still, by playing to the masses, it makes a lot of concessions. All of the important moral ideals being wrestled with are blatantly explained throughout, most notably where Alfred has to explain to Batman and everyone just what the Joker entails. The average, mouth breathing multiplex goer may need this explained to them but I find it a big detriment. Christian Bale as Batman is there simply to exist, to play off Ledger's Joker, as Ledger takes his character to the edge while Bale has no choice but to be restrained in contrast. I've greatly admired Nolan as a filmmaker but here he has earned the capital to take a big risk in a shallow genre and while he does some admirable things, he still plays it too close to the book. The Dark Knight is infinitely better than most films of its ilk and since it does do more than explode and look good, critics have fawned over it. It's certainly entertaining but does it stack up in terms of craft and emotional payoff as Hou's film that I just reviewed. Not really.

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