innocent_man: (l&o&b)
[personal profile] innocent_man
The Dark Knight is the sequel to Batman Begins, and probably the grimmest superhero movie ever. Keeping the same gritty-realistic feel as its predecessor, it adds in a truly terrifying Oscar-winning performance by Heath Ledger as the Joker, and tells a complex and kind of sad story about the rise and fall of Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart, in an Oscar-worthy performance, IMO).

Christian Bale returns as Bruce Wayne, but really, he's overshadowed by the other characters. That isn't a knock on his performance, really, because he does fine with it, it's just that everyone else - Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), the Joker, Dent, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal, taking over for Katie Holmes after she sold her soul to Scientology), Alfred (Michael Caine) - is just more interesting. Batman is trying to figure out whether or not his nightly antics are helping or hurting. The question of escalation, raised at the end of Batman Begins, is a central conflict here.

Honestly, this movie strips out a lot of the comic-booky nonsense from the first movie (the League of Shadows' grand plan was, let's be honest, pretty absurd). Yes, Batman perpetrates some rendition on a Chinese national, but it's not hard to imagine American troops doing the same thing. Yes, the villain wears makeup, but he's clearly off his rocker. The thing that's hard to accept is how carefully the Joker sets it all up and how he seems to be one step ahead of everyone, but it's still not completely unbelievable, mostly because you get the sense that if anything had gone screwy with his plans, if the police had made him, then he was always ready to say "fuck it" and go out guns blazing.

But the into the mix is Dent, trying to introduce a little order and winding up a raving nutbar after Dawes dies. I love the way Eckhart telegraphs that Dent was always just a little unhinged, even before the disfigurement. It doesn't seem out of nowhere when he puts on the suit and starts deciding life or death with the flip of a coin, and by making Two-Face a short-term villain, that whole "realism" thing just gets underlined. Dent is out for 24 hours of revenge. He never expected to survive the night, and that's a much more effective portrayal than making him a crime boss obsessed with duality.

I feel a little uncomfortable about using Dawes as a plot device, but I also feel like it was a pretty effective use of character death. And let's be honest - it isn't like Batman finds her in the fridge. She dies because Joker lied about where she was, and she dies thinking that Batman chose to save Dent over her. That kind of betrayal is pretty heart-wrenching, and again, pretty fucking dark for a movie about a dude who dresses up as a bat.

I'm very much looking forward to The Dark Knight Rises. I'm also looking forward to the inevitable reboot of the Batman franchise, not because I think this one didn't work (it did, obviously), but because I want to see a different, potentially more over-the-top, take on the character. We've seen badly-done grim (Burton), badly-done camp (Schumacher) and now extremely well-done grim (Nolan). Show me Batman in the larger context of the DC Universe. Marvel threw down the gauntlet, DC. Pick that shit up.

My grade: A
Rewatch value: Medium-low. It's long and intense.

Next up: Darkman


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