Monday, August 04, 2008

The Dark Knight Review

By now, I shouldn't even need to review this, as you've likely already seen it and loved it. The Dark Knight is, without question, the biggest blockbuster of the summer.

In the sequel to Batman Begins, we once more return to Gotham City where Batman (Christian Bale) continues his fight to keep the city safe, and he's doing a great job. So good of a job in fact that criminals are now forced to meet secretly in broad daylight to avoid Batman's vigilante justice. They're in such a bind, actually, that they go and hire the crazy new super villain in town, the Joker (Heath Ledger), to deal with the caped crusader once and for all.

Without question, the Joker steals the show. While Batman deals with his own internal conflict of how far he needs to go to protect people, the charismatic new D.A., Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), leads the city's own official battle against crime, and Gordon (Gary Oldman) tries to balance the two, simply wanting to do what's right, the Joker motivates, captivates, and carries the film.

Hands down, The Dark Knight's portrayal of the Joker is the best super villain I've ever seen on film, period. The character is a true, sadistic genius who's not only one step ahead of everyone else, but he truly is a better class of criminal. While most of the crime lords who've hired him are only interested in the classic greenback, the Joker wants much, much more out of Gotham City. He's not after money, he's not even after power, no, what he wants is much more basic, which makes him all the more terrifying, loathing, and even philosophical.

As such, The Dark Knight is a very, very dark film, often dealing with morality and blurring the lines between right and wrong, ambition and duty, fate and chance. There is no shining hero, there is no simple-minded villain, and no situation is ever as simple as it seems. Some parts of the film are very predictable, but the bulk of it will surprise you, and leave you wanting to see justice done, and perhaps beyond.

Despite the Joker's line to the contrary, this is a film that does take itself very seriously, and while this has many positive effects, it also causes the film to stumble a bit. One thing that actually annoyed me was Batman's constant internal agonizing over his own actions, and whether he really has gone too far. This is all well and good, and any hero that continually beats the snot out of people is bound to feel a little morbid now and again, but he just keeps on it. In truth, it kind of reminded me of Spider-Man's own dark side conflict from Spider-Man 3, save that The Dark Knight presents it in a much more mature fashion. While he wasn't a crybaby like Peter Parker, he brooded a little too much, enough to make it annoying and wishing that he'd just get on with it.

And that's where the Joker comes in. He pulls the film up from being a simple wallow in self pity and injects it with personality, with flash (and explosions. and other nasty things), and with purpose, something the Sandman wasn't able to do in Spider-Man 3. This is why I consider him to be the greatest silver screen comic book super villain ever, because without him, without this stellar performance, I do believe The Dark Knight would have been another average, dark superhero film.

As a summer blockbuster, The Dark Knight does not disappoint. There are exceptional action sequences, be they fight scenes, chase scenes, or stuff going boom scenes, and again, it all comes back to the wonderful character that is the Joker. Sure, there's another super villain in The Dark Knight who I can't mention for fear of spoilers, but this character, while looking absolutely amazing, felt a slight bit rushed in the end. Again, I can't exactly say why without ruining things, but I trust you'll be able to figure this out on your own. Because if this, The Dark Knight did run a little longer than it needed, and felt a little anti-climatic.

There is also an odd moral decision made right at the end, however I won't mention it here as that would be another major spoiler. Suffice it to see the film's ending could have been a little more positive, and while one character makes a decision to do the responsible thing, it wasn't exactly the right thing to do. Still, I suppose it keeps with the darker theme this way, which might be why they did it.

Okay, enough with my cryptic anti-spoiler talk. The Dark Knight, despite it's flaws, is an awesome flick. If you haven't seen it yet, you will, and like most, you'll love it just the same.

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