I get a lot of crap from friends when I tell them that I take off of work for movie openings like Hulk and of course, The Dark Knight. For The Dark Knight premiere, I drove 1 hr. and 45 minutes down the Garden State Parkway to Atlantic City and got a comped hotel room so I can make a big event of it. And why not? I don’t really make a big deal about anything so THIS is a HUGE deal for me. Some people took off work to go see the NY Giants Victory parade in the city, but I think seeing The Dark Knight is quite possibly the biggest event in my life since the 1989 Batman film came out! So to all of those people who think I’m crazy for doing these things, let me just say that I doubt I’m the only one. If you’re going to make a big deal about something, let it be this film.
Now, it would be a colossal task for me to fully express all of the thoughts going through my head after seeing The Dark Knight in Imax yesterday. It’s very possible that I would wind up writing a 35 page dissertation on the film. Brevity has never been a strong point in my writing. I’ll try my best to summarize my main thoughts about the film.
We arrived at the Imax theater in the Tropicana in Atlantic City at 10:30 am and people had already started waiting on line at 10:00 am! Luckily, I purchased advance tickets so we had nothing to worry except waiting to get let into the theater. I looked around at the line and saw a young guy dressed as Ledger’s version of the Joker face paint and all! I also spotted many Batman shirts and I noticed other people checking mine out. (it’s pictured above) There was an enormous standee that featured Batman riding the Batpod out of the standee in a 3-D effect. Large hanging posters of the Dark Knight adorned the theater. I scanned across the concession stand to see typical theater fare although they did offer ICEE’s. I’m not talking about Slurpees, or slush puppies…this was the real deal! ICEE’s have always been my favorite but they are very hard to find in my area for some reason. So I got myself a nice large cherry ICEE and a large popcorn. (The large was the smallest they had since various jumbo sizes took over for large) Those two items came out to 13 bucks! Thieves! Okay, okay…enough of the build up! Get to the good stuff!
Quite a few short scenes kick this film off to a fast paced start. We’re reintroduced into Gotham City in what feels like moments. And was it me, or was it exciting to see Scarecrow again? I wouldn’t complain if he showed up in the next film! Within the opening of the film I had the feeling that I was finally watching a comic book movie that was ripped out of the pages. It was not just some Hollywood movie trying to masquerade as a comic movie. The phrase “they finally got it right,” is a total understatement.
Heath Ledger as the Joker
Simply the work of legend. If the Joker was REAL, he would be Heath Ledger. It’s not possible that he acted in this role…he actually became the Joker. Ledger and Bale face off with each other throughout the film and we’re able to see the struggle between chaos and order unfold before our eyes. The reason why Joker is Batman’s most famous villain is because it creates a metaphor. We aren’t just witnessing two tormented souls opposing one another, it’s two powerful forces, disorder and harmony, clashing. Ledger was humorous, sarcastic, and psychotic. The Joker’s trademark laugh wasn’t overused. You’ll notice his laughter at the most effective moments. The story he tells about his father where the “Why So Serious” tag line shows up is some unsettling stuff. Ledger seemed as if he knew he was going to basically create a whole new character. Even though he was playing such an over the top maniacal character, he displayed so many subtleties. While being occasionally low key he still comes off as a psycho. We even see Ledger disguised in a nurses uniform and wig, bringing to mind classic Joker pranks. In reality, Ledger’s Joker wasn’t “So Serious,” because he provided plenty of one liners and comic relief. He’s genuinely humorous while being psychologically disturbing and mentally sadistic.
Minor Origin Tweaks
The film changes the Joker’s origin as well as Two-Face’s. Even though the changes are minor, TDK, and its predecessor Batman Begins, still stand overall as pretty faithful to the comic book. Does anyone have a problem with these changes? Did it bother you that Harvey Dent wasn’t hit with chemicals in a courtroom? Personally I’m a purist and I still like the origin of the Joker/Red Hood falling into the vat of chemicals. Though, to make it seem more realistic they went in a different direction. Even though they went a bit more horrific than I imagined, I really love how Two-Face’s “bad side” looked. It reminded me of an alien from They Live, very frightening. I didn’t agree with Two-Face’s fate but hey, anything can happen in Gotham, right?
Defining a Hero
What a hero is. A Hero isn’t infallible. Those in the public eye that Gotham looks to such as Harvey Dent and Batman are always under public scrutiny. Even in attempting to do good for the overall well being of Gotham, they’re under a microscope. The way the film ended leaves a feeling of a very clean slate as if anything is possible in the Batman universe. Instead of the film ending with a “tip off” as to who the next villain will be, (as in Batman Begins w/Joker card) The Dark Knight ends by bringing Batman back into focus. The reason why he exists is always being questioned and justified. Bruce Wayne even questions at times if his battle against crime causes more problems than it does help the city. At the end of the film we witness “The Batman” as a character whom we’ve seen for almost 70 years, a vigilante. A person whose own demons were enough to spark his life’s crusade against crime but someone who evolves into a hero who cares deeply about the welfare of a city that seems to be overrun with over the top criminal masterminds.
What a treat it is to see a film in an Imax theater. The Imax scenes were downright amazing an immersed me right into the film. The action sequences were masterfully executed and I felt like I was actually in the SWAT team van with Harvey Dent during the chase scene. After having seen Batman Begins and Superman Returns both in Imax this film took the technology to the next level.
Cast and Appearances
It was a refreshing moment when I heard that Anthony Michael Hall was going to have a role in The Dark Knight. He’s been one of my favorite actors since I was a kid and I hope he continues to be in genre roles now since Dead Zone was cancelled. Eric Roberts was a perfect fit for Sal Maroni. It was also great to see William Fichtner play the bank manager, or as I call him, the GUY WHO’S IN EVERYTHING! The entire cast are more comfortable with their parts this time. Oldman’s Gordon becomes a stronger character while Freeman’s Lucious Fox grows weary of the lengths Wayne will go for his cause. In ’95 I thought Tommy Lee Jones was a great choice for Two-Face. Fast forward 13 years and after watching Aaron Eckhart hit the nail on the head that’s pictured on the double sided coin of his… Tommy Lee Jones was an abortion. He had no business even playing the character.
I had a felling that Gyllenhaal would play a better Rachel Dawes than Holmes did and I was right. Holmes played Dawes very stiff and bitter but I never understood why. No matter her motivation being career success or the prosperity of Gotham City, Gyllenhaal showed more signs of life in her scenes than Holmes did. Gyllenhaal actually flirts with Dent in the film which made me feel like she was more human. Holmes was too dull and boring. Dawes spiced things up a little bit. She played her part less morose and she didn’t show signs of some sort of internal struggle with herself like Holmes did. I appreciated that Gyllenhaal smiled frequently and she just evoked more positive emotions and normal vibes. I don’t agree with the casting of Holmes or Gyllenhaal since I picture Bruce Wayne falling for a hot piece of ass like Talia Al Ghul not a run of the mill average Maggie or Katie. The scene after Batman saves Rachel after a scary fall, she tells him “let’s never do this again.” The humor that followed up such an intense moment reminded me of when Batman (Keaton) said to Vicki Vale (Basinger) “you weigh a little more than 108.” It’s that humor that tickles your stomach after you just got out of a hairy situation.
The drama was simply gripping at times. There are a number of truly intense moments where I was on the edge of my seat and genuinely didn’t know what was going to happen. I think the triumph of the film lies with the details. The soundtrack by Hans Zimmer builds, takes cover, and then slowly creeps up again. The strategic points of silence during aftermaths of destruction and the subtle low repetitions of notes sunk my mind deeper into the drama. The cinematography is the best in any super hero film so far and probably any film I’ve seen this year. All of these fine nuances elevated The Dark Knight into a category of a “fine film.”
Along with all of the revolutionary aspects of this installment of Batman, it’s now made superhero films possible to exist as a quality film without a critic painfully admitting “good for a superhero film.” For the rest of your life you’ll never have to hear someone snicker when you tell them that The Dark Knight is your favorite film. Although they WILL still snicker if you tell them it’s Batman and Robin
. I didn’t want the film to end. If Nolan had made a never ending batman film I would’ve sat in the theater for the rest of my life watching the many exploits of the Dark Knight unfold before my eyes.
**Getting to see the Watchmen trailer was enthralling. It only leads me to believe that DC IS actually on the right track with their superhero franchise. The DC universe, if utilized correctly, could stand up against Marvel any day. All WB needs is about 2 or 3 more directors as capable and inspired as Christopher Nolan and casts who work as harmoniously as the cast of the Batman franchise.