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Thursday, July 24, 2008

At the movies: "The Dark Knight"


The Dark Knight
Action/drama, 2008

Welcome back to Gotham City, not exactly the most welcoming of places.

The Dark Knight picks up about a year after Batman Begins, and some of Gotham's citizens believe that things have gotten worse since Batman came on the scene - and at times, Batman himself wonders the same thing. He has his (not very effective) imitators, and his detractors, including Gotham D.A. Harvey Dent. Since he operates as a vigilante, no one really knows what rules he follows, and he only has the trust of a very few people - and at least one of them, Gotham Police Lt. Jim Gordon, doesn't know his true identity. Gotham's criminal mob doesn't care much about who's under the mask; they just know he's making life difficult, and the proverbial wild card comes their way to present a solution. "Wild Card" is a far more accurate description of the menacing, dangerously unpredictable character better known as The Joker - he is not at all a funny guy.

My husband absolutely loved Batman Begins and has been eagerly anticipating the release of The Dark Knight all year. I was far more ambivalent about it, since the first film never really connected with me - I respected it artistically, but I just couldn't warm to it - but I was pretty sure I'd see it with him anyway. Excellent decision. Whatever elements I felt were missing in Batman Begins are present in The Dark Knight, and by that I mean far more than storyline and special effects, neither of which was really a problem in the earlier movie. Having said that, I think the story in The Dark Knight is much more compelling; while I find superhero "origin stories" interesting, sometimes the sequels are an improvement (no, seriously) because the background's already been established and the movie can get directly into the crisis at hand.

What makes the crisis at hand particularly involving here, from my perspective, is that the story's focus is fairly well spread among three main characters this time: Bruce Wayne/Batman (still conflicted over his mission); Harvey Dent, the DA whose crusade to clean up Gotham mirrors Batman's, although it uses very different tactics; and The Joker, a force of anarchy like no one has ever seen before. Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker has been justly praised; this character is truly scary, and impossible not to watch. But don't for a minute think that this is a character study, though; even at 2.5 hours running time, it's a fast-moving, intelligent (if sometimes a little confusing, at least for me), high-intensity action drama.

Batman was the first "superhero" without superpowers, and his "hero" qualifications aren't always clear-cut, which is what makes him interesting. He's not a "white knight" who will deliver Gotham out of the hands of the mob, but a dark knight - and while eventually he may be able to achieve the same goal, his methods will be very different.

As I mentioned, I didn't really warm to Batman Begins, but The Dark Knight engaged me from the very beginning. It's not a "feel-good" movie, and not even particularly fun - if you want a fun superhero movie this summer, see Iron Man (again) - but it's a really good movie that's well worth seeing, even if you didn't see how it all "began." (NOTE: It's NOT a movie to take your kids to, though. It's rated PG-13 for good reason, and is not appropriate for young children unless you really want to give them nightmares.)

11 comments:

  1. I have seen 20 minutes if the first Batman with Michael Keaton and maybe 15 minutes of the one with George Clooney. For some reason I never got into the movies. Though I did watch the TV series with Adam West. :)

    I know it's supposed to be good. I don't know, maybe I'll rent it some time. Good review.

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  2. I admit that I do like origin stories and really liked Batman Begins. I wasn't too fond of the earlier Batman movies--but they were fun in their own way. I seem to like the more serious, darker movies for some reason.

    I really liked The Dark Knight, so much so that I wanted to see it again right after seeing it the first time. We didn't, but we may go again before it's out of the theaters. It was better than Batman Begins, I agree, and the story line was so complex and interesting. There were so many little nuances to it . . . I need to see it again.

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  3. My hubby and daughter loved this movie. I, on the other hand, won't even go see it! When Jack Nicolson was the Joker, it terrified me! Now I can't even go see this new one - too much white face paint and scary expressions! I hate anything that looks like a "clown" - clowns are so scary to me!

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  4. Mike - Who in our age group didn't watch the Batman TV show with Adam West? If you saw part of the movie with Clooney - which I skipped, because I believed all the word-of-mouth that said "disaster" (something even Clooney admits to), can't blame you for not being into the previous film versions of Batman. This interpretation isn't campy or goofy, but it's GOOD. Definitely rent it.

    Literary Feline - The darker, more serious interpretation of the most recent Batman movies is what appeals to Tall Paul too, and I understand it's closer to the character's comic book origins. He's seeing it again this weekend with his daughter. I don't think I'm going, but one way or another I expect I'll see it again as well.

    Bobbi - The Joker is anybody's worst clown nightmare - not just in looks, but it complete psychosis.

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  5. Florinda: I just saw it yesterday and like you, I liked it better than the first one with Christian Bale...or any of the previous ones. And like you, I also was a bit confused in parts.

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  6. ReadingFool - I'm glad I'm not the only one got a little bit lost during the movie. It may be clearer the next time I see it (there will probably be one).

    This interpretation of Batman probably is the best one so far, in my opinion (and I KNOW my husband thinks so).

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  7. Great review, Florinda!
    I love this movie more than the first one! It's so much better, and darker. I'll watch it again, but probably when the DVD is out. To top it off, I went out to buy the movie tie in novel. Now that tell you something, isn't it? ;)

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  8. Agree, agree, agree. My friends and I were talking last night over much needed extra dirty martinis with olives and cocktail onions and had decided this was not a movie with ONE leading man but three. It's a dark, very dark movie with lots of suspense and inappropriate laughs to ease the tension from time to time. I can't get "rack 'em up" out of my head...or "why so serious"; the cadence of his speech was just so...strange. I suspect I'll be walking around muttering those two things from time to time for awhile LMAO!

    It was my second time seeing it, this time in IMAX and I was glad to see it again to catch the things I missed the first time. I have to say, tho, I missed the thrill of seeing certain things the Joker did for the first time. The pencil for one...shocking!

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  9. Melody - I don't think I'll see it again until it's out on DVD either, but I also liked it better than the first. Let us know if the tie-in novel varies much from the movie!

    Janet - Batman's the title character, of course, but the story works because of the balance between him, Harvey (Two-Face), and the Joker.

    My husband told me that parts of the movie were actually filmed in IMAX, so it should have looked really good onscreen! (

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  10. Great review. I loved the movie - but it is almost horroresque. Not a feel-good movie or a "fun" movie to be sure. I thought the acting was excellent and all in all the movie was a good take off the original. Thanks again for the review!

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  11. Julia - Just one more note in the chorus of praise this movie's been getting :-).

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