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Friday, July 18, 2008

The Dark Knight Transcends

I just got back from seeing The Dark Knight, and it is eons better than any previous Batman movie, or, for that matter, any Superman or other movie made of a comic book character. In fact, The Dark Knight is as far away from comic book tropes and exaggerations as The Grapes of Wrath is to a nursery rhyme.

Heath Ledger as The Joker was stunning and unforgettable - more like Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys than Jack Nicholson's Joker in a previous Batman movie, and Nicholson was pretty good. A fitting last bow for Ledger indeed, and all the more tragedy that he won't be with us for more.

But Ledger's was not the only brilliant performance. Gary Oldman is truly in a class of his own in acting, playing radically different characters in different movies with the same ease and also unforgettable perfection. This time Oldman was James Gordon - and Gordon and the audience never had it so good.

Aaron Eckhart as the "White Knight" Harvey Dent was powerful, Maggie Gyllenhaal as Batman's and Harvey's love was perfect, and you can never miss with Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman (whose Lucius Fox takes a stand against Orwell's Big Brother). Lost's Richard (Nestor Carbonell) plays the Mayor, and our real Senator Patrick Leahy even puts in a nice cameo.

Christian Bale as Batman/Bruce Wayne was fine - but I wouldn't put him ahead of George Clooney and Val Kilmer's performances of the role.

But the story was so powerful, the supporting acting so extraordinary, that Bale really shined, too. I'm rarely surprised in a movie - I did guess one minor bad guy sitting in the driver's seat - but the complex story of The Dark Knight was packed not only with punches but real twists and surprises.

Most of all, despite its advertised "darkness," the movie had hope and soul. When you see it, I think you'll agree that the real heroes were the people of Gotham, and in a soft-spoken, understated, but memorable and heart warming way. I don't know, is it too much to say they evinced a distinctly Democratic, humane capacity, resisting the baser impulses of a people under attack? Yes, they did. Gotham - that mixture of New York and Chicago, the quintessential American city - shown bright in The Dark Knight tonight.

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mike's spot said...

I'm going saturday morning. I can't wait. On a side note- some comic book heads compiled a list of the worst villains in the entire comic book universe, and of all the Marvel and DC characters, the Joker was number 1.

if you read the dark knight series, the joker actually beats 14 year old robin to death with a crow bar, laughing so hysterically he breaks / cracks his own ribs.

dark indeed.

Mike Plugh said...

I'm jealous. I've been looking forward to that film for months. Fortunately, I'll be in town to defend my thesis and I can catch it earlier in NYC than I can in Japan.

Frank Miller is the gold standard of Batman storytellers, and I think (FINALLY) the movie franchise has hit the mark with his fine lead.