The Dark Knight is my favorite superhero movie for adults. It’s every bit as good as you’ve heard, and probably better.
But it’s not for kids. Heath Ledger’s Joker is one of the greatest portrayals of the devil I’ve ever seen… perhaps the best.
I’ll have much more to say later this weekend, but I’m on my way to an island to work on the third strand of The Auralia Thread, so I’ll catch up with you all later. In the meantime, you know what to do… go see it, and post your impressions of the film here.
Oh, and if you want a full review, Steven Greydanus appears to love it as much as I do.
So deeply does The Dark Knight delve into the darkness that lurks in the hearts of men that it comes almost as a shock, bordering on euphoria, to find that it maintains a tenacious grip onto hope in the human potential for good.
There is nothing glib or pat about this. The vision of evil is too morbid, the losses too tragic, the moral choices too murky, the heroes too hard pressed, too compromised. Here is evil as incalculable and remorseless as Javier Bardem‚Äôs Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men, as capricious and Mephistopholean as Russell Crowe‚Äôs Ben Wade in 3:10 to Yuma. I have described those earlier films as nihilistic, and the same word has been used by a number of critics, both positively and negatively, to describe The Dark Knight. This is a mistake. Like many middle movies, The Dark Knight is darker than its predecessor ‚Äî but something else is here, beyond the calculations of men like Chigurh and Wade. Nihilism gets a hearing, but it does not carry the day.
And here’s a post by my friend Wayne, who accompanied me to the IMAX screening Wayne concludes:
When you go, pay special attention to Gary Oldman. As my friend Jeff Overstreet and I were discussing the film afterward, we shared a great admiration for the actor’s performance as Jim Gordon, Batman’s ally with the Gotham City police. It is noteworthy as a fine turn by a consummate actor: he represents the heart of the film. Heath Ledger’s final performance as the Joker is a bravura piece of theater that deserves every bit of praise it garners, yet I found Oldman’s character the more affective because of his subtlety and warmth. Check it out and see for yourself.
Here’s what I posted at ArtsandFaith.com when I had a few moments to cheer:
Best serious superhero movie for grownups ever.
Oldman: He’s the heart of the series. Man I love this guy. He’s the most human, and the most appealing, admirable presence. He’s Nolan’s secret weapon.
Eckhart: Gives Harvey Dent more gravitas and heart than anyone had a right to expect.
Bale: For me, he’s the weak link in the film. His journey is the least interesting, and the other actors leave stronger impressions.
Freeman: Has a priceless, priceless moment of condescending glee.
Caine: Making this Alfred so much more vital and interesting. “How did you catch the thief in Birnam forest?” Great moment.
Gyllenhaal: Makes you wish they could digitally insert her in Batman Begins.
And Ledger. Sweet honey in the rock… he’s as good as the hype promised. He’s not just better than Nicholson’s Joker: his best scenes are better than any villain-scenes Nicholson’s ever done. And there’s a moment with a faulty detonator that I can’t wait to watch again. … I too won’t begrudge him an Oscar, although it would be a shame to have psycho killers win Best Supporting Actor two years in a row.
And speaking of Javier Bardem… isn’t it odd that another film exploring such similar questions as No Country would make such a big deal about death-by-coin-toss?
One obvious allusion to Apocalypse Now was well-deserved. And the comparisons to Michael Mann’s Heat are more than appropriate. The last 20 minutes that have earned so many complaints are absolutely necessary: Any other conclusion would have felt like a cheap set-up for a sequel, or would have cut short the story arcs of a two or three vital characters.
The subtle ways in which Batman and the Joker are compared/contrasted are fascinating, like the way both characters take champagne glasses and empty them before pretending to drink.
And the film contains the spectacular ruination of a line made famous in an earlier film by Tom Cruise. The line made me laugh out loud in surprise. (It was such a shock, I wondered if it was included as a cheap shot at Cruise. Did Cruise have anything to do with Katie Holmes not being in this film? If so, I wonder if this was a punishment. If not, it’s a very strange choice. Anybody else here know what I’m talking about?)
The film contains at least three exhilarating action scenes that had the crowd cheering. Batman’s motorcycle is wicked cool. And the term “Sky Hook” will no longer be associated with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
I couldn’t disagree more with [those who think it's too long, or too complicated, or has too many main characters.]
Surely a comic book movie can handle three main characters and two supporting characters, and two of Batman’s helpers. And this takes Bruce, Harvey, Joker, Gordon, Rachel, Alfred, and Freeman and develops ALL of them impressively.
I was exhausted by the action, but not by the story. It’s an incredibly ambitious, thoughtful, complex exploration of the question “How do we responsibly deal with the problem of evil without becoming monsters ourselves?” It wrestles with the question every bit as thoughtfully as No Country for Old Men (although I’m not sure it offers any more hope). And while the allusions to how America has responded to national and international threats post-9/11 are painfully obvious, they are important parts of the story and never too preachy. They are timely and relevant, and pushed just hard enough.
In closing, I’ll add that I had that rare feeling watching this movie that I’m seeing something that I will end up watching many, many times in the future, to appreciate it more and more. It made me think of such landmark moviegoing experiences as Die Hard, Terminator 2, Heat, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather 1 & 2, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. I’m not saying it’s as great as those films, but it has that kind of seriousness and immediacy, and the action is utterly convincing, without a single moment that made me think “Aw, man… that was animated.” The effects and stunts seemed like real, live action spectacle, and that added to the film’s enthrallment. It will remain on the list of my favorite first-time viewings.
And I’m sorry, Andrew O’Heihr… you’re one of my favorite critics, but my enjoyment of this film is not some kind of denial or “arrested development.” This is American mythmaking of the richest kind. The Greeks had their gods. We’ve got The Dark Knight.