Friday, April 29, 2011
DARK KNIGHT, THE
(July 2008, U.S.)
During the Summer of 2008, I spent the better part of many weeks resisting THE DARK KNIGHT. After all, I'd already been through FIVE Batman films already and only two of them had been any good. I'd also committed myself to avoiding sequels, remakes and franchise films of any sort. But every self-proclaimed rule can have it's occassional exceptions. By August of that summer I could no longer avoid all the hype and persistently positive critical and audience reactions. I finally caved in one rainy Saturday afternoon and sat down in a small movie theater in Westhampton Beach, Long Island to see what all the hysteria was about...
Well, what can I say? I was pleasantly and amazingly surprised to find that I not only loved THE DARK KNIGHT, but that I can also now claim it as my favorite comic book superhero film since SUPERMAN-THE MOVIE (1978). Simply put, and without any reservation whatsoever, THE DARK KNIGHT completely redefines what the comic book action film can be, should be and will likely never be again because most of today's film makers don't have any respectable vision. Watching director Christopher Nolan's work on screen, you can almost hear and feel him telling director Joel Schumacher to go fuck himself with all of the tragic, over-the-top campy garbage he painfully subjected us to with BATMAN FOREVER (1995) and BATMAN AND ROBIN (1997)! Heath Ledger's swan song performance before his untimely death could not have been more spectacular, though I cannot honestly claim that his portrayel of The Joker was better than Jack Nicholson's in Tim Burton's BATMAN (1989). I mean, come on, in all honesty, who's better than JACK??
The primary theme of THE DARK KNIGHT can be best described as wild excess and escalation. Gotham City (filmed on location in Chicago) has become weak and its citizens blame Batman for the city's violence and corruption as well as the Joker's violent threats, and it pushes Batman's limits, making him feel that taking the laws into his own hands is further downgrading the city. Throughout the film, the Joker devises ingenious situations that force Batman, Commissioner Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent to make impossible ethical decisions. By the end of the film, the entire moral foundation of Batman's legend is deeply threatened and he becomes an outlaw again, on the run from the law he tried so hard to help redefine. Harvey Dent (played frighteningly by Aaron Eckhart) is seen as Gotham's "White Knight" in the beginning of the film but ends up becoming seduced to the inevitable evil he's been fighting ("We thought we could be decent in an indecent time!"). The Joker, on the other hand, is seen as the representation of chaos and anarchy. He has no motive, no orders, and no desires other than to cause havoc and "watch the world burn", as Alfred puts it. The terrible logic of human error is another theme that is best depicted in the ferry scene as it displays how human beings can easily be enticed by iniquity. In the end, though, humans triumph over evil intention by having faith in each other's own humanity. Personally, I don't think I would have hesitated to blow up the other ferry housed with hardened criminals. But hey, that's just me.
Are there going to be more Batman films? Shit, I really hope not! While I love and respect Christopher Nolan's work, the story seems dried up at this point. The Joker is captured, Harvey Dent is dead, Rachel Dawes is dead, the Bat-signal is dead, the Bat-mobile is dead and Wayne Manor is still burned down to the ground. It's over because it feels over. Let it be over and end on a truly positive ring before the entire franchise turns into something Joel Schumacher would have given us so long ago. Please!!!
Coleman Reese: "I want ten million dollars a year for the rest of my life."
Lucius Fox: "Let me get this straight: you think that your client, one of the wealthiest, most powerful men in the world, is secretly a vigilante who spends his nights beating criminals to a pulp with his bare hands, and your PLAN is to blackmail this person? Good luck."