Saturday, July 19, 2008

Movie Review - The Dark Knight

As the most anticipated movie of the year (yes, even above WALL-E) came out last night, rumors abounded as to the quality of it. Stories were circulating all the major news outlets that many theaters had 100% sold out, critics and other people who got a chance to see the advanced screening were touting this as the best Batman ever made, and that Heath Ledger was bound to get his posthumous Oscar pick for best supporting actor, and people in the know said the storyline was second to none.

I went to see it at the Edwards Theater in Idaho Falls, and was able to get my tickets on Fandago the night before (so the news releases weren’t 100% accurate). As our end of the semester fest, Ash and I decided to go see it. She wanted to see it for the movie; I wanted to see it for the review.

You all know the story – The Caped Crusader versus the Clown Prince of Crime for Gotham City. While this movie has a lot going for it from the previews (such as Heath Ledger’s death, Ledger’s twisted way of playing The Joker, the return of Christopher Nolan as Director and Christian Bale and Michael Caine as Batman and Alfred, respectively), it also had the potential to suffer from one of Hollywood’s ill-fated flaws: too much hype.

Pirates of the Caribbean 3 did this. Spiderman 3 did this. Ocean’s 13, The Happening, Shrek 3, Terminator 3 (wow, notice all the sequels?), they all had all this hype and excitement surrounding the franchise (or director, or theme) yet totally dropped the ball.

Ironically, this was a lot tougher for me to review that many other movies. I couldn’t tell if it was an epic masterpiece, or if it was an absolute FUBAR (Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition). I’m hoping the rubric will help.

Without further ado, here’s my rubric for The Dark Knight

CHARACTERS

Stunning would be an understatement for this movie. I found myself, from the very beginning scene, wanting more and more of The Joker. I found his mannerisms to be creepy yet natural, as if in his mind everything normal seemed out of place. Maggie Gyllenhaal, who was a good replacement for Katie Holmes (who, as Rachel Dawes, was utterly forgettable), and Adam Eckhart (an LDS buddy) gave a very strong performance. And then there was Christian Bale, who is soon becoming one of the strongest actors of the last 5 years, and his ever faithful butler Alfred (by the always strong Michael Caine).

But with a movie of this magnitude, it would feel like I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t hold a higher standard. The Joker was very strong. While I think it’s one of the best acting jobs done this year, I don’t know if I would go as far to say I think he should win the posthumous Supporting Actor award (which will undoubtedly go to him just because that’s how Hollywood is). I don’t think that’s any fault of Ledger, who did a great job of embodying the creepiness. I think I fault the writers for not giving us more of a back-story to the Joker. I also found myself tiring of Christian Bale’s blatantly obvious attempt to give Batman a different voice from Bruce Wayne. It sounded like he was a 50-year old female smoker, not a menacing Batman. All in all, the characters were very strong.

SCORE – 16

SOUNDTRACK/SCORE

I’m sure you’ve heard of Hans Zimmer (the composer for the Dark Knight), but in case you haven’t, here’s some of his credits: Kung Fu Panda, The Simpsons Movie, Pirates of the Caribbean movie trilogy, The Da Vinci Code, Batman Begins, Matchstick Men, The Ring, Blackhawk Down, Pearl Harbor…I think you get the point.

I am usually not a huge movie soundtrack guy. I would much rather have the soundtrack add to the movie rather than listen to the soundtrack by itself. I LOVED the theme that he used for Batman. Every time I heard it, I got chills. With titles like “Introduce a Little Anarchy” (the best song, in my opinion) and “And I Thought My Jokes Were Bad,” the music really helped to add to the creepiness of the Joker (who, oddly enough, you can feel throughout the entire soundtrack), the tragedy that is Harvey Dent, and the inner struggle our Masked Friend goes through.

SCORE – 20 (perfect)

QUOTE AND CATCHPHRASE

If anything, the Joker’s laugh could stand on it’s own in this category. I would have liked to hear more of his laugh, but it was really good when he did it. Many of his one-liners were very good, and when I say very good, I mean creepy (not funny, see end)Batman, of course, has some pretty spotty dialogue (Bruce Wayne isn’t that bad), but from what I remember, even in the most stressful situations he can come up with a bad pun (“This time, the joke’s on you”). I would have liked to see more of that. Many of Ledger’s lines were very well written and performed by him. Could have been better by others, though.

SCORE – 17

STORY

This is the hard part. My wife, being an analytical and critical English Major, thought this was the weakest part. I think it’s the strongest part. Here’s why.

This movie is 152 minutes long (2 hours 32 minutes for those who don’t want to do the math). While Ash found it to be too long and trying to cram too much stuff into the movie, I found it to be very complex that will take multiple viewings to sort it out. There is no “introduction” of the Joker, no back-story, no nothing. All you know is that he’s a psychopath. Harvey has a bit of a back-story, and we already know Batman’s. While I think they should have given Joker more of a back-story (even if just through a 2-sentence blurb in the police file), I won’t hold this against the writers that much. Batman doesn’t have the history with the Joker that we are used to. As a matter of fact, I see this movie taking place within a matter of weeks, at longest a month. How can one know the back-story and all the intricacies of this nemesis within that amount of time?
But that doesn’t mean that the story doesn’t have its flaws. I didn’t like how Rachel Dawes flip-flops between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent. I almost think that this movie could have been two movies (the rise of the Joker, and the fall of the Joker). But I found the story to be strong and complex, and many subtleties that will keep watchers analyzing

SCORE – 18

REWATCHABILITY

Because of the complexities of this movie, I feel sheepish in even posting my review without another viewing. I was very immersed in the movie and action as portrayed on the screen, and didn’t get a chance to think during the movie about what is being portrayed. For that reason alone, I give this a high rewatchability rate (I can even see the DVD purchasing and rental numbers breaking records). Yet the one thing holding me back is my wife. She told me she wouldn’t be interested in watching it again, and anyone who’s married knows how much influence the spouse can have on your viewing habits.

SCORE – 19


TOTAL SCORE – 90/100

IMDB Rating – 9.6/10 (#3 IMDB Top 250, but this will come down within a month)

Rotten Tomatoes Rating – 94%


Random side note:
PLEASE, whoever reads this, do not go into this movie and laugh at every line that the Joker says. This isn’t meant to be a comedy. There are funny lines, don’t get me wrong, but we had people sitting right next to us that laughed at everything the Joker said, and I found it took away from his character. He’s not trying to make people laugh. He’s twisted. If you were in situations with him, you wouldn’t be laughing. As a matter of fact, you would probably be peeing yourself silly because you wouldn’t think hat a man could be like this. It’s NOT SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY. You’ll know the funny parts.

2 comments:

Chelsey&Casey said...

Okay okay okay. I quickly skimmed your review when you first wrote it, but I didn't think too much about it because frankly, I didn't want to see The Dark Knight. (I get scared easily, yada yada). However, circumstances changed, and I found myself in a theater this afternoon in anticipation of viewing it.

I am with Ashley on this one-- I don't think I will watch it again. It was a good movie full of suspense, but the violence was too much for me to handle.

AND, Oh my GOSH Brandt, were you ever right about people laughing at EVERYTHING the Joker said. I mentioned that to my husband before hand, "People laugh at everything he says from what I hear, and it isn't supposed to be funny!" We very quickly became annoyed with this dumb broad sitting a few rows ahead who was thinking it was some type of comedy or something. My word. The Joker was sick and derranged and twisted! Not a comedian!

And who knew Harvey was LDS? Way cool.

Thanks for posting your review, I liked that I was already annoyed with people who laughed at the Joker before I even saw the movie, ha! ;)

bftdlister said...

Just a couple of thoughts.

I had no real problem with Batman's voice. I'm just glad he didn't end up wispering as was done in the movies of the 90s. I see where you're coming from. The voice did get a tad annoying when he had lengthy bits of dialog, but was still necessary to hide his identity. The good news is, Batman doesn't usually need lengthy discussions, and there weren't that many in the film.

As for the lines themselves, Joker was the focus of the film, or rather Joker's mirroring of Batman. As such, his lines are bound to be the best ones. However, the line Dent used, and that was repeated by Batman later, was also pretty strong. Now that I type that I can't remember what it was, haha. I had to look it up on IMDB, "You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain."

I think that's an interesting statement on society at both ends of the spectrum, and at the core of the movie's theme. While I was watching, I also remember thinking that's a nice line here and there, but can't remember exactly which ones, hehe. Just goes to reinforce your notion that it could be rewatched and analyzed a great deal.

I tend to agree with Kevin Smith's take on the backstory of The Joker. It makes him all the more frightening NOT to know. Any backstory is sure to weaken the character as a whole, because it will certainly fall short of acceptibility for some viewers. It's like a good horror film. It's far more frightening to never know for sure what the monster looks like. Likewise, The Joker is far more disturbing if the viewer is always asking himself, "How does someone end up like this?"

Besides, if you do give some back story, it ruins the parts when The Joker supplies his own. Those scenes were some of the best in the film. I was squirming in my seat when he was talking to the mobster while that knife was prominently used. In fact, the whole knives thing was perfect in my opinion. His use of them, and his reasoning.

I didn't get the impression that Dawes flip flopped. I think she was solidly in Dent's court the duration of this film. Bruce thought she was gonna end up with him to be sure, but his misunderstanding of the situation became clear later. Sure, they kissed, but even during the kiss I wasn't thinking she was gonna end up with Bruce.

The film was certainly long, but I can't think of a single scene or even a line that could or should be cut. Making it two films would have killed the dynamics of the story.

Despite my best efforts of going in to the theater without spoilers, I was only able to last about three days after the release. I knew most of the major plot points given the aforementioned Kevin Smith discussion, discussion with my brothers who had seen it, the Orscon Scott Card comments, and your review. As such, I ended up looking into things closer than I might have otherwise. I can honestly say this: the film was better than the hype indicated. I was loving every minute of the film. I never once felt like the pacing slagged, and I was wanting more at the end.

Here's the rub. How can there be more? Sure, someone will make another as there is too much money at stake, but cinematically this film was near perfect. Again, I feel it necessary to borrow from Kevin Smith. This was the Batman movie that all Batman fans were wanting for so long. I don't see how another could possibly improve upon it. I can't wait for it to come out on DVD.