It's been too long since I've posted a micro review of anything on the visual front, but Christopher Nolan's revisited take on Batman has been rattling around my head since opening night, and I need to jot down a few thoughts.
My opinion? Not to overstate it, but The Dark Knight is arguably not only the best comic book movie to date, but one of the best movie movies to date.
Nolan takes -- and deconstructs -- the comic book genre more than he did with Batman Begins, showcasing an appropriately gritty, costly version of the genre's tropes.
The Dark Knight is alternately a heist movie, a mass serial killer film, a psychologically thriller, a morality play, and -- while it might even be a comic book flick -- it's thankfully not a tights flick.
What makes it good?
Well, there's story; the brilliant, wave-upon-wave story from the Nolans (Chris and Jonathan) and David S. Goyer, making the nearly 3 hours fly by in an exhausting rush. "Wave-upon-wave", because there are at least three instances where it feels the film could be escalating to its climax, only to build on that moment and ratchet the intensity up, yet again. There are sub-plots that don't get lost amidst the movie's spine. And, unlike Spider-Man 3, all of the baddies showing up in this film don't get lost amidst each other. And there's the whole genre diversity thing I mentioned earlier.
More important to me, I'm a fan of those too-few films showing "The Clean Win is a Lie."
The short version is this: Big stuff, important stuff, comes at a cost.
There's a truism that says if I say "yes" to something, I'm saying "no" to something else. It follows that the bigger the yes, the bigger the no. The bigger the stuff, the bigger the cost.
There are people who are heroes, and they make sacrifices. So, it likewise follows that if there were a world with super heroes, they make would super-sacrifices.
The Dark Knight showcases this better than most films (independent of genre).
And, of course, there's the acting.
Christian Bale, the already beyond ridiculously inspirational actor who woke the world up in American Psycho, delivered an emotionally brutal performance in El Maquinista, has had five films released between Begins and The Dark Knight.
Then there's Gary Oldman, who's bringing depth and cost to Batman's Gordon, and Michael Caine, who makes Alfred more than just a comedic button.
Morgan Freeman, who could read a phone book and keep me rapt, far from faxes in his performance as the additive cast member Lucius Fox, Wayne's confidant and tech supplier.
Aaron Eckhart, D.A. and more, with a storied career of his own, has perhaps his defining moments within this film. Gripping and tragic.
And that brings us to the greatest and most tragic part of film.
Heath Ledger redefines the Joker, bringing the insane, Alan Moore / The Killing Joke brutality of the Crown Prince of Anarchy to the big screen (Cesar Romero this is not). Ledger also pulls off the not-insignificant feat of bringing character acting to a marquee role. The mannerisms and idiosyncrasies are distinctly what he brings to his portrayal of the Joker. With all due respect to Jack Nicholson, this is the Joker, and Ledger's performance will either keep everyone away from ever touching the role, or elevate it as the role to beat, and provides a tragic exclamation point to the senselessness of Ledger's death.
So, yeah, I like the film, and not just because of the genre -- but because it's a a great film, and a fantastic vehicle for a bunch of talent in front of and behind the camera.