I had been putting off writing anything about The Dark Knight, even though I went to see it at midnight Friday morning like half of America, because I have been having a lot of trouble articulating exactly how I feel about it. But don't take this lack of words as a negative thing; on the contrary, me speechless about a movie is almost invariably a good thing. I have been telling everyone I know to go out and see this movie, regardless of their preferences. So here are two lists, one about things that I absolutely loved, and another of straight up observations that may or may not be important motivators for buying a ticket.
1 - The Script
Christopher and Jonathan Nolan have written a film so morally complex and compelling, it boggles my mind that it is even in existence, let alone within the framework of a comic book franchise (from DC, which is clearly the lesser of the the comic giants when it comes to blockbusters, at least in recent years: Superman Returns). The entire story is so involved, but at times it feels almost immaterial what is happening, except for the fact that the events work together to bring you to incredibly profound bits of dialogue about responsibility, heroism, chaos, and civic duty. It seems almost impossible to fuck up a script so inherently perfect. I don't even want to think about what would have happened to it in less capable hands.
2 - The Cast
Ding, dong, the witch is dead. I am so glad they excised Katie Holmes from the film this time around. I watched Batman Begins immediately prior to my midnight date with the movies, and everything she said or did was ridiculously evocative of her days on Dawson's Creek, where her acting was much more forgivable seeing as she was supposed to act like a melodramatic teenager. Now, I love Dawson's Creek much more than anybody should (mostly because the writer also wrote classics like Scream and the snarkiness about the genre definitely shows), but she really should not try to have a Hollywood career. It's a lost cause. And Maggie Gyllenhal really wouldn't have been my first choice, but she did the job nicely, and I was actually impressed by how much she made me forget anyone else ever played the role.
The same trend is definitely followed by the rest of the players, especially the late and posthumously great Heath Ledger. Jack who? Nicholson? He played the Joker? Not a chance. The Oscar buzz says what I don't have to. Goosebumps every time the guy was on screen, and not because I was watching a dead man walking, but because he was just that good. That great, rather.
Christian Bale plays tortured and angry really well (see most of his body of work, excluding maybe only 1987's Empire of the Sun), but I was still surprised by how intensely honest his performance was. I can honestly say that if I was three-hundred pounds of pure muscle and had a penchant for vigilante justice, I would've done everything exactly the same as he did.
Aaron Eckhart just goes without saying. He is an actor the likes of which you don't often see. I really want him to get more recognition for his talent. But I no longer have to worry that he will only be remembered as that guy from Thank You For Smoking.
I could go on for days about the cast, and I think it's time to tear myself away while I still can.
3 - The Chemistry
Not only are the elements all so explosive on their own, combining them into one final product resulted in a mushroom cloud from which the dust will never settle. Scenes between Bale and Ledger are almost too much to watch because of how well they work off of one another. But the same is true for the interactions between all the actors, between the actors and the script, and between the director and all of his movie-making elements. Shock and awe. I didn't think it was possible for something to be so exactly spot-on.
4 - The Genre-Bending
Before, I mentioned that such a movie comes completely out of left-field when considering the comic hero genre. This is not to say I frown upon comic book movie. I thoroughly enjoyed this summer's Incredible Hulk and fell in love with Robert Downey Jr. all over again because of Iron Man. However, these movies were fun, and they knew it. Batman, even as a comic book star, has never existed purely as an object of fun. And it is my opinion that many of the older Batman movies don't hold up as well now because they were too campy. The Dark Knight is the opposite of camp, while still allowing the Joker's brand of irreverence to exist within its confines. The constant refrain of "why so serious?" mocks the movie and the viewer, because of how easy it is to become completely involved in Nolan's masterpiece. It is a crime drama on par with films like The Departed; knowing who to trust becomes incredibly murky, and you are not only allowed to sympathize with the villains, but you are made to question the heros, which is probably one of the most important parts of what Batman has to offer.
1 - Thin Lips
Everyone in Nolan's films consistently have very thin lips. I have no idea if this is a casting choice or a coincidence, but James pointed it out to me once and I find it endlessly interesting to puzzle over. But you don't have to take my word for it. See the movie.
2 - Rating Controversy
Now, most people with some kind of interest in the film industry know that the rating system is endlessly fucked up. This is how I justify Wanted, an updated version of The Matrix with less Jesus and bigger tits, getting an "R", when the sheer amount of violence in The Dark Knight makes me imagine McAvoy's assassin running scared to the Narrows, to hide out with other pseudo-tough guys like Cillian Murphy's Scarecrow from the first Nolan Batman. And The Dark Knight somehow squeaked by with a "PG-13". Ask me how this happens, and I will answer, money. You are free to make your own conclusions, but you should see the movie before you decide anything.
3 - Blade Runner
I could talk about Blade Runner until I'm blue in the face, but that doesn't mean that this isn't valid: there are countless visual references to Ridley Scott's brilliant film throughout both Nolan Batman films, and I think that it's fun to inspire people to look for them. So go to the movies and break out the legal pad, because the list is long.
4 - The Body Count
I lost tally within the first fifteen minutes, but the amount of casualties, and the way they die is a truly interesting facet of Nolan's writing and directing. I was impressed with the variety, and you would be too if you would stop reading my blog and go see this movie!