Saturday, July 19
Dark Knight dominance
This film is going to blow the doors off of the record books.
Its already setting preview and other records, and at least locally its selling out or nearly selling out every showing (including IMAX - no tix left the entire weekend) until Monday.
All of this is with good reason. I remember watching Batman Begins, and immediately thinking to myself "this is one of the best films I've ever seen." Well The Dark Knight is better, and by a lot.
As we made our way into the packed theater I was very concerned that the film, and Heath Ledger's Joker in particular, would not be capable of living up to the considerable hype that preceded them. Boy was I wrong.
This is a flat-out spectacular work of art across so many disciplines:
-first of its a near-flawless script. On a fundamental level, nobody says or does anything that doesn't make any sense in the context of the story, which is a big enough challenge in itself most of the time. The pacing is excellent (I did not expect the film to be as long as it was, and only after it was over did I realize that the run time approached 3 hours), and the content is top-notch. Most films don't challenge vigilante heros to justify their lawlessness outside of the context of "the govt is ineffective so I'll do this myself," but boy this one does and it does it in a way that is neither distracting to the rest of the film nor cheezy or pandering to the viewer. In fact, Batman's struggles with the legitimacy of his actions evolve into the primary sub-plot of the film - as opposed to the typical female love-interest sub plot. That falls to third. And of course we grow to care about all of the characters (including the villains) and to believe that everything that we're seeing could actually happen. Nothing was shoehorned in here. Everything had its place and served a purpose. Also, I love love love the fact that they never bothered to discuss the origins or true motivations of the Joker. Its the repeated and firm resistance to such non-useful story elements that allowed the writers and producers to pack this film with interesting and relevant stuff from top to bottom.
-Visually the film was spectacular. There are some shots of things blowing up and burning down that I have no idea how they accomplished them, because they don't look like CGI. The stuff that obviously is CGI is only identifiable as such because you know that it's the only way they could pull something like that off, not because it draws attention to itself visually. (with the exception of one minor traumatic spoiler effect that caught my eye as it was happening). I still love the fact that they shot Gotham in Chicago instead of NY, and watching the evolution of the
Batsuit was cool. Also there is a spectacular car chase scene.
-Casting and acting. Casting Heath Ledger as the Joker was probably intially seen as a bold stroke despite his post Brokeback Mountain star status, but we all know the story of both his acting in this film and what the role must have done to him as a person. Aaron Eckhart is an excellent Harvey Dent - so pretty that its all the more disturbing when he's not anymore. Of course, it helps the acting when you have a script of this caliber with which to work (I can imagine if Ledger and Nicholson were to switch Jokers that Nicholson would be getting the all of the glory out of the transaction), but this is one of those films in which the actors lived up to the characters they played, just about universally. With that said, Heath Ledger's Joker is bound to go down as one of the best villains in cinematic history - both because of the deranged and anarchistic acts that he was allowed to perform, and because of the wildness and intensity that he brought to the character. His passing at this point in both his career and this franchise is a devastating blow to the art of cinema, and it will be felt for a long while after the third Batman is released.
-Mix, sound design, and score. Here's where I geek out, and I love it. First off, here's an excellent article with the sound designers from Mix Magazine. They spent a month recording sound effects before production even started, and got to do cool things like mic up a Tesla car to use as an element for the bat-pod. All of the sound design was very gritty and real, which added remarkably to the overall believability of the film. The interaction between the sound design and music was obviously collaborated, and was done very well. The mix was constantly weaving between strong score, no score, heavy sound effects, no sound effects, and clear, intellible dialogue. I didnt notice any ADR, which is a good thing. There were also some very cool moments where the mix got very very stripped down during some climactic moments, and only the central sound design element was heard - like in the 18-wheeler flip. Its aggressive decision-making, and I loved it.
So go see this movie. I'm seeing it again as soon as I can get an IMAX ticket.