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The Dark Knight: Shadows and Mastery

Posted by goldwriting on July 21, 2008

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[Click on the poster above to go to Art.com and buy the poster]

(Just no words)

This was what we’ve all been waiting for. The weekend to end all others this summer, most likely the year, possibly even years to come. The moon shone down on theaters nationwide as dedicated fans of comic books and gritty action movies alike lined up for the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight, the second in the revamped Batman franchise headed by director Christopher Nolan. The hype was dynamic, nearing the rampant fervor last held by Matrix Revolutions, but this time the anticipation and buzz machine wasn’t met with disappointment and disdain. The Dark Knight lived up to every expectation and exceeded most others. Much more than a comic book film, this piece of history breaks many of the long held rules and traditions of movie making. Without getting into too much detail, let’s just say the sun doesn’t shine down on our heroes very much and without that the audience is not given what would be considered the Hollywood ending. Nolan put his best foot forward and also had to stomp it down on the fact he wasn’t going to lighten this up, make it more palatable to the mass public, because I think he felt they were ready and they deserved it. He set the tone in Batman Begins and he keeps that gritty calmness on the same tightrope with tense anticipation and sliding levels of psychosis. The continuing character development of Batman running right next to the introduction of the Joker and Harvey “Two Face” Dent shows that Nolan is just as good on the page as he is on the camera. Nothing is left to chance, nothing is left unexplained, and that leads to everyone leaving the theater fulfilled.

What words could I possibly write about Heath Ledger’s performance. I was recently talking to my friends after we saw the film about how sad I was. Not only because we will only get one more chance to see new and original performances from Ledger (when his finished footage is used in The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus), but also because this brilliant turn on the already once-made iconic role of the Joker will forever be marred by the events that followed it. There will forever be those people that will say we in the Hollywood community and beyond hail this role because of his death and not becuase of its sheer talent and genius. To those small and deluded voices I say this, Heath was an amazingly gifted actor and his interpretation of the Joker would have gone down in the record books no matter what happened to him afterwards and when the accolades and congratulation were lauded on him (an Oscar nomination is guaranteed, the win is probable) he would have accepted them with the same grace and humiliy he has shown so many other times before. He brought something new, something daring and something intentionally terrifying to this character. It’s incredibly unfair to compare his performance with that of Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s Batman because that film went in a totally different direction. Burton created a comic book world where Batman and his peers existed, whereas Nolan made a dramatic effect of creating our world, this day and time, which just happens to have Batman, and in turn those who will always turn up to fight against him. The final effect of all that work is a film with much more power, more substance and a raging river of emotions that rush over the audience.

Let’s not forget the other great roles in this film. Christian Bale brought even more to the Batman side of the equation this time, where we spent a lot of time seeing the person under the mask in the first film, now is our chance to see his psyche slide across that dangerously thin line between one personality and the other. One might use the term “the light and the dark”, but for the character of Bruce Wayne it is more approriate to think of it as “the dark and the pitch black”. Aaron Eckhart gives a little touch of his character from Thank You For Smoking and shows what happens when good people are pushed too far. Michael Caine brings a sense of class and stoic nature as always, showing a little more depth of the relationship between Alfred the loyal butler and his charge. Gary Oldman proves once more that he can be a skilled actor without showing how crazy he can be. Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gyllenhaal and a cameo by Cillian Murphy round out the cast, all refusing to let the quality and level of the film dip below outstanding.

Overall, this is a near perfect film. Running at 2 and 1/2 hours, I honestly didn’t feel one minute was overdone or unnecessary. One of the great successes of this piece is on paper this shouldn’t work at all. The normal rules of storytelling are completely shattered, the traditions of Hollywood movies (especially those that cost $180 million to make) are left whining and sputtering in the past. Chistopher Nolan has just secured himself a place in the annals of movie history as a great storyteller, accomplished director and soon-to-be most profitable moviemaker of all time. If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and go immediately. I didn’t see it in the IMax first because I was afraid I might miss small details, but now that I have had the Arclight experience first, IMax…here I come for Round 2!

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Also, here’s a link to one of the better posters to come out of the marketing campaign. Many of them were sensational, like the “Why So Serious” series, but this one had a particular creepiness to it which resonated.

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One Response to “The Dark Knight: Shadows and Mastery”

  1. Osama said

    Best Dark Knight review I’ve read so far. Very passionate and thoughtful. Great job!

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