Friday, July 18, 2008

NO RULES, JUST KNIGHT



Let's just call a spade a spade - The Dark Knight has been getting a ton of hype. As James put it, "I expect this movie to cure cancer." But after seeing it at 6:50am today, I'm inclined to say that if this movie tried hard enough - it probably could. Rob and I saw it in the Cinerama Dome at the ArcLight, with a packed house. The crowd was basically a sneak preview of what I'll be seeing at Comic-Con in less than 4 days, meaning there were a few people dressed up in costumes definitely not tailored to their weight/size. But that's the thing about superhero movies: fans of this genre are voracious.

That being said - I truly don't even consider this to be a superhero movie. If you want to call it that, it's easily the best one ever made. But The Dark Knight is a crime drama. It's an epic, sweeping saga of a city, that - as Rachel Dawes #1 (Katie Holmes) says in Batman Begins - "is rotting from the inside out." I can't imagine living there. Gotham City is corrupt, dangerous, and hopeless. Batman isn't a hero to these people. The public sees him only as a vigilante, not necessarily making things better. They bite the hand that protects them, and suffer for it when The Joker comes calling. And speaking of The Joker...



Heath Ledger is not in this movie. There is 100% no sign of him. He has disappeared so deep down into this role, I can barely explain it. When he was on screen, the anxiety I felt was visceral. In this world brought to life by director Christopher Nolan, there is no "good vs. evil" - those concepts are far too simplistic for this film's inhabitants. It challenges the characters as well as the audience to see that we live on a sliding scale, not a moral compass. And it can be tipped - forced, actually - by clever (but convincing) manipulation. One of the major taglines for this movie says it best: "Welcome To a World Without Rules".



The supporting cast surprised me. Maggie Gyllenhaal does the best she can as Rachel Dawes #2, a role which doesn't require a lot of effort but in my opinion was re-cast perfectly after Katie Holmes surrendered to Xenu. Aaron Eckhart as district attorney Harvey Dent / Two-Face adds a welcome sense of depth to a character that was turned into nothing more than "Diet Joker" in the past (sorry, Tommy Lee Jones). Gary Oldman's Jim Gordon is once again right on the money as the good cop in a sea of baddies. Michael Caine's Alfred is back with the snarky wit, sure. But the real scene-stealer of the minor characters was Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, head of Wayne Enterprises. When you see what his character has to contend with (not to mention his reaction to these things), I have a newfound respect for a character that was largely two-dimensional in Begins.

In this film, nothing is sacred. It doesn't play to a formula of what suits and execs think you should see in a Batman movie. In fact, forget everything you know about Batman movies. EVERYTHING. This is gripping, emotional and dark (no pun intended). It doesn't pander to the toy companies, lunchbox manufacturers, or anyone who loved Batman Forever or Batman & Robin. This is not Joel Schumacher tongue-in-cheek bullshit. This is the rawest portrayal of a serious icon in popular culture that had been previously bastardized beyond measure.



Among the fantastic dialogue throughout, there's one line from Harvey Dent still echoing in my mind:

"The only morality in a cruel world is chance."

See. This. Movie.

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