Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Dark Knight

I’ve waited a few days to talk about The Dark Knight. I wanted to give people some time to see it and needed a little more time to ponder the film.

Days later, I still don’t know how I feel about Christopher Nolan’s second act in what I assume is a trilogy chronicling Bruce Wayne’s first years as Batman. It is an amazing film: the most mature (and I don’t mean in that “it has boobies” sort of way), intelligent, and compelling comic book movie ever made. It’s the first movie of its kind to warrant Oscar nominations outside of technical awards – and not just for Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker, either.

Still, I don’t think I actually enjoyed it. I certainly don’t believe that movies need to be enjoyable or fun to be loved and appreciated, but I think a film about Batman should be those things. Batman Begins had a better balance of psychological drama while remembering that it was a film about a guy dressed up like a bat…like a bat, for God’s sakes.

I can think of only a few films as bleak and emotionally oppressive as this film. This isn’t a film about Good vs. Evil. This is a film about Evil: how good, decent people try to understand it and combat it; how people are destroyed by it; and, sometimes, how people are overwhelmed and seduced by it, becoming just as terrible as the enemy they're fighting. Good may win a few battles in The Dark Knight, but Evil is winning the war.

As Harvey Dent says in the film, “The night is darkest just before the dawn.” I can’t think of better words to sum up this film. I can’t wait to see the third film if Nolan once again co-writes and directs, to see “the dawn” that he would create. That “dawn” will help shape my final opinion of The Dark Knight.

But I wouldn’t have Nolan change a frame of this film. Nor I can think of a better person to helm the Batman franchise and shape the character for a new century and a new generation. I like his take on Bruce Wayne/Batman more than anyone else’s – except maybe The Animated Series of the early 90’s, which nailed the character.

The Dark Knight is equal to the sci-fi/fantasy classics of the early 80’s, like Blade Runner, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Wrath of Kahn, that obviously inspired Nolan and his generation of filmmakers, back when films were treated, at least to some degree, more as creative endeavors than financial endeavors.

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