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DARK KNIGHT Thoughts
Author: Mark Reinhart
Friday, July 25, 2008

THE DARK KNIGHT - A Warner Bros. release, presented in association with Legendary Pictures, of a Syncopy production. Produced by Emma Thomas, Charles Roven, Christopher Nolan. Executive producers, Benjamin Melniker, Michael E. Uslan, Kevin De La Noy, Thomas Tull. Directed by Christopher Nolan. Screenplay, Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan; story, Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer, based upon characters appearing in comicbooks published by DC Comics, "Batman" created by Bob Kane.

Bruce Wayne/Batman - Christian Bale
The Joker - Heath Ledger
Harvey Dent - Aaron Eckhart
Alfred Pennyworth - Michael Caine
Rachel Dawes - Maggie Gyllenhaal
Jim Gordon - Gary Oldman
Lucius Fox - Morgan Freeman

Millions upon millions of words have already been written about The Dark Knight since its release just about a week ago, but I just can’t resist adding a few thoughts of my own to the tidal wave of discussion regarding the film.

First off, let me return to Batman Begins for a minute. When that film first came out, I wrote a piece about it for BOF and gave it a crazy positive review. As time went on and I watched the film about fifty more times (I mean that literally, by the way) I found myself somewhat less enamored with the film than I had been after those first few viewings.

I really had only two main beefs with Begins. The first one was there simply wasn’t enough of the Batman character in costume in it – I wanted to get through that first hour of setup so that I could get to the costume stuff. My second, and much bigger, beef was that director Christopher Nolan had chosen to incorporate so many ridiculously quick cuts into the film, especially in its action sequences. After all of my repeated viewings of the film, I still had a hard time following the action that took place in many of its fight scenes. These beefs led me to being a bit frustrated with the film as a whole – mind you, I still loved it and thought it was a wonderful way to restart Warner’s Batman film franchise, but I had high hopes that TDK would be an even more satisfying work.

I’m happy to report that Mr. Nolan has not disappointed me – I do find TDK to be an even better Batman film than Begins. TDK is exactly what a great Batman story should be – thrilling, thought-provoking, tragic, and ultimately uplifting.

However, that does not mean I think TDK is a perfect film. In fact, I personally feel that the film has a few substantial flaws. But we’ll get to those in a second – let me talk about some of TDK’s many positives first.

For me, TDK’s biggest positive is without a doubt Christian Bale as Batman/Bruce Wayne. I said when Begins came out that in my opinion Bale was the perfect actor for the part, and TDK has solidified this position. There are so many scenes in the film where Bale just completely blows me away. His mannerisms, his intensity, his voice – as I watch the film, he just IS Batman/Bruce Wayne to me. It is just as simple as that.

As we all know, there is a lot more attention being paid to the late Heath Ledger’s Joker than there is to Bale’s Batman. Ledger’s performance is the one that has everyone talking about TDK. I personally found myself fascinated by Bale’s performance far more than Ledger’s – but I have always been drawn to the Batman character, not his Rogue’s Gallery. At any rate, I still thought Ledger was excellent.

Actually, let me give kudos to both Ledger and Nolan for coming up with such an unexpected way to depict The Joker! He is VERY removed from the standard comic book depiction of the character. Gone is the nerve toxin that causes the Joker’s victims to die with a grotesque smile on their faces, and in its place is nothing more than a knife.

In TDK, that knife turns out to be a horrifyingly realistic way for The Joker’s victims to “go out with a smile.” And gone is the character’s evenly chalky white face, broad smile, and neatly slicked-back green hair – instead, he sports unevenly applied “war paint,” hideous scars at the corners of his mouth that give the impression of a “cut smile,” and a dirty, disheveled mane. His appearance gives the impression that he is decomposing before your very eyes, and seems to be a direct window into his corrosive soul.

Ledger’s Joker in TDK is undoubtedly a considerable departure from the traditional comic book depiction of the character, but it has a gritty realism that meshes perfectly with Nolan’s “real world” take on Batman. I’m sure there are Batman fans who would have liked to see a more “comicky” version of the Joker in TDK, but I personally found Ledger’s performance to be very satisfying.

Because I am so thrilled by the performances of Bale and Ledger, far and away my favorite scenes in TDK are the ones that pit Batman against The Joker. The chase scene in which The Joker is trying to get to Dent, the interrogation scene, the climax when the two face on off the unfinished skyscraper – these scenes will be burned into my mind as long as I live.

I love TDK’s supporting cast. Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon, Michael Caine as Alfred, Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent, and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox deliver rich performances that match the quality of Bale and Ledger’s work. I was especially pleased to see one of the villains featured in Begins turn up again in TDK. (I won’t say which one in the highly unlikely event that there might be a Batman fan reading this who has not seen the film yet!)

Which brings me to a word of advice about seeing TDK. If you have seen the film in a non-IMAX theatre and you live anywhere near to an IMAX theatre playing the film…

GO SEE THE FILM AGAIN IN IMAX! DO NOT DELAY! DO THIS IMMEDIATELY! (Have I made my point clear enough?)

TDK is the first fictional feature film to be partially shot in IMAX, and the resulting image quality is stunning. I have seen the film in both an IMAX theatre and a regular theatre, and the difference between the two viewing experiences is startling. IMAX not only gives you a clearer image, it also gives you a wider frame – you see more, and you see it clearer.

There is so much I like about TDK, but one of the things I like the very best about it is simply a color – namely, BLUE! To me, a Batman film should be lit in rich shades of blue, giving Batman’s black costume an overall blue/black color – much like the costume appears in the comics. In Begins, Nolan chose to use a combination of browns, golds and tans for much of the film’s palette – consequently, the film’s Batman costume scenes did not capture the character’s comic book look as much as I would have liked. But in TDK, Nolan chose to favor shades of blue and purple. These colors make Batman and The Joker practically jump off of the screen visually – plus, they make the characters look much more like their comic book counterparts.

As I said at the beginning of this piece, I do have a few qualms with TDK. First off, Nolan has again chosen to incorporate a great many ridiculously quick cuts into the film’s action sequences. I’ve seen the film five times so far, and I still cannot follow the action in a few of the film’s fight scenes. The worst of these by far is the sequence when Batman battles The Joker’s men and Gotham SWAT officers during the climax of the film. I wish Nolan would slow his editing down, back his camera up, and let us get a better look at what is going on onscreen.

But my biggest qualm with TDK -- and it is a BIG one -- is that the film’s plotline eventually becomes so complex that even the film itself can’t seem to keep up with it. In my opinion, TDK has at least one major lapse in logic that I simply cannot accept. Like I said, I’ve seen the film five times – and each time I have seen it I’ve ended up being more confused as to just what is going on at the beginning of the film’s climax.

Let me lay this logic lapse out for you. (For those of you who haven’t seen the film, don’t worry – I can do this without revealing too many plot details) Right before the film’s climax starts, the mob boss Maroni goes to Gordon and tells him exactly where he can find The Joker that afternoon. Maroni knows where The Joker will be because he is supposed to meet with him – but the mobster decides that this madman is so dangerous that it is time to turn him over to the police in the hope that they can stop him. Based on this information, Gordon starts to organize a police detail to apprehend The Joker.

We then see The Joker at the location where Maroni said he would be. The Joker kills several people at this location, and then makes a major threat against the city of Gotham as a whole. Gordon then switches gears to deal with The Joker’s new threat – but incredibly, he gives up on his plan to send a police detail to check out the location where he KNOWS The Joker is! Now, Gordon has solid information that will lead him directly to the man who is the source of all of the city’s trouble, and he doesn’t bother to send at least a FEW policemen there?

Unbelievably, the film itself never adequately explains just what happens at this location. It appears that one of the film’s major villains will be killed by a fire that The Joker is setting there – but instead of letting the viewer know just what happens to this villain, the film’s narrative breathlessly rushes on to its climax. Did this villain die? Why didn’t Gordon send police to this location? Did the police EVER check on this location and find out just what went down? What the hell?

Now, if any of you can sort out this plot detail for me, I would greatly appreciate it. But honestly, I’m a reasonably intelligent person, so I don’t think I’m “missing” something – I think the film is. And if you CAN’T sort this plot detail out, don’t label me a “hater” for pointing it out. TDK is a film that is based on reality and intricate logic, so a story oversight such as this poses a major problem for me.

At any rate, here’s my final verdict. I don’t think TDK is perfect – but that doesn’t stop me from being crazy about the film. I love so many things about TDK that I can’t wait to get back to my local IMAX and see it again…and again…and again. I can’t let the film go – in fact, does anyone have any idea when it will be released on Blu-Ray DVD so I won’t ever have to?

GRADE: A-

BOF contributor Mark S. Reinhart is the author of THE BATMAN FILMOGRAPHY.
You can email and send feedback to Mark HERE.

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