Posted on 8/17/08 02:19 PM
July 21, 2008: This summer has been the summer of the comic book movie. Amazing movies have come out of the genre this summer: Iron Man, Hellboy 2, and The Incredible Hulk (from what I've heard) to name a few. At a time when people need a hero to usher them through bad times, they've been there for them at the multiplex. We've seen these heroes deal with not only outward demons but inward demons as well (anger, hate, alcoholism, drugs, etc.) but none of them has dealt with them in the way that The Dark Knight does; the first movie to truly transcend the genre.
Batman has always been my favorite of the comic book heroes. Unlike the most Batman is human, he has no super powers unless you count his amazing self control and brilliance. In the past, this very human character has been placed in a very supernatural world surrounded by villains that seem like they don't belong, possess supernatural powers, or are too comic to believe they could be nothing more than a fly bothering an elephant. The city too Gothic or colorful to be taken seriously, but this all changed with Batman Begins, a movie that showed Batman as a very human crime fighter, in a very real world.
The Dark Knight takes everything up a notch, creating a brutal world, in a very realistic city. This new saga, from the creators of Batman Begins, doesn't try to be a comic book movie, but instead tries to be something greater and succeeds in spades. Don't expect the bubblegum pop of past comic book movies, this movie transplants comic book characters into a gritty crime drama that feels like it could actually happen. Forget the comic book, no one is safe and nothing's sacred here. From the opening scene this movie picks you up and won't let you down until the credits start to roll, you'll find yourself on the edge of your seat from start to finish. In this world, our hero isn't past breaking legs to get the information he needs, and our villain is as scary as anything you've seen in Silence of the Lambs or Se7en.
The movie opens up with a bank robbery, and you learn just what kind of person The Joker really is. (The hype is underplayed, Heath Ledger is beyond amazing as he literally disappears into the role of a lifetime. Ironic, and unfortunate, that his best performance should be his last.) Here we watch an amazingly choreographed bank robbery as The Joker's "allies" drop like flies. This is a man who cares about nothing, not even the money he's stealing, he's just having fun pulling one over on everyone. We also hear him utter one of the greatest lines of the whole Batman series: "I believe in one thing: what doesn't kill you, makes you stranger." This opening scene not only sets the tone for the rest of the movie, but is also one of the most amazing opening scenes of any action/drama movie ever.
Currently, in our saga, Jim Gordon and Batman are doing their best to put an end to the mob's rule in Gotham city with a little help from the new DA Harvey Dent, the city's new White Knight. Harvey Dent is a pure man in a dirty world (once again played excellently by the always welcome Aaron Eckhart) and could also be Bruce Wayne's chance to put down the cape and cowl once and for all. Here we see Bruce as a man torn, the true antihero. I thought Christian Bale was good in Batman Begins, here he exceeds all expectation.
While our trio of good tries to take down the mob, the mob turns to the man who's been robbing them blind to take care of The Bat: The Joker. It's just too bad for the mob that they had nowhere else to turn to. With the mob relying on him, and the cops and Batman going after the mob, The Joker now has free reign on the city. Here The Joker has no true agenda, at least no rational agenda, and that's something Batman can't understand because in his mind every criminal wants something. What do with someone who is absolutely insane (he tells the story of how he got his scars several times, each time telling a different story, and each time believing the story with every fiber of his being) and so hellbent on destruction and anarchy? Maybe you have to use the criminals methods to fight them. (You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.) This movie takes on some very weighty and deep issues, but never loses steam. It might be two and half hours, but it flies by. It's one of the most entertaining movies in the multiplex right now, and I would recommend you see it in the theater, some things will lose their visual luster on the small screen (a night time fly around the skyscrapers of Hong Kong comes to mind). Catch it soon, you won't be sorry.