Wednesday, August 13, 2008

THE DARK KNIGHT

THE DARK KNIGHT
Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, eric Roberts


"Why so serious?"


Cinema 7, Robinson's Galleria




I was probably among the very few people who had not seen the winged crusader in action. But hey I've been busy. You know being a newly wed and adjusting to my new status. So after postponing it several times, I finally watched it this afternoon. I was quite impressed with the film.

The superior quality film making techniques, the strong character(s) development, coherent plot, some kick ass graphics coupled with incredible action scenes and may I add a few moral lessons tucked in between, the latest Batman movies ("Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight") really have up the ante with regards to superhero films. They also made us totally forget the first few Batman movies with their amateurish, cartoon like almost comical plots saddled by caricature villains and distracting graphics.

In "The Dark Knight", Batman has on more than one occasion questioned his 'superhero' status. He has basically withdrawn into his reclusive mansion fully equipped with the best tools of his trade. Gotham City is back to its chaotic self with copycat Batmen acting as vigilantes in the name of justice. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is still as wealthy as ever yet his personal life is pretty much an empty shell. His long lost love, Rachel (this time played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) has hooked up with the district attorney, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). A no nonsense tough lawyer who is the current toast of the town for strictly implementing the rule of the law. The ever stable and reliable Lt. Gordon (Gary Oldman) has his hands full trying to police the state. Cue in a soulless, demented anarchist! A villain who goes by the name of Joker (Heath Ledger). Then you pretty much have all the key ingredients to make this superhero film stand out in the grand scheme of all movie adaptations of comic books.

Many critics have raved about The Joker stealing Batman's thunder. Both in terms of acting technique as well as character development. But I maintain that he didn't. The Dark Knight is still no doubt a Batman movie. The Joker despite being in every scene of the film was merely the villain. He was certainly quite an influential character but it was a supporting role. An integral part of an ensemble cast. I figure the fact that Heath Ledger accidentally died after he made this film hyped up his portrayal. It didn't help that the media attributed the film as the cause of his distress. You know that he over internalized his role as the Joker. But based on interviews with his co stars who have praised his performance, they narrate how Heath was upbeat during the filming. He didn't show signs of depression. I figure he (Heath Ledger not the Joker) was dealing with some personal demons in his life. The dark nature of his character didn't contribute to his already troubled soul. Anyhow yes I admit he was fantastic as The Joker. He has always been a very credible actor in all of his past roles. He is eloquent, expressive, projects well and is 100 % believable. So plausible that you totally forget he is essaying a role, he simply becomes his character. In this case, he was this conniving, ruthless anarchist. You never quite find out who he really is, why he is bent on wrecking havoc, you don't get a sense of where all his wicked plan stems from. You simply absorb his mentally deranged persona in all its 'evil' glory as the scenes unfold.

Although Maggie Gyllenhaal is a fine actress in her own right. I believe as Rachel, she didn't have much chemistry going on both with Harvey Dent and Bruce Wayne. Not that Kate Holmes with her girlish features and juvenile acting did justice to the role either. I just expected much more from Rachel, that's all I'm trying to say.

The part which piqued my interest in this film is the complete turnabout of Harvey Dent. From a well loved authoritative figure into a cynical, deranged Two Faced villain. I admit I didn't see that coming at all. I was pretty shocked. The interesting part is that now that I've had time to reflect on it, I realize that there were already several subtle hints surfacing to lead us on the true moral fiber of Harvey Dent's character. Whereas you knew from the start that The Joker was a bad person, the emergence of Two Face was quite a revelation. I think Aaron Eckhart was totally underrated in this film. He probably deserves as much accolade as the praises heaped upon the late Heath Ledger.


Now let's go back to Batman. I like movies where the main character embarks on an existential journey. He struggles to question his purpose in life. He is troubled with his current life and begins to doubt his faith and his fate as well. And in this movie, Batman is going through an identity crisis of sorts. He is thinking of fading into oblivion. He feels that the world would be better off without him. So many events happen in the film which trigger his torn feelings. I almost cried towards the end of the film when you see it in his eyes (despite wearing the mask) how he suddenly realizes his main purpose. How the pieces of the puzzle simply fitted and he knew what he had to do. It was like an Aha moment for Batman. That made me a bit sad. Yet at the same time, I am eager to see how the next installment (assuming there will be one!) will flesh him out of his bat cave, both literally and figuratively.

So yes I'm glad I finally made the time to see this film. And in my own small way contributed to the millions this blockbuster film has already earned at the box office. It was worth every single centavo!

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