Thursday, July 24, 2008

Movie Review: Dark Knight

Very good.

Heath Legder's Joker is one of the best-conceived, best-executed villains I've seen on film. His eerie performance, complemented by a dark script and a minimalist score (similar, though less powerful than There Will Be Blood) create a pervasive aura of creepiness throughout the film.

It's easy to pigeonhole the Joker as simply crazy, but there is more depth and philosophical complexity to his character than superhero movies usually deliver. The multiple conflicting stories about his scars, the fluctuation between homocidal and suicidal, the apparent lack of motivation for his actions, and a supernatural ability to anticipate human behavior, combine to make him much more than a cardboard supervillain.

Spoilers follow...

The Dark Knight also tackles Two-Face, who is portrayed more as a bitter, vengeful victim than a flamboyant criminal mastermind. But the movie might have been better to leave the full arc of the Two-Face story for another installment...from creation to death, he's around for a very short time (30, 40 minutes?) His demise left me with the feeling that the writers took on too many subplots and were forced to wrap them up too quickly. I'd have liked to see the transformation of Harvey Dent into Two-Face, but a full treatment of him saved for a sequel.

Other minor problems include over-the-top Batman gadgetry, and the unbelievable ease with which Joker hides tons of explosives in every room of a hospital, two ferries, warehouse buildings, a man's stomach...just about everywhere, really. There's also a curious lack of reaction from Batman when his childhood friend and long-time love is blown to bits by the Joker. This tragedy compels the Elliot Ness-like Harvey Dent to transform into a killer, but Batman only needs a few minutes moping in a chair to get over her loss. I certainly don't need the emotional sappiness of Spiderman, but a little rage would have been believable. The movie would have been better to explore the effect of her death on Batman at the expense of the Two-Face storyline.

Overall, though, it's a great flick that's worth watching again...if for no other reason than to see the Joker in action.


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