Well what with the final part of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises which is going to hit cinemas this Friday on the 20th I decided to take a look at the previous film The Dark Knight.
I have to admit I haven't actually seen Batman Begins so I can't compare it to the previous film but my god this is a good film.
One of the biggest gripes I've had with the Batman franchise in general is that no matter how much you darken it up and no matter how realistic you try to make it, in the end the premise is always going to be silly. I mean the idea behind Batman, in short, is a guy dresses up as a bat and fights crime. That's a pretty silly premise from the start. But it doesn't really matter in this film as the world and society Batman is in seems believable.
But I guess I should get down to the meat of this movie and say why it rocks hands down. And I can say it only tow words. The Joker. Or if you want a more specific reason - make that 6 words. The Joker played by Heath Ledger.
The hysteria surrounding Ledger's sad death when this movie was being released may have been a little off-putting to most people but I can assure you the praise for Ledger's phenomal performance is rightly justified. Ledger had managed to pull of an incredible feat with his performance. It's one of those characters that I just wanted to keep focusing on and felt disappointed when he was gone and it was all over. He looks brilliant as well. The greasy looking green hair, the badly painted on white make-up, the horrific scaring on his mouth and the wonderful hunched, Kubrick stare in his deep-set panda eyes just add to the sheer horror of the character.
And also most importantly he feels realistic and genuine. Whereas previously he's the "clown prince of crime" here he's an anarchic terrorist wreaking havoc on a huge scale. His personality is really explored as well. With the exception of Alan Moore's superb The Killing Joke I can't think of any other Batman story that's given him such a genuine feel to his character and a good motive behind his actions. In particuar the Joker's extremely cynical and nihilistic outlook on life. Quotes like:
"You see, their morals, their code...it's a bad joke, which will be dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you. When the chips are down, these...these civilized people...they'll eat each other."Lines like that fit the Joker perfectly and makes him feel so real. Also with this Joker there isn't so much of the annoying wacko performances, it's so much more refined and subtle. He rarely laughs as manically as expected which I happen to prefer. He's so much more sinister and menacing when he's done portrayed as a terrorist threat. And in the real world we sadly are more than ever used to the idea of terrorism.
|"Do I really look like a guy with a plan?"|
I also like how they gave him no back story to be lumbered with. Normally in the Batman cannon it goes that he was a low-life criminal who in one rather messy heist got dropped in a huge vat of acid which bleached his skin, dyed his hair green and turned his lips bright red thus turning him into the Joker. In this film that backstory is abandoned. The only real hint we get at the Joker's background is the numerous "why so serious?" speeches. Each of them however are different accounts so there hardly the most reliable accounts.
But having the Joker merely pop out off nowhere, cause as much damage and chaos as he can and then go away is in my opinion much more effective at making as a villain. He's not lumbered with some origin story that he has got to go threw with the whole story, he's his own man and he's free to do what he wants. It's a lot more threatening to have an enemy that you know nothing about that one you do.
But I would add some criticisms that he's too invincible in his film. How does he just get everywhere with such ease? How can he be at one time in a mob hideout, then at a hospital, and then back into an abandoned building. He just zooms everywhere, I mean surely someone would notice him walking around? He's hardly the most inconspicuous guy what with the scars. And how does he manage to wire explosions on barges and a hospital without anyone finding out beforehand? When did he have the time to do it? These holes just stick out for me I'm afraid.
But I digress. I order to not make this just a huge Joker bum-licking I'd like to comment on the others in this movie. Christian Bale, Michael Kane, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Maggie Gyllenhaal are all their usual brilliant self in this film but I'd like to put a particular shout-out to Aaron Eckhart who plays both Harvey Dent and Two-Face in this movie. He put's on a fantastic performance as the suave, intelligent Dent and then manages to flip it into sympathy and both shock when he's turned into then mad, shrieking monster that is Two-Face. The change is really is really horrific and also tragic to see such a noble guy turned into this abomination.
Christopher Nolan has made an almost perfect Batman film and has easily shown what lengths you can take the Batman franchise when put in the right world. I look forward eagerly to The Dark Knight Rises.