Sunday, July 20, 2008

Movie Review: The Dark Knight

There is a fascinating exchange that takes place between Joker and Batman in a prison cell. Joker tries to tell Batman the difference between them and the others. Joker tries to tell Batman that they would make choices that the other people couldn't. They are sort of liberated that way. Batman completes him, he says. Without Batman the others would continue to make decisions that would make The Joker's life boring. That is the essense of this movie. It is about a few people who are built in a certain way. Although this movie never talks about Batman's childhood again, the superlative nature of Batman Begins does not make us forget his childhood. We instantly connect at certain points during Joker's dialog that these people might share a common thread. And this is fascinating because if Joker has gone through the same thought process that Bruce Wayne did with Ra' Al Gul and decided after all that to be this, well - The Joker. He must be quite a formidable enemy.

He is. Unlike any other Batman villain, the Joker eerily tests the values of the movie's central characters. He implicitly or explicitly gives his victims some amount of choice to resist the vices. Batman is always put in situations where he would hate the outcomes of all his decisions. The Joker is a tragic-comic, sort of. The movie opens with a surprising series of sequences. There are multiple Jokers and multiple Batmans that make this movie's start surreal. The Joker impersonators are common men. Easily attracted by money and they make choices that the Joker find pedestrian. This movie's Joker is not about world domination, money and any of the usual things. Its about a man who does not want all these things. When Alfred, the butler, narrates an old Burma story you get the metaphor. What if Batman is confronted by a man who is not after the diamonds but just wants chaos? Enter Joker. And beneath that bloodied smile, dialogs that hint about his terrible past, his sinister laugh and the poor make-up, he is a wounded monster waiting to inflict incredible pain.

The movie revolves around separating the people in Gotham city, who can rise above the normal greed. The Joker's evil designs (he says he does not scheme but he does) are fascinating in the way it searches for people who can make an ethical choice during a key situation. Batman, Gordon and Harvey Dent are not your average common people. And the strength of their characters is tested repeatedly. This movie almost resembles a Shakespearean tragedy where a person's ethical choices almost always leads them to doom. The are aware of it and they still do the best they can. Batman is not a hero in Gotham. People call him a vigilante. They don't like him all that much and he does leave more bloodied police officers than ever before. In this movie the aura of Batman is brought down in a humiliating fashion by the Joker. He exposes the Super Hero's weakness and at a point Batman accepts the fact that his game is over.

This is a dark movie. Batman burns in angst, thinks, ponders and suffers like never before. If a movie with characters called Batman, 2-face, the Joker can make you empathize with it then this movie comes closer than any other movie. My grouse against the first movie's psychological babble stands corrected. Nolan has planned for a larger vision. The incredible thing about Nolan is that in a short space of time he (and his brother) create so much detail around a particular incident that the complexity of the situation increases exponentially. There are so many layers that one begins to wonder at. I have begun to literally worship Nolan for the way he brings out the drama in the story. He slaps the show-pony'ness of people like Joel Schumacher in the face. The stunning technological sequences in this movie simply aid the movie to become better. The technology gimmicks do not and cannot dominate the movie. It is not the reason why a movie can work with the audience. I love a director who understands that and places the story, the theme, the basic human emotion above everything else.

Among characters, Christian Bale is a character who continues to impress. His is a tragic tragic character who continues to battle on despite the various setbacks. Bale lives and breathes this complex role. Ledger's character will obviously be talked about (But I do find the repeated mention of an Oscar possibility annoying, unnecessary and premature). The character of Joker, previously played by Jack Nicholson, has endless possibilities. It is a rich character. If Nolan can make Bruce Wayne such a complex and rich character then there is no doubt that he'd make Joker fantastic. Nolan has to commended for the way he has prepped his actors. The profile he gives them transcends a Batman movie. This could be any life & struggle movie in any mafia world. Joker underplays the mannerisms and carves out a character that is deeply disturbing and a the same time endearing. This is the best comic book movie/series I have seen. I seem to be saying this a lot nowadays, but that just means Hollywood is getting better with comic book movies. This could even be one of the best mafia movies out of the Hollywood stable. The movie did drag a tad bit towards the end. It tries to handle too many situations/complications/developments that the last 20 minutes sort of make you think "don't live long enough to watch yourself become the villain. Die soon as a heroic movie. End it anytime now."

13 comments:

Vijay said...

When I moved into 30's I stopped watching batman!

raj said...

who watches batman!!
http://www.decisioncare.org

Babu said...

machi the movie was brilliant daa thanks to Nolan and Goyer, wat a story they created and made simple one into complex layers...
which is what i love about Nolan's....

From day one they decided to make audience live the movie a lil bit during that 2 hours or at least think..
In Memento they made us experience short term memory loss, in Insomnia I felt like sleepin after the movie and needless to say Prestige was magical....I was stunned by how they transformed that Novel into a movie and made it very effective too.....
and now reviving the comic Batman...simply Brilliant.....
cant wait for the next installment where Arkham Asylum comes into life.....with Dr.Harleen...who do u think play that character.....

Sriram said...

The only best batman movie is batman forever. Nicole Kidman was stunning in it.

sangu said...

saw fdfs.. one range movie..
@babu: what u mean good story?? story was one of the weak points of the movie. it was like a mixture of unbreakable's plot and some slightly rubbish game theory based dilemnas.. it was the way it was done that made the difference..

at remaining 3 commenters - wash your mouths

Babu said...

Sangu,
Its more like comic series book made into one movie, that's y u feel the way u feel....
well I did not see any weak point in the movie at all (I do realize that's an opinion), it had a darker story and a gripping one too, and very well narrated.
The movie had layers all residing well within the story line, for a kid its a hero versus villain with some clever plots, for adults there is right vs wrong in more deep sense.....

how can u say the story is weak?

MLC said...

it was def. good (a l'il chaotic in the end though) and worth the 45 mt wait outside the theatre that no other eng.movie demanded!!

sangu said...

babu: im not quite claiming that the plot was bad. it just did not live up to the rest of the quality of the movie. debating right or wrong and preaching morals is something i personally don't find appealing. however it is possible that others do. i did not take that into account.

plot-wise i look for something interesting and new in the movie. i would say this movie went along entirely predictable lines. the only different thing in this movie was the villain actually resembled a villain. he actually kills instead of just talking. everything else was pretty run of the mill.

Anupadmaja said...

"debating right or wrong and preaching morals is something i personally don't find appealing."

Then you should have liked this movie coz it kept that part to the right dosage :) and thats why the villain wasnt talking much and actually killing people.

Arun Sundar said...

Watched 2.30am show on friday here at NYC(after a Q for 30 mins from 2'o clock) and when i came out, it was dawn already. But towards the end, I felt the movie was a li’l drag. Otherwise, pretty impressive!

Hawkeye said...

vijay, raj:

yes. the quality of my readers has deteriorated.

babs,

agree with you. I loved the movie. Thought it was edited poorly towards the end and looked slightly disconnected. But otherwise it was excellent.

sriram,

romba asingam'appa nee.

sangu,

all you other points are ok. agree with your decription of the villian who actually kills. Story is a subjective thing so you can diminish its importance if you want to.

But saying this movie resembled unbreakable in anyway is horrible. horrible horrible horrible. Unbreakable was the most boring movie i have ever seen.

mlc, anu,

:-)

arun,

2:30 AM. My god. I caught a flight from Atlants back to seattle. came home at 10:05 Pm and went immediatley to the 10:20 show.

chokkathangam said...

@anupadmaja: i think the Joker is one of the finest villains I have seen in Hollywood movies. No complaints regarding the Joker. It is the batman i am talking about. i found the places where he starts wondering if he is doing the right thing when people are dying, where two face starts going on a rampage as if he discovered for the first time that the world is filled with two-timers, and the moral game theory dilemmas in which the bomb is not pressed etc.. very irritating. although it is totally my personal opinion and i agree others need not think the same for such scenes.

@hawkeye: well, i think it is similar in the sense that u hear the exact same dialog that the joker gives from samuel jackson. "u r a superhero and i am a supervillain and we are made for each other. we cannot exist without one another" part. i too did not like unbreakable, but i think it would be idle to deny the similarity.

Tyler Durden said...

@sangu

IMHO, the plot neatly captures all the information from the dent-joker-batman triangle that is an integral part of many batman novels without spending hours on it. it also works at more than just the superhero level by including a human element to the story. Personally, I could ask for little more but I understand that it could disappoint some.

@hawkeye

I agree with most of your review but for the last two statements. In recent memory, "the departed" was easily better as a mob movie than TDK. However, its all okay since TDK did not set out to be a mob movie while "the departed" is from the boss of mob movies. IMO, The last 20 minutes could be justified since
a. we need to see that Dent has clearly flipped and the abduction of the Gordons proves that
b. we need the scene where the Batman and Joker (and the audience) realize that they are going to play it out until one of them dies :-).