Monday, July 21, 2008

FILM REVIEW: The Dark Knight (spoiler-heavy)

You've heard it a million times before. I'll repeat it again--for good measure. Heath Ledger did an amazing job. But I think an enormous amount of credit must also go to the production team for his old school (three-piece suit) wardrobe, the make-up artist for his consistently runny mask, and the writers (Christopher and Joseph Nolan and David S. Goyer) for creating such a complex and mysterious character with a lot more verbal substance than most one-liner-spouting villains. Everything that he did and said made me want to learn more about him. The fact that he lied about how he got the scars around his lips twice was a perfect way to keep viewers intrigued, constantly wondering about his real identity and background. I think once it is revealed, he'll be less terrifying, so I hope they keep his anonymity intact--at least until the end of the next film. The Joker's ultimate logic for what he was doing--while seemingly insane--was actually kind of...human. Honestly, some people just do things because they can, whether it's stealing someone's boyfriend or firing a good employee. Of course, The Joker had a deeper meaning behind all of his chaotic plans as well. He ultimately wanted to prove that even someone as good and pious as Harvey Dent could fall from his pedestal, and that humanity is just a farce. It was like he was conducting a social experiment on a grand and destructive scale.

There were times when they bested each other, but there was no actual danger of either killing the other. It's like The Joker said in the end, "You and I are destined to do this forever." What I found most interesting about their relationship is how, even though The Joker thought they had so much in common (i.e. masks, etc.), they were actually polar opposites. The most obvious difference between them--besides their morals--was how old school The Joker was compared to Batman's modern methods. It's like he said, "I’m a guy of simple taste. I enjoy dynamite, gun powder, and gasoline." While The Joker wore what they described in the film as war paint, and loaded up on bazookas, grenades, knives and bombs, Batman sported a meticulously designed hi-tech suit, and used sonar cell phones and a motorcycle that pulled a Transformers move mid-motion. It was as if The Joker's beliefs were as archaic as his weapons.

I think viewers were programmed not to like Harvey Dent. But after seeing him punch a guy out in court and watching Bruce act like a douche bag to impress Rachel, we embraced him a bit more--enough to mourn the demise of his soul. Like in Superman Returns, the heroine had two heroes to choose from. Harvey fearlessly put most of the mob in jail and Batman scared the drug/gun customers away, freezing out their business. The only problem I have with Dent's storyline is the idea that he threw what was left of his life away because of [MEGA SPOILER] Rachel dying. I realize that he was in love with her and he wanted to marry her, but I don't see a man--a politician no less--throwing his morals away because of a girl. I mean if Michelle Obama died--God forbid--I don't think Barack would kill every person involved in her death. The safety of the nation is resting in his hands and politicians are built to understand the weight of their decisions. That said, what the hell was Batman's problem? Why did he save Dent instead of Rachel? It wasn't because he was eager to hand over the responsibilities of guarding Gotham to Dent so he can be with Rachel, because he knew there was a huge possibility that the Commissioner wouldn't make it to her in time. So what gives? Batman's subsequent dialogue suggested that he believed Dent was meant to change the face of Gotham. The word "face" was used a lot in the film, hinting towards the damage that would be done to his in the future. There are even lines of Bruce praising it, saying, “Look at this face. This is the face of Gotham’s future,” and knocking himself by saying, “Gotham needs a hero with a face.” They even liken it to an all-American face. If you think about it, it technically is: a nation that's always at odds.

What I liked most about Dent's storyline was his association with The Joker. He had a childish philosophy that involved a two-headed coin that he used to playfully determine most of his decisions. That was the main difference between him and Batman; he was indecisive. The Joker manipulated his weakness so well by giving him and Rachel a 50/50 chance of living, sort of taunting his philosophy, resulting in it being emblazoned on his face. In the end, he became obsessed with justice and fairness and how everyone should get what they deserve. But since he refused to take responsibility, he left it up to chance. The scorched side of the two-headed coin was a nice touch. Not only did it remind him of Rachel, but it easily signified life or death. The way they burnt half of his face reminded me of The Terminator, but I liked that they updated it from the make-up used in Batman Forever.

I mentioned before how well the writers developed the characters and symbolism within the film. The best metaphor was in the title. Obviously, we all know that the dark knight is Batman, but it isn't until it's said in the film that we realize Dent is his counterpart, the White Knight. They were meant to rule over Gotham together, Dent covering the day and Batman the night. But it's when Batman decided in the end that it was best that he take the fall for all of Dent's crimes so that the city could retain the memory of their White Knight that he really emerges as the Dark Knight. The Commissioner breaks the Bat Signal and extinguishes the light, representing how the real light that was extinguished was that of the White Knight. Ultimately, the real Two-Face of the film is Batman, because although he was as much of a freak and hunted figure as The Joker, he was also a fearless leader like Dent--stuck between both worlds.

Overall, I think for a two and a half hour movie, the writers did a great job of not losing focus on the moral of the story or the evolution of the characters. I think the climax of the film's message happened when the ferry full of prisoners and the ferry full of innocent civilians had to decide each other's fate. Some of my friends thought it was too mushy and moralistic, but I think it was necessary in order to finally dot the "i" or place the cherry on top of The Joker's psyche sundae. Maybe his theories about humanity weren't quite accurate, but it was presenting the question of who deserves to live, the criminals or the civilians, that was really important--for the viewer's self-evaluation. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't have been able to press that detonator.

FAVORITE PARTS (...besides everything)
+ After Batman gets attacked by dogs, he asks Lucius (Morgan Freeman) if his new suit is dog-resistant. Lucius tells him that it'll withstand cats. Hmm, was that an allusion to Catwoman? Could she be in the next film? (Side note: Wouldn't it be cool if she turns out to be The Joker's prison psychiatrist and he's the reason she goes nuts?)
+ The Joker always functioned with time constraints. Almost everything was timed. We may not know his real name, but that's an interesting personality trait.
+ Their depiction of chaos, like the fire truck on fire, was terrifying as well as laughable.
+ Of all of the technology, my favorites were the bike and the sonar cell phone that maps out a room's blueprint. It was especially cool, because even Bruce was impressed.
+ An accountant who was commissioned to go over the books approaches Lucius with a blackmail threat after discovering that certain funds were being used to build machines and weapons, like the Batmobile. He threatened to go to the press with the identity of Batman, and Lucius barely broke a sweat in shutting him down. He simply asked him if he really dared to threaten a billionaire who chooses to dress up in a costume to beat the crap out of men in the middle of the night. Well, when you describe him like that Lucius, yes, he does sound pretty insane.
+ Most of the time Batman has one enemy, but in this film he's even fighting off the cops. The last few scenes where he basically ropes up a bunch of SWAT members and makes a fool out of them were pretty entertaining.
+ I liked how they paid homage to the original Batman series with the opening scene when he bends a gun and ties up the vigilantes.
+ Lastly, I really liked the twists. I realize I've spoiled a lot about the film, but there's one in particular twist that I won't reveal. I'll just say that it was ingenious and very well executed.

+ Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) appeared in the beginning for about two minutes as a member of a group of vigilantes who dressed up as Batman in order to help him fight crime. Not only was the Scarecrow still wearing his own mask, but he seemed reformed with no explanation or reasoning for it. Really bizarre.
+ Maggie Gyllenhaal tried to play cute and young, and it just didn’t fit her image. She’s much better at playing rebellious (Stranger than Fiction) or a manipulative bitch (Happy Endings). I don't dislike her, I just don't think she’s a damsel in distress.
+ Lastly, Anthony Michael Hall ("Dead Zone") playing an opportunistic reporter was just weird to watch. A bit part for someone who has had his own series for five years, really?

+ “Whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stranger.”—The Joker
+ “I’m going to make this pencil disappear.”—The Joker says as he stabs a pencil into a table before killing a thug by slamming his head into it.
+ “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.”—The Joker
+ “Will the real Batman please stand up?”—written on a Joker card that was attached to a hung vigilante dressed in Batman garb. Eminem must be so honored. lol
+ “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”—Alfred says in regards to The Joker
+ “Depending on the time, he may be in one spot...or several.”—The Joker says, explaining to the Commissioner why he needs to know what time it is when he asks him where Dent is being held
+ “You complete me.”—Joker says to Batman after he gets captured. Will that quote every die?
+ “This town deserves a better class of criminal...and I’m going to give it to ‘em.”--The Joker
+ “Do I really look like a man with a plan?” --The Joker

What was your favorite part/line?

No comments:

Post a Comment