The Dark Knight
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Dark Knight, The (Dbl BD)
The follow-up to Batman Begins, THE DARK KNIGHT reunites director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale, who reprises the role of BATMAN /BRUCE WAYNE in his continuing war on crime. With the help of LT. JIM GORDON and District Attorney HARVEY DENT,BATMAN sets out to destroy organized crime in Gotham for good. The triumvirate proves effective, but soon find themselves prey to a rising criminal mastermind known as THE JOKER, who thrusts Gotham into anarchy and forces BATMAN closer to crossing the fine line between hero and vigilante. Heath Ledger stars as archvillain THE JOKER, and Aaron Eckhart plays Dent. Maggie Gyllenhaal joins the cast as RACHEL DAWES. Returning from Batman Begins are Gary Oldman as Gordon, Michael Caine as Alfred and Morgan Freeman as LUCIUS FOX.]]>
The Dark Knight arrives with tremendous hype (best superhero movie ever? posthumous Oscar for Heath Ledger?), and incredibly, it lives up to all of it. But calling it the best superhero movie ever seems like faint praise, since part of what makes the movie great--in addition to pitch-perfect casting, outstanding writing, and a compelling vision--is that it bypasses the normal fantasy element of the superhero genre and makes it all terrifyingly real. Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) is Gotham City's new district attorney, charged with cleaning up the crime rings that have paralyzed the city. He enters an uneasy alliance with the young police lieutenant, Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), and Batman (Christian Bale), the caped vigilante who seems to trust only Gordon--and whom only Gordon seems to trust. They make progress until a psychotic and deadly new player enters the game: the Joker (Heath Ledger), who offers the crime bosses a solution--kill the Batman. Further complicating matters is that Dent is now dating Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal, after Katie Holmes turned down the chance to reprise her role), the longtime love of Batman's alter ego, Bruce Wayne.
In his last completed role before his tragic death, Ledger is fantastic as the Joker, a volcanic, truly frightening force of evil. And he sets the tone of the movie: the world is a dark, dangerous place where there are no easy choices. Eckhart and Oldman also shine, but as good as Bale is, his character turns out rather bland in comparison (not uncommon for heroes facing more colorful villains). Director-cowriter Christopher Nolan (Memento) follows his critically acclaimed Batman Begins with an even better sequel that sets itself apart from notable superhero movies like Spider-Man 2 and Iron Man because of its sheer emotional impact and striking sense of realism--there are no suspension-of-disbelief superpowers here. At 152 minutes, it's a shade too long, and it's much too intense for kids. But for most movie fans--and not just superhero fans--The Dark Knight is a film for the ages. --David Horiuchi
On the Blu-ray disc
The Dark Knight on Blu-ray is a great home-theater showoff disc. The detail and colors are tremendous in both dark and bright scenes (the Gotham General scene is a great example of the latter), and the punishing Dolby TrueHD soundtrack makes the house rattle. (After giving us only Dolby 5.1 in a number of big Blu-ray releases this fall, Warner came through with Dolby TrueHD on this one.) One of the most interesting elements of The Dark Knight was how certain scenes were shot in IMAX, and if you saw the movie in an IMAX theater the film's aspect ratio would suddenly change from standard 2.40:1 to a thrilling 1.43:1 that filled the screen six stories high. For the Blu-ray disc, director Christopher Nolan has somewhat re-created this experience by shifting his film from 2.40:1 aspect ratio (through most of the film) to 1.78:1 in the IMAX scenes. While the effect isn't as dramatic as it was in theaters, it's still an eye-catching experience to be watching the film on a widescreen TV with black bars at the top and bottom, then seeing the 1.78:1 scenes completely fill the screen. The main bonus feature on disc 1 is "Gotham Uncovered: The Creation of a Scene," which is 81 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage about the IMAX scenes, the Bat suit, Gotham Central, and others. You can watch the film and access these featurettes when the icon pops up, or you can simply watch them from the main menu. A welcome and unusual feature is that in addition to English, French, and Spanish audio and subtitles, there's an audio-described option that allows the sight-impaired to experience the film as well.
Disc 2 has two 45-minute documentaries on Bat-gadgets and on the psychology of Batman, both in high definition. They combine movie clips, talking heads, and comic-book panels, but aren't the kind of thing one needs to watch twice. More engaging are six eight-minute segments of Gotham Central, a faux-news program that gives some background to events in the movie, plus a variety of trailers, poster art, and more. The BD-Live component on disc 1 is more interesting than on some earlier Blu-ray discs, which could be simply a matter of the content starting to catch up with the technology. There are three new picture-in-picture commentaries, by Jerry Robinson (creator of the Joker), DC Comics president Paul Levitz, and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.--he's a Batman fan who's made some movie and TV cameos), plus you can record your own commentary and upload it for others to watch. There are also three new featurettes ("Sound of the Batpod," "Harvey Dent's Theme," and "Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard") and two motion comics ("Mad Love," featuring Harley Quinn, and "The Shadow of Ra's Al Ghul"). No longer available is the digital copy of the film (compatible with iTunes and Windows Media, standard definition, download code expires 12/9/09). --David Horiuchi
The follow-up to Batman Begins, The Dark Knight reunites director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale, who reprises the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne in his continuing war on crime. With the help of Lt. Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman sets out to destroy organized crime in Gotham for good. The triumvirate proves effective, but soon find themselves prey to a rising criminal mastermind known as The Joker, who thrusts Gotham into anarchy and forces Batman closer to crossing the fine line between hero and vigilante. Heath Ledger stars as archvillain The Joker, and Aaron Eckhart plays Dent. Maggie Gyllenhaal joins the cast as Rachel Dawes. Returning from Batman Begins are Gary Oldman as Gordon, Michael Caine as Alfred and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox.
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Okay, so Heath Ledger was brilliantly weird. Why he should be regarded as a supporting actor I can't comprehend, since he was the only person who was 'acting' in the whole flick. The others were just wearing their make-up and trying to remember their blocking. Ledger's performance was not enough to shed human interest on the special effects, particularly since they were so corny. There was no humanity, no human issue, in this film. Even Spiderman had plausible human dilemmas.
There was a lot of blatant "moral philosophy", however. A lot of jabber and symbolism about 'good and evil', and since it was the part of the film that, people told me, raised it above the ordinary, I think I have at least an outsider's right to react to the morality being preached, which was an extreme version of the Objectivists' 'special person' quasi-Nietzschean superman morality, the same morality as that of Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, the morality that claims the authority to defy society for society's good. It's the morality of Jack Bauer, the torture specialist in the TV show 24. Closer to real time, it's exactly the morality of Mohammed Atta, Timothy McVeigh, and Dick Cheney. It's not good enough for the kids who read comics and it's not good enough for the adults who have to make sense of modern times. It's scary to me how easily people accept it in the theater.
The film runs at nearly 2.5-hours, yet never ceases to lose interest or momentum. It doesn't waste a scene or moment; every event is utilized and necessary. 'The Dark Knight' tells a story worth telling and it takes the proper amount of time to tell it. Action-sequences are frantic, old-school, eye-grabbing stunts (vastly superior to 'Begins') and in their chaotic intensity we see that they serve purpose to the story, yet more interesting are not played for pure entertainment-value: we are meant to watch, petrified, simply hoping that the outcome will go the hero's way. Attention is never lost because we are immersed in a breathtaking, almost completely-unpredictable story (it packs many a shock), that makes us think and more importantly gains our emotional-investment. We come to care for the characters, because they are believable, developed, and personified fully.
Everyone has great-chemistry together. Maggie Gyllenhal is a more mature Rachel Dawes than Katie Holmes. Morgan Freeman provides his authoritative presence to the role of bad- gadget-inventor/Wayne-Enterprise CEO Lucius Fox, and under anyone else's portrayal, the part would be less-memorable. Gary Oldman underplays his world-wearied lawman with such honest-nobility, you never feel for a second any of its forced-acting. The irreplaceable Michael Caine makes a gentle, reassuring, father-like presence as Alfred, and the movie would surely fail without his strong-presence and interjected-moments of light-humor.
And while everyone (rightfully) pours the praise unto Bale and Ledger, I think most are glancing-over Knight's breakout-performance. As Harvey Dent, Aaron Eckhart does more than hold himself in the company of such a renowned-cast. He makes his presence known, whether he's playing on the easy-going charisma of Gotham's 'White-Knight' or the broken and damaged, twisted-soul of Two-Face. He achieves a full-impact with the tragedy that comes unto his character, and so closely connects with Dent, that he makes his pain tangible for us: we sympathize even as we become terrified. He captures both facets of each personality flawlessly.
Now, some people cite that 'Knight' has a potential fatal-flaw in the supposedly wooden- acting of Christian Bale. Admittedly, his development is not as grand as in 'Begins' (yet that film gave us such a good psychoanalysis of Wayne, we hardly need more), yet what Bale pulls off is admirable. Wayne is not an eccentric personality. He is a disillusioned man who can hardly find any joy in having no family, giving up his love-interest and spending his life fighting a battle that may never end. He's dark and conflicted, and Bale plays up on that brooding-mood by making Wayne look as though a thousand dark-things were on his mind. He's not wooden...he's a humorless, quiet individual. Even when Wayne is acting as a frivolous playboy for the public, every now and then Bale offers us a powerful glance that reminds us its all a façade; that deep down, something more disturbed irks him. Occasionally he offers a broken-smile when exchanging banter with Alfred, letting us know that beyond the dour depression of the Caped-Crusader lies a damaged human-being. It is only in the guise of a growling masked-man, that he can unleash his true, ferocious personality.
Finally, who could forget Heath Ledger. Now, when he was first-announced for the part, I was (along with many other people) asking myself: "Why?". Mr. Ledger had proved with 'Brokeback Mountain' he could deliver a potent performance. But he hadn't before. It is only, after seeing this film, that I know the answer to 'why?': I see the significance of his loss.
When Heath appears in this movie, he is completely unrecognizable. His voice is distinctly-altered; a near-whiny, pedophile-like tone that sends shivers down the spine. His face is completely splattered with makeup that renders him both freakishly-nightmarish and strangely-funny. And when you see him, you don't think it's him. In this, his final performance, Ledger proved he was a chameleon. His two iconic performances in this, and 'Brokeback', could not be more different. I am convinced he could have been anything in his career. He commits so intensely to character that the line of actor/portrayal dies. His every tick and gesture only further-enhances his character. Heath never hams the role up or goes for something cheap: he delivers a fully-immersed display of psychotic madness...or do we just label him that to feel safer? The movie writes the character brilliantly; blending terrifying truth into his every social-accusation, and making us question why we laugh at his sick-jokes.
'The Dark Knight' has had an incredible-amount of hype running for it, from the get-go, mounting ever-higher, until Heath Ledger's too-soon death. And the finished-product does more than exceed all of the near-impossible expectations placed on it. It becomes something much richer than a super-hero-franchise-saga. Christopher Nolan has opened a new door in cinema: allowing action-flicks to become more serious, capable of intelligence. He has transformed this into a piece of artwork, full of beauty, terror, moral-conundrums. This movie has changed things...forever.
There's no going back. 10/10