Sunday, August 03, 2008

Dark Knight Triumphant

"The Dark Knight" is currently the 12th highest grossing movie of all time, and is projected to eventually slide into the #2 spot between "Star Wars (A New Hope)" and "Titanic". It's definitely a quality movie and one that is true to the 1985 "Post-Crisis" movement, what I like to call the "Reality Shift" movement of comics. It shouldn't be surprising that a movie like this has finally come out, as guys like me who were comic-reading teenagers in the 80s have finally become old enough to make movies. It will be very interesting to see what Hollywood does with "Watchmen" and how both the non-comic reading public and the fans respond.

So, hits and misses with "The Dark Knight" from a Fanboy's perspective.

The Joker: Heath Ledger's performance is a hit, of course, although in all fairness, this is not a role that lacks meat. William Goldman, the legendary screenwriter, points out that while Dustin Hoffman received accolades for playing the autistic brother in "Rain Man," the far more challenging role is the one Tom Cruise portrays, as the brother who doesn't have all sorts of built in tics and mannerisms to play with. I think Dark Knight presents the same issue. The Joker is easy to play. Jack Nicholson had no trouble with the character in the original Batman movie and Cesar Romero didn't in the 60s TV Show. In contrast, look at the disastrous turns that guys like Val Kilmer and George Clooney had as the Caped Crusader. Playing the guy who is supposed to be in control and subdued all the time and still reveal the rage boiling underneath, that's the tough job, and I think Christian Bale pulls it off excellently. I think the real problem is that those prior actors didn't know how to play Bruce Wayne. Christian Bale does.

Two-Face: A great job actually taking the time to explore this character's backstory (although they actually changed his origin significantly) and incredible makeup/digital photography. This Two-Face looks like Two-Face is supposed to look. I hope they do more with him in the next movie.


The Joker. Didn't expect that, did you? My issue is this. In his first appearance, the Joker used Joker Venom. It poisoned his victims while causing their faces to spasm in a crooked, twisted smile. This made his murders all the more horrible and it was ignored in this film. Maybe Nolan thought corpses with big smiles would look too cartoony but I think it's an important part of the character.

Two Face: The original story, where Dent becomes Two Face after being sprayed with acid by a vengeful mobster during a prosecution, fits the character better, and I would have liked them to have worked this in. Also, we didn't get a chance to see any of Dent's "dual themed" crimes, so I sincerely hope we'll see this character again.

Still, this is definitely the movie that comic book fans have been waiting for and if you haven't seen it yet, you definitely should.

Side Note: The 999th highest grossing film of all time? Oh God! Starring George Burns.

Update: No doubt the football elite have been reading my blog, as Brett Favre has agreed to return to the Packers and the Packers have agreed to give him a shot at the starting job. See? Everybody does the right thing, everybody's happy!


Rick said...

Very interesting post. I finally saw the movie and really liked it. Didn't realize that about the joker poisoning his victims, leaving them with a twisted smile. How creepy! I liked how they had the Joker give that story about how his dad made his face like that, so you feel a little sorry for him, and then later he changes his story, which not only makes him seem really psychotic, but also makes the audience hate him that much more for having given him some sympathy. That was really brilliant. Did they do that in the comic too?

Craig Berger said...

For a long time, the Joker's origin was left a mystery, other than that he was a criminal known as "The Red Hood," so named because he committed his crimes wearing a helmet made out of a reflective, two way metal that completely covered his face. When trying to escape the Batman, the Red Hood fell into a vat of chemicals which altered his features so the he emerged as the clown like Joker. Later, Alan Moore, the father of modern "gritty realism" in superhero comics and the author of Watchmen, added to the Joker mythology in a graphic novel that everyone should read called "The Killing Joke," where the Joker does become quite a sympathetic character. I won't spoil it by saying how.

James said...

Well, Craig, I finally got my thoughts on the Dark Knight together, and I wasn't as impressed with it. Check out "The Dark Knight Is Strongman Claptrap--A Spoiler-Laden Review" at my blog.