Friday, July 25, 2008

The Dark Knight (2008)



One week of release and The Dark Knight has broken every major box-office record it could, even touching IMDb’s top spot in highest rated movies. This fervor, attributed mainly to the ingenious viral marketing campaign and the tragic demise of Heath Ledger, dictates the response to the movie being as emphatic as it is. Once the noise settles, sifting through that manic praise, the movie surfaces as a great crime-saga, even one of the best ever made. It just happens to be a Batman movie.

In the closing moments of Batman Begins, we believe that Gotham city now has a savior in Batman. And quite so, The Dark Knight begins with batman-wannabes combating scared criminals, and nervous mob bosses holding meetings during the day. In the tradition of “Gravitas, Pietas, Dignitas” the new district attorney, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), joins forces with Lt. Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Batman (Christian Bale) to rinse Gotham of the crime wave that grips it. What they or the criminals don’t expect is a madman, the Joker (Heath Ledger), taking matters into his own hands.

Much like Batman, the Joker uses fear as his main weapon. But what makes him truly scary is his lack of moralities – he crosses every line that holds Batman to good. In doing so, he becomes Batman’s opposite. And equal. Heath Ledger plays the Joker with an eccentric freedom hardly seen before, and in doing so comes as close as humanly possible to the demented Joker of the comic books. His stammering speech and shuffling walk exemplify the chaos in his mind. The Joker brings such dread, that you anticipate yet fear his arrival on screen – there are no limits to what he would do. In facing him, Batman and Harvey Dent are pushed to a limit that neither should cross.

At 2hrs 32mins, the movie is relentless and unforgiving. "The night is darkest before the dawn", proclaims Harvey Dent in once scene. "Why so serious?" asks the Joker in another. Christopher Nolan humorlessly depicts Gotham at its darkest hour, and weaves a saga of crime that is not expected of a superhero movie. The characters are given a depth that makes them as believable as timeless. Indeed, the movie transcends the comic-book-movie genre to reach a level of sophistication hardly ever attributed to superheroes. It makes for almost-a-must multiple watch.

In becoming what it is, where the movie does disappoint is in its superhero parts. In favor of the story, sacrifices are made of Batman. Being one of the world’s favorite super heroes, it does become injustice to not depict his iconography – visual representations of his towering persona, the batcave being replaced with a secret garage, the Harvey Dent arc in favor of the Batman-Joker conflict. Christopher Nolan, in making an exemplary movie has sacrificed Batman and pushed himself into a corner. If he does complete his trilogy, he would have to go back to the dark knight.

My rating --> 4 of 5

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