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Movie Review: The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight is blowing up records in a Joker-like orgy of box office destruction, and with good reason. It’s good. Damn good. The performances are once again note perfect, the characters are nuanced and deep, and there are easter eggs abound for comic geeks (not the least of which is the first Watchmen trailer).

The Dark Knight has been getting rave reviews since the first preview screenings a few weeks ago, and people are already murmuring “Oscar” for Heath Ledger, but could it possibly be that good?  Rotten Tomatoes is currently ranking it 94% fresh with 186 reviews!  That sounds pretty promising.

I picked up my tickets on Monday this week, opting for the 10:30 showing.  It was a good thing too, because when we got to the theatre at 9:15, there were signs announcing that all Friday showings of the Dark Knight were completely sold out.

We stood in line, and around 10:00 were ushered into the theatre.  While sitting, we were amazed by the number of people who showed up five minutes before the movie started incredulous that they couldn’t find seats together.  Really?  At what’s probably going to be the biggest box office blowout of the year you couldn’t find seats together five minutes before the movie started on opening night?  Odd isn’t it?  It’s like people KNEW about this or something.

The pre-movie trailers were a largely depressing and forgettable lot, but I was most excited about the Watchmen trailer.  I know it’s still nearly a year out, but I have to admit that right now some of the effects, especially those for Dr. Manhattan, look pretty cheesy.  I’m also a little worried that the whole thing seems a little too “super-heroy”.  The whole point of Watchmen is that most of these guys have been retired or living in the shadows for years, but Night Owl is a more athletic than I expected him to be.

The film opens with the previously released 6 minutes that were shown before I Am Legend in Imax, and right from the opening scene all I could think of was the Joker’s line from the trailers “Here, we go”.

Heath Ledger owns the screen whenever he’s on it, capturing the spirit of the Joker in a way never before portrayed on film.  He doesn’t focus on the “Clown” part of the “Clown prince of crime”, but instead focuses on the chaos of a fractured mind.  Alfred says at one point “Some men don’t care about money, all they want to do is watch the world burn.”.  This is Ledger’s Joker to a T.  We also won’t have to worry about hearing endless mimicks of Ledger’s Joker, the performance is so nuanced and different from scene to scene that it’s like he’s channelling different people.

Aaron Eckhart is brilliant as Harvey Dent, balancing an unflappable character with a boiling rage just below the surface.

Of course the usual suspects Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Michael Cain, and Gary Oldman were perfect.  Maggie Gyllenhaal was perfectly “meh” as Rachel Dawes (I don’t quite understand why she had to replace Katie Holmes).

The entire movie has a gravity to it that is lacking from most comic book inspired movies.  I think this is due to Christopher Nolan’s reliance on doing as much work “in camera” as possible.  There are no video game sequences in this flick, everything looks like it was really done (which is because in most cases it actually was really done).  There’s a veritas to everything that makes it that much easier to suspend your disbelief.

My only complaint is that the movie was over two and a half hours long, while it didn’t feel like it, we left the theatre at 1am!  That’s a crazy long time to be at a movie.  With that said, I don’t know if you could drop anything from this movie, it is that tight, and that great.

As great as Batman Begins was, this flick is even better.  Without having to worry about backstory, the film is allowed to tell a brand new tale that again sets things in motion for another sequel.

By Brian Garside

Brian is a digital experience expert, and part time internet superhero. He focuses on digital first design, digital strategies, content management, website usability, and user experience. He was part of the team behind BalanceDo, the co-founder of All New Comics, and the chief strategist at NorthIQ.

6 replies on “Movie Review: The Dark Knight”

66.4 million dollars in 1 day… 1 day… that is crazy. Brian here is how my life has changed.. instead of lining up for opening night (knight) I watched my oldest perform with her theatre company. As for the people who show up at the last minute. That is the best part. For the Ironman screening 1 chick held up the movie for 10 minutes and they needed security and then the cops. She was booed and mocked mercilessly by the restless crowd.. great stuff.

It’s no excuse but I worked at 3 am Friday morning. Does this mean I have to turn in my geek credentials?

Diana and I went to see the 12 noon show on Friday – I took the afternoon off from work. The film completely blew me away, and I agree with everything Brian said – except it didn’t seem too long to me. I cannot believe Heath Ledger’s performance. He did the Joker exactly right (and I’ve been reading Batman comics for a very, very long time) – the problem with the Joker in the comics is you have give him some degree of sanity for Batman to beat him. With this movie the Joker was insane (fractured, like Brian said), and virtually impossible to figure out. Ledger was brilliant, and if Anthony Hopkins can get an Oscar for playing Hannibal Lecture, then I think Ledger should at least be nominated.

My only concern (and not a criticism) is that the villains are already more interesting than Batman. They’re going to have to work hard on the next film to make sure that Batman is a counter to whatever villains they have …

I trust you got my crazy phone message earlier today. This film was unbelievable.. Ledger really delivered… that is how I always see the Joker since he crippled Barbara. It was enough to even make me overlook how they changed the basis of the character by altering the makeup.. chemical to deliberate. But the real revelation was Aaron Eckhardt… his portrayaly of Harvey Dent thru the entire arc was brilliant. I absolutely ached for his character. If Oscar smiles on anyone from that movie it should be him. The film looked brilliant… gritty yet hopeful.. the graceful camera arcs just added to the flying feeling. Oldman, Caine and Freeman were beyond splendid. Nice to see egos don’t get into the way. Gylenhall replacing Holmes was brilliant.. no way Katie could have pulled that one off. As for Christian Bale… he has Batman and Bruce Wayne cold… he actually looked comfortable in this adventure. I can’t say enough about this film. Up next.. X-Files and the return of my true love Dana Scully…

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