FILM : The Dark Knight - Caped Crusading To The Top


As the end credits for The Dark Knight (TDK) rolls, for a few seconds, my wife and I just sat there, on our seats. Static, not being able to move, no words uttered. In fact, for nearly 2 1/2 hours, we hardly took our eyes off the screen. After those few seconds, we turned towards each other, and grinned. Although no words are spoken, both of us knew exactly what's in each other minds. We share the same feeling. It's been awhile since a film took our breath away. In a way it was a weird kind of mixed feeling of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Satisfied for witnessing a masterpiece; dissatisfied because we couldn't get enough of it. Simply put – this movie is really, really good.

TDK is probably the first movie I can think of in a long time that successfully creates a feeling of chaos from (almost) start to finish. And - thankfully enough – Christopher Nolan establishes this mood not by shaking his camera all over the place (read : Michael Bay) but instead keeping it under tight control even as Gotham is just melting down all around him. Starting from the marvelous opening bank heist scene, the ingenious introduction to The Joker involving a pencil, the slow burn transformation of Harvey Dent to Two-Face and the final heartbreaking showdown, the film is a controlled maniacal chaos.

Christopher Nolan has done what seemingly before this was almost impossible - given us a sequel that builds upon the first film and the characters, and (gasp!) gave Gotham City a touch of reality by linking it to Hong Kong. Gotham City is no longer fictional, but seems much closer to home, which in my opinion, is probably why TDK feels extra disturbing. Die-hard comic fans may prefer Burton’s Batman rather than Nolan’s but in my opinion Burton played up the absurdity of Batman and his villains without making them believable.

In Burton's Gotham City, the place is purely fantastical, therefore rendering the whole affair a whimsical spectacle. We as the audience are merely spectators and felt a little detached. Nolan's sequel stuck in our hearts simply because being rooted now in the real world, the issues it addresses become far more immediate than we could imagine from something of a comic book origin. Nolan clearly respects not only the possibilities in the source material but also the very real pain that would drive a man like Bruce Wayne to the edge. In other word, we want to believe Batman actually exist.

I reckoned you probably have read everything, good or bad, regarding the monumental performance of Heath Ledger as The Joker. Some say it's Oscar-worthy, the all-time best performance by an actor, and what-not. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure about that but one thing for sure – he owns this character. After TDK, any villainous character, coincidental or not, will always be compared to Ledger's performance. He's very good.

But in my opinion, the Joker phenomenon has somewhat overshadowed the amazing performances of Aaron Eckhart and Gary Oldman. Their film-carrying performance is brilliant. Eckhart play his role to perfection. He grounded the movie. I really think if you remove Harvey Dent character, TDK would basically devolve back to a simple comic book movie. It would have just been good vs bad. For me, the difference between Joker and Two-Face, is that Joker is all about anarchy and chaos. He has no reason for being a maniac. Two-Face is killing for a reason. And that reason is love. Will you flip-out like Harvey if your love is taken away from you unjustly? Do you realize how easily other actors could have made the character slip into some sleazy stereotype political dude? So for that, Eckhart is perfect.

And Gary Oldman.. man, what can I say. It’s Gary freakin' Oldman! Even if you give him the most absurd, out of this world, pathetic character (remember Lost In Space? Fifth Element?), he probably can outshine everybody else. His Lt. Gordon, marvelously restrained, provides the moral center of the film. He expands Gordon's righteous anger with loyalty that makes the final showdown heartrendingly unbearable. I always have, and always will say this : Gary Oldman is one of, if not the greatest living actor of our time.

So where's Batman in all this, you ask? Bale did a decent job, complete with growling voice and all. But honestly, do you really think Batman – the character, will be so enormously popular if not because all the supporting characters that surrounded him? I think Bale and Nolan did realize this from the start and did the very wise thing of not overplaying him. Batman - in all his movies - is the driving force, but not the main attraction.

The action sequences are great, and Nolan has improved on the last film even in this aspect, giving us sequences that are better shot and more controlled (love the tunnel chase). Special mentions also have to go to the musical score of TDK by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard that add emotions to every scene. Definitely a sure bet come Oscar time. And plus points to the casting director for adding Eric Roberts, Michael Jai White, William Fitchner AND Anthony Michael Hall (it's Gary from Weird Science!) to the almost perfect ensemble of actors.

The one thing I discover is that - as a director, Nolan takes his story very seriously. That's what makes his films great. TDK is a frightening, uncompromising, flat-out wonderful film, hitting the perfect mix of characterization and humor, bouncing between phenomenal action set pieces and the brutally human moments that place the film in a recognizable world even as it soars from a comic book fantasy. I believe in Harvey Dent? I believe in Christopher Nolan.

9 comments:

  1. Zack said...
     

    Edd, Lt Gordon dah naik pangkat ke Commissioner Gordon *cue the Joker clap*.

    Sigh.. bestnya dapat tengok wayang dengan orang tersayang (eh, kau tengok dgn wife kau, right?) Tak sabar aku nak tengok sekali lagi.

    PS: Good review Edd. Aku dah lupa camner nak buat review mcm ni.

  2. Edd Vedder said...
     

    Thanks Zacko. My wife is also my loyal movie companion for the past 7-8 years. :)

  3. maberik said...
     

    aku setuju sgt pasal lakonan Aaron Eckhart dan Gary Oldman tu yg tak kurang hebatnya! terutama eckhart la

  4. Ajami Hashim said...
     

    agaknya possible tak TDK menang BEST FILM @ oscars utk pecah rekod sebuah filem adaptasi komik???

    p/s: rev kau mmg wowwwwwwwwwwwww!!!

  5. Edd Vedder said...
     

    mave..
    asyik orang puji Joker je (walaupun dia mmg hebat!), org lupa dekat pelakon2 lain.. hehe.

    ajami..
    thanks. Kenapa tidak? Tp aku rasa untuk Best Musical Score tu dah mmg confirm.

  6. Lizzam said...
     

    "And plus points to the casting director ... to the almost perfect ensemble of actors."

    aku rasa almost tu pasal Maggie Gyllenhaal la kot?dia amat tak match la untuk watak ni. reminds me of how
    Kirsten Dunst yg kerap nampak too old for Tobey McGuire...

    ni yg aku marah kat tom cruise ni..timing dia out la kali ni scoring out dgn Holmes...

  7. fadz said...
     

    edd, this is why i dont need to review dark knight, ure review is enuf, perfect utk everyone, critical n selamba.

  8. fadz said...
     

    btw, im sooo eckhart! :p

  9. Nazim Masnawi said...
     

    "aku rasa almost tu pasal Maggie Gyllenhaal la kot?dia amat tak match la untuk watak ni."

    Fuck you, Lizzam.

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