Batman Long Weekend Book to Movie

Batman Long Weekend – Movie Review: The Dark Knight

Title: The Dark Knight

Movie directed by Christopher Nolan; screenplay by Christopher Nolan and Johnathan Nolan; starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Morgan Freeman

Somehow, some way, someone upstairs must’ve decided that I deserved an early birthday present, and I got some free passes to see The Dark Knight yesterday evening. As you probably have surmised from the header and the fact that we are having a Batman weekend, my expectations for The Dark Knight were astronomically high.

And The Dark Knight was everything I could ever have wanted. And more. It blew my expectations out of the water.

Examining the summer blockbusters so far, we have Iron Man, Indiana Jones, Wall-E and Hellboy II. While arguably Wall-E deals with deeper issues, all these movies have in common a summer blockbuster-y levity to them. The Dark Knight says ‘eff-you’ to all that nonsense–this is a winter movie masquerading as a summer blockbuster. Take this as a caveat–if you go to watch The Dark Knight this weekend (as you all should do), do not expect the light, super fun flicks we have come to expect. This is a film that lives up to its name and relishes in the darkness of its subject material–and at 2 and 1/2 hours long, the oppression is complete. Rest assured that it is tempered with hope, but know that this is not your light-hearted Tony Stark or delightfully camp Indy flick.

As Wayne Manor has been destroyed in the events of Batman Begins, Bruce and Alfred take up residence in a penthouse. The Batcave has been relocated and revived in an underground lair, beneath a Wayne Enterprises construction site. And Batman is busy at work, dismantling Gotham’s money laundering and mob scene criminal by criminal. With old mob boss Falcone indefinitely incapacitated, new bosses, like Marconi, have taken up the reins. The thing is, the criminals of Gotham are hitting a slump. The masked Batman has become a symbol of hope for the people, and noble minded folk like District Attorney Harvey Dent and Lieutenant Jim Gordon are not afraid to take a stand against crime and the criminals they might have been coerced into shutting up for in an earlier time. So, the bosses face a common problem. And a solution presents itself.

The Joker crashes the party. With his moldy colored hair, his smeared, creased makeup, and scarred face, he tells the bosses that in order to stop the wave of hope mucking up their plans, they have to treat the cause, not the symptoms. That cause would be the Batman. At first, the criminals dismiss this as the machinations of a madman, a freak. But when Harvey Dent, Rachel Dawes and Jim Gordon manage to bring a serious case against ALL of the major criminals in Gotham, they decide to take the Joker up on his offer, and let the proverbial dog out of his cage…and Gotham needs all the help it can get.

Heath Ledger’s Joker blends the comical flair of Jack Nicholson’s portrayal, but manages a terrifying edge that speaks true to its source material–the Joker of The Killing Joke, The Man Who Laughs and The Dark Knight Returns is personified flawlessly here. The late Mr. Ledger is not overhyped in the slightest–his performance is perfection, simply put. He makes this movie, and manages to blow Jack Nicholson’s version outta the water.

The Joker cares nothing for ends or purposes; his only purpose is chaos. As the Joker says to Harvey, he’s like the dog that chases a car in the street: should he ever CATCH the car, he would not know what to do with it–it’s the DOING, the CHASE that matters. And thus, his fixation with the Batman. All his actions in this movie helping the mob bosses, all stem back to his fixation with the man behind the mask, who he sees as a freak…like him. In a particularly morbid line lifted from Jerry Maguire, the Joker tells Batman–“You complete me.”

Perhaps the best thing about this film is the feeling of futility in the face of madness. The Joker is a man that has no agenda other than anarchy–as Bruce Wayne tries to find SOME way to get through to him, Alfred tells him that there are some men that do not need reason for their madness–they just are. As the demented schemes the Joker concoct escalate, the darkness is choking, oppressive. How can you deal with a man that has no remorse, or personal ties? A sociopath this complete and this intelligent is capable of unspeakable acts, and The Dark Knight conveys this with aplomb. What can you DO with a criminal that wants nothing but death in return?

The other very notable entry here is Aaron Eckhart, in his role as Gotham’s knight in shining armor, the honorable Harvey Dent. In all invocations of his character, Mr. Eckhart plays to perfection. He has that trustworthy charm that one sees in good politicians, reminiscent of his role in Thank You for Smoking, in the role of the D.A. As for his fate…well, as they say, that is history. Fans of the comics, particularly of the Frank Miller arc, will not be disappointed.

And what about the Dark Knight himself? Christian Bale’s reprisal as Bruce Wayne is, as expected, brilliant. He is an actor that fills out his roles to the fullest, and his Batman here is no exception. The characterization of Batman here holds true with graphic novels Ana and I have been reading and reviewing this long weekend. He makes some questionable decisions in this film, and sees just how far he will have to go to catch a madman like the Joker. The question is, is he willing to go there? Batman isn’t a ‘hero’, like say Superman. He is masked and dwells in darkness and shadow–he watches and protects Gotham, and will be whatever he is needed to be. The conclusion of the movie only exemplifies this.

As for the other main roles: Maggie Gyllenhaal does a fine job transitioning to the role of Rachel after Katie Holmes, Michael Caine is a cynical but funny Alfred, and Gary Oldman does an impeccable Jim Gordon. Gordon’s role here is larger and more significant than in the first film, to which I say, Thank Goodness.

The plot is multilayered and incredibly complex. At 2.5 hrs, this is not the fastest, easiest movie to watch, but it is so very worth it. And, lest you think that it is all death and corruption–at the end of the day, the message is one of hope, despite bleakness. In the words of Harvey Dent, “the night is darkest before the dawn.” And the dawn is coming.

Indeed, The Dark Knight delivers on every level. This is my favorite movie of the summer, and of the year so far.

Additional Thoughts: The previews for this huge blockbuster ain’t too shabby either. Case in point, the first ever Watchmen trailer! Fittingly set to Billy Corgan’s (The Smashing Pumpkins) song from Batman and Robin (the only good thing to come out of the movie), ‘The Beginning is the End is the Beginning’, Watchmen is another one of those movies I am peeing my pants over. It looks awesome. You can check it out HERE

Rating: 10 Perfection – My favorite movie of the year thus far. Worth watching by everyone, and I highy recommend it.

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23 Comments

  • Ana
    July 18, 2008 at 12:53 am

    Oh man, next weekend could not come fast enough. I NEED to watch this.

    Awesome review. And still you didn’t spoil a thing. I MUST know what happens argh.

  • Mollie
    July 18, 2008 at 4:31 am

    MAN I CAN’T WAIT! But I’m not going to be able to see it this weekend b/c I’m going camping. Grrrrr.

  • Katie(babs)
    July 18, 2008 at 5:28 am

    Thea: The Man Who Laughs is one of my all time favorite silent movies, behind Phantom of the Opera. So very insightful how you compared The Joker portrayal to that of Gwynplaine.
    have you ever see the movie Unbreakable? That movie gives great insight on comic book heroes and villains. I feel that is M. Night’s masterpiece even over The Sith Sense.
    Batman and The Joker need each other, much like yin and yang, light and darkness. I think Dark Knight shows this perfectly from your review. It is such a shame that with Heath gone, there may be no Joker in future installments of the Batman series.
    BTW, how hot was Christian? πŸ˜›

  • Ana
    July 18, 2008 at 5:35 am

    Katie, Thea HATES Unbreakable but I agree with you 100% – I love that movie, I think it is M. Night’s best and every time it is on, I MUST stop and watch it.

  • Sarai
    July 18, 2008 at 7:01 am

    ALRIGHT I am going OMG I got goosebumps reading your review. I’m so excited to see this damn movie!!!!

  • Katie(babs)
    July 18, 2008 at 7:06 am

    Thea is on crack. Unbreakable is incredible.
    Psst…. I didn’t care for The Incredibles movie. Does that make me a bad person?

  • Sarai
    July 18, 2008 at 7:12 am

    Yes Katie yes it does

  • Thea
    July 18, 2008 at 7:29 am

    Ana, thanks dude, it’s hard writing this without spoiling anything! MMMph *gags self before something slips out* You MUST see this movie. ASAP. WE NEED TO DISCUSS TOGETHER.

    Mollie–you know, it’s probably a good thing that you’ll wait until next weekend. This weekend is gonna be b-a-n-a-n-a-s! Something like 8000 showings nationwide tonight were sold out as of yesterday, according to an article Katie found! Cripes. Buy your tickets online, and get there EARLY πŸ™‚

    Katie πŸ™‚ Ahhh, as much as I’d like to, I can’t take credit for the comparison of the Joker to Gwynplaine–this is actually an Ed Brubaker Joker comic, which draws on the titled movie (which incidentally was the inspiration for the character!). So…indirectly I guess πŸ™‚

    And yo, I can’t stand Unbreakable. *shudders* It’s one of those movies I just cannot watch–too long, too long-winded, no subtlety. BUT the message is an important one, and certainly is one we see here with Batman and the Joker. It’s breathtaking, really. I cannot stress enough how wonderful a job Heath Ledger did. His demented Joker is perfect. PERFECT. He gives madness a face and a voice, and it’s terrifying.

    Sarai–*highfive* So when are you planning on watching it?? I hope you love it too! You must let me know what you think πŸ™‚

    And The Incredibles was an awesome movie. *ninja* Tsk tsk Katie πŸ˜‰

  • meljean brook
    July 18, 2008 at 8:14 am

    I’m so jealous I might not come to this blog again … for a couple of hours.

  • Thea
    July 18, 2008 at 8:44 am

    Meljean πŸ™‚ Watch it, and come back to play! I need to speak with someone about this movie! *bounces off the walls*

  • little alys
    July 18, 2008 at 9:55 am

    I am dying to see this movie. Just dying but it is insanely and completely SOLD OUT in all three theaters around. May have to wait until next week!
    Thea- Thank you for the wonderful review and yes, no spoilers whatsoever. Just teasing tempting glimpse at the awesomeness!!!
    Must watch soon… >_<

  • M.
    July 18, 2008 at 9:55 am

    I don’t think I can bear to watch this, knowing the role was so intense it cost Heath Ledger his life.

  • kmont
    July 18, 2008 at 11:11 am

    Most excellent review, my fine friend…

    BUT what is this Watchmen??

    OMG it looks stunning! The trailer gave me chills! Says it’s a graphic novel? I feel a burning need to read it. Deets, please!

  • Katie(babs)
    July 18, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    I am dying…. need to see this movie…
    Is Christian at any point naked?

  • kmont
    July 18, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Oh, Katie, girlie high five. Christian nekkid is gooood Q.

  • Thea
    July 18, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Kmont, Watchmen is probably the most critically acclaimed graphic novel ever written, by none other than the master himself, Alan Moore.

    It’s a serious critique on “superheroes” (I put this in quotation marks because they actually aren’t “super” with the exception of Doctor Manhattan–the big blue guy)–the world is coming to an end, edging to nuclear holocaust. Here’s a short summary:

    A crime-conspiracy story that provided the first realistic look at the behind-the-heroics lives of superhero archetypes. Set in an alternate America, Watchmen follows the costumed hero Rorschach, who is living a vigilante lifestyle because most masked heroes have retired or been outlawed. While investigating a murder, he learns that a former masked-hero colleague has been killed, prompting him to begin investigating a possible conspiracy to eliminate all masked heroes – retired or otherwise.

    And…yes YES YES go out and buy the graphic novel, it’s affordable and all collected in one volume and so worth the money. Ana and I are both fans (I heart you Ana!), and you best believe we’ll be doing a big ol’ special on the comic and movie when it comes out.

    For now, the trailer will have to suffice. And it gives me the tinglies!

  • Aymless
    July 18, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    Wooo….

    Tinglies everywhere! Must see movie! I am so jealous you got to see it. I have hopes to catch it this weekend but it sounds like that will be hard.

    Thanks for the trailer too! Watchmen looks fantastic. I’ll have to look up the graphic novel now.

  • Kate
    July 23, 2008 at 8:57 am

    Oh dear god, I finally got to see this last night, and it was excellent. Excellent! I can’t wait to see it again already. And

    SPOILER AHEAD!!!!!!! (sort of)

    I’m really glad about what happens to Rachel, I really thought her character was pointless. Which probably makes me heartless.

  • Sarai
    July 24, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Kate: You too? OMG I’m so glad I wasn’t the only one.

  • Kate
    July 25, 2008 at 8:23 am

    Geez, Sarai, I feel so mean but I couldn’t stand the character when it was Katie Holmes and Maggie Gyllenhal (sp?) didn’t make her any better. Bad writing, weak character. I don’t generally like Magge G. but I don’t think the poor Rachel was her fault at all.

  • Thea
    July 25, 2008 at 8:32 am

    LOL ladies! Well, I have to admit, I agree with you. I really wasn’t crazy about the Rachel Dawes character–I think she was a very easy way to show the more emotional, human side of the Bat.

    So yeah, I didn’t mind too much when she was killed. As Kate says, she was a poorly written character, only really there as a device.

    On the upside…does this mean we are finally going to get some Selina Kyle?? Pretty please with a cherry on top Mr. Nolan? There are women in Gotham City too and not all of them are goody-goody washouts or billionaire arm candy…

  • Sarai
    July 25, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    I just wanted Rachel to be more not so whinny goody tushy Mary Sue you know. And I’m really happy I wasn’t the only one.

    Is there going to be another by Nolan? with Bale? or are they done?

  • Andrew Haxley
    February 18, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    cool movie but why are you guys arguing seriously stop it!

    the movie’s cool and no one else cares what you think

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