Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Dark Knight (2008)

The Dark Knight (2008)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan (screenplay) & Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne / Batman), Heath Ledger (The Joker), Aaron Eckhart (Harvey Dent / Two-Face), Michael Caine (Alfred), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Rachel Dawes), Gary Oldman (Det. Lt. James Gordon), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox)

I am numb. Frankly. I saw ‘The Dark Knight’ last night. In the theatre. Finally. And hell, I want to write about it. But what? Everything good, bad and ugly has been written about it, and whatever you might write, the movie has already become a cult. Chris Nolan Zindabad!
I am kicking myself for not seeing the film earlier, at least my opinion would not have been influenced by all those reviews I have devoured in the last one month.
Anyway, I just have to write this review.
If Nolan wanted a tagline for the film, as the Hindi films these days do (Like Mission Istanbul: Darr ke agay jeet hai), he could easily call the film 'The Dark Knight: To kill or not to kill.' Precisely, that's what the film is all about. The film, however, does have tagline: Why so serious?
You tell me, if you were in his position, wouldn't you be serious? And, you really feel sorry for this Batman/Bruce Wayne guy. Nothing really is going in for him, not even his bat suit, for which he has to seek help from Morgan Freeman's Lucius Fox, who has nothing to do in the film except grin and fumble with the keyboards in the end and give a small lecture on righteousness. Ha!
Consider the state of poor Bruce/Batman. His girlfriend leaves him because he's a vigilante. The Gotham city does not want him because he is a vigilante. The police force does not really need him because the new city head, Harvey Dent, is smart enough to handle all the bad guys, and this is not a tall claim, he actually does it, even if it means to tell the lie that he's is Batman himself. You don't question Dent's actions, he is the person who would do anything for justice, even if it means putting himself in the line of danger.
So, what does Batman do? Remain a helper to detective Gordon, and deal with a branch of copycats. And, how long can he remain righteous when there is a maniac in the city killing and wrecking havoc at will.
Once Joker comes into the picture, it's the end of the story for Batman, Bruce still lingers on little while, but he would not kill, even if his former girlfriend is blown away, and a just, protector of crime become criminal himself. Oh, please Mr Bat-guy, grow up!
Christian Bale has a strong screen presence, he is tall, brooding, he looks imposing with his bat costume in the night, even in Hong Kong, or anywhere else. But once Health Ledger's Joker appear on the screen, Bale is literally relegated to the side, way behind Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent and Gary Oldman's Det Lt James Gordon, who at least try to fight off the bad guy in right earnest.
This is a Ledger picture, from start to finish, and the knowledge of the actor's death even makes you to immune to any flaws there may be. In short, this one is a tour-de-force performance, flawless. (Someone wrote somewhere, if Ledger does not get an Oscar for this role, ban the awards. You agree.).
Ledger's Joker is a man without past or a future. He is man in the present, who thrives on destruction. Only he can ask, Why so serious, after putting a knife on your mouth. He relishes destruction. This is his fuel. This is what keeps him running, and Ledger gets this madness streak of the character right to the movement of his legs, to his frown, to his painted grin.
It's a task to sit through a Christopher Nolan film. 'The Dark Knight' is no exception. At the middle of the movie, after a very, very long chase scene, when Joker finally meets Batman, his arch-enemy, as he later says, "You complete me," I actually heaved a sigh of relief. The film is finally over. But phew, that was just the beginning. There were more actions to go.
This a superhero tactic to pit the arch-villain with the superhero. Both are actually same, only that they decided to take different paths. In this sense, Harvey Dent's character comes more closer to Joker than Batman ever is. But Dent gets a raw deal. His girlfriend is dead, and he turns into Two-face. Now, this is a very weak link in the film. Two-face is a well-known Batman villain (Tommy Lee Jones played the role in Val Kilmer starrer 'Batman Forever') and he needed better treatment than a frustrated cop turned psychopath. Eckhart plays both the roles, Dent and Two-Face, with such conviction that you begin to feel for him, even more than Batman.
So is Oldman's cop. He even says when his son asks whether Batman saved his life, that he actually saved Batman's life. And that's true.
At least, here's a film that bust the myth that Superheroes are invincible. Here, Batman is the weakest character, even weaker than Rachel in making decisions.
So, probably it was right that the film ends with Batman being chased by a bunch of police dogs. The Nolan retelling of Batman technically ends here. I don't know if anything more can be done to the character and the situation. But since the film has become a top grosser, a sequel is mandatory, even if we are not exactly waiting for one.
Finally, did I like the film? I don't know. I am still numb.

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