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Batman

July 25th, 2008 (12:08 am)

Roleplay cancelled tonight, so we took the opportunity to see DCA's premiere of Dark Knight.

My anticipation was punctured by Pharyngula, who thought it was mediocre. I wasn't quite as dour as he was, but I'd have to say it struggles to make 6/10 in my book. Heath Ledger comprehensively runs away with the show, though.

I was praying, genuinely begging them not to go all Spiderman 3 and let Two-Face out of the bag too late. Or rather, too soon: for me "too soon" was anywhere before the end of the film, setting up for a third Chris Nolan outing. I didn't think it was likely, but hey, Tim Burton managed to have Harvey Dent survive through an entire film without going evil. (He did change skin colour when Schumacher got a hold of him though). It did quite neatly show up the pitfalls of supervillain genesis though - spend too long on your lovely luscious backstory and you risk not leaving enough time to have your supervillain shine in his moment of chaos.

By way of contrast, the complete opposite was true of Ledger's Joker. He has no back story, and what hints he gives out are made up on the spot. (We think he actually just ran with scissors in school). Instead he explodes onto the screen from the first act, deliciously insane and violently erratic. I'm not a fan of suddenly claiming Ledger is the best actor since time began just because of his recent death - I've never seen him give a bad performance, and he has played a remarkable diversity of roles, but at the same time, he's never really blown me away - but he absolutely shines in this film. With the exception of a somewhat lacklustre final act, where he does nothing much except get caught, every moment he's on screen is electrifying. I want to watch it again, solely to see his performance. You could sell me a pared down DVD that only had Heath's scenes in it, and I'd be happy.

That's not to say that Eckhart isn't brilliant as Harvey Dent - he is the second best thing about this film - unspurprisingly, as both he and the Joker are (in my opinion) the strongest Batman villains out there. This should tell you something about the rest of the film.

Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne is unlikable, and his Batman is underwhelming next to Ledger's flamboyance. Even the normally awesome Gary Oldman wasn't up to my expectations in this film. And don't get madelgine started on female characters who's value to a story is merely a love interest and plot device; sadly this is apparently all Maggie Gyllenhaal is good for, in Nolan's opinion.

But truly, the film really fails on it's uninspiring ending. It tries to lace the film with the philosophical debate of Batman's vigilantism - for which I will give it points for avoiding the twee "Batman saves everyone ever" scenario, but instead morphs into a twee "I settle for being beyond the law" scenario. A truly great ending leaves you with just a taste of things to come - Samuel L. Jackson has broken into your house, a bird-shaped shadow lurks in the lake, Gary Oldman has a playing card in a ziplock bag - but no, not a sliver of what's coming in the next film. If there even is a next film. They might yet pull a decent trilogy out of this (and let's hope it's not an X3...).

Final verdict - not as gripping as Batman Begins, in which I really cared about how Batman turned out. In this I was mostly fascinated by the villains, who were wonderful, but that wasn't quite the point, methinks.

Other things to consider:
- While no enough time had passed to rebuild Wayne manor, it apparently was enough to completely dismantle the city's long-standing monorail.
- They chose the wrong villain to kill off.
- We want a Poison Ivy/Harley Quinn as Nolan's next supervillain duo, although I'm already winding Mad up by suggesting that they will be romantically attached... to each other.

Comments

Posted by: Madeleine (madelgine)
Posted at: July 25th, 2008 09:36 am (UTC)

I dunno, I reckon the Joker is too awesome to kill off, even if he can't be in any future films of this incarnation of Batman.

Also, everyone knows Harley is (unhealthily) obsessed with the Joker, dammit!

Hmm, given this is the second movie, maybe it's a good thing that there's no hint of what's to come, look how things could have turned out for the Phoenix, whose future appearance was hinted at in the second X-Men film, had there actually been a third X-Men movie made. (Of course, there wasn't.)

Posted by: Martin "Gwar's Only Fan" Collins (gwarsonlyfan)
Posted at: July 26th, 2008 11:38 pm (UTC)

It is too long (by the time you reached the big ending you could hear distinctly more shifting of seats and rustling of bags) and I can appreciate that technically it is not as good as Begins (it certainly has that sequel feel to it in the fact that you have to have seen the first film to understand a lot of the character relationships), it didn't have that awesome link to american history that begins had and there were a lot of problems with the script, such as claiming that the Joker's actions are untraceable but I fail to believe anyone is capable of sneaking THAT much explosive around and Wayne finishing that "special project" without Lucius' help raised my eyebrow etc etc

However I'm currently leaning toward giving it at least a 7 because as an act of villain worship it is incredible and I loved it. Yes Wayne and Gordon are poorly done (i'm not sure why people have raved about Oldman's performance either) but we've already had that. Begins was a piece of hero worship developing batman and to a lesser extent gordon with some very weak bad guys, as much as I loved Murphy's performance Scarecrow was never a particularly exciting badguy and Raz El Gool (Spl?) will never be a pop culture icon. With the Dark Night however this is reversed and Batman's actions are more of an excuse for the Joker to return to the screen.

I thought the morals were strong, certainly compared to pretty much every other superhero film and I liked the ending. Having said that its the Joker's morals that are the more fascinating and his final speech was wonderful. I would have preferred some more twoface action but I'm not entirely sure how it would be fitted in as he'd said all he needed to say.

Finally at the moment I do not want to see a third part as I currently see Begins with its focus on the hero and Dark Knight with its focus on the villain as forming a kind of Ying Yang. Still I wouldn't say no to a Batman film like Miller's Dark Knight which fastforwards to when Wayne is old and Harley Quinn would be perfect as a Villainess for that as her maturation could be explained alongside what happened to Wayne during the years inbetween.

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