Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Dark Knight

There're spoilers ahead ( heed the warnings ), but this film absolutely lives up to the hype, and I was totally floored by its artistry.

More below.





2008 is turning out to be a great year where Hollywood movies are concerned, and I'm extremely satisfied with my recent forays to the cineplex, having caught TWO fantastic films within 3 weeks.

Trailers for The Dark Knight have obviously generated enough buzz, resulting in a record-smashing opening day box-office gross.

There're many good reasons for its success, the most important of which is Heath Ledger who, though reduced to tabloid fodder with his drug-overdose death, is undoubtedly one of the industry's finest young actors.

Having seen him in a variety of fluff over the years ( 10 Things I Hate About You, Casanova, A Knight's Tale ), I was moderately affected by his subdued yet heartbreaking performance in Brokeback Mountain, but somewhat contested his Oscar nomination.

Following his portrayal of the Joker, however, I fully support calls for a posthumous Academy Award nod, hopefully with a well-deserved win.

While the entire cast is laudable, Ledger steals the show from beginning to end. Even when he wasn't on-screen, I found myself wondering what the Joker's up to, occasionally wishing the scene I was currently watching would end quickly so we could see Ledger again.

It isn't just about the garish make-up -- he is almost unrecognizable because he's altered his voice, speech pattern and body language so dramatically. Compare this psychotic character to any of his previous work and I guarantee you'll be duly impressed.

Jack Nicholson did a terrific job in the first Batman installment, but Ledger still beats him hands down with this tour de force. His Joker is 10 times more terrifying, 100 times more insane. He shows no interest in the female species ( unlike Nicholson's obsession with Vicki Vale ), burns a mountain of cash for the hell of it ( "it's just my half I'm burning" ), shoots all his accomplices once the job's done, conducts "social experiments" on fellow human beings, and spews some of the best lines in the script.


"I'm not a monster -- I'm just ahead of the curve."

"Madness is like gravity. All you need is a little push."

Which brings me to the next highlight: one of the most amazing scripts I've ever encountered, thanks to the genius of Jonathan and Christopher Nolan.

Many of my favourite movies feature excellent writing, and The Dark Knight had me literally on the edge of my seat, as I strained to catch every single word each character spoke. Not because the sound system was off ( the cineplex I frequent has top-notch acoustics, plus they were practically blasting the speakers at this particular screening ). Rather, I was so awed by what I was hearing that I couldn't bear to miss any of it.

While the first hour was a little jerky, with a few scenes that were too short and others that dragged, everything fell into place at the halfway mark, and it just got better and better with each passing minute.

Action-wise, there wasn't that much to rave about ( Wanted is tonnes more enjoyable in that area ). The Dark Knight's strengths lie in the cast's impeccable performances ( Ledger, Gary Oldman and Aaron Eckhart shine in their roles ), an awesome script as mentioned earlier, definitely strong direction from Chris Nolan ( although IMHO, Memento and Insomnia remain his best work to date - maybe I just prefer them 'cos they're not part of a comic book franchise ), and a haunting soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard ( I especially like the off-key violin twangs during high-tension scenes, most of which involve the Joker ).

Ultimately, however, I love this film because it's thought-provoking in so many ways, forcing you to ponder the human condition and its extremes, the wide-ranging consequences of our actions, and most importantly, your own beliefs and principles.

I hope the Nolan brothers receive Oscar noms for Best Screenplay and Best Director. I don't suppose the Academy is open-minded enough to consider The Dark Knight worthy of a Best Picture award just yet, but it's made its fair share of mistakes in the past ( e.g. notice how the superb Zodiac was grossly overlooked ), so I wouldn't be surprised by any stupid decisions should they occur.

Next on my list of must-see movies: The X-Files - I Want To Believe. How I love redeeming my credit card vouchers.

Before I sign off, just adding a
James McAvoy link for my own reference. Great photos and wallpapers! :)

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