Friday, May 17, 2013

Film Review: The Dark Knight (2008)

If you've read my review of Batman Begins, you'll know that was disappointed at how little it felt like a Batman movie, or like a superhero movie. The Dark Knight is similar in these regards, as it doesn't feel quite like a superhero movie or like a Batman movie. A very strong argument could be made that this movie is actually a Joker movie. I'm pretty sure the Clown Prince of Crime has more screen time than any other character in the entire picture. Does that mean this is a bad movie, though? Not one bit.

While the last movie had heavy emphasis on developing the Bruce Wayne character, The Dark Knight shows us a Wayne who already knows what his place in the world is. Since he no longer needs developing, the film doesn't waste our time trying to. Instead we are treated to a more superhero-feeling story in place of the adventure and internal monologues of the previous venture. This helps give the movie a better comic book feeling than its predecessor, which is a very good thing.

However, we are also given a very heavy dose of the Joker, which is very rarely a bad thing. Heath Ledger's Joker is not a Joker with which you will be familiar (assuming you still live in 2008 and have not already seen this movie). The character portrayed in The Dark Knight, I would hesitate to call him Joker. He almost isn't. Nolan and Ledger have come together to create what is almost a completely new character. This Joker isn't in it for the laughs, he's not random and chaotic, he's far less gimmicky, and really isn't actually having a good time with the whole ordeal, which is all very counter to the traditional Joker character. The Joker we have here, despite claiming that he has no plan, no end goal, and that he is little more than an "Agent of Chaos", is actually a very manipulative individual with a very clear goal in mind and a very definite plan for him to reach it. This Joker frames himself in a wild persona to hide the fact that he does have a master plan at work. By becoming a mad man, this Joker is able to fool others into believing that he is nothing more than madness incarnate, but that really couldn't be further from the truth. And I'm not really spoiling anything by saying that, although if you're afraid of spoilers you shouldn't be reading reviews, because a lot of it comes from my own inference.

In short, this Joker is a very different character from the Joker you will be expecting. I can't say that I like this character trying to be the Joker, but I do like this character for what he is. That's kind of the important thing to remember about Heath Ledger's Joker. You might not like him calling himself the Joker, but the character on the screen is just as worthy of being remembered as the Joker ever has been.

One of the things I think contributes to the movie's lack of superheroic or comic feel is that it attempts to be a very serious statement on psychology and society. Both Watchmen and V for Vendetta have managed this while still feeling like a comic book superhero movie, so the fact that The Dark Knight couldn't have this serious commentary on the human condition without sacrificing some of the super flare of the Batman and all DC franchises is kind of a bad thing. As talented as Nolan is as a director, and as talented as all the people involved in this film are (they would have to be. The resulting film really is amazing), they kind of lost the character of the Batman in their attempt to create a gritty, serious, and, dare I say, intellectual film.

The film that resulted is spectacular by all means, and of course it's Batman's few confidants who really pick up the slack and give flesh to this world that badly needs it. What it set out to do it does well, in most regards. As much as I don't feel like this movie works as a Batman movie, I can't say that it doesn't work as a movie, and I can't say that the ways they utilize the Batman character and universe don't work either. They do. They really do. This movie is weird in that it is a Batman movie, but it's also not a Batman movie. I guess there are just too many facets of the Batman universe to properly characterize in any one way.

That gives me an idea for another post. Maybe I'll get to that later tonight.

Ultimately the movie is fantastic. If you haven't seen it yet, well, stop sucking. Go see it. Nine out of ten for Joker: The Movie.