Thursday, July 24, 2008

Batman Movies - The Dark Knight, part II

I went and saw the film again yesterday, and I have a few additional thoughts (as I said I would in my initial review).

First of all - is it the greatest superhero movie ever? I hate making statements like this for two reasons.

1. If you work with teenagers, you know that they will declare whatever movie they last enjoyed to be the "greatest movie ever." (Not all of them do this, of course - save your hate mail.) If I were to believe them, The Punisher, Transformers, and 300 are all amongst the greatest movies ever made. (Note - I did like 300, enough to buy it even - but come on.) So, I don't want to declare a movie that has only been out for a couple weeks to be the "best" of anything.

2. Is it even fair to compare it to all the other superhero movies? Was it really trying to do the same thing as Iron Man? I mean, it's safe to say that it's better than the first four Batman movies. I don't know if I'm ready to say that I like it more than Batman Begins though. It's possible that I will be after a few more viewings, but I just don't want to rush into it. (I suddenly realize that this is what you'd get if Hamlet wrote movie reviews! Just make the call already, dammit!)

With that said though, it definitely is a contender. If you made a list of top ten superhero movies of all time, there's no question that it belongs in the upper part of that list. Shoot, if you made a list of top ten action movies, it belongs there as well.

It definitely got even better a second time. I suppose that if I had anything to complain about, it's that I don't always like Christian Bale's "Batman voice." While he overall does the part better than any actor before him (much of this is due to the fact that he had better material to work with) I still think that Michael Keaton did the best job of changing his voice from Bruce Wayne to Batman. This is a very minor quibble though, and it's not every scene where it bothers me.

One thing that I appreciated even more this time was that the Joker gives conflicting stories as to how he got to look the way he does. That's right out of the comics. Even The Killing Joke, the story that supposedly tells his origin hints that it might not really be his origin, as his psyche is so fractured that even he doesn't remember what it is anymore. Also, the comic (later turned into an episode of the animated series) Mad Love had the Joker telling different variations on what his past was like to elicit sympathy from people so he could manipulate them into feeling sorry for him. (One of the stories involved an abusive father who "favored the grape".)

Also, every moment with the Joker is so incredibly tense. While Ledger's performance alone creates this, I noticed that the music works really well in adding to that tension in the scenes where he's talking about his past (and is brandishing a knife at somebody). This is really one of those performances where the hype is well deserved. It'll make you say, "Who the hell is Jack Nicholson?" (But you'll never forget Caesar Romero.)

One other thing that was great about this is that it was the first Batman movie to show how smart Batman really is. In the comics, when he's hanging out with the Justice League, that's the one big advantage that he has over all of them - he's always the smartest guy in the room. I could actually see this Batman pulling his own weight with Superman. With the other incarnations, not so much.

Okay, I could go on and on. The one thing that I just want to add is that for as great as this movie is, it didn't surprise me. I suppose that ten years ago I thought it was highly unlikely that they'd ever make a really good Batman movie (much less Spider-Man and Iron Man). The reason why is because I didn't think that there were enough people in Hollywood who respected the source material. I always knew that the material had the potential to make a great movie, if only they stayed true to the comics. Now, that's finally happening, and people are realizing the potential of these characters. I realized it when I was twelve - thanks for catching up, general public.

Revised Grade: Worst case - A. Best case - A+

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