Ah…. The summer movie rush has finally ended! Sure there are still a couple movies coming out in the next few weeks with big titles but it seems like, for the most part,Hollywood is lacing up it’s re-boots and marching off to crush some of our fond childhood memories. So I don’t really feel obligated to rush off to the movie theater and review things. At the moment my concern is maxing, relaxing, and… waxing… I guess… Anyway, someone asked me a couple weeks ago what I was going to do with this site when every weekend wasn’t highlighted by the release of some new movie for me to voraciously ruin with the glee of a slow child attacking a sandcastle. My response: I have no idea.
But never fearAmerica, for I now have: an idea! And it will be written in bold and possibly italicized.
Micah Retro-Reviews: The Dark Knight
And that’s the idea. Bet you didn’t see that coming did you? Oh… you did? Cause I made almost constant references and have (what could only be described as) a teenage girl level, fascination with the movie? Oh. Well then… umm…
I’m gonna break my usual movie review format here and just talk about the different parts that went into making the Dark Knight the smoldering pile of awesome that it was destined to become. With “Retro Reviews” as I have apparently decided to call them I’m going to talk more about what went into making the movie and why the movie worked or didn’t work rather then spending a lot of time dwelling on summarizing the plot. I may not be even a little bit qualified to do this but, let’s face it, that has certainly never stopped me before!
Christopher Nolan helmed both Batman Begins (a good movie) and the Dark Knight (an EPIC movie). As my knowledge about movies continues to bloom and grow forever I’ve gradually come to realize more and more the importance of the man behind the camera (figuratively). You watch the movies of Directors like Nolan or the Coen brothers and you really start to get an appreciation for the amount of influence these people have on their respective movies. Chris Nolan took a Batman world that had been victimized by George Clooney, Jim Carrey, and the comically underacheriving Robin and turned it in to something that mattered.
I have a huge appreciation for super heroes like Spiderman and Superman who live in largely idyllic worlds where the good guys always fight for good and the bad guys are always BAD and pick the bones of small puppies out from their teeth as they cackle maniacally to “Yellow Submarine.” But, with Batman, Nolan did something different. He created a feel that appealed to a modern audience because everything wasn’t cut and dry. We want our heroes to choose to be heroes and not just to be heroes cause they’re dad dropped them off and told them to take care of the little earthlings until he could come back and pick them up.
The theme of the first Batman was fear. Facing fear and overcoming it and walking out of things stronger in the end. Batman was afraid of bats! It’s what made him Batman. In a world where every four minutes someone is coming along and reminding us that stocks and bonds have both permanently moved in to your mothers basement, and that employment is rarer then a diamond encrusted pickle, and that there’s a tidal wave coming being ridden by the four horsemen of the apocalypse and the cast of Cats the Musical what could be a more relevant message?
The Dark Knight reminded us that while corruption may run rampant (and oh how does corruption run rampant) the final choice will always be ours. Batman chooses to stay true to his ideals. Just like the people on the ferries choose not to blow each other up, and Harvey Dent chooses to become a raving maniac. In a world that’s constantly telling us that it’s not our fault and that we should blame things on society, or the government, or the relative position Jupiter had to the Milky way on August the 5th, a movie that reminded us that we are responsible for who we become was just what we needed!
Yes Chris Nolan made both Batman movies dark and gritty and ominous. But they needed to be. Nolan created a world that was hauntingly like us and gave us villains and heroes that we could relate to and strive to be like or not to be like!
Both movies were pretty much perfectly cast (with one major exception that I’ll get to later). Once again props go to Christopher Nolan for knowing who he wanted, but you can’t really say enough about how well the characters in this world fit together. From Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Inspector Gordon to Michael Caine playing the perfect Alfred each piece of the puzzle that is movie casting blended perfectly together. But let’s take a sec and talk about some standouts.
Christian Bale: A great choice as far as a lead goes there’s no denying that Bale absolutely nails Bruce Wayne/Batman. He took some well deserved guff for the “batman voice” he pulled out for the Dark Knight but it still worked… ish. Bale never ceases to be interesting to watch in any of his movies and is an actor I respect for his ability to make strong character choices. Not all of those character choices work (i.e. The batman voice, his characters “Chicago accent” in Public Enemies, and one of the most unnecessarily shouty performances in the history of people shouting at things in Terminator) but Bale always makes strong character choices and is (more often then not) right on the money.
Micael Caine: I know I mentioned him already but there is no one who I would cast in this part over Caine. Absolutely no one.
Aaron Eckhart: One of the unsung heroes of the Dark Knight I really appreciated Eckhart’s performance as Harvey Dent. He was a character that kept you bouncing between hoping he would make it cause he seemed like a good guy, and hoping he would get in a car accident cause he stole batman’s girlfriend. Oh wait he did get in a… oh… well that’s awkward.
Katie Holmes: Oh Katie. How I missed you in the Dark Knight. I think Holmes is a fairly good actress all told. Sure she played Tom Cruise’s wife once but… wait she’s actually married to Tom Cruise? Why? And ew. Anyway Katie, I thought you did really well as Rachel Dawes in the first movie. And then they gave it away… to Maggie Gyllenhall. Oh the tears I’ve cried Katie. I mean aside from the little things, like Maggie Gyllenhall being unattractive and standing around with her hand on her hip half the movie, she’s just a bad actress. Bad! This didn’t even come close to ruining this movie for me it was just… weird. A weird, weird choice.
And of course Heath Ledger: The Dark Knight may have been named after Batman but make no mistakes this was the Jokers movie. Ledger’s performance was absolutely gripping and some of the best character work I’ve ever seen done. Every look, every gesture, every motion he makes is so carefully crafted and brilliantly thought out that the final product was simply staggering. The Joker was the perfect antithesis for Batman’s dark, quiet strength. It was Light versus Dark spun on it’s head and I have never seen it done better. The reason the Dark Knight succeeded wasn’t just because of the Joker but because of the relationship between the Joker and Batman. A crazed villain bent on chaos and a dark Knight bent on preservation of good. These are the central themes behind most truly great works of art stemming back to George Lucas’s original Star Wars and even detailing the hallways of Hogwarts in Harry Potter. The Dark Knight’sGothamcity, though, was perhaps it’s greatest stage yet.
In Conclusion: The Dark Knight is just one of those movies that was perfectly timed, perfect for the culture it was released in, and absolutely perfectly cast. I’m a little leery about the upcoming third movie “The Dark Knight Rises” cause I’m really not sure if lightning can strike like that twice. I have learned to trust Nolan though and The Dark Knight remains one of the few movies I will ever give:
A 5 out of 5.