Tuesday, July 22, 2008

THE DARK KNIGHT


**WARNING: This review may contain spoilers....and excessive hyperboles.
**

"Madness.....is like gravity....all you need is a little PUSH!"

Chaos is the thematic centerpiece of Nolan's dark, grim, complex crime drama. Yes, to group The Dark Knight along with the other superhero/comic book movies is doing it a tremendous disservice. It holds out all on its own, away from the likes of the usual summer blockbuster fares, even away from its predecessor Batman Begins. So completely different and transcendental it is that it made Spiderman 2 or Iron Man feels like Saturday morning cartoons, dwarfing them almost to the point of irrelevancy; not saying that they're not good films in their own rights, bu they're just great escapisms, nary anything more than that. The Dark Knight not only managed to beat the apparently impossible odds of it meeting the insane hype, but also surpassed whatever preconceived expectations. What I expected of it was purely on the superficial, traditional level; for it to be at least as cool, smart and exhilirating as Batman Begins(which it is). But from the get-go TDK uncompromisingly broke those expectations to pieces and struck me over the head with its immense ambition and scope that I staggered out of the theater in an epipheny, struggling to collect myself to what I had just experienced. So many ideas and rays of brilliance are crammed into this 2 1/2 hour movie that I felt compelled to watch it again as soon as possible. Now that I've seen it a second time, all the 'puzzles' fit perfectly into place, revealing the hulking 'beast' hidden beneath the mask of 'pop entertainment'.

I will not talk much about the late Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker, as it has been universally praised already. And I share the enthusiasm very much but not to neglect the equally impressive Christian Bale and Aaron Eckhart, who is less flashy but still pulsating with moments of intensity. The rest of the returning cast members; Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine are all better than before, thanks to the script that allows each of the characters their moments to shine instead of just stuck in the sidelines, particularly the role of Jim Gordon who is just as pivotal as Harvey Dent's. In fact, it is the dynamic relationships amongst the three of these "Gotham protectors"; Batman, Harvey Dent and Jim Gordon, that lended to one of the film's major strength.

Batman is looking for someone to take up his mantle to fight for Gotham, but one that could do it in broad daylight and without the theatrics, the White Knight to the Dark Knight that can give the right inspiration to the people of Gotham, and he sees that in Harvey Dent. Jim Gordon still struggles to curb the corruptions radiating within his own ranks, That forced him to turn to Batman, who is incorruptable; an 'immovable object'. And like Batman, Gordon too sees Harvey as Gotham's hope. To both of them, Harvey Dent *is* the personification of the 'hero' that Gotham really needs. He is a symbol of good and courage, of law and order in a 'world without rules'. We see the three of them work together to bring down Gotham's organized crime families. But there is a new force that they failed to truly comprehend, a force of chaos in the form of The Joker.

The Joker is a pretty much a one-dimensional character, generally that would be a problem in other movies. But here, he needs to be that way, enigmatic and as he puts it, an "agent of chaos" - ala Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men. There's no back story or motivations, other than to cause anarchy, and to show that underneath it all people are just as ugly as him. That when their lives is at stake, in moments of desperation, or the things that they perceived to be dear to them are threatened to be stripped away, when there is no law that binds them, at that point people will succumb to their true nature. Ultimately The Joker feels that he's better than them because he does not hide what he is. He is free, he's not bounded by rules; external or his own. He has nothing to lose, he does not even care if he lives or dies. As he said, he just do things, he has no plans. People are easily intimidated, easily broken because they cling too much to whatever their future plans are. Their hopes and dreams or whatever the general perception of a normal life is in a civilized society that they are desperately trying to protect. The Joker exploits this in his reign of chaos. He performs a series of 'social experiments', a test of seemingly impossible moral choices, to reveal how far civilized society can endure without falling apart, without breaking their 'moral code' or the domesticated law and order of civilization that they so depend on.

The standoffs and the dynamics between The Joker and Batman is what drive this film. The Joker is the pure opposite of Batman, the other side of the same coin. The Joker sees through what Batman could not. For without Batman, he wouldn't exist; there wouldn't be any purpose for him to exist. With the Joker seemingly in control for the bulkier part of the film's duration, most would probably fail to notice that Batman or Bruce Wayne is equally imperative to the film's narrative, in a more cerebral way. It's about how Batman is affecting the people around him and Gotham in general. How his existence has changed Gotham forever; for better or worse. He may be Gotham's protector or a hero, but at the same time he is the cause of the 'escalation'. That's the existential dilemma, or maybe one of the, that Bruce Wayne had to face throughout the film, even after the end of the film.

I couldn't talk enough of the film, as there's a lot of depth and thematic complexities laden in it that warrant extensive thoughts and repeated viewings. My rants just skim the film’s surface. There is definitely a lot to chew on: its relevancy to society, post-9/11 paranoia, and parallelism to the ‘War On Terror’, to name a few. Heck it's probably the most thematically complex blockbuster film ever made, the side of The Matrix Trilogy. Except The Dark Knight is actually a considerably more well-made picture, even Oscar-worthy(other than Heath Ledger's performance which is as far as I'm concerned is locked for a nomination, provided the Oscars intends to preserve what credibility it has left). Why not? It's certainly deeper, and better even than most Oscar winners. If The Departed or LOTR managed to win a chuck load of awards, why can't TDK? Impeccable directing, a supremely intelligent script, great acting, amazing technical virtuosities, and the list go on. Everything about the film is so intelligently conceived and well put together. It is hands down the best superhero film ever made, and a damn near perfect film on its own rights. I admit there are a few flaws; some choppy editing, sloppily-shot fight sequences (but still an improvement over Batman Begins), and a few overly-expository dialogues. But they're all just a few black spots in a beautiful, majestic tapestry and barely mar the more than 2 hours of awesomeness. Iron Man brought back the fun and smarts in superhero movies, but for me what The Dark Knight did to the genre equals to what 2001: A Space Odyssey did to the sci-fi genre. It completely breaks the genre’s known rules, reinvigorates it, and sets a new benchmark, proving that popular entertainment can be great cinematic art.

5/5

11 comments:

Aaron said...

Nicely written, despite the couple of grammar mistakes I noticed.

It is a well made film, I agree. But I feel that Batman/Bruce Wayne deserves just a tad more exposure to the story, for the Joker and Harvey Dent's roles of act and consequence respectively ended up making Batman a mere victim and a supporting role in the film's pivotal moments.

Gordon's last lines could have been shortened to reduce the amount of corniness I felt. And Gyllenhaal should have more to do.

An almost perfect film, but a masterpiece nonetheless.

Kahuna said...

wow you really like this one huh? i just watched Hancock last week and i wasn't at all impressed. maybe i'll try watching TDK but that'll have to wait because it'll only be released in august here where i live.

maberik said...

aaron - damn i guess i need to put it into Word first.

as i said, i felt that Batman's story is still equally important, but in a more cerebral and subtle way. obviously with the more 'flashy' and electrifying Joker, he would *seem* to have eclipsed Batman himself in the movie. but what haunted me for days after seeing the movie is not the Joker, it's Batman. His complex existential dilemma, and the ending nearly brought me to tears.

and i think it's normal for a 'crime film' to have its female characters on the sideline. e.g The Departed & Heat.

kahuna - yes u really should watch it, especially because u're not that into superhero movies. pity u'll have to wait for it till august.

Ajami Hashim said...

"you.. complete me!" ~ joker

ahhhh! sooo sweeettt!!!

p/s:nice rev bro!

maberik said...

haha a 'nod' to jerry maguire.

thanks~!

Zack said...

Aku mau komen, tapi aku nampak bodoh kalau berbahasa Inggeris. :)

maberik said...

adoi bahasa melayu lagi bagus!!!

(review dlm english sbb nak naikkan visitor count je.heh :P)

Edd Vedder said...

Maybe I could widen my perspective if I go see TDK for the 2nd time.. hehe.

good stuff dude.. well-written.

maberik said...

tq2! ya inilah satu2nya filem yg lepas saja aku keluar dpd panggung, terus rasa mcm nak tgk lagi.

fadz said...

gila sih!

fssf said...

Not in ma list! Still waiting for deathlok n Sleepwalker, Ghost Rider has been filmed, well ... what to say ...