Random thoughts on most things from A. M. Craig.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Review: The Dark Knight

I don’t know what to contribute to the dialogue. I feel like it’s all been said, and it’s all true.

I shouldn't be speechless. I’m opinionated, verbose, and prone to speak my mind. I’ve taken college courses specifically studying (among other subjects) comic books and the aesthetics of crime in film. I’ve read everything I can about this movie. If anybody should have an opinion, I should.

If you read here often, you know that I’ve been anticipating this for a long time. I was told it was unbelievable, fantastic, a masterpiece, the finest of it’s genre. Big hype to live up to.

And with so much hype, it’s hard not to walk into the theater with grand expectations. I did, and they were all met.

Enough has been said of what happens on the screen, in the movie. I’ll only give a brief overview.

Batman isn’t a novelty to Gotham anymore. He is a fixture with mixed reception. His permanency has become complicated, with the various reactions people have to a caped crusader flitting through the shadows. Some want him gone. Some want to be him. Some want him to simply take off the mask.

Seemingly out of nowhere, a macabre nihilist prophet emerges, with the uncanny ability to turn order into anarchy. As in Batman Begins, Batman’s greatest enemies aren’t intent on controlling Gotham (he hasn’t much trouble with organized crime). His greatest foes are the forces of chaos. And what a force the Joker is.

Suffice it to say that the ensuing story has enough intrigue, moral dilemma, and sharp dialogue to easily cover four full length films, each of them a blockbuster. Same goes for the cinematography and acting. So much happened so fast, yet it never seemed rushed or undeveloped. There wasn’t a wasted line in the film.

After Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I simply didn’t have anything to say (hence no review here). After the Dark Knight, I was speechless. Polar opposites.

Instead of going on about the film itself, I’ll tell you what happened in my seat in the theater. I’ll tell you my experience with it.

I was literally on the edge of my seat the entire time. My fists and jaw were clenched through most of it. The uneasy tension Ledger’s Joker provides is pervasive, and like the inhabitants of Gotham find, inescapable.

Surprises are often defused by the foreknowledge of a surprise coming. Remember the third M. Night Shyamalan movie you saw. But I was told I’d be surprised in the Dark Knight, and I genuinely, truly was. The surprises struck with full, un-dampened force. That was surprising.

Often when somebody exclaims, “Awesome!” what they mean is Big and Entertaining, even Extravagant. Think about this summer’s first big super-hero release, Iron Man. Very rarely is the word used after actual awe, after silencing grandeur. So I want to be clear when I say the Dark Knight was awesome. In every way.

I’ve seen dark movies before. The quality has it’s own genre, noir. But I wasn’t fully prepared for how Dark this Knight would be. While the collateral damage is high, it’s no higher than any James Bond movie. The difference is the Joker’s means and reasons. He lets people destroy each other, simply for the sake of destruction, simply so he can watch. You never see much of anything, but the Joker’s propositions are haunting enough. It’s a well deserved PG-13. Don’t bring the kids.

I was caught by the symmetry of the story. With so much happening, this could easily have turned out a frenetic mess. It didn’t. Nolan tells a careful narrative, bringing you along at a pace you manage to keep up with.

A friend of mine says she doesn’t like movies because she becomes too involved emotionally, she is too affected. This film isn’t for everybody. When I got back, my roommate asked me if I loved it. I don’t know if I can love something so dark. Love isn’t the right word. I left the theater a bit stunned. Speechless, like I said. But what else should I expect from a movie everybody called stunning? It was incredible.

That being said, I’m going back on Tuesday. Already have my tickets. This time at the IMAX.

UPDATE: Saw it again. Stunning in IMAX.


D. Manning said...

you're going on tuesday? dang it.

Jodi said...

Amen. Austin, you have a talent for using words.

Stephen said...

I'm in Rexburg for work, so I went to it last night. I very much agree with your review in all respects.