First of all, yes, I’ve been late with my blog. I apologize to all my loyal readers (hi Mom!). I know you’ve been dying to know where I’ve been (not under a rock) and what I’ve been up to (yes, I did meet Steven Spielberg - he’s short but quite friendly).
I haven’t been able to see many of the summer movies so far, but I was very fortunate last Monday to catch a sneak preview of a film everyone is dying to see…
The Dark Knight
“Some men just want to watch the world burn.” – Alfred Pennyworth
There has a been a lot of hype surrounding this film. At first it was almost solely about Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker and how because of his tragic death he was all but assured a posthumous Oscar nomination. This, of course, brought forth a lot of backlash saying no performance would be worthy of that. And when the film started to be screened it was compared, as a sequel, to “The Godfather Part II” and “The Empire Strikes Back” in terms of how it topped the original.
On Monday night I caught an early IMAX screening and let me tell you, “The Dark Knight” lives up to NONE of the hype.
It exceeds it.
It is simply a brilliant film. Forget about it being a Batman movie, a comic book movie, a summer movie, an action movie, a crime movie, etc. It is a BRILLIANT film. This is, simply, why we go to the movies. You will find yourself thinking of all the clichés like “edge of your seat”, “heart-pounding”, “jaw-dropping”, “white-knuckled” and “can’t keep your eyes off it” - and actually experience them.
Comparisons to other fantastic sequels are unfair because it so far exceeds its predecessor. “The Godfather Part II” was great, but “The Godfather” was equally brilliant. “Empire Strikes Back” was easily the best Star Wars film. But “The Dark Knight” makes its predecessor “Batman Begins” look like the campy Adam West show - and I thought “Begins” was a pretty damn good movie. While the first film was inspired by Japanese samurai films, this was clearly inspired by great crime thrillers such as “Heat” and “Seven”.
I don’t want to spoil this film for you all with plot details. I will say that it is a study in polarity. Of white knights and dark knights. Of order and chaos. And where we all fall in between them. It’s surprisingly topical, dealing with issues such as personal privacy and terrorism. And it’s a fantastic, globe-trotting action movie owing more to the James Bond franchise than any other comic book film. It relies on practical effects over CGI and is all the more stunning for it (George Lucas, take note). Seeing a semi-truck and trailer flip over its front end will astonish you - and they actually did that in the streets of Chicago.
Most of the cast from “Batman Begins” is back. Michael Caine is perfect as Bruce Wayne’s Jiminy Cricket, Alfred Pennyworth, offering sage advice with a sardonic and honest wit. Morgan Freeman returns as Lucius Fox, a brilliant businessman and scientist. And Gary Oldman is given even more to do as Lt. Jim Gordon, who tries desperately to hold his city together while the Joker tries to tear it apart. Each of these actors has at least one great scene. Gordon has one that will make you stand up and cheer.
New to this instalment is Maggie Gyllenhaal taking over for Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes. Gyllenhaal brings a more mature side to the character than Holmes was capable of. Aaron Eckhart plays straight-as-an-arrow DA Harvey Dent. Eckhart’s Dent is hard working, incorruptible, and humble - that is, until a shocking tragedy leaves him emotionally and physically torn in two.
But above everyone in an outstanding cast stands Heath Ledger. Ledger’s performance is simply stunning. His Joker will go down in history as one of the best screen villains of all time. Ledger makes the Joker amoral, psychotic, terrifying and hilarious all at the same time. The Joker is also the smartest character in the film, manipulating everyone like marionettes. The performance is absolutely pitch perfect and simply the best performance Ledger ever gave. An Oscar nomination is required here - not because of sympathy for a talented young actor who died too young, but because the performance merits it.
I saw it this film on IMAX and I was skeptical that it would work given most of the film is in a 2.35 to 1 aspect ratio while IMAX is traditionally more like 1.33 to 1. But it is absolutely worth making the effort to see these action scenes in IMAX.
I can’t give enough praise for this film. I was blown away. This isn’t just the best movie of the summer, it’s the best of the year.
Brett Deacon apologizes for his tardiness. Please accept his note from Epstein’s mother.
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