By Marco Chacon
Jul 22, 2008 12:14 PM EST

The Dark Knight Theatrical Review

The Dark Knight Theatrical Review
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As I've said, the real power with a reboot is that the film makers are spared from having to tell the canonical story ... the origin story. Since they can safely assume the audience knows who the hero is (as if anyone by know doesn't know who Batman is) they can focus on other things. But in this case we see something of a reverse: Dark Knight pretty much does tell the story of the canonical villains (The Joker and Two Face). What it does with these iconic villains, however, is at the same time both "utterly true to them" (in the sense of being horrifically believable) and utterly surprising.

Dark Knight is the first Batman movie not to have 'Batman' in the title. There are times in the film where the music simply becomes an atonal drone--a siren. Whether this is what it sounds like inside the Joker's head or is simply the saw-wave sound of rising chaos doesn't matter: the movie consistently takes the gloves off. The movie consistently corkscrews into darker and darker territory.

I did not realize, going in, that Dark Knight was 152 minutes in length--there were points where I thought: "They're going to have to have a sequel--they can't end it like this and there's just no more time ..." The movie does, in fact, take its time. I knew Two Face was "in the movie" (and I know which character from the comics "becomes him") but it happens so late into the movie that I found I wasn't sure if my instincts were right or not. They were and the movie doesn't hurry anything--it establishes everything it needs to (Two Face's live-or-die test, and so on) only moving ahead when it feels comfortable.

Everyone of course, is talking about Ledger. Apparently when he appeared with Michael Caine (Batman's butler, Alfred) it was the first time the two had met and Ledger scared him so much he forgot his lines. Ledger (who spent a month alone in an apartment crafting the Joker and working on a voice that betrays no sanity--but intense passion--and, more importantly, did not sound like Jack Nicholson's) is powerful in this film. His Joker has no history at all--no back-story--he is a charismatic psychopath and it is unsettleingly believable that he could get his recruits to die for him (working for him is to die for him: if you are sane and working for the Joker you need and exit strategy).

The plot line is a sophisticated web of plots that is almost too big and too unwieldy but despite several divergences, several asides, it knows where it is going and it gets us there by the end. I did find some of it straining belief: The Joker's super power appears to be to materialize bombs where he needs them on a mass scale. He claims not to be a planner--but he's clearly planned just about everything in the movie. In what looks like a mystifying nod to netroots, Fox (Morgan Freeman, Batman's armorer) throws up objections to spying on people on a mass scale when the city is under terrorist peril. One character begs belief by not telling other characters something I don't think they'd have kept secret.

These are minor objections: the movie is a tour de force. It is the darkest Batman movie to date--it gives us villains that are as crazy as they'd have to be to compete with a hero who is driven past the point of obsession (thematically, The Joker is the price Batman pays for not being willing to kill--this does not explain why some cop doesn't just put a bullet in him ... but hey, it's a comic). Dark Knight has broken opening night records and, I suspect, will set more records before its tenure is done.

The only major regret is that we won't see Heath Ledger reprise The Joker.
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MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 152 minutes
Distributed By: Warner Bros.

For more information about The Dark Knight visit the FlickDirect Movie Database.

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