Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dark Knight geek-out

I remember as a kid of fourteen & fifteen being totally immersed in the world of superhero, war, horror, even romance comic books. I would get lost in those worlds. When I was reading a really well produced comic with terrific art and a great story, it was as real to me as any good novel, TV show, or film.

My pals and I used to fantasize what it would be like if the movies would get it right, not with the usual "pow/bam" pop art type treatment like on the old 6o's Batman TV show, but with all the nuances and subtleties that the best creators had been putting into the medium for years .

The last time the film industry really nailed it was Spider-man 2, which had to have been created by geeks: not only there were subtle references to the comics sprinkled throughout the film, but also it held the true drama of the original strip, the emotion. It's something that only a true fan (i.e. the director Sam Raimi) would recognize and appreciate.

Now, having seen The Dark Knight, I know there are even more people out there who know how to get it right. Not just in look and mood, but that one element which is always left out when discussing comic books: intelligence.

The screenplay for this film is probably the most ambitious ever for a film of this type.   It goes well beyond its pulp origins into Shakesperean proportions--without the pretense.

I won't go into the details of the story here, because The Leopard knows almost half the world has already gone out and seen it--and many of us will again--but suffice to say the film is terrific, almost flawless. Heath Ledger's rendering of The Joker does not disappoint. It has a sly, subtle razor edge that no one portraying the character has so far explored.  Christian Bale, now comfortable in his bat skin, is more than up to the task of handling the script's new found complexities.  The moral compass of the piece is  the fine, layered work of Aaron Eckhart, the most perfect Two Face one could imagine.  All the actors--Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, and Michael Caine--are uniformly inspired, and are all given enough screen time to shine.

But the true hero for me of  The Dark Knight is director Christopher Nolan--his balance of comic book legend,  deep understanding of the possibilities of cinema, and an acute sense of  drama has created one of the very best superhero movies ever made. 

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