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Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Note how the Brits stick together...

Not to mention the rest of the gang. As you can see from the date that this post was, erm, posted it was Wednesday when I started this. That's when I saw the new BATMAN flick but it has taken me a while to compile my thoughts on it. I will say that I have seen THE DARK KNIGHT three times now so I feel I can deliver a review packed with thoughts and understanding. As always, there will be SPOILERS so if you haven't seen the movie then I strongly suggest you move on - nothing to see here. Come back once you've seen it and Oi!, don't go skipping to the last paragraph either. I don't mark movies, I'm not a 10~year~old you know. *coughs*

Caine lets Bale know the cops are about... (just in case)

So you're probably thinking, "Cam must have really lurved it if he's seen it three times. This won't be an entirely objective review." Well, let me disavow you immediately of that notion; there are a number of flaws in this movie and I cannot quite understand/believe why it has been hailed as the masterpiece it has in the past few weeks. It is already number one in the iMDB Top 250 movies of all time (rated by readers) - that can't be right, can it? Don't get me wrong, it is a great film (gets better each time, for sure) but I strongly feel that the recent PIXAR release, WALL-E, is worthy of the name masterpiece. Still, that's me and I s'pose when the dust settles people's opinions will change (as they always do).

How are those anger management classes going?

First off I would like to state, officially, that I was slightly disappointed after my first viewing. No, scratch that. (Goes off to find out how to do that thing when you have a line scored through the lettering. *Minutes pass* Cannot find it, gah!) So scratch that, in your mind. I was disappointed. Not slightly, just factually. When BATMAN BEGINS ended (nice bit of language there Cam) I felt excited and galvanised about the 'franchise' (sorry to use that awful word). I was desperate to see more of this new world but with TDK I didn't get that feeling. My little brain didn't crave to know what happens next? Still, I don't like to judge by comparison - it's reductive and pointless. An apple is not an orange and it's sometimes better but sometimes it's not - if you get my gist. So what did I think of it?

I'll kick off and get the HEATH LEDGER stuff out of the way first. His performance is the one truly remarkable trope in THE DARK KNIGHT. Simply stunning and it's to his credit that he immersed himself so deeply that it is genuinely difficult to tell that it's him playing THE JOKER. In a way this makes it easier to re~cast for any possible sequels; the role need not have died with the actor and I sincerely hope not. The character is the very essence of menace, striding through the film like a bad thought or a repressed memory that won't die.

Here we get a Joker, unlike TIMMY B's excellent 1989 version, that terrifies not only those in the film but also (and more importantly) the audience. Terror is a word that gets used a lot these days - [Richard Madeley] thanks Al Gore [/Richard Madeley] - and they use it here too, the Joker is described as a 'terrorist'. Much like RA'S AL GHUL (and his cronies) from BATMAN BEGINS but here the terrorist comes from within, a homemade construction and quite easy for the non~American production team to create. And like the media's fascination with personifying (whilst simultaneously de~humanising) the enemy - I won't bore you with a list but I'm sure we all know what Osama Bin Laden looks like - we are presented, through television, with The Joker as the 'evil' with outrageous and deadly demands.

But whereas the terrorists in the real world fight for their beliefs (no, they do), the Joker has none; other than his belief in chaos. Whether or not the filmmakers are trying to say that 'our enemies' in foreign lands simply believe in chaos is a matter for more learned beings than I. But it's worth examining as repeatedly during the film we see that the Joker is willing to die for his 'cause'. His chilling 'part of the plan' speech resonates accurately with our willingness (and possible complicity?) in the media's role in terrorism and acts of war. He states, "Nobody panics when the expected people get killed" justifying it with, "If I tell the press that tomorrow a gangbanger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will get blown up, nobody panics." In the UK we (collectively) didn't bat an eye~lid when a poor boy was killed in the underground for carrying a rucksack whilst having foreign features yet we are horrified when paedophiles get a telly in their cell.

But I digress. The character is very modern in thought and design and, thanks to Ledger, eminently watchable. Thankfully they dispensed with an origin story and delivered the man in situ as it were. Great to see the lies he spins about his 'origin' though - a nice nod to the 'comic' books. Because he doesn't have beliefs (like we 'normal' people do) The Joker is an horrific character but by the end of TDK he is hollow; he has nothing and has no~one on his side. His intelligence and organisation skills (not really seen in action, though we see the evidence of it) are quite phenomenal and, depending on how you critique the film, unbelievable.

Some find him funny too and, certainly during the screenings I have attended, the audience lapped up his insane ferocity. Personally, I find levity (in the situations shown) unsettling - a bit like The Master in last year's DOCTOR WHO finale. (And, geek fans, an ex~Master stars in this film too!) True insanity. And mad men, I find, should be avoided like drunks walking down a Scottish city street during the day.

OSCAR~worthy? Sure, why not? If JAVIER BARDEM can get one for his comic book super~villain performance in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, then Ledger should too. Also worth mentioning, with regards to acting, is GARY "Old"MAN. He plays the role superbly with subtle nuances that can only be appreciated on repeated viewings. GORDON gets some real good stuff here and plays a major part in the narrative. His 'death' was a shock and I genuinely felt sad - it felt like Gotham's hopes had died with him. I also wondered, did Gary ask for more money so they've written him out? But, of course, he ain't dead! Top marks to the Gaz~man.

Oldman breathes a sigh of relief when he realises he can be in the next sequel.

Big props also go to AARON "Name 3 Other Films He's Been In Without iMDB~ing" ECKHART also for his dual role. His suave but tough HARVEY DENT played very well and his turn to the Dark Side was superbly performed, albeit tragically. I've never been a fan of TWO~FACE but the Eckster does a sterling job in making him all too horribly real. And human. Then inhuman. His madness, like The Joker, chills. It would have been good to see more of Eckhart in the future but his story is satisfying in its brevity.

Why are you smiling? Some of us remember THE CORE you know!

Sticking with the cast for a moment longer it was tops to see ERIC "I Always Dress For The Occasion" ROBERTS in something good. And he wasn't sh*t! Likewise, heartwarming to see ANTHONY "Michael" HALL back on the big screen. Who, you ask? Shame on you. Did that robot woman die for nothing in WEIRD SCIENCE? Actually, did she die? Can't remember. Anyway, who else is there? MAGGIE G does a solid job as RACHEL and it's a pity she wasn't in the previous flick as she beats the tits off KATIE "Poor Cow - Imagine Turning Down, What Will Undoubtedly Be, The Biggest Film Of The Noughties" HOLMES and her wonky~faced portrayal.

Katie gets a make~over

Moving on from the cast, I feel the soundtrack must be flagged up. Absolutely stunning, as simple as that. This is no ordinary Super~Hero film and the composers treat it with intelligence and some artistic guile. We're never battered over the ears with the themes and the Batman theme itself barely raises its head and only doing so at pivotal moments (I think twice). Harvey and The Joker are well served with the former receiving a full Greek tragedy of a melody whereas the latter is given a couple of notes, barely scored but as unnerving as he is in its sparseness and oddness. Faultless.

The GENESIS reunion hits a snag.

'Faultless', however, is not a word I would use to describe the script - and this is really the only problem I have. The dialogue between the Joker's goons at the start (as stunning as it is) is atrocious. Doesn't help too that it's so awfully delivered (don't go blaming the IMAX camera Chris!). This film deserves a better class of goon actor. It does get better but every now and then we get dipped into clunker territory. Notably Rachel's lines to Harvey after he is nearly shot in court when she explains that Lt Gordon is a friend of hers. Again, though, poorly delivered. Very obvious exposition.

That's not how you do the Bat~dance.

The other lines that annoyed me (and still do) concern the idea of being a 'hero'. More markedly, the notion of Gotham needing a hero and the type that it needs. The denouement is full of platitudes and the repetition of "Either you die a hero and live long enough to become the villain" was as painful as it was unnecessary. Did they really think that line was worth hearing twice? And then we got Gordon's conversation with The Batman that was difficult to take on board as we were presented with the hero's rather gruff voice doing all those lines sounding a tad ridiculous. Not unlike the Mitchell Brothers in EASTENDERS. But full credit for some great lines, most delivered by Ledger and his final words, "I think you and I are destined to do this forever" turned out to be poetically incorrect.

Fly, Bat Boy, Fly!

The ending didn't really make sense and Gordon Jnr's puzzlement of why the cops were chasing the hero echoed my own thoughts. Let me get this right, you said that Gotham doesn't deserve him? But they do need him. Riiiiight. While I'm on the more puzzling aspects of the film (and feel free to set me straight on these points if I've missed something in the three times that I - a film student - have seen TDK), who were the five people that Harvey Dent killed (that Batman will take the blame for? Why not just say it was The Joker?) in his rampage? We don't see him kill five and I'm happy to accept that events can happen off~screen but this is a point that is being discussed elsewhere as I type. I have my own theories but it would have taken a second either to explain or, even better, leave out.

Heads I do THE CORE 2, tails PAYCHECK 2

One final point on confusing~ness, all that stuff with bullet. What? And, more importantly, why? Parts of it made sense, I could understand him piecing together the bullet and getting the prints off it (however unlikely the actuality is) but he seems to be re~enacting it with his own bits of wall and bullets and then comparing them - hardly scientific. Most irritatingly, the whole charade needn't have taken place as it didn't further the narrative. Anyway, small points and I appreciate this film is not for idiots, Nolan does make jumps from time to time and lets us fill in the gaps (like The Joker getting out of the interrogation room).

Nice, erm, pod.

Finally, Nolan himself. He's done quite a magnificent job and creates a world that is most enjoyable to sit back and watch. The director manages to create tension and place it in the dull genre of the action flick with aplomb, notably the majority of the scenes with The Joker. Top marks for the Hong Kong sequence that was as beautiful as it was pleasing - great to see The Batman at his full potential. Most importantly he's strung together a cast, story and score that far out~ways its 'comic' book roots and conveys a drama of Shakespearian proportions. And I mean that in a good way. I'm looking forward to my fourth time.

'Til the next time,

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posted by Cameron McEwan at 3:34 pm -
  • At 2:54 pm, Blogger Lianne said…

    Line through the lettering? You're looking for strikethrough.

  • At 5:40 pm, Blogger Cameron McEwan said…

    Thanks, cannot wait to use it!

  • At 1:32 am, Anonymous Chris S said…

    The ending kind of threw me aswell. I'd still rate it as one of the best films of 2008 though. Even the best 'comic book' film ever. (I don't think i'll ever recover from Spider-man 3.) It's a shame they had to resolve the Two-Face plot so quickly. There was surely some potential for more of him in another sequel.

  • At 8:36 am, Blogger Cameron McEwan said…

    Definitely one of the best this year and I cannot think of a better 'comic book' adaptation either.

    Although I really enjoyed what they did with Two~Face, I feel his journey came to an end as he exacted revenge on the people directly involved.

    Of course, he could go on to kill the rest of the mob....

    But he's dead...

    Isn't he?


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