Friday, July 25, 2008

The Dark Knight

Another overhyped superhero movie. When I read the reviews, I had the proclivity to try and find out what was so good about it. The special effects required that I watch it in a theater and not on the computer, but that did not make me concur with 115,340 users (at the time of composing this post; it was 91,097 votes when I first saw it yesterday afternoon) at IMDB rating it at 9.4 making it the Numero Uno on its all-time Top 250 list, surpassing Godfather, Forrest Gump, The Matrix, Judgement Day, and many other movies much more deserving than this one. And this, when it is not yet released in the UK, a majority of Europe, and Japan.

Not considering IMDB's ratings, the movie is indeed good, though not as good to qualify as the best movie ever. The Nolan brothers strike again after Memento, Batman Begins, and The Prestige, and outmatch all their previous creations. It could not have been better for only the seventh movie for director Christopher Nolan, and the fourth for part screenplay writer Jonathan Nolan. Amazing cinema at display with an intelligent blend of action, darkness, iniquity, violence, eeriness, and of course, technology. A gripping tale across the aesthetically constructed city of Gotham, meticulously created sets, awesome Batman gizmoes including his armour and vehicles, The Dark Knight narrates a story of good against evil amid thrilling chase sequences, psychopathic wickedness, excellent roleplays, and a background score as eerie as the rest of the plot.


The best part of the movie is Heath Ledger as the Joker. With that sinister-ly painted white face with dark eye circles and a wide blood-red smile, and the peculiar tongue gesture, you have a tingle down the spine whenever he says "Why are you so serious? Let's put a smile on that face", and starts narrating his psycho stories with a knife inside someone's mouth. He had in his part some really well-written dialogues he delivered menacingly. He was THE star of the movie, and reminds you of sinister characters like Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs. I can put my money on his winning an Oscar for the best supporting actor this year; unfortunately and sadly enough, the Oscar committee does not consider villainous roles for the best actor category. Another unfortunate and sad event is the tragic, untimely, and accidental demise of Heath Ledger, just after the filming of the movie. He was 28. Thankfully the Oscar can be awarded posthumously.

Christian Bale as both the superhero and the business czar is poised as opposed to the rowdy Joker, although I believe he performed better in The Prestige. The veterans Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine too give a serene screen presence.

The review would be incomplete without a mention to the superbike that is 'ejected' out of Batman's supercar when it crashes and fails beyond auto-repair. The bike has 20-inch-wide tyres, and is made to appear as if it is armed with grappling hooks, cannons, and machine guns. That is a machine designed to perfection, and the best bike I've ever seen in any movie.

The one bit that irked me was the extended role of Harvey Dent. His half-burnt face was not scary enough as compared to the Joker's fully-painted one, and he turning rogue after he loses his girlfriend in a plot by the Joker, and then his taking revenge upon authorities and Batman seemed a bit overdone. Also, his uncanny habit of flipping a two-headed coin reminded one of Sholay.

Out an out, an interesting movie. Not IMDB #1 material, but if you love sinister, fearless, psychopathic wickedness, just go and have a watch without a second thought.

14 comments:

Mayank said...

even i agree, a good movie but not a great movie. better than batman begins but not phenomenal or something that can attain cult status like godfather, star wars,

the only status it can attain is probably being the best among superheroes movies

Amiya Shrivastava said...

A good critical note! Heath Ledger is indeed a genius. Although, I found nothing new in this film (after I saw Ironman and Hancock),it was a nice to watch movie; this proves that an ordinarily scripted film if directed and acted in meticulously becomes a super-success.

This film was shot in Chicago, you can see blue number plates on the cars, characteristic color of number plates in State of Illinois, and as a part of coincidence or deliberation there is indeed a city name Gotham in Winsconsin a neighbouring state of Illinois.

I appreciate, that you have written a high standard review on the movie with all the facts well researched and have interweaved them neatly with you own opinion.

Gr8 job dude! I enjoyed reading it!

ashes said...

Mayank:

Rightly put, a good movie, but not a great movie. A cult status does not look imminent to me.

Bhuvan Chaurasia said...

Nicely written!!!

ashes said...

Amiya:

Thanks for the appreciation.

Yes, the movie was shot in Chicago and Hong Kong. Gotham City is a fictional city first identified in DC Comics' Batman #4 in 1940. The WI Gotham is not a city but a small unincorporated area. Besides, the New York City is often nicknamed as Gotham.

Rashi said...

good one !!

Mayank said...

just a note on IMDB ratings

its done by users like you and me. hardly a film critic

it just a mass hysteria only because of the druggie, Heath Ledger who is dead. If alive, this movie will just be another Batman movie.

ashes said...

Mayank:

No dude:

1. Heath Ledger was not a druggie. He died of an overdose of a prescribed drug, a medicine in simpler words.

2. I did not know Heath Ledger was dead till after the movie ended. I even failed to notice the "In the memory of Heath Ledger" shown at the end of the casting. I was still bowled over by his acting.

I agree on the imdb ratings being a mass hysteria.

Anadi Misra said...

Wanted to wait till I saw the movie...and I agree...It is over-hyped...It is probably worth an 8.5 but not 9.3. Lot of people liked that car-bike scene!

I do agree with the mass hysteria portion...and thats not just because of Heath's death.These days, every movie gets ranked higher...I am guessing that as internet is coming to teens and pre-teens, and young adults (and they are the majority of voters), they tend to skew the voting patterns and results. But again, if they are the biggest movie going demographic, then why not!

I do firmly believe that sometimes, people start saying/doing feeling things just because others are saying that...kinda like what Goebbels propoganda used to be...

If you notice trends, the younger audience voted heavily over 9..younger the people, higher the ranking given...a few reasons could be -
1. Different opinion of good movies than "mature people"
2. Too young, not seen that many good movies yet...
3. Death still a distant concept, hence Heath's death treated with much more sympathy than adults, etc. etc.

Now the top 1000 voters gave it a 7.9...which could imply two things...these are the most passionate movie-goers, hence their opinions are worth more...on the flip-side, most of them are jaded, so unless the movie is unusual, it won't strike a chord with them.
IMDB staff gave it an 8.4

Another thing to consider here is the cultural significance. People in USA grew up on these comics and movies (I just read somewhere that Batman TV series' started in late 40s, early 50s...plus several Batman movies). So the way they perceive these movies is going to be different from us (and 50% voters are from US)
e.g., I was really excited about 'Journey to the Center of the Earth' coz I was a big Verne fan in 5-6th grade...that the movie was no good was another matter...

Personally, comic book movies,and certain fantasies like LOTR, Harry Potter (yeah yeah, I know) don't appeal much to me...

I like them more relatable, more human...so in that sense, I liked Batman Begins more...less slick and taut then this one, but the protagonist was more human...(thats one reason why Superman movies are last on my comic-book movie list)

Now about Heath's acting...as you said, he was very good...Perhaps since I had heard so much about his performance and the dialogues, it didn't stir me up that much...Heath was a method actor and such people do come up with powerful stuff, e.g., Daniel Day Lewis (you should see him in Gangs of NewYork), I think Tom Hanks too...Aamir Khan in India perhaps...
But at the risk of sounding too critical, the adulation is in part a result of his untimely death...He was a very competent actor...and had a powerful, author-backed role and did wonders with it...But in terms of range, his role was rather limited...So I wouldn't call him an all-time great just because of that performance....

Man, too long a post....Its almost like a blog, If only I could find the same passion as I do while commenting on your stuff...BTW, while watching the movie, I saw a few previews and saw something which pleased me quite a bit...Perhaps I will blog about it (maybe that will motivate me)

ashes said...

Anadi:

That's what I was waiting for...an in-depth analysis and discussion :)

I agree with that people say/do things just because others are saying/doing that...I myself am a victim of this at times. Not to the extent of Goebbels propaganda but yes, I get the point and fully agree.

Your reasons for the movie reaching the top of imdb list make perfect sense...

I haven't read too much of American comics, my favourites were Chacha Chaudhary and Dhruv and Nagaraj etc. And I have of late started liking comic book movies...Spiderman, Batman (this was the first batman movie I ever watched), Fantastic Four, Incredibles etc..

Harry Potter is a different thing altogether...That takes you to a different world altogether, and I've always preferred reading British authors over American ones; there is a marked difference in the language which I dont like in popular American fiction. And yes, I've not yet seen or read any part of LOTR...but yes, thats a big item on my todo list.

Again, I had never heard about Heath Ledger or his acting, let alone watching any of his movies, before The Dark Knight...and as I mentioned in the comment to Mayank above, didnt even know he was dead...so I had a totally unbiased opinion of his acting. (Although it might have got biased by the time of writing the post). Anyways, he was simply great!

Yes, develop passion and resume writing...your writer's block has been a bit too long...

Anadi Misra said...

Adding on to different perspectives...once I was in a movie hall watching What Happens in Vegas (Ashton Kutcher, Cameron Diaz). I like Kutcher from That 70s Show (accha hai, try seeing it), so went in...and the movie was just dumb, lousy, had all the cliches and all the old, beaten to death jokes.

Yet the crowd kept on laughing and giggling, and then I realized they were mostly 13-21 years of age. And it was quite possible they had never heard those jokes or seen those cliches. Now, I can't have that perspective unless I cleanse my mind of all the things I have accumulated. But it is quite possible for others to thoroughly enjoy the movie. Perhaps years later, when they see this movie again, they might realize it was no good...but now, its good.

Yeah, I read that you didn't know that Ledger was dead, so I agree your opinion was unbiased and perhaps he did act well :D. Wish I had your state of mind, then I could have enjoyed more :)

Since my slate wasn't clean so shayad I was on a fault finding mission subconsciously...Its hard not to 'react' to information these days...some go with it, others tide against it...

But I do stand by a couple of observations. One - excessive makeup did dehumanize him for me...Two, emotions were limited to creepy/quirky/cruel and funny in a sinister way. So character graph thoda limited sa laga, hence my comment on lack of range (but then again, perhaps this is how the character was envisoned so he had to stick to that)...
Due to this, the rather limited graph, I can't bring myself to compare this performance with the all time great ones...But no matter what, It was a very competent performance.

Accha another interesting & very valid comment that I heard. Some people found it too un-real, as Joker, just 1 person, takes on the mob, police, Batman, Government (all of them had resources/power)...and he was just an ordinary guy with a scar (with devilish intelligence and absence of fear)...
This makes me think, was he then a hero or a villain? Usually villains are the ones with more power, and the hero is a lone crusader...
I know absence of fear can make you stronger e.g., suicide attackers killing several army guys coz the army guys still fear for their life...But he took on the city all on his own, so thoda improbable to hai...so mujhe valid laga kaafi...

ashes said...

Anadi:

Adding on to different perspectives, the fact that the joker could control over govt and police personnel and the hi-tech gizmoes of Batman, just by sheer fearlessness and intelligence, makes him all the more powerful and likeable a character. Of course he would have had powerful, faithful, resourceful accomplices, and a few unfaithful to the govt and police, which were not clearly shown, but were obvious. For example, the large number of bombs planted in the hospital would have taken an army to do so...

The villain is also shown with more power of resolute rather than muscle/arms/techie power in many other movies. Consider Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men, Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs, and even Shahrukh Khan in Darr etc. And all these movies have memorable villain characters...

Re the ratings, they definitely keep changing due to several factors. Chris Nolan's 'The Prestige' for example, I clearly remember it being rated 7.6 a month before the release of The Dark Knight, but now it stands at a proud 8.4 ranking 84 on the top 250 list! The success and popularity of a director's new movie boosted up the likingness of another movie of his released two years ago! Strange mass behaviour!

ashes said...

Anadi:

Re the first part of your last comment, the kind of exposure you have definitely matters. "Welcome" was a huge hit in India, but the jokes were crap, the ones we had in school, but audience in the hall were shouting like anything. Indian audiences found the Jadoo character astounding in Koi Mil gaya since they've never seen Alien or LOTR or Starwars...similar happens with movies like Aawara Paagal Deewana where they copied a scene from Matrix...

Anadi Misra said...

Hmmm...Did he buy the cronies with all that money or did he burn it?
I haven't seen NCFOM but in others, the villain isn't taking on the whole city...just a few people, so its probably more believable...

I do agree with you that he must have had associates...but still, the quanum appears a bit too much to me. Perhaps if they showed how he got so powerful, that might have helped...but I am guessing they assumed people would figure that out...

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