Monday, July 28, 2008

The (Very) Dark Knight . . .

-Sean Chercover

Okay, so I saw the Batman movie. I mean, the new one. The Dark Knight. And, yeah, everyone is right. It's a great movie. No, it's not as deep as it pretends to be, but I didn't go to the theater expecting a philosophical debate. It's a movie based on a comic book, and as you might expect, it paints in broad strokes. There is no subtlety here.

And it is very dark. The Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern found it "suffocatingly dark" in his mixed review. I don't disagree with any of his review, although I enjoyed the movie more than he did. My date did not enjoy it quite so well. Not that she thought it a bad movie, just that, like Morgenstern, she found the unrelenting darkness suffocating and left the theater feeling depressed about the human condition (and by what we watch for 'entertainment' says about the human condition).

Do NOT take the kids to this movie, but do go see it without them. It is, by a mile, the best Batman movie ever, and it has the best comic book villain ever. Alfred Molina was excellent as Dr. Octopus in Spiderman 2, but Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker is even better - and every bit as good as the hype surrounding it...

Sure, there are nits to be picked. I think they went overboard with the Two-Face makeup - instead of being horrified, I just found it silly. If they'd pulled back a bit, it would've been realistic enough to be truly horrifying. And while I get the point of lowering the pitch of Christian Bale's voice when he's in the bat-suit, a more delicate approach would've been an improvement. The film's action sequences are somewhat disconnected from the rest of the story, there's some over-caffeinated editing (as you find in most "big" movies these days) and you could trim the film by 20 minutes without hurting it (again, something you find in most "big" movies these days).

Any other nits would also be spoilers, so I'll leave them unspoken.

Other points of praise - Chicago is absolutely gorgeous in this movie and both LaSalle Street and Lower Wacker Drive are used to their best advantage. It really is a beautiful film to watch. The performances are good all around. And most of all, this is the first time a Batman movie has really captured the darkness, the chaos, the corruption, and the psycho hero/villain duality that makes the comic so appealing.

The Dark Knight is very good, worth seeing, and definitely too dark for the youngsters.


JD Rhoades said...

Couldn't agree with you more, especially about it not being a kids' movie. Wish more people would realize that. Unfortunately, when The Boy and I went to see it, some jagoff had not only taken several children, some of them toddlers, to see it, he or she had dumped them in the front row, while the "adults" sat in the back and watched the movie. Assholes. Finally, one of the younger kids started crying and the older kid (six or so) took them all back to the back and out of my line of sight.

Barbara D'Amato said...

I'm going to say that's what makes horse racing. My son took his nine-year-old to it and the boy said it "wasn't scary." My son thought it was good but didn't see what all the hype was about. And another friend walked out in the middle. Two others, like you, loved it.

And we are surprised when one critic loves our new book and another hates it?

Sean Chercover said...

Barb - The nine-year-old may well have said it "wasn't scary" ... and even if that was sincere and not nine-year-old bravado, there are other things than "scary" to consider. I don't think the film was "scary". Depressing ... despairing ... nihilistic ... not quite, perhaps, but close enough for a nine-year-old.

At what age do we expect kids to make these distinctions?

Barbara D'Amato said...

Sean--I totally agree. If I had known ahead, I would have suggested he not take my grandson to the movie. I think Adam saw it as a comic strip, and didn't get the nihilism. Adam tends to be active and optimistic, and negativity goes over his head.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Thanks for the review, Sean. I've been trying to get the wife to go with me to see it on the IMAX screen.

I'm committed to going this weekend.

Mike MacLean said...

I agree, Heath Ledger’s performance was worth the hype. Jack Nicholson’s Joker was Jack being Jack—funny but in retrospect, not very menacing. Ledger becomes another person. And that person is scary as hell.

He’s so unpredictable and yet coldly logical. He forces us to face the chaos of the world and how vulnerable we all are to it.

And he has his own kid’s meal toy from Burger King. Now that’s a Joke.