The Dark Knight: Yeah, It’s Good

It’s possible that I was influenced by the majesty of IMAX. The six story screen certainly brings you right smack dab into the middle of the Gotham. But even without the enveloping surround sound and the large-as-life cityscapes, The Dark Knight is really damned good. That’s what everyone is going to tell you. Because it’s an irrefutable truth. If you liked Tim Burton’s Batman, Batman Begins, or pretty much any aspect of the Batman oeuvre, you will not be disappointed by The Dark Knight

With Batman Begins Christopher Nolan was just getting warmed up. We all knew the man had an ace up his sleeve by the name of Heath Ledger. But he didn’t stop there. He traded in his crappy Katie Holmes card for a Maggie Gyllenhaal, to create a winning hand which already included Christian Bale and the glorious Gary Oldman (playing soon-to-be Commissioner Gordon with all the heart and internal conflict that role requires). Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox is fleshed out, tag-teaming with Michael Caine’s Alfred as Bruce Wayne’s moral touchstone.

The replacement of Katie Holmes was completely necessary. She was the big honking blemish of Batman Begins, walking through scenes like a necromanced cardboard cutout. “Step Aside. I am a District Attorney,” she said flatly and we couldn’t help but recall Keanu Reeves’ delivery of a similar line in Point Break. She had no chemistry with Christian Bale (because only Andrew McCarthy can have chemistry with a mannequin). But Nolan had the wherewithal to cast Gyllenhaal. And suddenly, Rachel Dawes was a real girl. She had emotions and witty things to say. And most of all, chemistry with not one – but two male leads. What a breath of fresh air she is.

dark knight jokerAnd then there’s Heath. Once the trailers hit, I don’t think anybody doubted that he was going to nail the Joker role. The over-hyped talk of Oscar noms gave me pause. How could it not? It would be so cheap to give him a posthumous Oscar when a comic book film would never be considered for such things under ordinary circumstances. But he was a mean Joker in every sense of the word. He was simultaneously scary and hilarious. He embodied the character full stop. He made someone like the Joker a real-world possibility. He certainly gave Jack Nicholson a run for his money (not that such things are difficult, these days).

But lets not forget the other villain of The Dark Knight: Two Face. Gone are the days when multiple Batman villains gather together in each others’ lairs and cackle and scheme. Two Face doesn’t revel in his evil. He hates it. It reminds him of everything he lost. But he is no longer in control of his own destiny. Like Anton Chigurh, he obeys the outcome of a coin toss. This makes him more frightening than a room full of Batman villains. Save the Joker, of course.

Thank you, Christopher Nolan, for breathing life into Batman once again. Fantastic actors are playing comic book characters straight and for realism. I really like this trend. Let’s hope it sticks.

The Dark Knight is in theaters now. You pretty much have to see it. Spring for the IMAX if you can.

Watching (Snippets of) the Watchmen

Preceding the Dark Knight is the first trailer for the upcoming Watchmen film, based on what is essentially considered the greatest graphic novel ever written. This film has been in development forever, shuffling about directors and actors and continuing to piss off Alan Moore, the man behind the book. Alan Moore is right to be concerned. So far, his brilliant graphic novels have been turned into appalling films which strip them utterly of their effulgent genius. Remember The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? I try not to myself. (Fun tidbit. League was the film which Sean Connery accepted in lieu of the role of GANDALF in a little indie trilogy called The Lord of the Rings.)

watchmenYou know what though? The Watchmen trailer didn’t look…that…bad. I know. I couldn’t believe it either. Granted that Billy Corgan soundtrack was pretty atrocious and I couldn’t help but snicker when they billed it as being “from the visionary director of 300“. Visionary? Really? The man knows how to use a green screen and that freeze motion camera effect, I’ll give him that. But so do lots of people in Hollywood. Was Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow a visionary film? (Don’t answer that. It’s rhetorical. And also, no.) 300 was at best a decent action film (and at worst, an offensive right wing polemic.) Before that, Zach Snyder poorly (and needlessly) remade one of my favorite films of all time, Dawn of the Dead. The man is on pretty thin ice with me.

But Dr. Manhattan looked pretty amazing. Hell, everyone kinda did. We saw a glimpse of Dr. Manhattan’s Mars. We heard Rorschach’s growl. We saw the Comedian’s cocky grin. We know that the movie is taking place in it’s original time period (the 80’s) which lessens the preachy parallel-to-our-current-administration potential. Everything, thus far, appears to be in order. Time will tell, of course. I am worried about what they will cut out. At 400 pages of Moore’s signature dialog-heavy storytelling, they have to cut something. (And I sure hope it isn’t ANY of Dr. Manhattan’s explanation of time travel and why he is unable to stay connected to the human world.) But for now, I rest a bit easier. I hope Alan Moore does too. But let’s be honest. Ain’t nothing pleasing that old curmudgeon.

And just remember. No matter how bad it gets, it could have been much, much worse:

watchmen nightmare

{{{Shudder}}}