Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Dark Knight

To relate my overall experience of watching this film, I refer to one reviewer who very aptly said, “I doubt I have soaked up enough in just one sitting to even do a good job at it.”

I concur, and because I saw it in a rather mediocre theater I will head ASAP to an IMAX showing of what is arguably one of the best superhero action flicks ever. Yes, the eye candy is spectacular for those heading out for some summer blockbuster escapism. And while the film gets a bit bloated with near-endless hyperactivity and a heavy-handed sense of the importance of its tragedy, the stellar cast takes another star – the Nolan brother’s script – and makes a pretty decent drama out of a mainstream popcorn flick.

With Batman Begins Christopher Nolan reinvented the franchise into its darkest, camp-free incarnation yet, and The Dark Knight takes it up at least a notch, which saying a lot considering the bulk of comic book movie sequels or for that matter first outings. For starters you’ve got returns from Christian Bale (best Bruce Wayne), Michael Caine (best Alfred, Cockney or no), and Gary Oldman (best Jim Gordon). But it’s the newbies who steal the show, and with opening scene it’s obvious it was set up that way.

In the role of the Joker, Heath Ledger makes chaotic evil utterly charming, sprinkled grotesquely with mad intelligence. Fans of the print comic will know what I refer to in saying he has all the punch that Alan Moore gave the character in The Killing Joke. All sentiment for his demise aside, not only do I support at least an Oscar nomination (and let’s not insult the performance by classifying it as a “supporting” role) but I hereby declare that no actor should ever again feel compelled to fill the shoes of the Clown Prince of Crime. Do I gush? I can’t help it if he was joy to watch. Jack Nicholson’s Joker was great in all his campy glory and Nicholsonness, but Ledger plays the character so intensely that you believe he can persuade his henchman of the sheer fun of burning a billion-dollar mountain of cash.

Aaron Eckhart brings the best rendition of Harvey Dent to the movies, which may not seem to say much in light of his competition being a cameo by Billy Dee Williams and a godawful performance by Tommy Lee Jones. I regretted the sparse denouement of Dent’s transformation into Two Face (great special effects/makeup!), feeling the villian could have taken a more active role. I hope I don’t spoil the Dent endgame in The Dark Knight too much by saying I will be pissed if he shows up in a sequel.

Other highlights of The Dark Knight were the great location footage in Chicago and Hong Kong and tons of really neat explosions to go along with impressive special effects. One small peeve I have is a hoped-for correction from the prequel, where Bale’s Batman often speaks in a low rasp. Alas, in the second film it gets even worse, so much so that at times subtitles could be useful. Although he said it works, I still agree with MSNBC’s Alonso Duralde, who said it’s somewhat akin to Brenda Vaccaro doing a Miles Davis impersonation.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Here he comes to save the day

I like the idea of a super-flawed superhero, one with the power to save the world and make it a brighter, happier place but none of the desire to. That's "Hancock". Loved the concept, not so enamored of how the tale played out.

The script didn't dumb it down, literally crashing viewers into the story, forcing them to believe in the reality of its premise from frame one. Jason Bateman, magnificent in “Juno" and even better here, plays a PR man with a heart of gold and vision of a better future without coming across as a do-gooder buffoon. He delivers the wry, comedic quip like no one else. Special effects are, of course, unbelievable and, of course, over done.

Then comes “the twist” (like a virgin on prom night, I won’t give it up). My brow remained furrowed in confusion until a cover-my-eyes-at-time violent third act and return of (really) not such a scary bad guy. And all good super heroes need a scary bad guy.

Speaking of bad guys, although not a fan of the franchise, I breathlessly and sadly await Heath Ledger as the “Joker”. The trailer had me to tears at just the brief glimpse of genius and madness. Shocking really.