Saturday, August 2, 2008

Mystery Makes The Movie: The Dark Knight Review

Now that The Dark Knight is a few weeks old and most critics have either called it a masterpiece or garbage, I think it is a good time to review the movie again. The movie has had time to saturate into the minds of the public, and most people have already seen it, so how did the movie do?

The Guardian reports that the Dark Knight (DK) may overtake 'The Titanic' (which grossed 600 million) but that is probably unlikely (but not totally dismissible). Right now DK is set to gross 380 million dollars by the time it leaves theatres, which would place it smack-dab in the top ten movies of all time. But why is it such a popular movie?

The first Christopher Nolan adaptation of the Batman franchise, Batman Begins, was a fairly good movie but the story was similar to a teaser. It introduced the 'new' Batman and we got to see how Batman became... Batman. The villains were rather shallow, although they were portrayed rather well, but they lacked something the audience could latch onto. DK changed all this.

What makes people want to see The Dark Knight one, two and even three times? What makes it so successful? I will tell you what I think it is. DK shows a developed Batman character. We know his parameters, and what he is all about. We know that he doesn't kill villains because he believes in justice. We think we know that the villain is someone who is trying to accomplish some greater goal (like obtaining money, revenge, etc.). We know that the good guy is going to win, and the bad guy is going to lose.

What DK does is turn those notions on their head. The Joker is the epitome of the arch-villain. He is not trying to rob a bank, he is not trying to seek revenge, he is not trying to kill Batman, he just purely wants to create chaos and destruction. He wants to kill for the sake of killing, and expose the worst in people. What makes this movie so good is the fact that Batman has to fight a villain that is simple, yet complex at the same time. He is simple in the fact that all he wants to do is cause mindless destruction and chaos. He is complex in the fact that we know almost nothing about him, and he must be above-average intelligent to think of the plans he does.

The Joker creates an air of mystery, which also makes the movie great. When he kills someone in the movie you don't see it. It may happen in an instant (like with the pencil), or happen off-camera. His life is also a mystery because we know nothing about how he became to be so evil, why he has those scars, and who is real identity is. In one scene he edges on a cop to attack him while in the interrogation room, where he is lying on the floor after being beat up by Batman. In the next scene he comes out of the room with a knife to the cop's throat and we do not know how he overpowered the policeman. Things like this make the movie so addictive. It is just like in older black and white films where the scariest things were left up the imagination. That is what the Joker is in this movie, a ghost, he is there... but not really. He is almost pure evil.

It is Batman who must face this pure evil. All the Joker needs is gasoline and dynamite and he can cause the city to crumble (or so he believes). While the city of Gotham stands after the onslaught by the Joker, we find that Batman has been reduced to the scapegoat of the city's problems. Batman becomes the pinnacle of good because he does what is needed of him, and that is whatever is needed to save the city, even if he is turned into the villian. This movie incorporates all the aspects that make a good story:

We have a perfect antagonist (The Joker)
The Symbol of Good (Batman)
The Fallen Hero (Harvey Dent/Two-Face)

While many critics have said the movie had too many explosions, and jumps from idea to idea, I believe those critics do not see the bigger picture. The movie needs to do those things. The Joker, the main villain, cannot be summed up in a single sentence. Batman tosses between the choice between doing the right thing, and doing what he wants. The movie is so disjointed because the storyline is. What I mean is that the destruction is needed because that is what the Joker is. The fragmentation is needed because that is the crux of the story, choosing the right path to take. These decisions are never easy and it is revealed through the layout of the movie.

Personally, I think Heath Ledger played the Joker to perfection. He took the main concept of the Joker's character, twisted it, and made it his own. The voice was perfect, the mannerisms were perfect, and the facial expressions were spot-on. Chrisitan Bale was also very good in his role, as he was in the first movie. The movie does not disappoint.

The only question I have for the critics of this movie (those whom say The Dark Knight failed to be a good movie) is 'Why So Serious?'