Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Dark Knight

by Pa Rock

Okay, I admit it. My $6.50 (afternoon show, senior discount, coupon for free popcorn) was part of the box office record set last weekend with the premier of The Dark Knight. It was a nice distraction in a cool building, and it was money fairly well spent.

The Dark Knight is the upteenth Batman flick ground out by Hollywood over the past decade or so, and though I have not seen them all, this was by far the best of the ones that I have seen. It was a gripping tale of good and evil played out in a Gotham City that was strikingly similar to Chicago - only more blue, more surreal, and more Gothic.

Christian Bale played Batman, but this was not really his movie. (Bale had "his" movie with the title role in American Psycho.) While most of the characters displayed amazing depth and presence, Bale was a disappointment. His Bruce Wayne seemed to be little more than a disaffected frat boy whose focus was on escorting beautiful ladies to plush parties and displaying his wealth.

This movie, as all of the hype suggested, belonged to Heath Ledger's Joker, a richly layered, maniacal creation whose machinations were the pulse and heat of the movie. The other major memorable character was the district attorney, Harvey Dent, skillfully portrayed by Aaron Eckhart. He was the "good" to the Joker's "evil". Batman himself seemed to be little more than a ping pong ball bouncing between the two.

Maggie Gyllenhaal gave a solid performance as the love interest of both Batman and Harvey Dent - the two good guys, and she was able to weave her way through the heroics and flaws of both men and reach a commonsense choice as to the one she really loved. Her agonizing decision was the only sexual tension in the entire movie, and it was minimal.

Michael Caine played Bruce Wayne's butler and co-conspirator, Alfred. (Remember when we knew Michael Caine best as just plain Alfie?) Michael Caine was born to play Alfie, and forty-two years later he is a natural as Alfred. Another character standout was Vermont's Senator Patrick Leahy who shined as a disgruntled guest at a cocktail party. He looked and sounded authentic in this cameo role.

I actually did like The Dark Knight. It was steeped in action, vivid and colorful cityscapes, intense characters, and loud music. It held my interest from start to finish. If I had seen the film rushes six months ago, however, I might have suggested that they write the Batman character out, because he didn't add much to the film.

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