Review: The Dark Knight – The IMAX Experience

July 18, 2008 at 4:35 am 5 comments

Ever since it came out, I held Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 in the highest of regards.  I considered it the best comic book movie Hollywood’s ever made, even with competition from Sin City and Batman Begins.  The reason why is because of the way Peter Parker views his responsibilities; there’s even a nice scene between him and his aunt that pretty much spells everything out.  What he understands, by the end of the movie, is that there are a select few people that must sacrifice everything they have, and possibly everyone they love, for the greater good.  Parker knows that in order to be what he is destined to be, he must be prepared to lose it all.  Even though the Spider-Man movies are ‘cartoony’, they handle the more mature subtext nicely.  That is why Spider-Man 2 holds the mantle in my personal film collection as the greatest comic book movie ever made.

Until now.

In 2005, Christopher Nolan, along with veteran comic book movie scriptwriter David S. Goyer, took the reins on one of Warner Bros.’ most troubled projects: the continuation of the Batman film franchise.  Deciding on a complete reboot of the series, instead of trying to pick up the pieces Joel Schumacher made, Nolan and Goyer returned to the series’ dark roots, citing many of the Caped Crusader’s earlier graphic novels as a foundation.  Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One,  and Dennis O’Neil and Dick Giordano’s Batman: The Man Who Falls, were among the collection of stories chosen as inspiration for what would eventually be Batman Begins.

The film was well-recieved by both audiences and critics; it’s main selling point the darker and grittier tone of the film, going beyond what was seen in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman.  Fans and critics were eager to see what the cast and crew were going to churn out for the next installment.  Batman Begins was already praised for its mature themes, how could it possibly get any darker?  Simple.  Throw in Batman’s sworn arch-nemesis, someone who is willing to break every rule Batman follows (even if people perceive Batman to follow no rules).

The Dark Knight picks up some time after Batman Begins left off.  Arkham Asylum’s rogues gallery is loose and Batman (Christian Bale), the police, and the District Attorney’s office are all working overtime to capture them all.  One in particular concerns Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), one of Gotham’s last ‘untouchable’ cops.  The Joker (Heath Ledger) has been masterminding a series of daring bank robberies, but there seems to be a connection.  With the help of Gotham’s new D.A., Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), the police raid several banks that are suspected of having mob ties.  Unfortunately, the man that they’re looking for, the one who can help them tie everything together, flees to China.

To make a long story short, the criminals the good guys are after in the beginning are eventual all caught, and the city is thankful.  This poses a problem for the remainder of Gotham’s underworld.  Enter The Joker.  His plan: deal with the problem.  In this case, it happens to be Batman; he’s the only one with no jurisdiction lines to obey, he can punch first, ask questions later, and he answers to no one.  Batman’s the one nabbing the bad guys, the police and the D.A. are there to read their Miranda Rights.  The Joker offers to kill Batman, setting in motion events that will alter the course of the entire city, as well as those of Batman, Gordon, and Dent.

What makes this film brilliant is not the plot.  While I admire the plot, it would be nothing without something pushing it along.  A plot is just a series of events, what a good plot needs is a driving force, something to move everything toward an eventual conclusion.  Even ‘slow parts’ of a film have a momentum; we’re being told something about a character or characters.  The Joker is The Dark Knight‘s driving force, the unstoppable momentum, the rules by which everyone is going by.

The criminals of Gotham City take all the social rules and throw them out the window.  The Joker takes all the criminal rules, and dices them up.  With him, everything is fair game and nothing is sacred.  This is what makes him such an effective bad guy.  There is no line he won’t cross in order to attain his goals.  The Joker is played brilliantly by Heath Ledger.  In one of his last performances, Ledger gives us a Joker that is truly chilling.  Intelligent.  Violent.  Bold.  Psychotic.  The Joker is all of these.  In fact, I’d throw in fearless as well.  He has absolutely nothing to lose, and he care even less about his enemies, save for one.  Batman.

Batman and the Joker are almost like two halves of the same coin.  They’re both willing to do whatever it takes to ‘win’, they both are shunned by society and even the ‘friends’ they keep they’re like enigmas.  However, the Joker is willing to do away with all the conformities of society, cross every line, break every rule.  Batman doesn’t realize this until it’s too late and the lives of innocent people are put in real danger.  The Joker knows what Batman is capable of, and sees him and the Caped Crusader as being on the same social level.  The Joker says it best himself, when he tells Batman, “You complete me.”

Another thing that wowed me was the film’s use of violence and language.  Basically, there’s nothing here that isn’t more graphic than the first film, but it just feels like there’s more.  The Dark Knight is rated PG-13, due to acts of physical violence, although there’s no blood and no swearing.  Save for a few scenes that involve the Joker and sharp objects, it’s your standard comic book action fare.  What the film has, in spades, is very mature themes dealing with the nature of good and evil, innocent and guilty.  The Joker makes Gordon, Dent, Batman, and Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) reconsider their chosen path.  Is what they’re doing enough to rid Gotham of crime and corruption?  What else can they possibly do?  Batman knows the only other option that’s left: become what it is they’re all fighting, become a true vigilante.  The Joker knows this as well, and he’s willing to risk his own life to show Batman it’s a path he must take.

The Dark Knight exceeds on all fronts.  Even supporting roles like Alfred (Michael Caine) and Lucius (Morgan Freeman) are expanded and given more prominence.  Some may complain the movies is too long, and indeed there was a time when I thought to myself, “Wow, this movie feels long.”  That doesn’t mean that each minute isn’t earned.  The performances, all of them, are spot on.  Unfortunately, Bale’s ‘Batman voice’ sounds more like Bale with a sore throat and a cold this time around, but I can say the maybe Katie Holmes dropping out wasn’t such a bad thing.  Replacing her with Maggie Gyllenhaal was smart, as she brings a sense of fierceness to the role that Holmes lacked in Batman Begins.  Also, there’s something slightly off about Batman’s cowl.  It’s like the lower half of Bale’s face is struggling to burst free.  And another thing about the Batman costume: the new utility belt reminds me of the Michael Keaton Batman, a nice touch.

There’s also much to be said about Lt. Jim Gordon.  He’s been an ally of Batman since the beginning, and he’s willing to ignore his responsibility as a police officer when it comes to handling Batman.  The police are, officially, supposed to arrest the Dark Knight, but they all know the kind of good Batman is doing for all of them.  Gordon understands the symbiotic relationship law enforcement share with the masked hero: they need each other, and Gordon is prepared to do nearly everything, even risk his career and his life, to protect this alliance.  Gary Oldman’s performance here is, to me, just as strong as Heath Ledger’s is.  Oldman bring a sense of world-weariness to the role.  Gordon’s seen much, and done things he may not be proud of, but he does it all to protect his family and his city.  He’s like the middle-man between Batman and Dent, willing to physically take on the bad guys, but do it within the rules of law.

Aaron Eckhart is also great as Harvey Dent.  He’s like the ideal politician; winning everyone’s minds over with rhetoric, but winning their hearts over with results.  Dent is a pitbull, ready to go on the attack whenever there’s an opportunity to take down a criminal, no matter how insignificant this bad guy is to the grand scheme of things.  In The Dark Knight Harvey is referred to as Gotham’s ‘White Knight’, and he is.  Batman acknowledges him as the city’s true savior, someone who doesn’t need a mask to battle evil.  But, pit him against someone like the Joker, and he’s as vulnerable as anyone else.

This is one of the few examples of a sequel exceeding its predecessor.  It belongs among the likes of The Empire Strikes Back, The Wrath of Kahn, and Spider-Man 2 as some of the best sequels of all time.  The Dark Knight also deserves to be ranked among the best, if not the best, comic-book-to-film adaptations ever made.  I believe they should let some more time past between this and the third installment, since this film lays it on thick with dark atmosphere.  People may have a hard time going from this to the next one as it, in my opinion, seems like it’s just too much.  Gotham lies in a state of near-ruin, and the people have nearly lost all hope.  This film showed us what a true villain is, and the third can make us see what a true hero is.

From the darkness, comes the Knight.

10/10

(images from Yahoo!)

The IMAX Experience

I saw this film at the IMAX theatre in San Francisco, the world’s largest digital projection screen in the world.  The last movie I saw here was Zack Snyder’s 300, and I was blown away.  Not necassarily because of the mammoth screen, but because of the sound.  There’s over 10,000 watts of sound being pumped throughout that theatre.  The Dark Knight uses each watt to the max.  Every punch, gunshot, explosion, car engine, even footstep is clearly audible.  It was so loud, at times I thought I heard a speaker or two start to distort.  This film is loud.  Quite possibly louder than 300, and that movie literally shook the seats.

Waiting in line for this was like waiting in line for a Star Wars movie, or Halloween candy.  Lots of people dressed up, a long-ass line, and plenty of smelly nerds.  And I mean S-T-I-N-K-Y; I was wondering if some of the people in line were there for the past few days since they smelled so bad.  Anyway, waiting 3 hours in line was something I kind of miss.  There aren’t too many movies that would make me want to stand in the same spot for 3 or more hours, and I enjoy the atmosphere (smell not withstanding).  These are people that share your same passion, your interests, your joys.  It’s almost ‘fun’ to be a part of it.  Granted, I wasn’t talking up every guy who was dressed up as Batman (I was busy playing some multiplayer DS), I still got some weird sense of enjoyment out of it.  Plus, there were a few girls in line that didn’t look too bad in a Catwoman suit, or a tight-fitting Batman shirt.

However, I think the theatre is still too small for a screen of that size.  They should really build the seating after the IMAX theatre in Virginia Beach, using more stadium-style seating with balconies.  You can’t look at the screen and take everything in, and from a cinematography point-of-view, that can be bad.  I don’t want to have to move my entire head in order to see something.  Also, the opening shot of the film begins with a wide bird’s-eye-view of Gotham.  The cityscape took up the entire screen, however, further into the movie, the aspect ratio was switched to a widescreen 2.35:1 ratio.  It sucks the entire film wasn’t shot in the IMAX format, but maybe for the next movie.

Overall, a nice experience, minus the slightly uncomfortable viewing angle and the smelly comic book geeks.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. patrick  |  July 22, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    kudos to the makers Dark Knight for their record breaking opening weekend… it’s no wonder there’s talk of another one coming out ASAP

    Reply
  • 2. malcolmchaos7  |  July 22, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    Those smelly comic book geeks are the reason this film was made.

    http://www.presstheactionbutton.com

    Reply
  • 3. Laurelai  |  July 22, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    Thanks for always thinking along the SAME lines as me. And yes, I’ve already seen Heat. Dark Knight was highly reminiscent of Heat.

    Reply
  • 4. Laurelai  |  July 22, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    Tell me you got a chance to play aroudn on whysoserious.com.

    Reply
  • […] for me; I never leave the house without showering.  But if you’ve checked out my Watchmen or The Dark Knight reviews, you may have noticed I have this thing about body odor.  Occasionally, a movie theatre […]

    Reply

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