Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Dark Knight

Saturday was quite possibly one of my most eagerly anticipated days in living memory - because it was time to see The Dark Knight. 

Now this was quite a big deal to me. Tim Burton's first Batman film was probably the first movie that really grabbed me and sucked me in. In the summer of '89 I went from being a kid who hated Batman (to this day I still *loathe* the Adam West series), to being someone who totally got the dark, gothic look of the film. One of my strongest memories of that time is buying the novelization in Richmond and reading it all the way through - all 220 pages of it - in the same day. The next week I pestered Sparky Ma into taking me back so that I could buy the official making of book. And the comic book adaptation. In fact, I still have all three.

On the day we finally got to see the movie I wore a Batmobile t-shirt and a Batsign baseball cap. There was little doubt what film I was there to see. I was paranoid, though, that I wouldn't actually get into the cinema because the film was rated 12, and I was actually three months off that birthday. Still, I slipped in under the radar and I loved it.

The Joker was a big deal for me. I totally got Jack Nicholson's take on the character, and I think his absence from the subsequent movies was one of the main reasons they paled in comparison - Batman Forever and *ugh* Batman and Robin in particular. Nipples on the Batsuit? I ask you…

Then, in 2005 Batman Begins came out. I was excited about this movie, but not overly so. I saw it and thought it was a great film, but it didn't rock my world like Batman '89 did. I put it down to being older and less likely to succumb to the blockbuster movie hype machine. One of my main criticisms was that while I thought the level of believability was great, and they did a fantastic job of making Batman fit into the real world, I didn't necessarily need to know how he got his suit and all his equipment together. The first half, with the flashbacks to Bruce Wayne's childhood and his training, though brilliantly told, kind of bored me; for me, it dragged a little until the second half.

In preparation for The Dark Knight, however, I set myself a bit of Batman revision, and revisited both Batman '89, Batman Begins, and for the first time, Batman: Gotham Knight, an animated special made up of six short films that bridge the gap between Begins and DK.

Curiously I actually found myself a little bored during the '89 movie. Maybe it was my utter familiarity with it; maybe it was because beneath all the grime and darkness it actually is just a little bit campy. On the other hand, I completely reappraised Begins and thoroughly enjoyed it; it's a superbly crafted movie. Letting the side down a little, however, was Gotham Knight which was a bit hit-and-miss, and seemed to have little in common with the two movies it was supposed to share a commonality with.

And then… The Dark Knight.

I'd actually stopped into Shepherds Bush cinema on Friday afternoon to pick up tickets for this, having spontaneously decided to take the afternoon off work. This was actually a bit of a foolish move because I was very tempted to head into the half-two showing that was just about to start. I was good, though, and just bought the tickets and walked off. 

Twenty-four hours later I was back, and ready to see the film that I'd been looking forward to since the first trailer appeared towards the end of last year. My excitement level for this was unexpectedly high, the only reason being, I think, because The Joker, one of my very favourite villains, was back, and Heath Ledger seemed to have put an interesting new spin on it.

And I was not disappointed. This is no word of a lie, one of the THE best movies I've seen in a long time. There's so many storylines in play, genuine twists and turns, fantastic acting throughtout… it's simply stunning. And with all the origin story done and dusted in Batman Begins, The Dark Knight could truly focus on telling a wonderful tale unhindered by any backage that comes with the character. In fact, I don't think Bruce's parents even got a mention.

There were so many fantastic moments in this film, and I really urge anyone who's wavering to absolutely go see it at the cinema, on the big screen where it deserves to be. And the highlight of the whole thing? I'm going to join the crowds of admirers and say that it has to have been Heath Ledger. He completely dominated the film as The Joker - so much so that he appears to become lost in the character. When he's not onscreen the other characters are talking about him - The Joker casts a loooooong shadow over the whole thing, and Ledger deserves every bit of praise directed at his wonderful performance.

At two and a half hours it's a long film, but it never feels it; and it is gruesome and disturbing in places - not gratuitously so, but definitely not one for the kids. The best Batman movie ever made? I really think so. I have to see it again.


CyberPete said...

YAY First!

I'm so glad you liked it.

I have to say though, I loved the series with KABOOF!, OOOOF!, BAM! and all that. It was brilliant.

And oh horror you are going to never speak to me again after I say this. Batman & Robin is my favorite Batman movie. I adore the cartoonish style and the cheesy jokes. Plus Poison Ivy is fabulous.

Batman 2 was also great, I liked Catwoman. A lot. Michelle Pfeiffer - brilliant!

I'm not going to watch this one. I can't really come up with a proper reason why not. Partly it's the whole ick feeling about Heath Ledger having just died and now this super blockbuster is rolling out.

CyberPete said...

You know, at least two people died who were part of it. A stuntman died on set and then Heath Ledger.


Tara said...

I'm so glad you liked it! I haven't seen it yet, but it definitely won't be one that'll I wait to watch on DVD. Movies like that need to be watched on a big screen. I've got a hunch it'll be in theaters for awhile.

You're right, the two movies after the first Batman were awful. Seemingly good actors throwing their talents to the wind. Plus, yes..the nipples on the suits. Not hot.

Dinah said...

You reminded me of The Simpsons when Homer became Poochie, and his idea for improving the character was to be in more scenes, and when he wasn't in a scene all the characters could be saying "Where's Poochie?"

I'm so glad you liked it. Sometimes looking forward to movies and events has a let down, but it's so great when it's just what you wanted.

Inexplicable DeVice said...

So... You liked it then?

I really wanted to see this film, then Heath died and everyone was singing his praises which made me think (cynically) "Oh, they're just saying that because he's dead" so I wasn't going to see it as it'd probably disappoint me.
But after your review, I'm caught up again. I'll be watching it this week, I think.

P.S. Hated the two pre-Begins films, but loved Poison Ivy and especially Robin. Rawr!

watch*paint*dry said...

I have to see it, I have to see it, I have to see it!

I watched the Tim Burton one on the weekend and also got a bit bored.

Tim said...

Cyberpete - You partially redeemed yourself by saying you liked Michelle Pfieffer as Catwoman. Batman and Robin? I ask you…

And yes, it a stuntman did die when they were making TDK. Very sad.

Tara - Yeah, definitely go see it, it's amazing!

Dinah - It totally didn't let me down, and was in fact even better than I thought it would be. Possibly the only movie that's got me even more excited than this one is the new Star Trek one. That better not let me down either!

Inexplicable Device - You like Batman and Robin too? Bah! Here's a quick anecdote - back in '95 when Batman Forever came out, I was working at a playscheme, and all the kids there thought I looked like Robin. I spent the entire two weeks being called Robin.