A Thunder Matt Movie Minute: The Dark Knight Edition

July 11, 2008 | Comments (0) | by Chaim Witz

The Dark Knight

Much Like Shakira's 'Hips Don't Lie', Neither Does the Hype for This Latest Chapter of the Caped Crusader.

IMDB Cribbed Synopsis: Set within a year after the events of Batman Begins, Batman, Lieutenant James Gordon, and new district attorney Harvey Dent successfully begin to round up the criminals that plague Gotham City until a mysterious and sadistic criminal mastermind known only as the Joker appears in Gotham, creating a new wave of chaos. Batman's struggle against the Joker becomes deeply personal, forcing him to confront everything he believes and improve his technology to stop him. A love triangle develops between Bruce Wayne, Dent and Rachel Dawes.

Review: Iron Man, Hulk, Hancock, Hellboy...go brush your teeth and say your prayers. Daddy is home, he's been drinking and he brought home a hooker. After a summer of light-hearted, comic book eye candy, The Dark Knight paints a much darker picture, taking that candy and inserting razorblades into the gooey center. Far superior to the solid comeback vehicle Batman Begins, or almost any movie in the comic book canon for that matter, The Dark Knight eschews the comic book label and succeeds in establishing itself as a crime drama for the ages, albeit one that should be tested regularly for HGH. Dark, twisted, funny and visually stunning, The Dark Knight is hands (wings?) down the best film of the year, and demands to be seen more than once.

At the outset, Batman is still fighting the good fight, but the mob (led by Eric Roberts!) isn't making things easy, with crime on the rise throughout Gotham. Our hero gets a little help from the idealistic new district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), one of the few politicians in the city unwilling to be bought or sold, who also just so happens to be dating his old flame Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal, pulling the ole' switcheroo with Katie Holmes). Soon enough, some mob-related money laundering shenanigans take Batman out of Gotham and into Hong Kong (resulting in a great money shot from atop the city), where he is able to extradite the mastermind back to Gotham in true superhero fashion. The ambitious Dent is able to figure out a way to charge all of the mob baddies in the case and soon he's the toast of the town. Score one the good guys. Or so it seems, until the arrival of the deranged, makeup-wearing psychopath known only as The Joker (Heath Ledger), whose only real motive is to induce anarchy and inflict pain.

Christian Bale is back as the Caped Crusader and turns in another understated and underrated performance, helping to effectively erase any memories left over from the Joel Shumaker/Nipple Suit era. His character is more tormented than past incarnations and this lends a nice sense of depth to the proceedings. The real star here though is Ledger, whose Joker is a revelation. Psychotic, strange, frightening and darkly funny, Ledger (who's casting was initially questioned by many) infuses The Joker with a kind of batshit craziness that I imagine resembles what it would be like if Jack Torrance (Nicholson's character in The Shining) stumbled into A Clockwork Orange. If Jack Nicholson's Joker was akin to your weird, alcoholic uncle, Ledger's Joker is the guy who stabs your uncle in the alley and throws him in the dumpster. Make no doubt about it, this is no posthumous sympathy praise; Ledger deserves all the accolades (yes, even the Oscar talk) that are coming his way.

If The Dark Knight suffers from anything, it's that Ledger is almost too good. When the story shifts to Harvey Dent (who undergoes a bit of a transformation, but one that I won't spoil for the uninitiated) it lags just a bit, if for no other reason than it would be impossible to match the intensity of the scenes with The Joker. This certainly isn't a knock on Aaron Eckhart, who is fine, but he's the Pippen to Ledger's Jordan.

Director Christopher Nolan ('Memento') shot a few of the scenes specifically for IMAX (including a 'knock your dick in the dirt' opening bank robbery scene) and the whole film has an epic, 'see this on the big screen' look. I saw this on an IMAX screen (sit towards the back for God's sakes), and during one scene where Batman swoops down from a building you get the feeling of being at the peak of a roller coaster right before you drop. Weiner tingling indeed. Shot mostly in Chicago*, the city's skyline, Wacker Bridges and South Loop are all put to optimum use. One standout scene involves a high speed chase on lower Wacker Drive, involving semi trucks, cop cars and Batman's newest toy, some sort of hybrid motorcycle, that stands alone as the highlight action sequence of the movie, sure to elicit applause (or at least admiration) from even the most jaded moviegoers. With no shortage of action, the 2.5 hour running time is a breeze; just make sure to use the loo beforehand or you're guaranteed to miss something.

The Dark Knight is a hugely rewarding, if not a bit overwhelming, movie-going experience. It will make you want to go home and fashion those assless leather chap that your wife doesn't know about into a Batsuit and run around your apartment with your arms outstretched, screaming, "I'm Batman. Weeeeeeeeeeeeee!" Or maybe that was just me. I suppose it's still a better reaction than murdering your alcoholic uncle and stealing his purple blazer and clown makeup that he keeps under the mattress.

Thunder Matt Rating: 5 Ambiguously Gay Robins Out of 5

*Of course, us Chicagoans all fondly refer to the film as Rory's Last Kiss, which is what they called the film all last summer in an effort to keep gawkers to a minimum. I think everyone here either saw them filming, knows someone that saw Christian Bale, has a cousin that was an extra, etc, etc. True story, our own Daft Funk actually showed up on set one day in costume, claiming to be "Batman's stunt double". His not-so-clever ruse was foiled by his rather pitiful lack of physical prowess and the fact that he was actually dressed as this guy.

Photo of Chaim along with Mrs. Chaim during their first wedding dance.