Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Movie-a-Day Month: The Dark Knight

Thus begins Movie-a-Day Month. The rules are similar to Blog-a-Day Month, where, as many of you recall, I was voted the champion. Basically, you just have to write about a movie every day. As I've seen at least 31 films, I don't think this will be all that hard.

The question then becomes, what exactly does "write about a movie" entail? Is it a review, a critique, an homage, or what? I have no idea. I think I'll try to give a take on each film that is at least somewhat original. It might be that I feel it's overrated/underrated, that it's a hidden gem, a work of art, a piece of dung, or I might just fall back on my specialty...nitpick it to death.

Tonight's inaugural entry: The Dark Knight.

Like pretty much everyone else, I love this movie. You don't need me to tell you the reasons it's great, not the least of which is that it's directed by a guy named Nolan.

If you're sensing a "but" coming, you know me too well. I guess now would be a good time to mention that spoilers will follow; although, if you haven't seen The Dark Knight yet, the odds you are able to work the internet are pretty low.

I have never read a Batman comic in my life. However, when I was in junior high/high school, I used to come home and watch Batman: The Animated Series, which was pretty damn cool. My absolute favorite plotline was the Two-Face story arc. Harvey Dent was Gotham's District Attorney, Batman's ally, and a force for good. Then half of his face gets horribly disfigured in an accident that Batman tries to but can't prevent, and he becomes a conflicted villain. The coin-flipping gimmick is meant to demonstrate his dual nature: Part of him is still benevolent, while the other half is bent on mayhem and revenge. He's not an all-evil, all-the-time guy like the Joker; he still retains much of his humanity.

Apparently, Tommy Lee Jones never saw that cartoon nor read the comic it was based on. His performance as Two-Face in Batman Forever was all cackling lunatic. The movie itself was terrible; the way Two-Face's character was glossed over, never explained, and made a sidekick to Jim Carrey's Riddler was a travesty. Here's one of the most nuanced villains in the Batman canon, and he's reduced to a hammy caricature.

Thus, I was beyond excited when the trailers for the new Batman film showed glimpses of Aaron Eckhart, a fine actor, as Harvey Dent/Two-Face. But wait- wasn't the Joker to be the main focus of this newest installment? I worried that the Nolan Batman series would fall victim to the Burton/Shumacher syndrome of too many villains.

I needn't have worried. Christopher Nolan is too strong an auteur to fall into that trap. Dent's character is well-developed, and his relationship with Batman/Bruce Wayne is intriguing and meaningful. The explosion scene that ruins his features and takes his girlfriend's life is suspenseful and dramatic.

I bought that his rage would lead him to despicable acts. The inner conflict was there. But...

Why did they have to kill the guy off?

One of my favorite parts of Batman Begins was the final scene when Lieutenant Gordon shows Batman the Joker card. It made the three-year wait for the sequel a task of delicious anticipation.

Wouldn't it be cooler if Dent's "good" side was touched by Batman's actions, and Batman still took the heat for Two-Face's misdeeds? You really wouldn't need to change that much of the film. The part with Gordon's family at the end seems anticlimactic anyway after the tension of the boat scene and the Joker's capture.

The idea of Two-Face somehow retaining a position of power amidst the chaos of Gotham, striving to do the right thing while battling his psychotic tendencies makes me giddy. The myriad possibilities for the next film would be staggering. Would he be able to hold himself together? What would make him snap? Would he go after the now-rogue Batman? I guess we'll never know. Sigh.

Still, a fantastic film. Nolanometer final grade: A.


Lance Christian Johnson said...

I think that his "death" left a slight bit of room for him not actually being dead at all. It could be that Gordon had him locked away in Arkham while having him be publicly declared dead.

He did fall from quite a height, but not a height to the point where it's inconceivable that one could survive from it.

Nolan said...

I would be against that. He was very clearly dead. It would be really comic-booky to bring him back, and that's what I like best about these new Batman flicks- that they're realistic.

Angie said...

Although I agree the movie was great, I still think it was overrated. The thing that pisses me off the most though is the fact that Katie Holmes isn't in it. I know they can't completely help that, but it really irked me.

I also think that Christian Bale is kind of annoying, but I can't give you any specific reasons why.