It's not often I deviate from the purpose of this blog, to explore good food, but it's not often that a movie comes out that makes me feel so inclined to review it. Last night I went to the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight, the next installment in director Christopher Nolan's reimagined Batman franchise. I daresay this is by far the best Batman movie, not to mention one of the best movies I've ever seen. It transcends genre, leaving behind the fanboys and embracing a larger audience ready for more mature subject matter to evolve from a hijacked comic book figure. Batman is the Dark Knight after all, and too long have I bemoaned his denigration to 1970s camp. This new movie understands that title clearly and the moral ambiguities that come with it as well. Ultimately, I would be hard-pressed to call this a comic book movie rather than the crime thriller that it really is.
There has been an astounding abundance of hype surrounding the late Heath Ledger's role as the maniacal Joker. I went into the movie expecting much, and I'm glad to say I was not let down. If acting is an art, then he truly is a virtuoso in the performance. Although I don't know if he will be the second person to win an Oscar posthumously, I do believe he deserves the nomination. Joker is an insanely satisfying villain, the counterbalance to the dark avenger. Forget the super-human abilities, his prowess is in sheer terror. In fact, the movie as a whole is deeply emblamatic of balances and two sides of the same coin, a trope richly explored in Harvey Dent (Eckheart). This is the first Batman movie not to have Batman in the title, and rightly so. Although Batman/Bruce Wayne is the protagonist, he is delegated to more of a supporting role for Joker and Dent. It is these two other figures that captures the attention of the audience, these two figures who truly resonate.
Visually, this is another stunning movie. The hospital explosion scene in particular looked amazing. Gotham is not as dark as the first movie, reflecting the mood of optimism led by Dent's crime clean-up. The obligatory chase scenes manage to avoid banality, and the introduction of the Bat-cycle is a giddy thrill for the fanboys. Still, the Bat gadgets are kept to a minimum, Batman doesn't even use the Batarang to my knowledge. Like Casino Royale, the gadget are dropped in favor of brutal action, making the movie much easier to stomach.
Batman is not a happy comic book. This movie is certainly not happy either. Don't bring the kids. Reading some of the rotten review on Rotten Tomatoes, I find the consensus seems to be the audience's willingness to swallow the pessimism of the movie. Instead, I find that pessimism to be the driving force of the film. I came out acutely aware I watched a tragedy more than an action movie. The script and performances were masterful, moving, poignant, and except from the wickedly bad Batman voice Bale provides, perfect.