Monday, July 21, 2008

Movie Review: The Dark Knight

It's hard to know what to say about this movie. By now you've either decided to see it or decided not to. No, that's not quite true. There's some of you who don't like superhero movies but loved "Batman Begins". I guess this next bit is for you. The bit after that is for the rest of you.

"Batman Begins" was liked because it made Batman more real. It did things that the comics have been doing for years but movies and TV shows left out. You got to see how he became Batman. And not just the story of how his parents were killed. That's old hat. It covered some of his training and where he got all the neat toys from. It dealt with villains that aren't normally touched on. And it ended by telling how the introduction of costumed vigilantes to the war on crime led directly to the introduction of costumed villains.

"The Dark Knight" deals with more fallout from the existence of Batman. He wanted to inspire people to be better. But he also inspired average people to dress up like a bat and fight crime. It had a bit with Scarecrow to show that those villains don't just go away. Small fries like him just become part of the background noise of villainy that permeates Gotham City.
One of the great things about The Joker in the comics is that he's every bit of a mystery as Batman tries to be. He's the Anti-bat. Equal and opposite. He's not the guy who killed Bruce's parents. He's just a psycho. In the comics he was once a villain known as the Red Hood. In the movie he wasn't even that. We don't know his real name. We don't know how he got to this point. When he tells about his past he's making it up just to mess with you. He has no ID, no fingerprints on record, he doesn't even buy his clothes in the store so you can't track down a background that way. He's not interested in money or in power. He just wants to bring chaos to everything. He wants to make people break their own internal rules.
And the part of the movie that the trailers leave out is Two Face. Tommy Lee Jones was probably the worst possible version of Two Face there could be. The first movie was the origin story for Batman. This movie is the origin story for Two Face. It was fire instead of acid, but the movie gets that it was mob boss Moroni that caused it. And most if all it shows who Harvey Dent was before he fell. It show him for the hero that could save Gotham and free it from the need for Batman.

Now for the rest of you. You already know if you're gonna see it or not. So let me tell you instead about what happened to poor Heath Ledger.
Upon taking the role Heath had a chat with Jack Nicholson. Jack played the Joker opposite Michael Keaton's Batman. To do the Joker right you have to make yourself a little crazy. It's not all that hard to do. What Jack told Heath was that the hard part is coming back afterwards.
What Heath did was lock himself in a hotel room all alone for a month. There he was free from all the little rules and niceties that go along with having to be in public. You can play up all the little oddities and quirks without fear of humiliation or peer pressure to be normal. You can get down right deranged.
But it can also shatter your internal clock. We force ourselves to keep a 24 hour internal clock. Left to itself I think mine runs 26 hours or so. When filming was over Heath had a terrible case of insomnia. He just couldn't make himself go to sleep. So he started taking sleeping pills. In the end he overdosed on those pills and died.
The question is whether the overdose was accidental because he wasn't sleeping with proper dosage or whether the madness was just too well ingrained and he did it on purpose.

It's a great movie. If you're a fan of the comic you'll like this. What I can't say for sure is if the people who liked "Batman Begins" but not "Spiderman" will like it.

I will be getting it on DVD.

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