Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Dark Knight Returns

I was blown away by The Dark Knight. It raises the bar for comic book movies, though I know its darkness will turn off some viewers (don't let the caped crusader fool you, this is not a movie for kids). Nolan creates a realistic world with realistic characters, even if the technology is not. And into that world he throws down moral questions like "Do you have to stoop to the level of evil to stand against it?" and "How much can you give up for a cause you believe in?" Even those phrasings sound trite, but in the movie they're not.

And Heath Ledger. Holy cow. I liked the guy just fine before, but this is an incredible performance. There was talk before the movie came out that he might get an oscar nomination because of his untimely death. But the thing is, he deserves one. His Joker is not the dancing clown of Jack Nicholson or the silly prankster of Cesar Romero. He's a psychopath who wants anarchy. In his first two scenes he proves that he could do anything at any moment, a tightly coiled spring of violence that could be unleashed at any time. He's frightening, even as he's sickly comic.

I don't want to oversell the movie, but to me this is the Empire Strikes Back, the Godfather II of comic book movies. The sequel that raises the bar and makes what came before look like kid stuff. And by came before I don't mean just Batman Begins, but Spiderman, Hulk, and all those other comic book heroes too. Nolan treats the material, and his audience, like an adult, and in doing so he's created an epic masterpiece. One of the best movies I've seen this year.

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