Saturday, July 19, 2008

Summer Movies 6: The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight: Cars on fire, cops everywhere, people running every all over screaming…and that was before I even got into the theatre.

Like most of the free world, I went to see The Most Important Movie Of All Time – or, as I am stubbornly calling it, Batterdämmerung - on opening day. I skipped the midnight/3 a.m./6 a.m. showings because I’m not invested enough in Batman to battle insane crowds. I thought a 7 p.m. Friday showing would be good, slide in between the young fanboys at the early showings and the mainstream crowds that show up after 8. I should have taken the smoking car as an omen. See, I swung by the theatre at 4:45 to get my ticket because I knew it would sell out, then I went along the highway to Staples to pick up some supplies. (For my life, not the movie. Though, in retrospect, I should have picked up some file folders to fashion into armor while I was at it.) As I was leaving the theatre’s parking lot, I noted that a car was emitting smoke. Like, a lot of smoke. Not to pull the Dumb Girl card here, but I do fit that stereotype when it comes to car maintenance. My first car died after I drove around for an hour ignoring the blue smoke rolling out from under the hood, thinking it was just…no, I don’t even know what I was thinking, there is no rational excuse, it was just pure idiocy. It’s entirely possible I’m somehow convinced cars are powered by magical, mischievous elves. Anyway, having apparently not learned the lesson that cars + smoke = BAD, I just shrugged and went, “Huh, that’s kind of weird,” and continued on my way. After spending a lot of money on corkboards and index cards and push pins, I came back to the parking lot to find it swarming with cops and fire trucks, all surrounding the burnt husk of a car, as well as several well-singed vehicles. Yikes.

(Thankfully, the theatre employee I asked said no one had been hurt, but that the fire might have been started intentionally. I hope it’s not like when people riot post-sports matches whether they win or lose. “Dark Knight rules! Let’s light shit on fire!”)

At this point it was an hour before the movie, so I went inside because it was a little too crazy outside, what with the smoking husks of cars and all. I figured I’d chill in the lobby and read my book or something, but I was (stupidly) surprised to see people were already in line. (The fact that I continue to be shocked by really logical things is a source of constant surprise in my life.) So instead of reading I got in line. And here’s where I have to derail for a rant. You know what is the height of assholery? Saving a spot near the front of the line for your fifteen friends. One or two, fine, but fifteen? When I got there, there was a group of three ahead of me and a pair in front of them, so I was sixth in line. By the time they were ready to let us in, the assorted friends of the three jackasses in front of me had arrived – all fifteen of them. The only reason they got away with it was because the line was wrapped around the wall so that no one behind me could see the fifteen cutters. I didn’t say anything, but when they opened the gate and people literally started dashing down the hallway screaming, I was able to outmaneuver them – it’s easier to push one body through a crowd than a phalanx of fifteen. So I managed to snag a seat right in the middle of where the group had apparently been planning to go (the row before the handicapped section, where you’re guaranteed to have no one in front of you to block your view and unlimited leg room), forcing them to grumble copiously and split up a bit. I had to laugh at that.

But anyway! The movie itself. There’s not much I could say that hasn’t been said (and said and said) by every news outlet. Is The Dark Knight the most important movie of all time? No, but it’s a damned good one. Probably the best in a strong summer. Here are some things that jumped out at me:

+The biggest plot twist of the movie is that there are still plot twists. I was absolutely shocked to realize there were a few “holy shit” moments and plot twists that hadn’t yet been exposed in the exhausting media shitstorm preceding Batterdämmerung. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s worth braving the crowds this weekend just to get those amazing, unspoiled jaw-dropping moments before they get unleashed in full force.

+The greatest testament to Heath Ledger’s performance is that, five minutes into the movie, I completely forgot all the backstage tragedy. His performance overshadows his personal life, which is exactly how it should be.

+Aaron Eckhart’s hair is really distracting. Really. It looks very…strawish and plasticky. The color is weird. The cut is weird. The texture is weird. I don’t know if they were going for a plasticine Ken Doll look to fit the theme of his character’s transformation from Harvey Dent to Two-Face, but I had trouble focusing on whatever he was saying onscreen because I was too focused on his weird hair.

+That said, the styling was fantastic on the Joker and Two-Face prosthetics. Definitely Oscar-worthy.

+Also distracting is Christian Bale as Batman. As Bruce Wayne he’s fantastic, none better, but when he’s in the suit doing the weird voice and flat delivery, it’s just…off. Luckily, he doesn’t actually spend a lot of time talking while batsuited up. But as I said, his Bruce Wayne is flawless.

+Maggie Gyllenhaal was a vast improvement on Katie Holmes, and I say this as one of the seemingly few who still like Katie Holmes post-Cruisebotomy.

+Of all the creepifying Joker scenes, I think the tops has to be the one where he’s upside down but it’s filmed rightside up, giving it this really eerie effect. Brilliant.

+The film is probably a bit too long, but I can’t point to any really extraneous parts, and I don’t foresee too much griping on that front from the very satisfied audiences.

So yeah. Will the movie change your life? Not unless you didn’t have much of a life to begin with. But it’s a fantastic movie with a solid story, amazing effects, and unbelievable performances. It brought me back to the summer of 1989, when my parents took me and my cousin to see the first Batman movie with Michael Keaton. I was seven and it was my first grownup movie, the first time I was allowed to see that movies could be more than candy-colored escapist fluff. (With, you know, some parental death thrown in for good measure.) I was enthralled, right up until my cousin booted in her popcorn and I moved down the row as far away from her as possible to disassociate myself from the stench of buttery bile. Then I went right back to being enthralled. That’s what The Dark Knight did for me. Made me forget cars infuego, pushy fans, and backstage tragedy, and just remember how much movies can kick ass.


Erica said...

I know that Bale's "Batman voice" is supposed to sound similar to Kevin Conroy's on Batman's animated series, which is often toted as the best Batman voice ever.

smd said...

Ah, that makes sense then. It makes me feel better if there's at least a sound artistic choice behind it.