VIEWS: 1,301 PAGES: 8 CATEGORY: Press Releases POSTED ON: 7/18/2008
Sensational, grandly sinister and not for the kids, "The Dark Knight" elevates pulp to a very high level.
The Dark Night Reviews Sensational, grandly sinister and not for the kids, "The Dark Knight" elevates pulp to a very high level. Heath Ledger's Joker takes it higher still, and the 28-year-old actor's death earlier this year of an accidental overdose lends the film an air of a funeral and a rollicking, out-of-control wake mixed together. In "The Dark Knight," Ledger makes all other comic book screen villains look like Baby Huey. Like Shakespeare's Iago or Richard III, like Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter or Javier Bardem's implacable murderer in "No Country For Old Men," this is no Method maniac, asking or telling anyone about his character's motivation. At one point Ledger throws up his hands and says, agitatedly, that it's a waste of time looking for a rationale behind the Joker's smeary psycho-harlequin makeup. "I'm a dog chasing cars," he says. "I wouldn't know what to do with one of them if I caught it." Director and co-writer Christopher Nolan, who fashioned the screenplay with his brother, Jonathan, has created the most ambitious and sleekly beautiful of all the superhero screen outings. A handful of others—" Superman II" and " Spider-Man 2" come to mind—may have fewer loose ends and a more exhilarating spirit. They're certainly shorter; this one is 152 minutes. But "The Dark Knight," which improves upon the solemn authority Nolan and Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne brought to " Batman Begins," has an atmospheric shimmer all its own. Its unsung hero is cinematographer Wally Pfister, who makes every interior and exterior a thing of burnished, menacing beauty. Shot largely in Chicago at night, greatly aided by production designer Nathan Crowley, this is the most nocturnally insinuating entertainment since Michael Mann's "Collateral." No heartland paradise Sampling every flat Midwestern dialect he no doubt heard while shooting in Chicago, Ledger gives the Joker the deceptively bland vowel sounds of heartland America. But Gotham City is no heartland paradise. It teeters on the verge of bloody anarchy, and its most outré citizen licks his chops, literally, as if he can't get the taste of blood out of his mouth. While billionaire playboy Wayne continues his clean-up campaign Gotham City finds a new symbol of righteous hope, district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). He has it all: a fervent desire to clean up a dirty town, plus the love and devotion of Wayne's ex, the assistant D.A. and one of a small handful of Gothamites who know Batman's true identity. She's played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, stepping in for (and improving on) Katie Holmes. Gyllenhaal's curled-at-the-corners smile matches up perfectly with Bale's. The D.A. teams up with Batman and the weary honest cop Jim Gordon ( Gary Oldman in a mustache that says "trust me") to combat organized crime, though Batman's vigilantism has inspired all sorts of copycat, low-rent imitators. Then, just when the film needs a good jolt, Dent undergoes a radical physical and psychological transformation and becomes, literally, two-faced. Villain isn't squandered The transformation comes at a narrative cost. The film's focus is thrown slightly out of whack, and it's too bad his coin-flipping gambit is so like that of "No Country's" Anton Chigurh. Not everything in "The Dark Knight" works: Some of the more painful flourishes—a grenade plopped in a bank manager's mouth, the terrorization of Gordon's children—are too much. Yet so much of "The Dark Knight" works on different levels simultaneously. It's a brooding crime saga with some spectacular action sequences. My favorite pits Bale's Batman and his "Bat-Pod," the world's deadliest, most awesome motorcycle, against Ledger's Joker in an 18-wheeler. The setting is Chicago's LaSalle Street canyon, and what I love about the scene—aside from its eerie, 3 a.m. vibe—is Nolan's reliance on good old-fashioned stunt work. "The Dark Knight" offers plenty of digital effects, but they never take over. Nineteen years ago Jack Nicholson's Joker won a lot of the credit for the popularity of director Tim Burton's "Batman." In contrast to that stylish but uneven picture, one of the splendid things about "The Dark Knight" is its refusal to squander its villain. This is a true ensemble piece, and you can't say that of most $180 million franchise products. Ledger's scenes are few, carefully considered, often startlingly brutal (one scene, over in an eye-blink, involves a disappearing pencil trick and a man's skull) and freakishly effective. Six sequences constituting about 20 minutes of footage were shot using IMAX cameras, including the opening bank heist and a fabulous swoop across the Hong Kong skyline. (The narrative takes a detour for a matter of extraditing an Asian businessman back to Gotham and to justice.) There's a sweep and spaciousness to the imagery here, and even a simple chase sequence such as the one staged along Lower Wacker Drive feels freshly considered. The violence, however rough, is largely free of the lingering, jokey sadism prevalent in so many comic-book and graphic novel-derived films. Nolan paints an inky portrait of a city falling apart, and in a movie rife with two-faced masquerading freaks, the Joker is merely the least conflicted of the bunch. Ledger's work is improbably droll, impossibly creepy, meticulously detailed. See for yourself. Source: Chicago Tribune http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/movies/chi-batman-dark-knight-080718ht,0,6947027.story Dark Knight Starring: Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Christian Bale, Michael Caine Heads up: a thunderbolt is about to rip into the blanket of bland we call summer movies. The Dark Knight, director Christopher Nolan's absolute stunner of a follow-up to 2005's Batman Begins, is a potent provocation decked out as a comic-book movie. Feverish action? Check. Dazzling spectacle? Check. Devilish fun? Check. But Nolan is just warming up. There's something raw and elemental at work in this artfully imagined universe. Striking out from his Batman origin story, Nolan cuts through to a deeper dimension. Huh? Wha? How can a conflicted guy in a bat suit and a villain with a cracked, painted-on clown smile speak to the essentials of the human condition? Just hang on for a shock to the system. The Dark Knight creates a place where good and evil — expected to do battle — decide instead to get it on and dance. "I don't want to kill you," Heath Ledger's psycho Joker tells Christian Bale's stalwart Batman. "You complete me." Don't buy the tease. He means it. The trouble is that Batman, a.k.a. playboy Bruce Wayne, has had it up to here with being the white knight. He's pissed that the public sees him as a vigilante. He'll leave the hero stuff to district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) and stop the DA from moving in on Rachel Dawes (feisty Maggie Gyllenhaal, in for sweetie Katie Holmes), the lady love who is Batman's only hope for a normal life. Everything gleams like sin in Gotham City (cinematographer Wally Pfister shot on location in Chicago, bringing a gritty reality to a cartoon fantasy). And the bad guys seem jazzed by their evildoing. Take the Joker, who treats a stunningly staged bank robbery like his private video game with accomplices in Joker masks, blood spurting and only one winner. Nolan shot this sequence, and three others, for the IMAX screen and with a finesse for choreographing action that rivals Michael Mann's Heat. But it's what's going on inside the Bathead that pulls us in. Bale is electrifying as a fallibly human crusader at war with his own conscience. I can only speak superlatives of Ledger, who is mad-crazy-blazing brilliant as the Joker. Miles from Jack Nicholson's broadly funny take on the role in Tim Burton's 1989 Batman, Ledger takes the role to the shadows, where even what's comic is hardly a relief. No plastic mask for Ledger; his face is caked with moldy makeup that highlights the red scar of a grin, the grungy hair and the yellowing teeth of a hound fresh out of hell. To the clown prince of crime, a knife is preferable to a gun, the better to "savor the moment." The deft script, by Nolan and his brother Jonathan, taking note of Bob Kane's original Batman and Frank Miller's bleak rethink, refuses to explain the Joker with pop psychology. Forget Freudian hints about a dad who carved a smile into his son's face with a razor. As the Joker says, "What doesn't kill you makes you stranger." The Joker represents the last completed role for Ledger, who died in January at 28 before finishing work on Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. It's typical of Ledger's total commitment to films as diverse as Brokeback Mountain and I'm Not There that he does nothing out of vanity or the need to be liked. If there's a movement to get him the first posthumous Oscar since Peter Finch won for 1976's Network, sign me up. Ledger's Joker has no gray areas — he's all rampaging id. Watch him crash a party and circle Rachel, a woman torn between Bale's Bruce (she knows he's Batman) and Eckhart's DA, another lover she has to share with his civic duty. "Hello, beautiful," says the Joker, sniffing Rachel like a feral beast. He's right when he compares himself to a dog chasing a car: The chase is all. The Joker's sadism is limitless, and the masochistic delight he takes in being punched and bloodied to a pulp would shame the Marquis de Sade. "I choose chaos," says the Joker, and those words sum up what's at stake in The Dark Knight. The Joker wants Batman to choose chaos as well. He knows humanity is what you lose while you're busy making plans to gain power. Every actor brings his A game to show the lure of the dark side. Michael Caine purrs with sarcastic wit as Bruce's butler, Alfred, who harbors a secret that could crush his boss's spirit. Morgan Freeman radiates tough wisdom as Lucius Fox, the scientist who designs those wonderful toys — wait till you get a load of the Batpod — but who finds his own standards being compromised. Gary Oldman is so skilled that he makes virtue exciting as Jim Gordon, the ultimate good cop and as such a prime target for the Joker. As Harvey tells the Caped Crusader, "You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become a villain." Eckhart earns major props for scarily and movingly portraying the DA's transformation into the dreaded Harvey Two-Face, an event sparked by the brutal murder of a major character. No fair giving away the mysteries of The Dark Knight. It's enough to marvel at the way Nolan — a world-class filmmaker, be it Memento, Insomnia or The Prestige — brings pop escapism whisper-close to enduring art. It's enough to watch Bale chillingly render Batman as a lost warrior, evoking Al Pacino in The Godfather II in his delusion and desolation. It's enough to see Ledger conjure up the anarchy of the Sex Pistols and A Clockwork Orange as he creates a Joker for the ages. Go ahead, bitch about the movie being too long, at two and a half hours, for short attention spans (it is), too somber for the Hulk crowd (it is), too smart for its own good (it isn't). The haunting and visionary Dark Knight soars on the wings of untamed imagination. It's full of surprises you don't see coming. And just try to get it out of your dreams. Source: Rolling Stone http://www.rollingstone.com/reviews/movie/16155928/review/21477208/dark_knight THE DARK KNIGHT Reviews Flood In! Let me start by saying I wasn't a huge fan of Batman Begins. It has some great ideas, but the pacing is poor. I liked the Falcone stuff, but ultimately the villains are so much of a non-threat that there's zero tension. But I'm not here to review that movie, I'm here to review The Dark Knight, and it's a far better film. The movie feels a lot shorter than Batman Begins even though it's about a half hour longer. I'm not sure if it's the greatest comic book movie of all time, but it's certainly the most ambitious. Gotham City is still riddled with crime. Falcone has been replaced by Salvatore Marconi (Eric Roberts), and instead of just one big mob, there's a bunch of gangs. And despite the fact that Batman is a thorn in their sides, the public is uncomfortable with the idea of a masked vigilante. With the arrival of Harvey Dent, the district attorney's office is no longer too chickenshit to bring down the mobsters, so in a way Batman's presence isn't as necessary as it once was. Because of this he ponders giving up his life of crime-fighting for a normal life with Rachel Dawes. When she choses Harvey over Bruce, she can't even bring herself to tell him and instead writes a letter which she gives to Alfred. And then there's Heath Ledger's Joker which is every bit as awesome as you've heard. When he makes a pencil disappear into the head of one of this mobsters in a surprisingly R-rated moment, you won't know whether to laugh or scream. In most movies the bad guy always threatens to do something awful, but in the end is stopped. Not in this movie. When the Joker threatens to kill someone close to Batman, he does. When the Joker threatens to blow up a hospital, he does. In his more nuanced moments he evokes co-star Gary Oldman in The Professional, and in his overthe-top moments he puts Nicholson to shame. He's every bit as funny, but far more disturbing. And ultimately, the performances are top notch through and through. Comic book purists will be happy to hear that Batman finally does some detective work this time around. He creates a device giving him the ability to monitor everyone in Gotham City via a satellite that detects cell phone signals. Lucius Fox, feeling that his morals have been compromised, threatens to leave over the device. Compromised morals are a running theme through the movie and it's handled well, but I've grown tired of the concept that Batman is no better than one of the freaks he does battle with. It's been done and I think it's time to make a movie where Batman is portrayed as a hero and not an outcast. Aaron Eckhart does a powerful job transforming from Harvey Dent to Two Face. The cgi render that appeared on the internet a couple of months ago is similar to what he looks like in the movie, bones protruding, visible tendons in his jaw. It's really grotesque, and a really convincing special effect. But it should be noted that there's only one villain in this movie (two, if you count Scarecrow who appears briefly at the beginning). Nolan's Two Face is a vigilante just like Batman, the difference being that he offs the criminals, something that Batman ends up taking responsibility for. He only becomes a real threat because of his issues with Gordon, who he feels is responsible for the death of someone close to him. So it's a pretty intense movie. I guess I understand the Heat comparison, only Heat sucks, and this doesn't. What are my problems with The Dark Knight? Two Face is such a cool looking character, but is reduced to being the Darth Maul of this movie (or Venom if you want to go there), so I sorta wish Nolan didn't blow his load so early in the series, and so late in the movie. I know everyone likes a dark Batman, but this movie is a total downer. Everyone's dead or a bad guy in the end. Like I said before, the concept that Batman is just another crazy criminal gets old really quick, and it was done with much more enthusiasm in Batman Returns. Oh, and the batmobile still looks like shit. Remember when Batman has to go through that little alley in Batman Returns, so it turns into that little bullet car? That's basically what the batpod is, but not as cool. And finally there's just way too much going on here, and as a result Batman once again takes a back seat to a whole parade of characters. They all tie into the story, but with a few slight changes, they could have been eliminated so that we could spend more time with the main character. In addition to Rachel, Harvey, Joker, Scarecrow, Gordon, Alfred, Lucius Fox, and Marconi, there's a guy a Wayne Enterprises who stumbles upon some documents and finds out who Batman is and a tv reporter played by Anthony Michael Hall. There's so many people in the movie that I was expecting to see Robert Altman's name in the credits! And character development suffers as a result. When one of the characters bites it in the middle of the movie, it's played like it's this horribly tragic thing, but no one in the audience really gives a shit about him/her. And I'm pretty sure that the slimy guy at Wayne Enterprises is just a lame setup for a sequel, but I'll let you solve that one for yourselves. I know that sounds like a lot of flaws, but in the grand scope of all the awesomeness that happens in the movie, these are only minor issues. It might be crowded, but it definitely doesn't feel bloated or overlong, and if there's one major flaw it's that it leaves you wanting more. It's great to see that comic book movies no longer exist to sell toys. Chris Nolan has created a haunting movie so thick with atmosphere, that even the most cynical of fans won't be able to resist. As an adaptation of the comic book, I think it still leaves something to be desired. The "real world" take on the material may turn some people off, but if you can get past that, you're in for a real treat. The Dark Knight definitely raises the bar for the comic book genre. I'll start out this review by saying that I have not read comic books in years. When I was a teenager, I was an avid reader but I just seemed to grow out of it. With that said, I thought BATMAN BEGINS was the best comic book on film I had seen to date. After seeing DARK KNIGHT earlier today, I can safely say, this was the GODFATHER 2 of comic book films. (I owe an AICN chatroom attendee for that comparison.) The film begins with the 6 minute teaser that some of you had seen previously in December on the front of I AM LEGEND. I read somewhere that Nolan was inspired by HEAT with this film. It shows. The bank robbery seems to almost be an homage. William Fichtner is even in the scene. His only scene in the film at that. I do not want to really go into plot details on the film as I want to try to keep this review as spoiler free as possible. I just want to comment on the various aspects of it. First off, the look of the film is stunning. The last Batman film kind of reminded me in some spots as being very Londonesque, especially Wayne Manor. Gotham looks more like New York, Chicago or Los Angeles then any of the previous BATMAN films to date. Nothing at all seems like a soundstage. It surpasses THE PRESTIGE as Wally Pfister's most beautifully shot film to date, Do yourself a favor and see the film in IMAX if you can. Not an OMNIMAX screen, because they curve. And when a film is shot in Cinemascope, OMNIMAX makes it blurred and hard to follow action. Next, the screenplay and direction. I am convinced after seeing this film that Nolan may be one of our greater talents out there today. He has not made a bad film yet and this film might be his crowning achievement. He and Jonathan Nolan co-wrote the script together and they seem to have such a firm grasp on the story and the characters of Gotham City that part of me wishes the Burton BATMAN films never existed. The Nolan helmed BATMAN films have been everything that Singer forgot to do with SUPERMAN RETURNS. You can pay homage to the past but make damn well sure you have a script to go with it. And unlike SUPERMAN RETURNS, which at times seemed intolerably long, THE DARK KNIGHT is 152 minutes on the edge of your seat. Nolan moves the camera in ways that he has never done in his prior films. There are 360 degree pans around characters in several scenes. You all know what that is normally. The Michael Bay special. Nolan never abuses it and keeps it slow enough that you can follow everything going on in the scene. And a true test to craftsmanship, never in this film was I distracted by CGI. When it is used, it is so beautifully handled that it never stands out. That is the true success of proper CGI. The performances are all top notch. My theory has always been, the better quality of actors in an action film, the better your film will be. The holdovers from the previous films, Bale, Caine, Freeman & Oldman all have settled into their roles. Bale has the more demanding chore because he is Batman much more in this film then Bruce Wayne. My only complaint, and it's a minor one with Bale is at times, I think the Batman voice sounds too much like a grunt. Maggie Gyllenhal steps in for the completely replaceable Katie Holmes and gives her character a much more layered feel to it then Mrs. Cruise did. Aaron Eckheart is actually a prominent fixture in the film and if you don't want any more spoilers involving his character, stop watching the TV ads. He would not have been my first choice for Harvey Dent but he seems incredibly right for it. But, as you might expect, Heath Ledger's performance is nothing short of spectacular. Again, when I heard Ledger was cast, I had my suspicions. His take on the Joker is so menacing, it makes Nicholson's campiness look like Caesar Romero. With Ledger's Joker, you aren't laughing at him like you were with Nicholson. At times, you are laughing a nervous chuckle at his pure psychotic behavior. It is a mesmerizing performance that Ledger immerses himself in and truly makes it his own. He is a landmark villain for this genre of film. I would absolutely remember him posthumously at Oscar time. It's a shame he's gone. This would have moved him to the A list. A minor spoiler here, see if you catch the BROKEBACK joke Heath throws into the film. While I know it is impossible to please everyone, Nolan certainly comes damn close here by delivering a film of such brilliance, that it goes beyond great comic book film to great film period. Source: Ain’t It Cool News http://www.aintitcool.com/node/37263
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