Thursday, July 24, 2008

Batman: The Dark Knight Review

The Dark Knight, the sequel to Batman Begins starts in the time frame a year after the first movie ends.
[warning: contains spoilers]

With Batman patrolling the streets at night, Captain Gordon with a new District Attorney, Harvey Dent going all out to enforce the law, the crime lords are running scared and Gotham may soon become a respectable city.

Then came Joker, a man with a dark past, a psychopath who have no moral standards who calls himself "a agent of chaos" who wants to bring "crime in Gotham up to a new level."

I watched this movie at the imax screen at a cinema in Vivo-City in Singapore. The extra large screen brings out the details, supported with an excellent audio system was truly a cinematic experience.

The movie has all the dynamic features of a fast paced adventure story, with fancy car chases, explosions and damage to buildings, fights with fists and weapons, and many of Batman's fancy gadgets. The only complaint I have is that too much is compressed into the film.

While the first film explores the reasons why a man will wear a mask and become a vigilant in Gotham, this movie explores a few themes.

The first is Batman's resolution to continue to be the Batman. I guess the initial thrill has worn off and being the Batman is taking a toll on Bruce Wayne. He begins to realise that he has to give up a normal ordinary life. He starts to look for a way out. He beginning lookig for a reason why Gotham will not need a Batman and found that in Harvey Dent, a fearless crusader for justice that the press dubbed as the 'White Knight'. In the story, he is willing to reveal his secret identity when forced to by the Joker but was prevent to by Harvey. Again I am reminded that often we charge in "where angels fear to tread' and are stuck in such situations. We have to keep in mind that this is a young and inexperience caped crusader.

Second, the criminals Batman has been battling so far are normal human beings. With success, Batman began to feel complacent. Along come the Joker with his dark personality and scars on his face. He is a liar (he gave many stories about how he got his scars and about his father), a man totally without scruples, a genius for improvising and literally is evil incarnate. Batman who trained himself to fight human criminals is totally out of his depth to deal with this type of evil; blowing up a hospital, turns innocent people into potential mass murderers in order to save their own lives, and uses hostages as cannon fodder. He is so extreme a psychopath. However, I do not think that he is insane.

Third, the Batman's code of not killing anyone saved the Joker twice in the movie. However by not killing the Joker, Batman inevitable allows the Joker to continue killing other people. Comic readers will know that Joker will go on to kill the second Robin, Jason Todd and paralyse Batgirl, Babara Gordon. The Batman's argument is that when he allows himself to start killing, he will be no better than the criminals he catches. I still have problem with the code of Batman. As Ra's Al Ghul said in the first movie, compassion is the flaw in Batman's logic.

Finally, the fall of Harvey Dent. Harvey Dent became scarred in the right side of his face and became Two Face. He obsessed with the death of his girlfriend and he starts murdering those he thinks is responsible for her death. The White Knight of Gotham has become the Dark Knight.

Then there is the cover-up. In order to keep Harvey's name clean, Batman confesses to Harvey's killing thus becoming an outlaw. Hence the Dark Knight. I like the play on words here on the movie's title.

Personal tragedy changes people. The murder of his parents make Bruce Wayne, the Batman. The murder of Rachel moved Harvey into his dark side. No one knows about the dark past of the Joker.

This movie stands out in this year's summer season blockbuster releases because it is a rare combination of good story telling and cinematic showing. A good movie, like good books, should not only entertain. It should also forces us to think.

This may not be a suitable movie for children as there is a lot of violence or what a New York Times reviewer calls "consistently violent but not bloody."

What others say:

Erik Amaya of Comic Book Resources

Christopher Nolan never meant to be a director of titanic tent-pole films, but he delivers them with grace, confidence, and power. The fights are true to Batman and the chase scenes are electric. If "The Dark Knight" were simply an action film, it would be one of the best. However, what makes the film truly amazing is how it grows beyond its basic remit as a summer action film. The story, guided by the Joker's antics, reveals a dark rumination on the Western World in the twenty-first century. It suggests the line between upstanding citizen and a homicidal clown is not very well defined. The film has a sense of relevance in a way no other superhero movie can claim to suggest. This is a truly amazing feat for any film, never mind one which features an actual building exploding.

Todd Hertz of Christianity Today

There is hefty story material here. Can decent people walk in a land of indecency without being crushed, tainted, or turned? At what cost should good men fight evil? How do you stop a terrorist with no limits, no real motive, and no rules? If Batman Begins shows why a grown man would dress up like a bat, its sequel shows why that figure can't really be a white-hat hero—but something far darker.

No comments: