'The Dark Knight' (2008)


What can you say about the most anticipated movie of this summer or possibly any other in recent memory? The Dark Knight is far and away the best superhero movie I've ever seen (or perhaps will ever see), and in fact transcends the superhero film genre altogether. You need not look at charts or graphs or studio slates to know that the recent trend in cinema is cape-clad musclebound do-gooders. You can most likely turn to Variety or the Hollywood Reporter on any given day of the week and see that some studio has bought up the rights to some obscure superhero/comic book character; and at that rate of exchange you can bet that quantity will triumph over quality. The Dark Knight is a response to all that, a call out to comic book and film fans alike. Chris Nolan's vision doesn't just show us what this genre can produce. He shows us what it ought to be.

The Dark Knight is a sprawling epic - the culmination of a great director's catalog of work. Chris Nolan's impressed time-in and time-out with his well-drawn, spry set of psychological dramas/thrillers but this one takes the cake. Nolan works in a manner that could compared to that of Tarantino - by simply knowing his material. While Tarantino studied samurai and gangster flicks, Nolan studies the world of Batman. It's incredible to watch the battle between good and evil evolve during this film and watch as players flip-flop sides, while momentum shifts, and the line between opposing forces gets blurrier and blurrier. This lays the ground work for the film's message: that there is a hero in all of us and a villain in all of us, and that sometimes the two are so much alike that, if we're not careful, the wrong one could slip out, undoing everything the other half fought for.

Not only does the Dark Knight impress on an aesthetic level but it serves as one of the most entertaining films of the summer - largely due to the performance of Heath Ledger. If there's one thing you know before even stepping into the theater, it's that Ledger's portrayal of the Joker is already hyped to high heaven. Yet despite the Oscar buzz and parallels to posthumous nominees of former like James Dean and Peter Finch, Ledger delivers something no preview can prepare you for. His character's disturbing on-screen presence evokes any and every reaction from the audience, from laughter (at times when laughter is clearly taboo) to stark shivers from his deranged cat-and-mouse games. It's a remarkable thing to watch.

The Dark Knight to me is the example of a perfect summer movie. It's well written but also well staged. It's brainy but not at all afraid to blow some shit up. And, most importantly, it's thought-provoking. (I've seen many films that present interesting concepts, but immediately set them adrift on a sea of forgettable incoherence.) The best part about The Dark Knight is the ride home. There's so much to discuss, not just about the plot of the film but about the process of filmmaking and the payoff that process holds for those resourceful and patient enough to employ it correctly.

Mark my words:  The Dark Knight kicks ass.