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Justin Reviews: The Dark Knight

Batman and the JokerLong gone are the campy memories of Adam West as Batman. No more do we have the gothic tales of Burton’s tortured soul Batman. And Schumacher’s neon fetish Batman is now dead and buried (and, seriously, we’re all better for it). Thanks to Nolan’s gritty, neo-realistic interpretation of Batman in his 2005 flick ‘Batman Begins’, Batman is a man, a symbol, working to rally the hope of a blackened city to reclaim its greatness again. And that rally for the city to pull itself out of the darkness of the Narrows is challenged, put to the test, in this year’s utterly fantastic sequel, ‘The Dark Knight.’

Let me get this out of the way: ‘The Dark Knight’ is every bit as great, excellent, fantastic as you’ve heard. This film has allowed reviewers and movie goers to fully exercise their hyperbole muscles to describe this film and I’m gladly going to fall in line with the masses on this one. ‘The Dark Knight’ is an excellent, excellent movie. While its 2 and a half hour runtime may detract some viewers, it felt too short for me. I wanted the film to go on. The script was dense and tight. Each scene that danced across the screen was necessary and important. There was no excess here, a testament to the scripting by the Nolan brothers. The script served the story and the story served a purpose. The film centered around a single line of dialogue, delivered by the Joker as Batman interrogated him: “When the chips are down, these people will eat each other.” While the film clearly tips its hat to crime dramas like Michael Mann’s ‘Heat’, it has a very similar feel to David Fincher’s ‘Se7en.’ The morally good chasing the morally corrupt, who is constantly testing people to show their dirty sides.

And the performances in this film. Everyone has clearly been lauding Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker. And rightfully so. The man disappears into the role. Even in the brief, 2 second shot of Ledger make-up-less, you don’t see Heath. You see the Joker, a psychopathic anarchist whose only purpose is to push and test. He will not rend the city; instead he is the catalyst for the people to pull themselves apart. Christopher Nolan wisely chose not to explain the origins of the Joker. All too often our classic villains are neutered by an explanation of why they have become what they are (Hannibal Lecter, Darth Vadar and Michael in Rob Zombie’s ‘Halloween’ all suffered from this decision to give them a back story). Rather, the Joker was an absolute and as such, Ledger was free to create one of the most terrorizing villains on screen in the past few years. BatmanChristian Bale presented one more reason to applaud him. His Batman/Bruce Wayne the playboy/Bruce Wayne who’s Batman was brilliant and nuanced. It was great to see Bruce Wayne doing some of the heroics in this film, adding to the realism that Batman really is a man out to do good. Bale captured this with ease and it translated well. And Aaron Eckhart as the heart and soul and, really, the point of this movie, Harvey Dent was perfect casting. He portrayed the emotional arc of this film so pitch perfect that you were as emotionally invested as you were riveted with the story, the action and the cinematography.

Oh, the cinematography. Someone hand Wally Pfister an Oscar now, please. Do yourself a favor, when you go see this film, watch it on IMAX. This is a film so beautifully shot and absolutely gorgeous that, really, only IMAX can truly make you appreciate it. The picture is so rich and bold that when you walk outside into the real world, it seems muted and boring. The shots are beautiful, the heights are dizzying and the film drinks this all in and spits it back out to the audience in such a way I just found myself smiling. Seriously, don’t wait for this film to come out on DVD. If you love, like or even have a passing interest in film, watch ‘The Dark Knight’ on an IMAX screen.

At this point, you already know that as of right now, this is the film to see for 2008. Consider this review as yet another cherry on top of a heaping sundae bowl of praise. But ‘The Dark Knight’ deserves it. This isn’t a film for the kids (take the PG-13 rating serious, no one under 13 should be seeing this movie. See the Joker’s disappearing pencil trick for a reference as to why). This is a film that shows why people distinguish between comic books and graphic novels. ‘The Dark Knight’ is a graphic novel of the highest form and delivers on all counts. The grand awesomeness of this film will knock your socks off, melt half your face and after that’s done, will carve two slits into your mouth to give you a permanent grin that all the re-constructive surgery can’t save. Well deserved hyperbole, indeed.

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