Friday, July 25, 2008

The Dark Knight

(Warning: Lengthy Post)

What Hype!
But more than that.. What a movie!

"The Dark Knight" is, in my view, the movie of this generation.
Do I hear "premature", "exaggeration"??

I know it's quite a bold statement to make. But I have my reasons.
Now let's define some basic criteria for a movie to be called the movie of its generation:
* It has to be a commercial success.
* It has to redefine film-making, at least in its genre.
* It has to be critically acclaimed.
* It has to capture people's imagination and make them crave for more.
* It should have high replay value.
and a criterion which I think is important:
* It should stimulate an average adult's mind, in a thoughtful way.

I've seen the film twice. It meets all of the above.

The reason I added the last criteria is to eliminate films like Spiderman, Pirates of the Caribbean, Shrek, etc which might satisfy the rest. Not to mean disrespect to any of those films, but do you honestly think that Spiderman was the movie of this generation?

If you've seen the Dark Knight, you will understand when I say that the film is not only engrossing as hell, but extremely relevant in the present day world (more on that later).

Enough of build up. This is an absolute killer of a movie. It rocks.. in every department. I am not exaggerating when I say that most people had a "Whoa! What just happened" look on their faces when they came out of the cinema hall. (and this in Bangalore, where I hear the usual "pakau movie yaar" comment from some I-am-too-cool-with-my-hair-gel-to-appreciate-any-movie type character for almost any movie)

The film starts with a superb bank robbery sequence which ensures that you're hooked instantly and director Christopher Nolan just doesn't let go after that. The script is so taut that even at 2:30+hours of running time, there's no room for any just-for-kicks action/FX scenes.
The intensity doesn't dip for one minute. In fact, it shoots up every time Ledger's Joker appears on screen.

Speaking of which, Heath Ledger gives us a villian we won't soon forget. His Joker is seriously creepy, the kind that would give kids nightmares. (In fact, I honestly believe that kids under 12 should not even watch this movie). Even when he tries to make a joke, there are dark undertones to it, and you're invariably waiting for him to do something unexpected.
Two particular scenes stood out for me:
* His first appearance in front of the mob. The laughter and the subsequent pencil scene is just tremendous.
* The scene where he hangs his head out of a stolen police car after a pivotal moment in the film, is pure magic. So much is conveyed in that one fleeting scene.
It is a superlative performance, which will compete with Hannibal Lecter and Anton Chigurh for the most menacing villain seen in films.

That said, Batman ain't no slouch. Christian Bale looks super confident and comfortable in the Wayne/Batman dual act. Forget Keaton and Kilmer, this is the definitive Batman.
Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are solid as ever (and they're required to be). Maggie Gyllenhaal doesn't have a huge role to play, but is adequate.
Aaron Eckhart plays Harvey Dent, the daring, honest D.A who briefly becomes Bruce Wayne's only hope for a normal life. He infuses enough energy and honesty into the character that we end up believing in him.
Gary Oldman, as Jim Gordon - the good cop, is to me, the third most important character here after Batman and Joker. He represents a lot of things, and I dont just mean the movie. He also plays a crucial role in the climax, which is just terrific.

The film reportedly cost $180 million to make. And you can see why. Top of the line production values, an elite technical crew and some awesome stunts make this THE summer blockbuster.
If the Hong Kong skyscraper scene makes you gasp, the extended truck chase sequence ending in that flip will leave you plain spellbound!

All these are only part of the reason why this movie is so good. The best thing is that it keeps coming back to you. On your way back home. When you lie down later that night.
It is because the movie is extremely relevant in the present day. One needn't look far to draw the anology between the joker and terrorists today.
What would you do if someone half as maniacal as the joker attacked your city?
Would you be able to think striaght if your city was plunged into chaos like gotham?

It also hits home the point that pure evil is so damn dangerous that it can contaminate the best of good (Harvey-Two Face).

These are the things that drove me into the cinema hall for the second time.

I have to admit, I'm a little bit of a sucker for big-budgeted, star powered summer blockbusters.
With age (and some disappointing films) though, I've become more skeptical of these.
That excitement, I'm happy to say, is back now.

Every generation needs, but seldom gets a Godfather.
The Dark Knight comes damn close.

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