I was never a fan of the Batman character. A very wealthy man playing superhero with gadgets only he can afford, to foil crooks from money he obviously doesn’t lack. I preferred perpetually broke Spiderman. After hearing the phenomenal reviews and ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB, I got curious. Just how well written can a bombastic summer action blockbuster be? I tend to prefer smaller indy films with good scripts, yet decided to venture in the movieplex with the expectation that The Dark Knight was way overrated. Boy, was I surprised.
The Good Stuff
Christopher and Jonathan Nolan’s screenplay and Christopher’s direction is above and beyond what viewers usually get from these action blockbusters. I am pleased that it has finally dawned on some of these studio execs that people will reward you, if you don’t insult their intelligence. Nolan’s adaptation adds ethical dilemma and alludes to contemporary issues like intrusive surveillance, torture and corruption in some of the institutions we rely so much on to get our sense of security. They also put a ruthless variation of the Prisoner’s Dilemma to add to the psychological and ethical tension. The characters are well fleshed out and the storytelling compelling.
The acting was solid, and Heath Ledger’s Joker is probably the darkest and most sinister portrayed on the screen. While his fine performance might not quite be Oscar worthy, he’s likely going to get serious consideration since it was his last role before his tragic death. Aaron Eckhart did excellent job in the role of righteous DA Harvey Dent, a performance that might be easily overlooked facing Ledger’s intense presence. Christian Bale’s Batman was competent, acting behind a mask using a raspy voice limits one’s ability to show a nuanced performance.
FX and score overwhelm dialogue: This has happened in various instances where I couldn’t sort out the dialogue from the booming sounds. I’m not sure whether it was the cinema’s issue or the sound editor, but it did distract me enough to mention it.
Batman’s raspy voice: Mentioned above. It makes some sense that Batman would attempt to disguise his voice not to be recognized, but Bale’s raspy voice does not make him “creepy” and just hampers comprehension and performance. I hope that Nolan will have Bale just use his regular voice in future films and the audience will forgive that. It’s already tough acting through a mask and the voice didn’t help. We accept Superman’s ludicrous disguise (glasses), so having Bale use his regular voice isn’t a big deal.
Film still slightly overrated: #1 on IMDB?? Really?? It’s a fine film worth seeing, but I can rattle off twenty better films off the top of my head. At the moment it’s a pop culture phenomenon, and I suppose that many are so starving for fine intelligent entertainment that this film appears above and beyond what’s come out in recent memory.
All in all, it’s a good, unusually intelligent summer flick that reminded me how fun it can be to venture into the cinema. 8.5 out of 10.
On a side note, I saw the great trailer of the upcoming Watchmen movie, an adaptation of the brilliant comic book/graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The story is a thorough deconstruction of the superhero archetype. The trailer looks promising and lets hope director Zack Snyder doesn’t muck it up.