Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: A Disturbing Realization

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Disturbing Realization

I made it out to see The Dark Knight today, and I'm even home in time to sleep in my own bed tonight (although I did have to fill up the gas tank when I made it back to town). I've been trying to stay away from spoilers for this movie more than I usually do, and there were a couple of plot developments that actually did take me by surprise, so I won't give anything away here.

Although the story took a couple of turns I didn't see coming, I'd had plenty of warning that the film isn't called The Dark Knight for nothing. One of the themes is that Heath Ledger's Joker sets up challenges to the people of Gotham City to see how quickly they abandon their veneer of civility and revert to animal urges and instincts. Let me just say, I fear the movie is more optimistic on that count than I am, and that might cause me my own dark nights. It also annoyed me more than I expected to see Senator Patrick Leahy's cameo. He's a long-time Batfan, so I can't begrudge him his fun too much, but he plays a partygoer at an event that's invaded by the Joker. Refusing to cower in fear, when confronted by the villain, he retorts, "We won't be intimidated by thugs!" Although I guess his record on this matter is not so bad, more than a few of his Senate colleagues could stand to be less intimidated by a certain group of thugs I know of.

Mrs. Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk (who wasn't interested in seeing the film until I noticed someone she knows who is onscreen) asked me what seeing it at an IMAX theater added to the experience. Unlike Batman Begins, the filmmakers weren't trying very hard to disguise Chicago as their stand-in for Gotham City, and I have to say the arial cityscapes were quite distracting for me. What a magnificent skyline we have.

The performances were good--Heath Ledger overcomes the hype, and the returning actors acquitted themselves well. Just by showing up to replace Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes, Maggie Gyllenhaal makes her a more substantial character. Unfortunately, the screenwriters didn't bother to give her much to work with, so there's only so much she can be expected to accomplish. Aaron Eckhart is excellent as crusading DA Harvey Dent. At least at the beginning, it's a pretty cardboard character, but Eckhart makes his idealism believable and likable. I'm beginning to wonder if Eckhart might be one of the best actors working today: He's believable in almost everything he does. If you want proof, check out his absolutely despicable character in Neil LaBute's In the Company of Men. I can't place this, but I seem to recall at least one reviewer worrying that Eckhart's career would be over because his believability in that role would taint anything else he might do. That didn't happen, because every role presents us with a blank slate and fresh start for Eckhart.

So overall, I enjoyed the experience and I'm glad I saw it in IMAX. The movie is too long (two-and-a-half hours), and although it doesn't particularly drag, it doesn't need all that time. The momentum drives us through so it didn't particularly bother me, but there were still a number of loose ends by the time the movie wrapped up. And given how he treated his employees, I'm surprised that the Joker always remained well stocked in henchmen. But I'd recommend it--even if only to see where you fall on the Gotham City Human Nature Optimism scale.


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