WHEN THE BIKE MATTERS MORE THAN THE
MOVIE: THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)
DIRECTED BY: CHRISTOPHER NOLAN
STARRING: CHRISTIAN BALE, HEATH LEDGER, AARON ECKHART, MAGGIE GYLLENHALL, MICHAEL CAINE
I did not want to start this review of mine with a negative remark after having really enjoyed two odd hours of livewire action and what possibly is arguably the best stunt show international cinema has ever seen and one of the raciest action thrillers contemporarily. But my mind allows me to do no other thing but to start off with one comment that could be the only negative comment I had in store for what could concern the whole crew of ‘The Dark Knight’. And this is the reason why ‘The Dark Knight’ made me think about nothing more than four stars, whereas its still darker predecessor earned a hearty, perfect five and a permanent place in my heart.
Well, ‘The Dark Knight’ also is in the line-up but the very reason it is being considered is because of the amazing special effects and action sequences that were literally too good, and not because of some outstanding performance by the Late Heath Ledger (I agree that his was a really good performance, but with a plot like this even Al Pacino would be made second guest!). But one thing I felt that made this movie very meek as opposed to its toweringly darker prequel ‘Batman Begins’ is not the absence of Batman in its title (Which in turn is a very bold move by Nolan because whether due to numerology or a craving for Lady Luck, the word Batman was apparently a part of the title of every single movie on the Caper) but the absence of originality that was pretty much distinct in ‘Batman Begins’. Sure the plot has been beautifully manipulated to suit the Nolans (Christopher and Jonathan, who wrote the movie) but the very fact that made the new movie very ordinary against its extraordinary predecessor is the whole of
Anyway, though the shift from the past to the present (Or maybe even the future, as Batman plays with Mobile phones as much as Hackers play with their PCs) makes ‘The Dark Knight’ even more exciting and more active as it plods along with every sequence that is almost as intense as the last sequence in itself (Which makes the film an apparent drag, for it looks like we had reached the end thrice before the final credits actually rolled) it is actually quite detrimental to our beloved Dark Knight for it seems as though he had lost his true identity?! I mean come on, Bruce always boasted his bruises while in this film all that he can show to us is one red patch and newly sewn skin in the initial stages of the film and trust me, it is not the first or the only time Batman falls or gets himself hurt! Maybe I felt nostalgic about getting back to ‘Batman Begins’ while I watched through this, but surely did we not hear Bruce Wayne say to Alfred he wanted the house rebuilt brick by brick? And was it not a brilliant Gotham city he lived in with outstanding landmarks in the form of Wayne Towers and the machine-operated bridge (Though Wayne Towers was blew up by Batman and Gordon in the last part, it could easily have been restored in the year that followed) that we adored (Or I adored!) so much?! Somehow Mr.Nolan and Mr.Nolan thought otherwise for they shifted base from somewhere in England to somewhere in the United States and while the former provided an identity to Batman and the flick he came up with, the latter just destroys what had already been created and though Gotham does create an identity of its own once again, it is nothing more than that any other mediocre superhero movie like ‘Superman Returns’ or ‘Spiderman’ manage to provide, and that in turn was mediocre because Gotham could have been any other city in the United States, and whatever others might have preferred, I definitely liked the greenery surrounding Wayne Mansion, the Cave headquarters, the waterfall and the dash of Martial arts better than what now is just a mix-up guns, bazookas and remote-controlled bombs. And doesn’t the very thinking about this make you nostalgic?!!
Anyway a lost identity is still a lost identity and though it is the case with ‘The Dark Knight’, we see redemption in the plot with an antagonist probably one of the best sadists in Hollywood history (But still not as scary as Malcolm McDowell as Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange or Al Pacino as the Devil Himself in The Devil’s Advocate) with Heath Ledger delivering a performance he had worked for apparently till his last breath, and I must say that he has to be awarded an Oscar for that not just because he has passed away but also because thanks to him, magnitude of the Joker’s terrors peak as he shortens his laugh. And here again is a slight bit of confusion as to the real character of The Joker (And I do not have the heart to blame it on the dead man) which I felt was a bit indecisive as to whether The Joker was a psychopath or a sadist (And certainly not a bit of both!!!) because being the former makes him out of anyone’s control including himself, while the latter means he overacted. But as I already said, I would never be hard enough on who would be known as the best contemporary performer and so The Joker could be aptly described as a majority of people called him to be: A Freak (An absolute stunner is the sequence where he says ‘Why so SERIOUS!?’ three times!!!).
Bruce Wayne is curtailed, the Batmobile is curtailed to a mere bike and that provides time for more Batman and hence, more action and there are many sequences that really took my breath away, including one fantastic chase sequence with The Joker standing tall against the speeding Knight. As far as the plot is concerned, it sees the rise and fall of the Joker, the supremacy of the Batman and his technology (Forgot to tell, but this one’s an overdose of gadgets) and an explanation on why Harvey Dent was the Two-Face. Rachel Dawes has nothing to do here except get caught in a love triangle and all that Maggie Gyllenhall could manage in this movie are a couple of kisses distributed equally to the two competitors before the Nolans and the comics had apparently decided that this could possibly be the longest time a female could be sustained in a league of men: Muscular men at that. We see psychology in all of it, of how Bruce Wayne gets tired of playing the superhero and reminds us all that he’s mortal, of how Harvey Dent conflicts himself with a two-headed coin and misled thoughts as to who he really is, of how The Joker prefers to work without a plan than work with one (And there’s a brilliant explanation he manages to string together to Harvey in the hospital he blows up eventually) and how he performs his little social experiment, of how Jim Gordon’s faith on the Batman makes him turn against him just for the Dark Knight’s sake and finally how Rachel Dawes explains the true meaning and an irony in the statement she had mentioned in the previous instalment (Where she was played by a Katie Holmes with emotions written in her eyes). The original score does a cocaine act by picking you up all the way to the zenith of adrenalin rushes and there you sit right on top of Mount Excitement getting a clear picture as to what Nolan’s puppets were doing, playing with each other’s mind with the only clear person among them being The Joker, and almost all of the sequences are as intense as a climax usually is.
And ironically, it is here that you miss ‘Batman Begins’ more and more because it was a Batman who was slow and steady with good martial arts and a non-lunatic villain as compared to a Batman who is more than just a vigilante: He’s a silent guardian; A hero whom Gotham needs, but not now; he’s… THE DARK KNIGHT!
And what if the film’s American and has a not-so-creative backdrop with the trademark railroad missing? It still is mad: Mad as the Joker is, mad as he makes Harvey Dent and as crazy as he drives the Batman. “Madness is like Gravity: All it needs is a PUSH! AHAHAHAHAHAHA!” That’s the Joker’s last laugh. And you can even feel it ringing through your ears as you read this review if you are lucky enough. The same way as I feel when I am writing this…
P.S. Please Mr. Hans Zimmer and Mr. James Newton Howard could you please score some music for this review? Or at least the thud you finished your movie with??? (That is an over-ask and I know it!)