Published at: July 15, 2008, 5:33 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I saw THE DARK NIGHT early this afternoon, in mind-boggling IMAX no less.
And I’m going to another screening at the IMAX tomorrow.
And I bought tickets to the Thursday midnight show at the IMAX a month ago when they went on sale, so I’ll be back Thursday night.
I must warn you. It is impossible to watch this film and not start spewing hyperbole upon exiting the theater. When the credits started I thought, “Best comic book movie of the summer.” When they finished I was thinking, “Best movie of the summer period.” When I stepped out of the IMAX and into the bright afternoon daylight I was thinking, “Best movie I’ve seen this year.”
Given the rapid growth, it could very well be the best film ever recorded by the time I see it again tomorrow.
Of course I can’t really qualify any of that and I would not place this film in my “All Time Favorites” list just out of respect of the films that earned their places there over the many years with countless rewatchings.
I can say without any hesitation that THE DARK KNIGHT is a spectacular piece of storytelling, that it is as giant a leap forward from the first film as EMPIRE was from STAR WARS or that Godfather Part II was from the first, that all this talk of Heath Ledger being nominated for his work as The Joker isn’t just industry buzz capitalizing on the tragic and far too premature death of the actor. He will be nominated and he would have been nominated had he been alive to see the film open.
The film is dizzying in its effortless mastery. Like I told you, hyperbole, but damn if I don’t think you’ll be saying the same things when you leave the theaters upon first viewing.
Now, I’m always the one trying to come in and temper expectation. I illustrated my problems with CLOVERFIELD when people were saying it was the second coming. I don’t like building up ridiculous expectation. I really don’t. I love the communal experience of sharing my thoughts on a film and reading your thoughts in emails and down in talkback and one thing I don’t want to do is hurt someone else’s film experience by overstating the quality of a film or putting it at some ridiculously high water mark that no film could possibly live up to.
But I am telling you guys that I walked into this film more hyped up than for any other film of the year so far and it was everything I could have hoped it would have been. I honestly believe that this film might be immune to expectations because I really don’t know how much higher they could have been.
BATMAN BEGINS centered on Bruce Wayne. It was his movie, so by relation it was Batman’s movie. When Christopher Nolan sat down to write this with his brother Jonathan they decided this isn’t about Bruce Wayne or Batman as a person. This is about Batman as a symbol and what that means. They also set out to create a world where the bad guys can win, where the stakes are real, where people do die and there’s nothing our superhero can do about it.
As much as BEGINS was Bruce Wayne’s movie, THE DARK KNIGHT is Harvey Dent and The Joker’s movie.
The way the Nolans’ tell Dent’s story is nothing less than brilliant. It’s nuanced, tragic and doesn’t go exactly how you picture it, but when the film ends you can see no better way they could have told the story of Harvey Dent’s fall.
I’ve always thought the ability of a storyteller to invest you in a character you know in advance is going into tragic territory is one of the highest proving points for sheer talent. Stephen King made me fall in love with Susan Delgado even though I had known since The Gunslinger how her story ends. Romeo & Juliet was my favorite Shakespeare play because it had a deep affect on me as a teenager, even though I knew the ending and I knew to get invested in these characters was only going to hurt when it came about. Nolan makes it hurt.
You know Harvey Dent becomes Two-Face, but the surprise comes about halfway through when you realize you’d forgo the coolness you know is in store if Dent could stay Gotham’s White Knight. You want to see good prevail. At least I did.
Aaron Eckhart is perfectly cast, effortlessly making you believe in Harvey Dent and, even more importantly, letting you buy his fall from the light.
Heath Ledger. What can be said about his performance? It’s absolutely magnetic. You can not take your eyes off of him in this movie. He is the definitive Joker now. His theatricality, insanity barely in check, his brains, the mystery of the character. He’s written to perfection and Ledger takes it a step beyond with his unhinged and frightening performance. The Joker embodies anarchy and he never once contradicts himself.
I guarantee you this right now. You will never forget his magic trick.
Bale is once again great as Bruce Wayne, but like I said the movie isn’t really Bruce/Bats centric. He’s all over the movie and a driving force, no doubt, but the overall story really does belong to Harvey Dent.
Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman are great, as usual. As is Michael Caine, who gets some really great stuff in this flick. I loved hearing a little bit about Alfred’s past, which… let’s just say it’s not a typical butler’s past.
Maggie Gyllenhaal is Rachel Dawes. There was never a moment where I lamented the break in continuity from the first movie. And this is coming from someone who liked Katie Holmes in BEGINS.
The IMAX experience was amazing. The film played in it’s correct aspect ratio (2.35:1) except whenever the specifically shot IMAX sequences played, which opened the world up, giving me a 70 foot tall window into another universe. Wally Pfister’s cinematography was always sharp and in IMAX really did make me feel like I was there, which is the highest compliment I could pay to him.
I don’t know what more I can talk about without going into specific plot points and I damn well won’t be the bastard to ruin this movie for you. I will say that the writing in this is as good as anything the Nolans have written. Seriously. The subtlety in how they handle The Joker’s origins (“Wanna know how I got these scars?”) gives us a deep insight into the diseased brain while at the same time not betraying the mystery. You’ll see how they do it when you see the flick... but it's fantastic, completely true to who the Joker is.
The set-up for the next one isn’t as clear as the last film, at least in terms of who the villain is going to be. There is no calling card, but there is certainly a giant thread. You know where they’re going and you can’t wait to see what they’ll give us when it’s time for the next film.
And, by the way, Warner Bros. better pray to God Christopher Nolan wants to make a lot more of these movies because after seeing this film I can’t imagine a filmmaker in their right mind that would want to try to follow it up.
Mark my words: Ledger will be nominated, Wally Pfister will be nominated, Chris Nolan will be nominated for direction, Jonathan and Chris Nolan for script and if the movie Gods are feeling kind early next year we might even see a Best Picture nom.
It really is that good. I am already giddy about seeing it again in 15 hours.