Saturday, July 26, 2008
TBG Sees: The Dark Knight
Yesterday's sunrise came with the promise of awesome.
Thanks to the unnamed defense contractor's 9/80 schedule, I was off for the day. And, more importantly, our son would be attending a school-sponsored "sleep-over" event in the evening that pretty much guaranteed six minutes of non-birthday/anniversary/Martin Luther King, Jr. Day sex with Mrs. Bootleg.
(Spoiler Alert: Last night's cock-and-bull excuse from the wife: "I think I had too much greasy food [on Friday]. My stomach hurts.")
But, before I could curl up on the couch with an evening of evisceration (Rangers 14, A's 6) and a snoozing Mrs. Bootleg in an upstairs bedroom, there was the matter of The Dark Knight.
1997's Batman & Robin abortion pretty much ruined the whole damn cinematic brand. As a result, I missed the Batman Begins reboot during its initial theater run in 2005. In fact, I didn't see it until it was the in-flight movie on a cross-country journey to New England that November. And, didn't I feel quite the fool?
I bought the DVD when I returned to San Diego and waited with anticipation when initial news and trailers from The Dark Knight began trickling across the airwaves and internet.
Then, Heath Ledger died and I got pretty sick of every breathless update. And, then everyone LOVED the movie. Consequently, I grew equally ill from the polysyllabic saccharin-filled praise from every two-bit critic in America.
Crash was an overly-simplistic, colossally flawed movie that was still perfectly watchable, yet I found myself hating the (undeserved) hype it received more than anything else. As I settled into my seat at the movie theater, Ledger had already been handed an Oscar, The Dark Knight redefined the comic book movie genre forever and if you don't like this movie, there's something wrong with YOU.
My thoughts two and half hours later?
If you don't like this movie, there's something wrong with YOU.
I keed, of course, but, goddamm, son…
There's nothing about Ledger's balls-out performance as The Joker that I could add to the cacophony of credit he's already received. It's simultaneously subtle and sledgehammer-y, controlled and chaotic, comedic and tragic. I was absolutely riveted by his vocal inflections and the myriad of little tics he added (a tilt of the head, a quick lick of his lips). That The Joker was written without much motivation was brilliant in how it motivated every other major character in the film.
Christian Bale's Batman kept up every step of the way – a conflicted spirit who is ostensibly inspiring the public to take back its city and can't wait until the day in which the world no longer needs him. Yet, there he is, every night, fighting the good fight.
It says a lot that Aaron Eckhart's performance as Gotham City D.A. Harvey Dent has, relatively speaking, flown under the radar. That's a shame, because Eckhart has arguably a greater challenge than Ledger. While The Joker is fully formed from the first moment we see him onscreen, Dent's downfall from hero of the people to the deranged Harvey Two-Face is absolutely nailed by Eckhart.
The movie itself manages to hold everything together…for the most part.
It's not that everything in this movie didn't have a purpose. It's just that, if I've got a beef, it's how kinda…sorta…I dunno…contrived some of the plot movements were. Again, I get why Batman had to make a quick trip to China. I guess. On the other hand, the whole storyline with the Wayne Foundation pencil pusher who stumbled across…well, everything about Batman in what amounted to an eight-hour day at the office was really stretching things in my eyes.
Everything weaves along at a hectic pace (and, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the phenomenal score that built copious amounts of tension every step of the way) and takes us through to a morally ambiguous resolution in which, to an extent, both the good guys and bad guys can claim victory.
Best movie of the year? I'm nowhere near qualified to make that claim, but I will say that the sequence with the two ferry boats and their dueling detonators (an important piece to the film's climax) was ham-handed and dumb.
And, umm…Michael Jai White AND Tiny Lister, Jr.? Really? Really, Central Casting? Did Damon Wayans and Ving Rhames not send forwarding addresses?