The Dark Knight

九月 2, 2008 at 10:41 | 張貼於entertainment, USA | 發表留言

There’s a beautiful high-angle shot, early in The Dark Knight, that looks down on Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) in full Batman regalia as he perches atop a Gotham skyscraper, surveying the city he lives to protect, then leaping off and spreading his majestic bat wings to swoop down into the night. Bruce’s trajectory is also the film’s. It traces a descent into moral anarchy, and each of its major characters will hit bottom. Some will never recover, broken by the touch of evil or by finding it, like a fatal infection, in themselves.

The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan’s second chapter in his revival of the DC Comics franchise, will hit theaters with all the hoopla and fanboy avidity of the summer season’s earlier movies based on comic books. It’s the fifth, and three of the first four (Iron Man, Wanted and Hellboy II) have been terrific or just short of it. (The Incredible Hulk: not so hot.) It’s been one of the best summers in memory for flat-out blockbuster entertainment, and in the wow category, the Nolan film doesn’t disappoint. True to format, it has a crusading hero, a sneering villain in Heath Ledger’s Joker, spectacular chases — including one with Batman on a stripped-down Batmobile that becomes a motorcycle with monster-truck wheels — and lots of stuff blowing up. Even the tie-in action figures with Reese’s Pieces suggest this is a fast-food movie.

But Nolan has a more subversive agenda. He wants viewers to stick their hands down the rat hole of evil and see if they get bitten. With little humor to break the tension, The Dark Knight is beyond dark. It’s as black — and teeming and toxic — as the mind of the Joker. Batman Begins, the 2005 film that launched Nolan’s series, was a mere five-finger exercise. This is the full symphony.

A Better Class of Criminal
Gotham has a new white knight: a fearless district attorney, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), who’s determined to nab malefactors through the law with the same gusto that Batman, the dark knight, applies using his gadgets and charisma. The Mob (led by Eric Roberts) they can handle, with the help of stalwart police lieutenant James Gordon (Gary Oldman). But the Joker — this guy is nuts. He does deals with the Mob, then crosses them up. He makes a point with his pencil by ramming it into a gangster’s head. “This town," he says, “deserves a better class of criminals." So do action movies, and here he is, vowing to bring down Batman and Dent, just for the mad fun of it.

In its rethinking and transcending of a schlock source, The Dark Knight is up there with David Cronenberg’s 1986 version of The Fly. It turns pulp into dark poetry. Just as that movie found metaphors of cancer, AIDS and death in the story of a man devolving into an insect, so this one plumbs the nature of identity. Who are we? Has Bruce lost himself in the myth of the hero? Is his Batman persona a mission or an affliction? Can crusading Dent live down the nickname (Two-Face) some rancorous cops have pinned on him? Only the Joker seems unconflicted. He knows what he is: an “agent of chaos." Your worst nightmare.

No, really. This villain, as conceived by Nolan and his scriptwriter brother Jonathan and incarnated with chilling authority by Ledger, is not the elegant sadist of so many action films, nor the strutting showman played by Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman. He isn’t a father figure or a macho man. And though he invents several stories about how he got his (facial and psychic) scars, he’s not presented as the sum of injustices done to him. This Joker is simply one of the most twisted and mesmerizing creeps in movie history.


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