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Which One?

Rocky Mountain Construction has been on a tear lately.

9x9x9: The Dark Knight–If you’re good at something, never do it for free.

The first two times I saw this movie, I had a high level of disdain for it (chronicled here and here).

But the last dozen times I’ve seen it in toto or in pieces, I’ve come to realize that I was kind of dead wrong on all accounts except for the first half of my first review.

Because what I failed to realize then is something that I touched on in my Billy Madison article: it’s a genre film and it only has to deliver along genre lines to be good. That is, it’s an super hero/action film so it really only has to deliver shit blowing up and our hero saving the day to be any good.

But this film enters the echelon of great–and I realize, now, that it is great–because it does everything necessary to make it good with perfection. And then it lays on that “shallow philosophizing,” to paraphrase myself from two years ago, and does that to perfection as well.

Before, I was holding it to the standards of being, like, an emotion heavy film that comments on life with shit blowing up. But that’s backwards.

This movie’s standards are blow shit up then comment on life. Shoot first, ask questions later, etcetera.

So I was wrong on that part.

The one part that has remained great, though, are the action sequences and the overall photographic mood of the film. Every scene is lit and captured perfectly. There is an emotional timbre throughout the film, and it’s rationed out at just the right pace for viewer-ennui to never set in.

This took me nine times and a bottle of Jack to realize.[1]

It’s been said many times over that this film is basically a remake of Heat with superheroes. It makes sense. Both have ambiguous heroes and villains that cause just as much destruction to society as to themselves and their closest companions.

That’s great for a giant-ass summer picture like this.

The other thing that really helped me like this movie was seeing X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which was completely antithetical to this film.

Wolverine realized it was a genre movie and that it only had to deliver so much in order to be successful.[2] This might’ve been 20th Century Fox’s fault. I’ve heard that they like to deliver as little as possible to get as much money as possible. This is why I’m afraid of what’ll happen to the Aronofsky helmed sequel to Origins.

But, so, okay. Wolverine was made and released because people wanted more scenes of Wolverine fucking shit up. So they delivered that.

With Batman as a character though, his cinema ties are a lot deeper and we’ve been watching him fuck shit up for years. The difference, now, is that we’ve already explored an entire universe for the Batman superhero. We’ve experienced the camp and the kook. With Nolan at the helm, it seems like he wanted to turn all that on its ear beginning with Batman Begins, just to see what would happen.

As opposed to the 60’s Batman and the late-90’s Batman, our hero isn’t making jokes and he doesn’t have Robin there as comic relief (Chris O’Donnell should never be allowed on set of any future Batman movies. Just saying). The Dark Knight offers no relief—and it does this because the movie is a reflection of its setting. Right now, with the Joker making a mess of both above- and underground society, there is no relief to living in any part of the city. So the movie doesn’t back down from handling the material in such a way that everything clicks. It makes sense that it’s dark because everything in Gotham has gone dark. So, then, you begin to connect with residents of Gotham and what the authorities have to deal with.

The other major thing that I failed to realize was this: when was the last time a major motion picture killed off its main love interest that was a well established character? That whole sequence came as a total shock to me because movies with budgets this big are trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator. And the LCD usually doesn’t like it when people you’ve liked since the first movie die. So it was really brave of them to pull that card as well as making Bruce Wayne choose between the good of himself and the good of society by choosing Harvey Dent. It’s like that age old question of “Would you rather get killed or have 1,000 people killed instead.”

Christopher Nolan (right) working with Gary Oldman and Heath Ledger

Batman makes the tough choice, and ostensibly the right one.

Until that right choice loses his own faith in humanity and turns into the problem. Oh shit. Now what.

So this movie is on a totally different emotional plane than most other movies in its genre for that very reason. Most just build a character and kill it off to make you care about the lily-white protagonist. This movie builds and kills off just to ask more questions and make the viewer panic even more and have them ask, “when is this going to end?’

At the point you begin to ask that question is the exact moment where you’ve made the emotional connection with Batman—fucking Batman. Holy rusted metal Batman. You made an emotional connection with his psychoemotional struggles.

Let’s see Wolverine do that.

In conclusion: I was wrong two years ago and I finally have a stage to retract my comments. I was wrong. This movie’s awesome. It makes you feel something which is more than you could ever ask from a movie where a semi truck goes ass over tea kettle, which is awesome enough in its own right.


[1] More like watching it while drinking beer mixed with tequila and lime juice. I call it the Optimus Prime. It’s delicious.

[2] I’ll be the first to admit that using this film is a strange antithesis just because they tried the same strategy of bringing in an indie-film darling to direct a major motion picture (Gavin Hood, who did Tsotsi).

The Dark Knight Review’s Corollary

I saw this film again at a 1:20 AM showing in IMAX on an impulse. I was bored out of my fucking skull and the best part about summer blockbusters is that it gives film loving insomniacs like myself something to see after 1AM when all the DVDs are worn down to the wick.

And I noticed some things I hadn’t caught before–like the extra 35mm of frame which was, at times, a little odd since they did all of the flyover shots in IMAX format and only some of the action sequences in the format so there was a lot of popping between formats. Moreso than they let on when they say “we did six major scenes in the format.” They really meant six major scenes and a shitload of filler.

The format, however, is not what this corollary is about.

This is about the film and how much of a joke it is. And I mean this without a pun intended, though Heath Ledger is much to blame for the joke that this film contains.

Because it’s not necessarily the film as a whole that is a joke–the performances are excellent, the cinematography and action pieces are brilliant, stark and exciting–instead, the joke is within the film, subtle.

The joke is on us. Which is why this movie will most likely end up being one of the highest grossing films of all times.

When I said that Heath Ledger was to blame, I meant it in the way that his performance has about a layer and a half. Enough of a performance for one viewing, but not enough subtlety or facial expression for a second. This is probably because he talks so goddam much. He monologues like it’s going out of style.

He’s not the only one to blame, though: there are many moments in the film where characters state heavy-handed maxims on the state of Gotham City (the banker at the beginning of the film, Christian Bale at least once, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart). Multiple times we’re reminded about the night being darkest before the dawn, and about how some criminals just want to watch the world burn.

Essentially, we are left with a film that tries hard enough for people to think they’re gaining more upon a second viewing even though there’s really nothing more.

Why is there really nothing more? Because it’s a huge fucking movie.

So maybe this will become a new business model to create repeat viewings in the theater–to have performers insinuate a little more to encourage someone to see the movie again, but not insinuate so much that the viewer is left confused.

And the best part of the IMAX format was watching the giant action piece with Eckhart in the truck and the flipping semi-truck we saw in the trailers. That scene was absolutely fascinating in the format. The screen is so large, the images so crisp, that you are drawn completely into the scenes. If the equipment wasn’t so ridiculously clunky, this could very well be the future of cinema. Hopefully it is because I really don’t want to see too much digital filmmaking in theaters–and this is coming from someone who plans on being a digital film maker. The format has a certain glint, a certain gloss, that makes everything feel a little off. But with IMAX, everything is just stupid-huge.

So I must apologize that I’m apostatizing from the #1 film on the IMDB top 250 (seriously. All the retards over there think that it’s better every other movie ever fucking made), but, seriously. This movie isn’t all that great. It’s just a juggernaut that wants you to think it is.