NOTE: This post was done right after another one, so make sure you scroll down to see what you missed.
Funeral is much more excited about the Dark Knight than I could be, (and, apparently, he doesn’t know the definition of the word ‘epitome’), being that he’s a pretty hardcore Batman fan, but having just gotten back from it myself, him being my alltime favorite superhero has gained a lot more meaning. Between this movie and Gotham Knight, I’m totally immersed in the world of Gotham’s criminal underground. That said, it would be extremely unfairto call this a superhero movie – it’s definitely a gangster film. Yes, that’s right – it has all the elements of a gangster film and I mean it when I say that it reminded me more than anything else of my alltime favorite gangster extravaganza, Baccano!.
The best word to decribe this movie had to be ‘unpredictable’ which is ALWAYS a good thing to be. You see, I saw Batman Begins 3 years back, but I remember almost none of it – while it was a good movie, and a great portrayal of Batman, the plot was forgettable, the characters were unmemorable, and I pretty much came out of it with just ‘well, the ninjas were cool.’ This movie blows all that away in a fire of great writing, genius acting, and good old-fashioned twists.
To give you an idea of this movie’s nature, which truly encompassed it, I describe the first scene. A bank is being heisted by a group of Joker’s clown-masked minions. Two go to the roof to jam communications, and two secure the hostages, putting grenades in their hands and pulling out the pins so that they can’t let go. On the roof, one of the men jams the communication, and the second he’s done, his buddy ices him, then heads down to work on opening the safe. His pal comes over and asks what happened to the other guy. As the killer is finishing up the safe he tells him ‘Joker told me to kill him when he was done with his job.’ His pal says ‘that’s funny – he told me something similar’ and shoots the safe opener. The money secoure, the guy heads out into the lobby where his other friend is antagonising the hostages. They don’t notice that in one of the offices, a man is readying his shotgun. The man busts through his office window and starts offloading shotgun shells like a madmen after the clowns. He yells that they have no idea who’s bank this is and that the mob will have vengeance, however one of the clwons manages to take him down. As he does, the other clown turns to him with a gun and asks ‘the Joker told you to kill me, didn’t he?’ to which the clown replies, ‘no, I’m supposed to get the bus driver.’ Just as his pal asks ‘what bus driver?’ a bus comes crushing through the wall and right into him, the driver comes to the cak and opens the doors, helping the last clown load the money bags into the bus, and the moment their done, he shoots the driver. The bank owner, still alive, yells something about how the joker will just do the same to him, and how small-timers are idiots. however, when the last clown approaches, he removes his mask and he is, in fact, the joker. He puts the man down and gets on the bus, driving out and mergin righ tinto a fleet of school busses heading down the street.
The entire movie is like this – the Joker is always one step ahead of everyone else, pulling strings, making the unexpected come to life, and laying utter waste to order. When you think they’ve got him, or that he has no more tricks, he always does, and by the end, you can’t help but feel like there’s absolutely nothing you can do to stop him. Joker’s overpowering nature is the driving force for all the movie’s emotional turmoil, and there is quite a bit of it. The Joker plays on Batman’s frustrations to the point that he can make the Batman another of his little puppets, and he constantly uses emotion, rationality, and planning against the ones who do it. The best part, though, is that he has no reason for any of it – as Alfred tells Bruce, “some men just like to watch the world burn.” On the emotional front as well, there are some violent twists, where unexpected deaths occur and people who were following a path suddenly find themselves with no place to go. It’s an incredibly down-to-earth, realistic experience that makes Gotham, the Batman, and all of the city’s villains really come to life as people, and more often than not, people as confused and befuddled as you and me.
It was almost strange to have a comic-book movie with amazing dialog, great character development, and truly memorable scenes, considering the history of such films, and this one definitely marks itself with the credibility of one of the modern classics of gangster cinema. Beyond my absolute favorite, I really liked Gotham’s ‘White Knight’, Dent, as a character. The movie spent a damn good amount of time developing him as the kind of powerful idealist that you can’t help but repect, which made the tragedy of his life even more heavy-hitting and groundshaking. Batman himself had an impressive array of emotion like we’ve never seen from a comic book movie and rarely see in heroes period.
However, the Joker was an absolutely unfathomably genius performance. The late Heath Ledger puts on undoubtably THE best performance I’ve EVER seen in a movie, PERIOD, and creates not only my alltime favorite villain, but my second favorite character ever, barely short of Baccano!’s own Rail Tracer. Starting with the parts that actually tie into the story, as mentioned, Joker is absolutely untouchable. He’s a mad genius and person who knows exactly how everyone is going to move, exactly how things are going to work out, and can never, ever be stopped. Even killing him would only make him stronger – he’s just that kind of villain. He knows this, and he uses it, and just watching him work overpowers you. Like the aforementioned Rail Tracer, he knows he is the god of this world, though he doesn’t state so and, in truth, he is – everything he intends to happen happens, if only because he intend for it to happen that way. I’ll admit, that was confusing, just think about it.
Beyond the character written for him, though, Ledger’s performance is where the real money’s at. joker’s face, the way he talks, the way he moves, it keeps you from ever knowing just what’s going on inside him. At times, you think he must be insane, he most be acting on impulse, he must be suicidal, but only moments later, you think he must have planned that, he must be a genius. you really don’t know what he is – he’s an enigma! He can tell you that he’s going to do one thing, and when you fully expect it to happen, he does something else as if it should have been obvious that it would happen – his poker face is so perfect that you don’t even believe he’s bluffing but he is always a step ahead of YOU. What’s more, he has a lot of ticks – he constantly licks his lips or pushes back his hair or moves his shoulder an odd way, says something that sounds sarcastic when he’s dead serious or vice-versa, and keeps you on your toes. When he threatens to cut someone’s mouth open, he always tells the story of the way his cheeks became cut – the first time he does it, you think this is the childhood trauma that made him act like this, but the second time he tells a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT STORY, and you realize HE’S JUST FUCKING WITH YOU! He’s always fucking with you and for that, he easily claims the spot as my favorite villain ever.
Overall, the only thing I didn’t like about this movie was the Hollywood feel to it. While it’s stylish, dark, and brilliant, it still has that ‘Hollywood Blockbuster’ feel pervading, and I’ve never liked that about this kinf of movie. I suppose, in that waym it really is the epitome of a summer blockbuster, which unfortunately makes a fan of Asian styles and storytelling such as myself a little disjointed, and for that reason alone, I can’t call it one of my alltime favorites, however it definitely makes the high lists for Ledger’s un-fucking-believable performance alone, a performance I won’t soon forget.