5 hours ago
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Best Batman Ever
So I watched The Dark Knight today. Quite simply, it's the best film based on a superhero comic ever made.
I know that's a matter of opinion, of course, and I hate to inflate anyone's expectations -- that will just make it harder for those of you who have yet to watch it to just sit down and experience it sans preconceptions -- but it's the only film I've seen so far in that genre where I really felt that something was at stake. Not the lives of comic book characters, but the clash between principles and points of view. And if that makes it sound like a talk show, don't worry; there's plenty of fights and explosions, too. Of course, it helps that The Dark Knight has the best cast ever assembled for a superhero movie: all the notable players from the last film, from Christian Bale on down, with Maggie Gyllenhaal taking over for Katie Holmes in the Rachel Dawes role.
As for the late lamented Heath Ledger, his bravura performance as The Joker makes Jack Nicholson look like a -- well, a clown. To be fair, Ledger had much better material to work with: this is the best-written Joker I've ever come across. The Joker from the earliest days of the comics was somewhat scary but constrained by the standards of the time, and eventually weighed down by all that Red Hood nonsense. Frank Miller's Joker was psychotic and dangerous but in the way a punch-drunk homophobe might imagine a psychotic and dangerous supervillain (flamboyant, flirty, openly in love with his nemesis). Alan Moore's Joker talked too much. And wasn't funny. That's the amazing thing: sitting there in the Greenhills Theatre with a real live audience, I realized that the audience was laughing with Heath Ledger's Joker. He does get the best lines, after all. Never mind that he's a serial killer with a grin of scars.
I never thought much of The Joker as a villain or a character before, to be honest. He was always either too loony or lightweight to really get under your skin. It is only in The Dark Knight that he comes across as the perfect adversary for someone who is trying to maintain order and enforce justice, to hold on to certain ideals in a chaotic world. Those ideals come at a cost, and again, that comes across here better than in any comic book adaptation before.
I'll be surprised -- though pleasantly so -- if this makes more money than, say, Iron Man. It's not exactly a feelgood flick. It will not send you back out into the world with a song in your heart. (Statement overheard from girl in sun dress in the lobby afterwards: "Na-drain ako nun, ah.") But it is a hell of a movie, the darkest and best onscreen Batman story by far. And if that appeals to you at all, then go -- it's well worth seeing in a theater. Avoid all spoilers, begin at the beginning, and hold on to the handrails!
Well, okay, here's ONE spoiler (highlight to reveal): Batman doesn't win. Not really.