Monday, July 21, 2008

Review of The Dark Knight

Anthony desperately wanted to see the latest Batman movie, and while I'm not usually into the superhero/comic book genre, I had heard enough good things and wanted to see what Christopher Nolan's take on the story would be. While the movie was a bit long, which I felt acutely since I saw it late at night, I did enjoy it. I thought that the praise heaped on Heath Ledger's Joker was just posthumous ass-kissing, and though I still doubt it would have received the same rave reviews if the actor was still alive, Ledger created a memorably sinister character. Using a voice that switches at will from a high-pitched taunt to an evil growl, this Joker is far creepier than Jack Nicholson's. The makeup is less clownlike and more faded and grotesque, with the scars around the mouth visible under the painted smile. Of course, after John Wayne Gacy, anyone in clown makeup assumes an evil stance. The Joker appears from behind masks and from the shadows to surprise and torment his victims. His only goal, he says, is to create chaos. When Batman (when did Christian Bale get so fucking hot?) is at a loss at how to capture the Joker, Alfred the butler (what a perfect role for veteran upper-crusty Brit Michael Caine), recalling a mission to Burma searching for a criminal, says "Some men just want to watch the world burn." The Joker, in the climactic scene, daring two boats of evacuated citizens to blow the other boat up to avoid both boats being destroyed, wants the world to burn. But when the passengers are unable to cause harm to the other boatload, he's left with the surprising (to him) fact that not everyone is as destructive and callous as him. While he tells several different stories of how he got his smile scars, the first one alludes to a drunk, abusive father torturing the young Joker's mother. Though I haven't seen Batman Begins, and I don't know if the Joker's identity is revealed there, I liked that the true identity of the Joker was left unknown. It added to his personification of evil, a nameless man whose only role is to bring misery, the man we wish all our criminals were. The Joker, with an abusive childhood and an urge to create destruction, is a cartoonish embodiment of violent criminal behavior, a miserable nonentity who, through the creation of a sinister alter ego that won't be ignored, aims to make the rest of the world suffer with him. He laughs while others are in pain, giving him the power he likely never had, turning life into a cruel game where he thinks he will be the sole winner. And it's a character Heath Ledger portrays brilliantly. He deserves the praise, although I wish Aaron Eckhart received more notice for his portrayal of Harvey "Two-Face" Dent, a crusading District Attorney with a lust for power and, as revealed in one scene, a tendency to violent behavior long before a trick of the Joker turns him into Two-Face. The Two-Face makeup, with burned flesh and exposed bone and tendon, is enough to make anyone wretch. Christian Bale's Batman/Bruce Wayne is more complex than previous incarnations, a vigilante, not a traditional hero, driven by a personal mission to right wrongs in his own way, which sometimes includes breaking the law. As Alfred notes, Bruce is unwilling to face his human limitations when the superhuman alter ego overtakes him. He's arrogant and insecure, lovesick for Dent's girlfriend but unable to let go of his power as Batman. The brilliant acting, combined with spectacular stunts and battles, and evocative camera work, make the latest Batman installment worthy of the hype.
Michael Savage, apparently a syndicated radio show host, claims autism is just another outpost of the supposed "sissyfying" of American men. Naturally, he neglects to mention that women can also have autism spectrum disorders. He claims all autism symptoms can be cleared up by stern fatherly discipline and appears woefully unaware of neurological breakthroughs that have occurred since the 1950s. He's not worth a lot of space, but I had to point out that this type of disgusting ignorance is out there, and that we desperately need to combat it to advance as a society.

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