Sunday, 8 February 2009

You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

No 15 - The Dark Knight
Director - Christopher Nolan

Part 2 of the Saturday Afternoon Nolan Batman Double Bill (Or the SANB double bill as I've just decided to call it) and it is surprising to see just how high up to chart this film is. When you get in to the top 20 you're looking at true classics. The Godfather, Star Wars etc. So it is impressive for a film that was only made recently to rocket in the public polls. It is however, reflected in the fact that it has made roughly a hundred gajillion bazillion dollars at the cinema.

I have already spoken about the character of Bruce Wayne, and the clever construction of Nolan's Gotham city so in this blog I plan to just talk about the new additions. Before we talk about the obvious, I wish to talk about some of the minor characters. Beginning with notable mentions and building up to Heath Ledger's powerhouse performance:

Firstly, it is nice to see Eric Roberts as Maroni. For whilst he may have played the worst Master ever he is also a truly superb actor and deserves to be in more film and television gubbins.
It is also good to see Rachel Dawes played by Maggie Gyllenhaal. Partly because she is stunning but also because she has the traits and qualities that Katie Holmes didn't have. She is sassier, she seems more streetwise, more world weary, more like someone who has had to fight against the corruption of the criminal fraternity.

Also, how awesome is it that Nestor Carbonell is the mayor of Gotham. I love the witty referencing of placing Batmanuel into a Batman film. And it really looks like his is wearing eye make up. All the time (I noticed it in Lost originally).

However, the addition that deserves the majority of this blog's attention is Heath Ledger's Joker. He is a truly menacing, unhinged piece of acting genius. And is roughly a million miles away from his role in 10 Things I Hate About You.
His character is a terrifying prospect, mainly because he has no reason, no back story. every time he goes to explain how he got his scars, the reason changes. There are no clues to his identity:
Nothing. No matches on prints, DNA, dental. Clothing is custom, no labels. Nothing in his pockets but knives and lint. No name, no other alias.

The fact that he can't be explained, that he has no motivation, that he just wants to watch the world burn - this is what makes him a threatening villain. His perverse pleasure in any pain inflicted means he is an unsatisfying fight. His magnificent schemes to see the chaos in people mean he is a terrifying adversary. His lack of order, of reason means that he is a cool leopard but an unpredictable destructive nightmare.

Christopher Nolan also uses excellent techniques to introduce the Joker without resorting to back story. In one sickeningly hilarious moment you know everything about the Joker that you will ever know.

He is a tour de force, creating chaos which acts as a catalyst to the destruction of the world around him. Whilst a certain amount of the 'Joker Hysteria' does come from the very sad news of Heath Ledger's death, he does deserve every award and nomination he has earned. It is a career best, and he has created an amazing character.

However, whilst The Joker is the glistening grease painted star of the film, he is only the story's catalyst and it is Harvey Dent's story.
Harvey Dent is Gotham's last great hope and watching his gradual decline to 'bad guyness' is as bleak and as depressing as the film gets. It also opens up the idea of decisions. For whilst The Joker is utter unplanned chaos, Two Face represents chance.

It is also impressive to see how the film turns a character that is a bit ridiculous and explains scarring, the schizophrenia, the motive without him turning into a joke. Arron Eckhart is a horrific terror, whilst Tommy Lee Jones is only a dandy cartoon.

I'm aware that this blog is shorter than my others but it is in conjunction with the Batman Begins film. Nolan's Gotham is a wonderful creation. His characters are real versions of extraordinary (and potentially unbelievable) people. I am looking forward to when Nolan starts his third film.

Though the lack of Joker will be sad....

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