Wow heavy

Review by Vives Anunciacion
Inquirer Libre July 25, 2008

The Dark Knight
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Based on characters created by Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson
Starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart

It’s a thoroughly well-crafted, well-written, thought-provoking Hollywood blockbuster. Pero andaming issues. It’s still a superhero movie. In fact it presents quite a number of themes, mostly moral ambiguities and duality of characters, na siniksik nang maigi at ipinagkasya in two and a half hours. Sabi nga ni Joker, why so serious? Spoilers beware.

In Christopher Nolan’s sequel to the critically-acclaimed 2005 mega hit Batman Begins, Batman (Christian Bale) unofficially joins forces with the police, led by by Lt. Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) in cracking down Gotham’s criminals, to the point when hundreds of them are indicted in court en masse. The crackdown seems to be working, until a strange creature comes along and introduces chaos in the streets.

Enter the unpredictable madman Joker (Heath Ledger) who, in a few days’ work, is able to raid Gotham National Bank, force the mafia into his service and kill many civilians including police Commissioner Loeb and Judge Surillo. It’s not about the money, the Joker explains to one mobster boss. It’s about the message, he says, just before lighting a huge mountain of stolen cash into flames.

At the heart of TDK is a bone-chilling lunatic who thinks he can turn the city upside down and make demons out of angels in the city of goth. Before Joker’s appearance, the Batman was a mere elevated vigilante and the new District Attorney was the city’s moral knight in shining armor. Para kay Batman, Dent represents a real person that the citizens can pin their hopes to, di tulad niya na kailangang magtago sa likod ng maskara at gumamit ng mga illegal na methods (gaya ng wiretapping) para sa katarungan. It even came to the point that Batman almost revealed his true identity. Pero ang tunay palang pakay ni Joker ay siraan si Batman at sirain si Dent. Sabi nga ni Alfred (Michael Caine), some men just want to see the city burn.

The Dark Knight represents a high point in Hollywood’s attempt at making serious, character-driven superhero movies that resonate strongly with big audiences in these days when governments tend not to be populist. There are at least three story threads – the Bruce Wayne-Rachel Dawes-Harvey Dent love triangle (only a minor element in the movie); the Harvey Dent-Batman white knight vs. dark knight thesis on which hero Gotham deserves more; and finally the Batman-Joker-Two Face moral yin-yang about who gets to be right in a world that tends to be wrong. The last two themes make up most of the movie, especially in the last half when these themes begin to resonate. Apparently, the Joker’s plans are very elaborate.

Let me be clear, it’s a well-made movie and it’s very well written. But it’s not the best movie in the world. The first half is clunky, disarranged and takes too long to prepare. But as soon as the Joker appears in Bruce Wayne’s penthouse, the movie starts to make sense out of its many story threads. Central to the movie is the belief that a madman can do all these things in a frightening way, to which Ledger delivers forcefully. Maybe it was the way the movie was written, or maybe because historically the Joker is indeed Batman’s greatest enemy, but without the Joker in this movie, the Batman is just a hero.

Whoever plays the Joker next has some huge shoes to fill.

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