Thursday, July 17, 2008

Heath Ledger owns The Dark Knight and goes out with a bang.

Let's put a smile on that face! And here we...go!

Pretty much the whole 2008 awaits this masterpiece, despite a load of superhero movies that came out including Ironman, Hulk and such. The year is also a mediocre one for movies to be honest, with sudden lack of quality "indie" titles and instead steady glut of popcorn blockbusters. However TDK is a must watch for even serious fans of celluloid. The late Heath Ledger's performance of the Joker has even been compared to Marlon Brando and it wasn't just his demise that deliberately hyped the movie, the hype is light years beyond what you will see on the screen the minute Ledger's Joker appears. Ever since I've watched it, his performance continues to haunt, intrigued and glued in my mind. Only Al Pacino's Micheal Corleone, Tony Montana or De Niro's Travis Bickle has given similar treatment to me. Ledger doesn't even need to stretch his character to a role of caricature or over-the-top exaggeration, all he need to do was to simply have fun.

Joker isn't simply amoral. To even call him an epitome of evil is an understatement. Even Mephistopheles looked like Christ next to him. Money as motivation? He torches half a billion dollars of banknotes without battling an eyelid, and does not have a tormented history to justify his actions (Joker has two extremely contradicted stories of how he got his scar on the face). Joker is simply chaos. Carving a smile (literally) on someone's face is his bread and butter, complete mayhem, anarchy and destruction is his Nirvana. The only way to take him down is to play his game, what irony. And in the beginning when Christopher Nolan casted a guy famous for being a gay cowboy in Brokeback Mountain for Joker, nobody has a clue how he alone will ultimately be the one-man magnet for the sequel to Batman Begins.

It is not to say the rest is insignificant. Without Ledger, TDK could still stand on its own and become one of summer's great blockbusters. Christopher and his brother Jonathan took a comic book material and turned it into a complex study of morality equal inspired by likes of Macbeth, exploring arguments about vigilantism, revenge, Kantian morality and free will. But they need a force so sinister that it ultimately affects all the characters involved in it and force them to play out all their cards. And Heath Ledger became a miracle that Christopher Nolan needs in this movie.

Even though this is a one-man show like Brian De Palma's Scarface, the rest of the casting is virtually perfect and played their roles well. Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent character is stunning with his cocksure arrogance and his later Two Face role seething with unsatiable lust for vengence. Maggie Gyllenhaal was a wise choice to replace Katie Holmes playing Rachel Dawes, displaying more depth as a woman torn between her new boyfriend Harvey Dent and her old feelings for Bruce Wayne and not being mere typical damsel-in-distress character. Gary Oldman's role of Liutenent Gordon is remarkably restraint but with integrity and grit. Micheal Caine's role as Alfred is irreplacably charming, having great chemistry with Bale's Bruce Wayne and even Morgan Freeman made full use of his Lucius Fox character, who could only be given a few chances for moments of brilliance (the scene where a staff of Wayne Industries tried to blackmail him is brilliant). Christian Bale is the perfect Bruce Wayne but his Batman is the only flaw which his exaggerated gruff attempt gets annoying after a while.

Some will not agree by my choice of words about Heath Ledger being the one-man centerpiece of TDK, "tonight's entertainment" but undoubtedly his performance flashes out all vital ingredients that makes TDK be called "greatest superhero movie ever" or even "the movie of 21st century - period". This epic of the masterpiece is so, I doubt Nolan or even Scorsese himself could top this one. I would not be surprised if Nolan quits his Batman franchise for good, it is that damned good.