When does a rogue hero become a vigil ante and how does he deal with the mounting public pressure to stop? Those are the questions at the core of The Dark Knight.
Because I'm afraid of being left out of conversations and because it seems to be a legitimate piece of movie history, I went to see The Dark Knight on Friday. And because I like being just this much ahead of the curve, I went to see it in IMAX which, as it turns out, is the best way to see it. If you have one of those giant theaters near your home, you know you're already forking over at least 9 bucks to see it in a regular theater, so go another 6 and make it a thrill ride. There are a few dizzying sequences and some beautiful aerial shots of cities like Hong Kong and the requisite chase and action scenes. The sound is overwhelming at times, which adds to the tension that the movie brings in spades.
It toggles back and forth between the Bruce Wayne billionaire scenes and the dark Batman ones, and the filmmakers seemed to want to bring more light into the project by relocating Wayne's lair with a brightly lit sub-basement in the Wayne Enterprises building by telling us that Wayne Manor was being renovated.
Christian Bale is a good Batman, although I have to grin a little when they repeatedly call him "The Bat man," which may be a comic book reference or from one of the other films, I don't know. I lost touch with the series after Val Kilmer.
There are some nice supporting roles by Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman (Commissioner Gordon), Aaron Eckhart (Gotham's White Knight) and Michael Caine (Alfred), but the one everybody talks about is Heath Ledger's Joker, which makes Nicholson's look like your weird uncle who drinks too much at parties. He's a sinister bastard and replaces Daniel Day Lewis' Daniel Plainview, who I referred to as "the most despicable character in the history of American film."
He steals every scene and the movie takes on an odd comic style horror when he's involved. It's as Oscar-worthy as they say it is and a reason in itself to fork over at least the regular movie theater money to see it.
Bale affects a raspy tone when he dons the Kevlar suit which is maybe a little over the top but I guess they're playing it for the comic book aspect. There are gadgets galore including a cool motorcycle that becomes the key chase vehicle late in the film. There's a story. There has to be a plot. It's a thin little thing about money and corrupt police officers. All of it leads to the conflict between The bat man and the Joker, but you knew that, right?
It's full of action and rather violent, but most of the violent acts are off-screen. There are more than a few hand-wringing sequences involving knives and people dangling from wires and enough gunplay and car wrecks to keep you awake for 152 minutes. Mostly it's good fun and one of those movies that you really have to see in a theater. Even if you have one of those giant TVs you won't get the impact of the substance of the film on your sofa like you do out in public.
On a side note, I do wonder why people applaud in movie theaters. About a third of the audience applauded twice - once at the end of an action sequence and again at the end of the film. Nervous energy or just dopey - you make the call.
I've never been to a movie where I had to order tickets in advance, but in order to see this in IMAX, one must make preparations days ahead. The shows sell-out quickly and in order to get a decent seat near the rear and center of the theater you need to arrive at least an hour before the doors open and then sit and wait for 20 minutes for the film to start. The good news is that they had some trouble with the projector and it was delayed another ten minutes. They made good on our inconvenience by giving us all a free pass to another IMAX film, good at any theater, so that was nice.
It excludes "Special events" though, which I guess precludes me from seeing The Dark Knight again for free. It's good enough to pay for though, and worth all the effort it takes to see it on a 50-foot screen.
If you're creeped-out by the idea that Ledger is deceased, it's not something I found myself thinking about during the film. Afterward though, I felt sad that he'll never get to reprise his role, nor will another actor be able to portray the Joker again, and I imagine that the character may be permanently removed from the series if it continues.
That's how good he is.