Holy Summer Hype, Batman!

July 25, 2008

It seems like a century ago, but I for one haven’t gone to see a movie this hypedup since “Star Wars: Episode 1” back in 1999. And we all know how that story went.

The film didn’t meet fans’ or critics’ exponential expectations. Come to think of it, it’s very hard for a movie to meet or beat the hype. There are many different criteria to be met by the fans, the filmmakers and the story. Lucas confidently walked away a proud father after performing the final cut, though the audience was left wanting more.

On the other hand, I’m pretty sure the director/ producer/writer of this summer’s most hyped-up film, “The Dark Knight,” walked away proud and satisfied as he always should. Christopher Nolan is one of those filmmakers whose movies you don’t want to miss – more on him later.

As for the fans, well, I hate to elevate the hype factor, but yes, it’s that good. Nay, it’s better. When you walk out of the movie theater, you leave feeling satisfied and refreshed, because you know, hype or no hype, this movie is a masterpiece.

Some critics are bold enough to christen it “The Godfather” of comic book films. This description is not far from the truth when you consider, for example, Heath Ledger’s interpretation of the Joker. It leaves an indelible mark on the cinematic universe as one of the greatest, most powerful and magnetic performances yet. So much so that not only does it remind us of Jack Nicholson’s Joker back in 1989, but improves upon it. Besides, we all know Nicholson basically plays the same character in all the movies he stars in.

Christian Bale’s performance as Batman does not go unnoticed, although there really is no significant change from his work in “Batman Begins,” precursor to the current film. And yes, his raspy voice, when he dresses as the Caped Crusader, still sounds a lot like Marge Simpson’s chain-smoking sisters.

But I kept watching the Joker, and couldn’t help but think to myself, “What a waste of talent!” Such a pity he died so young. A few more performances on the big screen and Ledger’s stature and talent would go beyond Oscar scope. He would be in that rare place in the collective conscience alongside Ralph Fiennes (“Schindler’s List”), Daniel Day Lewis (“There Will Be Blood”) and Malcolm McDowell (“A Clockwork Orange”). For some, he probably already is.

Aaron Eckhart’s rendition of Harvey Dent was also incredibly impressive. The tragedy surrounding his story and, later, the eccentricity of his character make Dent that much more difficult to play. But there was no difficulty believing his side of the story and even empathizing with his character the most.

This is, by any standard, an epic film. The story is so tight, it would snap if you were to look for any loose ends. The performances are grandiose and well balanced. For a film with so many “main” characters, it never feels overloaded or cumbersome.

And for a film based on a comic book, I’ve never seen such a serious adaptation without it being pretentious. Nolan gives a serious tone to his films and manages to balance this out beautifully together with the wit and lightheartedness of a comic book story.

If there is a movie that you shouldn’t miss this summer, it’s this one.

 

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