Oscar-Worthy Ledger Bails Out Bale

27 07 2008

Due to unforeseen circumstances Mr President was unable to post yesterday’s blog. He had planned to regale you with his review of The Dark Knight but he got back from the cinema later than he’d planned (2:00am) and he was too tired to write at that hour. You people got more time to give him feedback anyway (clearly you love the blog!).

Most reviews will tell you about the film. But anyone can do that. Instead he is going to tell you a bit more about the circumstances of seeing the film. Don’t worry, it’s a story that merits telling. Saturday night is always peak time to see a movie, even more so in the week of release (The Dark Knight came out here on the 24th). Knowing this, the cinema had a lot of screenings, including two scheduled for 8pm and one at 9pm.

His companion and he had arrived at a quarter to eight. The plan was if they didn’t get tickets for either of the two 8pm screenings they would surely get tickets for the 9pm one, right? Wrong. Not only did both 8pm screenings sell out but the 9pm one actually sold out first (while he was queuing). So they bought tickets for a 10:30pm screening at 7.59pm; no wonder there were still 298 tickets left out of a maximum 300 seats!

So, having waited for ages for the film to be released, Mr President then had to wait two further hours. If his appetite wasn’t already whetted it was now. Still, at least it was 18+ only (no kids, thank God!) and gave him chance to make room for ice-cream. Sadly it also meant he wasn’t able to get back and blog his awesome review until today.

Before going to see The Dark Knight (TDK hereafter) Mr President re-watched Batman Begins and it reminded him just how good a film it was. Bale’s Batman was better than Keaton’s, though his Wayne was perhaps weaker. The overall feel had been better than Burton’s offerings (as good as they were) and the end set up the sequel perfectly.

Remember at the end of Begins, when Gordon turns to ask Batman “And what about escalation?”. TDK is a film all about the answer to that question, as Batman’s quest to save Gotham escalates into all-out war. Just as the Caped Crusader has the mob on its knees he comes across a man as devoted to chaos as Batman is to order; The Joker.

Let’s get the messy bit out of the way. When Ledger was cast as the Joker, a role that Jack Nicholson had seemingly nailed, Mr President was rather angry. He didn’t believe Ledger could possibly do better with the role than Nicholson had done. Not only did he do just that but he made Nicholson’s Joker look distinctly second-rate. Sorry Jack.

Heath Ledger deserves to win an oscar. Not because he’s dead, but simply because that was the best performance in a comic book movie ever. TDK did not transcend the genre; Ledger’s performance did. He was psychotic, disturbed, funny, malevolent. In other words he was The Joker. He took a larger-than-life character and made it real.

It’s a good thing he was. Perhaps it was a side-effect of just how good Ledger was, but Bale was stale, stilted, and lost what made him such a great Batman in Begins. The support cast saved him, as Caine, Oldman, Freedman and especially Eckhart all did fine jobs and Gyllenhaal was ok without being her usual excellent self. It was a solid cast.

Unfortunately TDK was also too long. When he left Iron Man Mr President felt thrilled, he thought to himself “OMFG, what a good film!” TDK’s ending lacked that punch due to its drawn-out nature. When he woke up this morning, he felt perhaps he’d been too harsh, as it was late and he was tired for the last half hour, but no, his instincts were right.

Not wanting to spoil it for those who have not seen it yet (yeah right!), there was this moment, at around two hours, where the main story arc ended and it was perfectly set up to end this film and leave a cliffhanger for a possible third. Up until this point the script was well-paced and it was easily the best film of the year. Then it happened.

Remember how, at the end of Return Of The King, Peter Jackson undid it all with a poor last thirty minutes that was unnecessary? Nolan did the same to TDK. He decided to tell another story within the same film, and consequently this story arc felt rushed. Unlike ROTK, it wasn’t bad, just deserved a film of its own rather than being “tacked on”.

Overall the film was excellent. The dialogue was witty, sharp and incredibly prophetic, the story woven together very organically and the visuals were breathtaking. The action sequences were as good as any you’ll see. Had it ended at two hours it would have left Iron Man in the dust but as it was, it ranks on a par with it. 4 stars (would’ve been 5)


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30 07 2008
Oscar-Worthy Ledger Bails Out Bale | Textual Relations

[…] Original post by Mr President […]

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