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The Dark Knight Movie - My Thoughts

The much talked about The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan's sequel to 2005's, Batman Begins, continues to bring an edgy realism to the Batman legend. I've been anticipating this film since the announcement of Heath Ledger being cast as the Joker because, as I mentioned here, I had every confidence that Heath would (and could) redefine this character.

If you're looking for reviews or story outlines this isn't the post for you - especially if you haven't seen the film. This article is my thoughts after having seen The Dark Knight and I'm assuming you've seen it too - hence there may be spoilers ahead.

I didn't get to see this film until a week after its Australian release which gave me time to get a feel for how the movie was being received by critics and audiences. This doesn't influence whether I go to see a movie but if general consensus is good then it gives me confidence that I'm going to be entertained.

Thankfully The Dark Knight opened with fantastic reviews (for the most part) and broke most of the box office records held by Spiderman III - a movie that missed the mark for me with its Emo Spiderman.

Unfortunately, as a result of such a good opening week, I think my expectations were set just a notch too high. Don't get me wrong, I think this is a great movie worthy of every accolade it's been given. As a long time Batman fan with some background knowledge of these characters, I didn't expect to find the plot difficult to follow in places, but I did. There are a lot of supporting characters, particularly amongst the villains. At times I found it difficult to know who was who - catching up later or never really being clear about who was with who.

For example, I didn't get the gang of copycat Batmans right away and was confused that Batman was using a gun and shooting at people. I did get up to speed when the real Batman showed up, at the Scarecrow bust, but it threw me enough to make me wonder about whether Scarecrow was part of the Batman copycat crew or not - even now I'm not so sure?

I also didn't pick up on the fact that there was two mob bosses pitted against each other, Salvatore Maroni (who now runs Falcone's mob family) and Gamble (a Gotham crime lord at war with Maroni). I thought they were all part of the same mob - which the Joker was trying to take over.

When a movie is receiving so many good reviews I tend to look for the bad reviews so I don't have to read the same glowing accolades over and over. This review by Chris Tookey from Mail Online raises a couple of interesting points. Notably that Chris also found the plot difficult to follow at times and that The Joker is incredibly well organized for a man whose mantra is chaos.

Almost everything the Joker does in this movie, in terms of his crimes, would have to have been planned to the 'n-th' detail. Such as sewing an explosive device into a man's stomach, ready to be detonated by the Joker's one phone call, whilst in custody. That isn't something that just happens by chance - it's premeditated and would have to be planned carefully. Even if you're a psychotic, criminal mastermind.

Similarly, Batman, whom we know is well resourced and organized, seems to be able to construct some pretty amazing technology in record time. How exactly do you construct a sonar, visual monitoring station that can observe an entire city using ordinary mobile phones, without your chief gadget man (Fox) knowing about it until it's finished and installed?

All my main points of contention aside what was important for me about this movie was the Joker and whether Heath Ledger achieved what I was hoping he would. I'm happy to say Heath delivers - but you didn't need me to tell you that. You'd have to be under a rock to not know that people are gunning for him to receive a posthumous Academy award for his performance.

So many good things have been written about Heath's performance and this movie that it seems the only way to say something new is to point out the disappointments or the things you'd like to have seen.

Heath's Joker is so engaging that you just want to know more about him. Most interesting is when the Joker starts to explain how he got his facial scars. You think you're getting some insight into his past only to discover later that the Joker has many conflicting stories about the scars. In effect you don't know if you've been given a glimpse or if it's just a story for chilling effect.

Not explaining the Joker's back story is both genius and disappointing. I can't say you ever get to like the Joker during this film. You certainly don't feel for him when Batman beats the crap out of him in the police interrogation room. However, with Heath's performance and interpretation you do wonder just how did he become the Joker (both the character and Heath - rumor has it Heath kept a diary of his character development on the Joker. Maybe some day it'll be published).

Some day, let's hope there will be a big screen, Joker origin story. Something that goes against the comics and the 1989 Batman movie by Tim Burton where the Joker emerged from a vat of chemicals that scared his skin white etc. (Given that Heath's Joker wears white makeup let's hope the chemical story will be dead and buried as too cartoonish).

I do like where this movie series is going with the idea that Batman is not seen as a hero by the citizens of Gotham - despite helping to reduce crime. Given that he's been succeeding most people wouldn't have a problem with a vigilante terrorizing criminals. However Batman's presence seems to be creating as many problems for Gotham as he's trying to fix so the general distrust of Batman is some what warranted and believable.

Overall this movie is as good as people have said. In terms of plot this one is something like the Matrix Trilogy. Just like the first movie in that series, the first movie, Batman Begins, was a more self contained story. All the loose ends were tied up with an option/setup for another film. The Dark Knight is perhaps more of a self contained plot than the second Matrix film but even so the story isn't finished. There are loose ends that have to carry forward into a third film. Batman will need to be rejected even more by the citizens he is trying to serve and protect.

I would recommend seeing this film at least twice because it does move at quite a fast pace. If you're struggling with the plot, like me, then seeing the film a second time is a must. It's not as easy to digest as Batman Begins but I think the little nuances that you'd pick up in a second viewing will make that which you understood the first time shine even more.

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