The Dark Knight

Viewed – 5 August 2008  Cinema

After the minor disappointment that was Indy 4, the big white hope for summer blockbuster supremacy falls to that much maligned comic-book icon, Batman with director Christopher Nolan’s follow up to his highly regarded Batman Begins.  I now realise I need to sit down and watch ‘Begins again as I have forgotten much of it, so kind of come to this sequel afresh and with confident expectations – after all, this is probably the best reviewed summer movie in years.  Now I really liked the older Batman films, especially those directed by Tim Burton who’s gothic sensibilities were a perfect fit for the franchise.  Of course we all know Joel Schumacher F***** it all up with Batman Forever and Batman & Robin…but lets forget those two for now, shall we?

What I do recall Christopher Nolan doing with ‘Begins is reverting back to the franchises’ dark and sinister style, more akin to the comics on which they were based, and I was happy once again to see no ‘Robin’ or ‘Bat Girl’ or stupid villains.  The Dark Knight progresses from such sturdy foundations and this time offers up a much more incredible villain in the shape of the late Heath Ledger’s remarkable Joker, who starting with a bank robbery, proceeds to play various crime organisations off one other in Gotham city and generally cause total chaos.  Step in Christian Bale’s caped crusader to save the day.  Now in amongst such goings-on, we have the love triangle between District Attorney Harvey Dent (a scene stealing Aaron Eckhart), Rachel Dawes (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal this time rather than Katie Holmes) and of course Bruce Wayne.  This gives every character a deeper place in the story, but they are still all out shined by The Joker; a fabulously menacing, creepy, funny and psychotic creation that definitely deserves a nod come Oscar time – sad that Heath Ledger wont be there to enjoy the glory.  If he had not died though, this is the kind of performance that only comes along once in an actor’s career – so rest in peace, Heath – you did it.

OK, the film takes a bit of time getting off the ground, seems a little ‘all over the place’ and struggled to really pull me in – but after the first hour such thoughts are quickly replaced by The Joker’s trail of death & destruction.  This is violent, mature stuff indeed.  One other problem I have is one levelled at the new direction the franchise has taken since Christopher Nolan came on board – and that’s the ultra-realistic style that seems an awkwardly fit with the whole Batman-mythos.  Also in the older movies – Gotham City was as much a character in itself – now it’s just Chicago lit gloomily at night with no shred of its own personality.  Christian Balle is an excellent Batman / Bruce Wayne – and he is well supported by screen legends like Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman even if the roles they are given seem a little beneath such heavy weight talent.   But despite such short comings that more come down to my own thoughts on how Batman should be done – Nolan has delivered an intelligent blockbuster that has a whole lot more going for it than simple pop-corn entertainment.

Verdict:  4 /5

The Prestige

Viewed  – 10 November 2007  DVD

Christopher Nolan is slowly becoming a sort after director, what with intelligent thrillers like Memento & Insomnia, then reinventing the dark knight for Batman Begins, naturally the idea of him adding his obvious talent to a historical mystery revolving around rival magicians is more than an intreaguing prospect.

Christian Balle & Hugh Jackman play the once best friends that turn against each other after a magic trick leaves Jackman’s wife dead, and a bitter battle of witts to win the crowd with ever more impossible feats of magic follows.  Michael Caine plays Jackman & Balle’s ageing mentor and almost steals the show due to his natural screen presence.  Add to this a sultry but unremarkable Scarlette Johansson as the magician’s assistant who unbelievably manages to steal both men’s hearts in an under-written subplot…and this film seems padded out to the brim.  The initial concept is gripping, and the historical atmosphere is spot-on, but as things begin to turn nasty between the fueding magicians, we also fall into the realm of fantasy and outlandish effects that stopped this viewer believing or even caring – and I love magic tricks!

So a well cast film, with an under developed script that just gets a bit silly (let’s not mention David Bowie)…and even though the final pay off makes you gasp – it also headlines that perhaps keeping it all believable should have been the way to go.

Verdict:  2 /5