Thursday, July 31, 2008

How's married life?

When I looked at the calendar and saw today's date, I was taken aback. I could not account for the past month. And then I thought about it, and I realized that in the past month I have: gotten married, gone on a honeymoon, travelled around Saskatchewan, packed up all our earthly belongings, stayed at several different houses, said goodbye to many many people, and begun planning courses for the fall. And I have all but shunned my pop culture addiction in the last thirty-one days; for the first time in about eight years, I did not buy a new CD this past month. But I did see The Dark Knight - and that was all I needed to see. The pace does not change in the near future: two weddings sandwiching a week in the 'Toon that will be full of people, followed by the Move. And in the midst of all of this, people ask "how's married life?" The answer, for now, is one word: convenient. The rest I will know in September.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Review - The Dark Knight

Many moviegoers entered 2008 with one movie that they "had to see": The Dark Knight. Between the questions left after 2005's Batman Begins and the unexpected publicity the movie received after Heath Ledger's death, TDK became the movie of the summer, setting the record for money earned in an opening weekend. Though it is rare that a movie with this level of hype can actually live up to its expectations, The Dark Knight exceeds them because of the nuance and depth of Christopher Nolan's Gotham, and the movie takes its rightful place as the best superhero movie yet.
The Dark Knight begins in medias res, in a Gotham that is darker, more twisted, and more morally complex than the Gotham of Batman Begins. In this new Gotham even Batman is seen as an agent of division, and the moral integrity of the city's hero is repeatedly questioned. While most superhero movies settle for a superficially binary examination of morality, Nolan's tangled web of mob men, crooked cops, bribed officials, and good guys allows for a mature investigation of themes such as justice, free will, moral responsibility, violence, identity, and accountability. It is this depth that really allows the characters to shine and explore new territory. The Dark Knight is, more than anything, a tale of morality; it uses its characters and situations to make the viewers think about their values and their humanity.
Christian Bale seems to be unfortunately disengaged from the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman for much of the movie, but perhaps his performance was simply restrained to accentuate his foil, the manic Joker. Heath Ledger's Joker is a re-visioning of the famous villain which honors the previous incarnations (particularly Nicholson’s iconic 1989 performance), but which eliminates the elements of camp and kitsch from the Joker. This Joker is concerned only with creating chaos and "watching the world burn", and Ledger uses the right combination of cavalier and insane to make the character work. He is both uncontrollable and in control; amoral and obsessed with human morality; anonymous yet instantly identifiable. Ledger repeatedly upstages all other performers in the movie, and may garner consideration in awards season.
But what is surprising is, when examined closely, how little this film is actually about Batman and The Joker; though they are the principal characters, the responsibility of carrying the themes of the movie lies in two characters who have connected trajectories: DA Harvey Dent and Commissioner Jim Gordon. Aaron Eckhart and Gary Oldman, respectively, bring the required integrity and nuance to both of these characters, and the movie is able to make the commentary it does because of the quality of these two performances. The final act of the movie brings a pitch-perfect conclusion to the events of the previous 150 minutes, and it leaves as many questions as it answers.
And in the midst of all of this deep moral questioning, Nolan does not forget to entertain his audience. The Dark Knight contains more fights, more explosions, and more violence than its predecessor – though sometimes it seems overly violent, it seems like Nolan uses the graphic nature of the violence to make observations about the characters and the morality. His statements might be lost on the pre-teen set, but they are part of the reason that the movie succeeds so spectacularly. In all, The Dark Knight is a visual feast, a probing exploration of the extremes of human morality, the best superhero movie yet, and one of the top movies of the year.

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