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A Knight of Cinematic Brilliance

By Staff | Jul 29, 2008

When you go to escapist flicks, they usually have but a single, somewhat rudimentary element: Variations on the good guy(s) versus bad guys(s) sometimes doused with a sense of morality like sprinkling dressing on a salad.

Occasionally, one rises past the inevitable prevailing of good against evil.

Growing up reading Silver Age comics, they had a similar formula, too. Pressed by diminishing page counts, the artists and writers had a fraction of normalcy before crisis, challenge, disaster, plan, kiss, leap, punches and pow! completed the 20 some pages of color panels.

Anyone serious about their superhero comics suspended disbelief yet sought the one adventure that would reveal an elusive, incisive piece of the hero’s personality while not outwitting or tackling a villain.

Along comes a movie, which stretches past leaps and bounds. This film has it all.

A complex back-story that cruises along nibbling into the main tenant. An assemblage of cast members negating any ‘camp’ or ‘fairy tale’ elements. Gritty, physically bruising (they suture wounds) scenes. Intellectual astuteness. Swelling of an emotional continuum, which grabs you in an all too swift pattern like the glory of air time on a racing roller coaster.

“The Dark Knight” packs adrenaline even before the gadget laden, utility belt wearing Batman pulls a specialized weapon out of his pouch. In fact, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) seems more akin to the dude who invents concealed weapons and secretive optics for 007 than Robin. He also sees the stitching, blood and tears from the Caped Crusader’s one-on-one fisticuffs.

Place plaudits in the arms of writer/director Christopher Nolan for his ability to seamlessly mesh with perfect attention to what dramatists call ‘beats,’ by straddling the fortunes of multiple characters (Bruce Wayne/Batman, Joker, Harvey Dent/Two Face (Aaron Eckhart), Lt. Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) with painstaking continuity. The time eclipsed during cutaways festers no interrupted, confusing adjustments, but races to the next complication that must be unwoven.

Opening with a daring daylight bank robbery that empanels extraordinary tools and surprise escape mechanisms, “Dark Knight” abruptly establishes its cleverly cunning style, as the costumed culprits escape with tainted mob money by joining a parade of yellow school buses.

Picking out an essential or best aspect of the picture relies on perspective. Unlike the familiar skyscraper canons of NYC, “Knight” chose Chicago for the Gotham stand-in. Avoiding signature icons musters greater menace particularly as the Joker’s newest threats usher a new panic or evacuation. Since Batman does not have the power to fly, he relies on cables (like Spiderman). These cables enable enhanced detail to the exterior of high rises and deeper dwelling on the instruments, similar to the precision of “Mission: Impossible,” yet avoiding cumbersome temptations that would have muddied the impeccable pace. 

Christian Bale empowers the darker, more secretive aspects of the Batman character, allowing him to handily straddle the hero/vigilante crossroads. Radio dramas did best with such heroes as these with “The Green Hornet” or “The Shadow.” Fully costumed and uttering gravel voiced commands and strategy, Bale favors an ominous presence.

However, the acting accolades must fall on Heath Ledger (The Joker), whose painted, scarred face with straggling hair, depicts an egocentric psychopath chuckling about the death toll and casually asking, “Did I ever tell you how I got these scars?” His diabolical diatribes wistfully harken to (albeit shortened) monologues spoken by Shakespearean kings weighing hideous decisions.

Speech alone does not embody Ledger’s personification. Watch closely, you’ll see that he’s added movements of hands, eyes and face into the scenes. Nowhere does his heart cultivate disdain for life than an explosive scene in which one charge fails to immediately trigger.

You’ll not notice the extended running time. You could chide about dangling events without closure (how long does it take to rig all those explosives day after day?), but, hey, this isn’t meant to be “C.S.I.” or “L.A. Law.” Just sit back, let the imagery nab your mind and enjoy one awesome sequence after another. Better have someone waiting to catch you up if you dash for popcorn or the restroom.

Contact Tony at trutherford@graffitiwv.com