Friday, July 18, 2008

Batman: The Dark Knight, in IMAX

I went and saw the new Batman film today, and not just in any theater. A couple friends of mine carpooled up to Atlanta to see the new film in the Mall of Georgia's IMAX theater. While other movies, such as Superman and Matrix, have gone to Imax, very few are actually filmed in the IMAX format. Batman: The Dark Knight, features several scenes that were shot in the IMAX format. On the basis of just being a geek, that was reason enough to see the film.

The big question is then, was The Dark Knight worth going to see? Is it a good film? I'm not sure how to answer those questions. I find myself siding with PvP's Scott Kurtz in that the movie was extremely over-hyped. In my view, the only product line I could come up with that featured more hype is anything that is branded Microsoft Halo. I knew from the start that the film would never be able to live up to the impossible expectations of the product. Posthumous Oscar for Heath Ledger? Unlikely. Academy Awards for technical presentation? Unlikely.

As a movie, The Dark Knight almost qualifies as a horror film. Heath Ledgers portrayal as the Joker was in my view, the creepiest thing I ever watched... even down to a medically accurate human response to various injuries. As I walked down the stairs out of the theater, I stated out loud that I was glad that Heath Ledger couldn't do that portrayal again. Remember that bit that I wrote about Hellboy? The whole wanting a level of fantasy in my flicks?

Possibly the worst part of the film is that the film focus's on the Joker, actually far more than it focus's on Batman. Yes, Batman does a lot of cool stuff, and we get to know the Batman even better, but where as Batman Begins was all about The Batman, The Dark Knight pushes Batman to the side. Looking back, the film has far too many stars and stories to work in, with plot lines following the Joker, Batman, Commissioner Gordon, Two Face Harvey Dent, and Rachael, never minding the appearances of Lucius Fox and Alfred.

One of the questions posed is whether or not the film was cut to focus on Heath Ledgers performance because he was dead, or was The Joker planned to have such a larger part to begin with? A clear answer may never be forthcoming.

That being said, the film wasn't bad. In fact, I'd almost say it would be an insult to call it good. The cinematography and pacing where just right where all of the plotlines were easy to keep track of. There were the expected plot twists, then there were legitimate surprises. There were moments where the film successfully managed to lead people's expectations down the wrong path, and there were moments in which the bad guys actually won. As a film, the production was almost flawless.

As a movie, as a story?

I put it this way on the way home from Atlanta. Batman Begins was Ocarina of Time. The Dark Knight was Majora's Mask. When people remember Zelda on the Nintendo 64 platform, the game that stands out is Ocarina of Time. While Majora's Mask improved on many of the technical points of the gameplay, it doesn't hold up as well in the memories of gamers, partly because it was so convoluted, and partly because it just wasn't as good in ways that are hard to put into the words. It didn't do anything wrong, the entire game as a whole just didn't leave the same impression. One of the hard to define factors with Majora's Mask is that the game wasn't about Link's story. The game was about Link's story in addition to the story of the Goron's and the Zora's. The game wasn't Link's adventure. The game was about the adventures of those in the world, and how Link became a part of the other stories.

The Dark Knight is technically better than Batman Begins. The complexity of the story, and the delivery though, just doesn't work as well. The movie isn't about Batman. It's about how The Joker interferes with the police form, the justice system, and Batman, just for kicks. There's no motive, there's no point to the Joker. He's just, there, and he just, does.

For myself then, I wish that the next Batman Film will spend more time being about Batman, than being about the enemies of Batman.
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