08 August 2008

Bat Mehen

This week, for reasons of paranomasia and other forms of borderline insanity, I've been mainly writing puns about Egyptian gods. (I'll explain later...) If you feel I should have been writing about vampires instead, well, I'm not disagreeing.

Apologies again to those of you who've already seen this on one mailing list or another, but the only way to keep this blog going while I'm quite so busy is to run "The Best of PPH" while I'm on sabbatical. So...

I saw The Dark Knight on Wednesday. I thought it was great -- very enjoyable, with some brilliant acting. Some spoilers follow...

I didn't believe for a moment that they'd killed Jim Gordon. But at least it provided an opportunity to quote Brian Blessed.

Heath Ledger is, obviously, brilliant, playing the Joker as a shambling, demented individual with no social skills. He somehow manages to have tremendous charisma without any charm whatsoever, and makes the atrocities he sees as practical jokes seem like a convincing, almost rational response to the world around him. It's a more impressive performance than Jack Nicholson's, and that's not to denigrate the former. Where Nicholson's Joker made hideous things seem funny, Ledger's never lets you forget that they're hideous. But also funny. But hideous.

I've no quarrel with anyone else's acting, mind you, but even before his death it was always going to be Ledger who stole the show. I spent ages trying to remember who Maggie Gyllenhaal was, and why I didn't remember her from the first film.

The plot, however, goes somewhat to cock in the last third, with the Joker and Harvey Dent both spiralling out of control in different directions simultaneously. The film feels overlong, and really everything after the Joker escapes, maims Dent and kills Rachel could have been a 20-minute coda focussing on the Joker, with the Dent's revenge plot held in reserve for a future film.

Given the screentime the scarred Dent got, though, I was disappointed that more wasn't done with his duality as Two-Face. Admittedly this would also have been difficult to handle without disappearing into the realms of comic-strip psychology, but if they were going to put Two-Face into a realistic reimagining of Batman (and let's face it, Batman Begins is the most realistic film that could conceivably be made about a billionaire dressing up as a giant bat to fight a league of assassins and a drug-dealing psychiatrist with a bag over his head), I feel they ought to have done it properly.

Of course this isn't helped at all by the fact that Two-Face looks nothing like a horrifically scarred burn victim and everything like a genre movie special-effect, thus demolishing the carefully-constructed edifice of a realistic Gotham City where the villains really are tragically insane people, rather than cartoon characters. Gah.

Generally though, bloody good film. I could just have done with editing out most of the post-Two-Face Dent stuff and keeping it -- with entirely different design work -- for the next film.

(As it is, I'm wondering who they will have as the villain, assuming there is a third film. Two-Face is dead within the fiction, and they couldn't possibly recast Ledger's Joker. Catwoman's been ruined too comprehensively within recent memory by Halle Berry, and most of the other well-known Batman villains head off into the realm of the fantastical or obviously ludicrous. I'm wondering if the Mad Hatter could possibly work...)

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