Sunday, 31 August 2008

The Dark Night (Christopher Nolan) suffers from an expectation that Heath Ledger’s Joker would steal the show, which of course he does.

This shouldn’t be surprising. What's annoying, however, is that this simple fact seems to have surprised reviewers such as Manohla Dargis who writes for The New York Times.

In fact, the bad guy has been more interesting for a couple of thousand years. And for good reason.

Achilles is Homer’s antihero and he’s followed by many others, notably for English-language speakers the Prince of Denmark and Milton’s Lucifer.

Ledger’s Joker is only a little bit demonic, however. At least in my book. I can’t recall where the lip licking comes from, but I’m sure as hell it’s not a Ledger invention. It may be from an animated cartoon for all I know, but it’s devilishly familiar.

The problem with this extremely beautiful movie isn’t Christian Bale’s stolid Batman, it’s that the best parts - Michael Caine’s Alfred (Batman’s loyal butler), Gary Oldman’s Det Lt James Gordon, and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Rachael Dawes - are swamped by a really weak plot, especially in the second half.

The action is fantastic (it’s not violent at all) but the lack of coherence in the latter sections of the movie mean you’re just overloaded with visual sensation, skipping from shot to shot attempting to follow a story that at some point ceases to exist.

For this reason, the movie is a failure. But the special effects that are used to turn Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent into “Two Face” are going to be remembered when the hangover from watching the rest of this expensive bauble has long faded.

The coin flipping routine (which glances back weakly to Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh in the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men) is irritating but it can’t mask the nasty effect of a view of the interior of Dent’s left cheek.

The movie will probably do very well.

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