Ledger’s penultimate swan song

I finally got around to watching The Dark Knight, coincidentally it seems, pretty much at the same time as my beloved Miss Anne Throp’ist! Check out her thoughts here — I’m avoiding them, and most other in depth reviews, til I put my own down in words, an old habit I picked up from my heady days at Dar es Salaam’s foremost (and only) film reviewer (seriously!). I gave up on getting someone to see it with me (everyone seems to have seen it already…), and watched it on Sunday afternoon to celebrate getting my sublet organised with a close friend of Tristan’s (and hopefully future good friend of mine), Xanthi.

I’m not really in the mood to give a proper, all encompassing review (for reasons which will become clear later), but I will say that I was very impressed. After watching various other disappointing megabucks blockbusters, such as Hancock and the latest Indiana Jones, I wasn’t expecting too much. I could also hardly remember Batman Begins, although I had enjoyed it too, but I felt sequels are all too often huge letdowns (except in the case of Grease 2, of course). Still, as usual, I was influenced by the hype, and felt I had to try and catch it on the big screen.

Obviously, Heath Ledger’s much-lauded performance was the highlight of the film. His greasy, green-tinged hair, darting tongue and mumbling voice gave me the shivers. Sometimes I had to cover my eyes because I was afraid of what I would see him do — he was so unpredictable. Of course, since the film was a box office friendly 12A, they never actually showed him doing anything particularly graphic… and my shielded eyes, and thus wildly running imagination, probably only amped up the horror!

I also liked the trinity aspect to the relationships between Batman/Bruce Wayne, Harvey Dent/Two-Face and the Joker. It’s a fairly cliche tool, this mirroring and inversion of main characters on either side of good and evil, but it worked well for the film.

Generally, I approved of the casting — most of the actors were a good fit for their roles, without being stereotypical. Caine and Freeman, lords of Hollywood, delivered the film’s rare moments of humour with inimitable panache. I’m still pondering the recast of Katie Holmes with Maggie Gyllenhaal though. I can totally understand why they replaced her… her overly limelit marriage to Tom Cruise has effectively undermined her as an actress, particularly as she was never that amazing anyway. At least before she could become somewhat wrapped up on her roles, and had an endearing touch of the ingenue, now you can hardly look at her without thinking about how she let him artificially inseminate her in the Scientology institute and is weirdly becoming a Victoria Beckham clone. It’s far too distracting, and the filmmakers knew this. I can also see why Gyllenhaal was picked… they were obviously going for a girl next door look, rather than an out-and-out sex kitten type (like, say Rosario Dawson or Angelina Jolie, rumoured to be the next instalments Catwoman), and her soft features and expressive eyes go somewhere towards that. At the same time, she’s not quite believable as the kind of woman that would come between two men like that. Holmes could draw on her Dawson’s Creek love triangle experience… whereas Gyllenhaal has always been too quirky and offbeat to approximate a Girl of Your Dreams. Rachel Dawes is tricky casting though… my only recommendation is Rose Byrne, who has quite an ethereal, sweet beauty — a less sexy Monica Belucci type.

Besides being unsure of the new Rachel Dawes, I also did find the film to be overlong… I tend to get bored during action sequences, which probably most people watching the film wouldn’t have a problem with, having signed up for an action film. I also found myself confused sometimes, about what had just happened, which meant that some of the clever twists were likely wasted on me.

However, overall, as I said, The Dark Knight was a very impressive film, and one that left me genuinely affected throughout and afterwards, which I hadn’t been expecting. The special effects were subtle, heightening their impact on the finished product and the acting was top-notch. And sadly… this is very surprising considering how bad bid-budget films have tended to be lately! The Dark Knight is a rare example of quality in the mainstream — I do hope they make a third one after all!

4 thoughts on “Ledger’s penultimate swan song

  1. It really is so weird that we were watching TDK at around the same time. We are psychically connected!Definitely a good idea to avoid other reviews tainting your thoughts before you bang ’em out (and I’m feeling very smug about actually getting to do so since I didn’t watch this film about a billion years after its release date).Heath Ledger was utterly wonderful, I still can’t really get over it. His creepiness and oral fetishism did definitely remind me of someone or something, but I’m yet to place what. Any ideas? His voice totally reminded me of Doc from Back to the Future, but perhaps this is something perculiar to me!I think that Rose Byrne could have been a good Rachel, or what do you think of Rachel Weisz? I have a feeling that Kat(i)e Holmes turned down the offer to reprise the role this time around, but I could be wrong.Basically I think we’re in vague agreement about this film: it was good because of the dark tone, the creep factor and the excellent characterisation. The plot wasn’t particularly important, and as long as it could be ignored the film was enjoyable!I’ve now come up with a great plot for the next sequel. Come campaign for me to ghost write…Hope you’re not actually concussed and just beig a paranoiac!I’m now trying to work out who Cranberry might be… Ah, just cracked it! I do love the joy of zudonym puzzles.

  2. I know, especially cuz we were both quite tardy… I’m usually quite quick at seeing things, and you’re horribly tardy… so it seems we met somewhere in the middle!Yes, his voice did ring some bells… Doc is a bit more hyberbolic though, whereas he spoke with a slow, anarchic menace… I have read other reviews now, via Rotten Tomatoes, and I was tres amused by the Daily Mail’s Christopher Tookey’s review (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/reviews/article-1037123/Holy-Moly-Batmans-big-noise–loses-plot.html)… he moans about diction and I think he is at least partly referring to Heath’s wicked mumblings! Fool.No, Katie Holmes did not turn down the role! Well… that’s what they allowed her to say. The alleged reason was there was ‘scheduling’ conflicts with another film she was making, Mad Money (which completely bombed at the box office). Really I think that they didn’t want her to overshadow the film, she’s far too media-exposed and her marriage to Tom Cruise had some negative effect on the publicity of Batman Begins. I think Nolan seems really serious about actors dissapearing into their roles, and when you’ve become a media-darling/Celebrity Wag type such as Holmes… I think it makes it far too difficult for anyone to take her seriously as Rachel Dawes.Rachel Weisz… she’s beautiful, certainly, but I feel she seems a bit too mature for the role now… god I’m being evil Hollywood age-ist! I think they need someone late 20s/early 30s, although I’m not sure how old the average DA would be…Yes I think we’re basically in agreement! :)And my head’s much improved, I feel perkier. Although I’m having quite vicious dreams, involving shoving Amber Eyes down several flights of stairs!

  3. He didn’t really speak very much like Doc, but I thought his voice/accent did sound quite similar to Doc’s!That review was quite fun. I disagree about Batman’s identifiability though, although it is easy to be distracted by the fact that he’s wealthy etc. I maintain that he’s one of the most identifiable (super)heroes. There’s no need to be disparaging about comic book origins either! Silly snooty reviewers.I do agree that Katie Holmes being in the film could have had a negative impact…and also there’s not much of a reason to push to have her since she wasn’t very goodin Batman Begins.I think I would have preferred a slightly older Rachel Dawes, it would have allowed her to seem like a stronger character I think. Plus with Christian Bale starting to look rather ragged around the edges, a younger woman doesn’t quite work!Glad you’re starting to feel better. I’m not entirely sure who Amber Eyes is, but I’m always up for a spot o’ violence.

  4. Pingback: The end of days « Pop Culture Playpen

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