Friday, July 18, 2008

Big Summer Movie!

If you have anything of a geek in your body at all, you should probably go see The Dark Knight at some point. As superhero movies go, this one's up there with the first of the X-Men trilogy and the first Spiderman. The plotline is well enough developed to carry the special effects, the hand to hand combat, the chase scenes, and the techie gadgets.

Yes, there may be spoilers in the rest of this, read with caution.

This may only be due to Heath Ledger. And I would say that even if I weren't dangerously close to being in the category of people who are only seeing The Dark Knight in his honor. Ledger's take on the Joker is brilliant. To paraphrase the WaPo's film critic -- you can see the broken boy peeking out from behind the makeup. The Joker is twitchy, goading, sadomasochistic, terrifying and often appears saner than the population around him: at one point, he comments that people are calm as long as everything goes according to the plan -- no matter how terrible that plan is. He's a man who has stared straight into the void and realized that you can ask why all you want but an answer won't be forthcoming. The Joker exposes the madness of the paradigm by taking it to it's logical extreme.

I was underwhelmed by the film's other two leading men. (The effect was probably intensified by my lack of finding either Christian Bale or Aaron Eckhart attractive in the least. Conversely, my sister grins a little when talking about Christian Bale who's "just so cute.") Bale doesn't need a wide range to play his character. He has to be brooding and gruff with a side of plastic playboy. Aaron Eckhart was not bad, but he didn't manage to capture much of an edge to add to his character.

Sadly, Maggie Gyllenhaal was visibly constrained in her role. Rachel had more guts in her left little finger than Harvey had in his whole body, and yet she's stuck playing second fiddle to him and Batman both. Sad times. She's definitely an improvement over the withering "Betty" from The Incredible Hulk, but it's rather maddening to her Harvey Dent mourned as "the best of us" and Rachel essentially forgotten.

Which brings me around to my next feminist beef with the film. It's my understanding that Commissioner Gordon's daugther, Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl, aka Oracle, has far more of a role in the Batman universe. So why is Commissioner Gordon's son the child who is somewhat developed in the film? (Daughter appears, but only to be shielded from seeing bad things by mom.) Ergh. Come on, people! It's okay for girls to want to grow up to kick some supervillain ass!

But, honestly, I wasn't expecting a feminist subtext, and the film was a definite improvement on strongly anti-feminist subtext of The Incredible Hulk and the somewhat less anti-feminist subtext of Prince Caspian.

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