“So this is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.”
Most superhero movies feel like a few action set pieces strung together by scenes that involve a lot of talking. This year, Iron Man did a great job of entertaining viewers throughout the movie, even in scenes that didn’t involve fights and explosions. It may end up being the movie I watch more than The Dark Knight in the long run, but the second in the series of reinventing Batman is the superior film. It’s moreso a story of Gotham City and the choices people make to maintain the delicate balance between chaos and peace than it is a story about Batman or the Joker. There’s only one scene that feels like a set piece, and it’s not really built up like a set piece. It’s just part of the story that needs to be told before we can move on to the next part.
That is not to say that Batman and the Joker (and plenty of other characters) get ample screen time. Although Ledger is getting most of the press—as he so deserves—it should be noted that Bale is pitch perfect as Batman. When you watch Superman or even the fully-covered face of Spider-Man, you wonder why no one in the movie realizes their secret identities. Their faces and voices are too obvious. But Bale somehow manages to completely transform himself when he’s in the Bat Suit. He growls his lines with true anger and menace, and his jaw doesn’t look like Bruce Wayne’s. The first time he appeared close up on the screen, I seriously wondered if it were Bale in the suit or some copycat imposter (a theme explored in the second scene of the movie and hopefully in later films).
That being said, Ledger is spectacular. I was too busy reveling in his brilliance to be sad about his death during the movie, but as I write this, I’m depressed by the fact that this young actor has departed our world. I thought he deserved the Oscar for his turn in Brokeback Mountain (with all due respect to Philip Seymour Hoffman, I never think someone who imitates a real-life person on film should win an Oscar for their performance), and he disappears in his role as the Joker just as he did as Enis in Brokeback. This isn’t the campy Joker of the TV show or the original Batman…this Joker is Loki, the agent of chaos. When you watch him, you won’t be thinking, “I’m watching a dead actor.” You’ll be thinking about how crazy the Joker is, and that he’s the last person you’d ever want to encounter on a dark street. Or anywhere.
All in all, the movie is a complex crime drama, not a superhero movie. It’s about choices—choices made not only by the main characters, but also by the people of Gotham. People just like you and me.
The only misstep is a scene that takes place in Hong Kong early in the movie. Although the action aspect of the scene is pretty cool, I just want to spend two and a half hours in Gotham. It’s a very minor complaint compared to the epic scale of the rest of the film.
I noted in yesterday’s entry that due to several distractions, I wasn’t giving the movie my complete attention. And yet it’s haunted me ever since I walked out of the theater. I absolutely can’t wait to watch this movie on DVD in my living room (where there are no little kids).