Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Dark Knight Revisited

courtesy of andieirfan
from Flickr
Saturday November 3, 1:48 p.m.

As I said last entry, my class and I had watched "The Dark Knight" on DVD. It still holds up well and is easily the best of the trilogy by Chris Nolan. It really did elevate itself beyond the typical comic book movie and into a crime movie. Comparisons with this one against Tim Burton's "Batman"(1989) were going to be inevitable. I guess both movies reflected the socioeconomic realities of their times. When Burton made his Dark Knight, there was still enough of the decadence of that decade that filtered into his vision of a grotesquely romanticized view of life in Gotham City with fedoras and fantastically grotty structures...kinda like smashing together Art Deco society and contemporary urban life distorted through a funhouse mirror. Jack Nicholson's take on The Joker was grand farce and Grand Guignol....a lot of laughter and he made sure that if someone died, he died noticeably....burnt into bacon or with a forced smile on his face. All that almost subsumed Michael Keaton's dour Batman....heck, even the stylized Batmobile threatened to do that. And then there was the Danny Elfman soundtrack which had the over-the-top mix of Transylvanian horror and 1940s thriller radio serial feel to it. It was the first soundtrack album that I absolutely felt compelled to buy since "Star Wars".

Then, almost 2 decades later, there was "The Dark Knight"under Christopher Nolan. It was much more down-to-earth. Gotham City could've been New York City it truly was....Chicago. People watching could relate to the sparkling skyscrapers, the grungy ghettoes and the organized crime....and even the citizens, although one of them had a penchant for wearing a rubber-and-armour batsuit and bashing criminals. Heath Ledger's Joker seemed not to have had any of the resources that the 1989 Joker had. Just knives and lint...and the odd tommy gun which he used for spree killing, a type of murder that even plagued Japan one year. Just like the city he violated, this Joker was relatable....a psychopathic terrorist leader with a Ph.D. in strategy and salesmanship. But what made him truly scary was that there was no origin story for him unlike his predecessor. No name, no accident, and he shifted his past 2 or 3 times in the course of the movie. He didn't want money or political change....he just did all that he did because he simply was The Agent of Chaos. However, as much as Ledger almost stole the show (and got that Oscar posthumously), Christian Bale could hold his own and had his own personal and professional matters to chew on. The technology that his Bruce Wayne had at his disposal was at least theoretically plausible. I could see more people asking where to get a Tumbler than the 1989 Batmobile. Whereas Keaton and Nicholson butted heads as Good and Evil from within the pages of a graphic novel, Ledger and Bale were two disturbed fellows battling each other for Chaos and Order. Overall, "The Dark Knight"adopted a much more stripped-down approach. Even Hans Zimmer's score was minimalist but effective. His theme for Batman centered on two ominous notes with added nuances depending on the mood. That's quite something for Zimmer when I remember that he was the guy behind the "Backdraft"soundtrack.

I like both of these movies done in the styles of their decades. And I'm pretty sure that there will be another series of Batman movies in the near future. I will be interested in seeing how the next auteur will approach this one. Will it be more of the down-to-earth or will it return to a more escapist and gothic feeling? Or will it head in the direction of Adam West?