I went to the 11:40 AM showing on Friday at the local mega-theater. You know, stadium seats, digital sound, the works. I actually go see a movie at the theater about every two years or so, and each time I go I’m reminded why I wait so long. I prefer to do my screening at home, in front of my big screen with my tweaked sound system, and none of the typical movie going B.S. (more on that later).
The Dark Knight had an amazing opening weekend. In my case, the theater was more than 1/2 full, pretty good for a weekday at a place that had a new showing of the Dark Knight about every 40 minutes all day. When I left the theater there were absolutely no parking spaces left, people were hovering like vultures for a spot, parked in every nook and cranny available. It was a big movie weekend anyway, the place was also showing Mama Mia, Hellboy, Wall-E and several others. I’ve never seen it that packed though.
Once I entered the theater I took an aisle seat and there were four empties next to me. It took a long time for anyone to sit next to me, probably because the young woman in the row behind me decided it was a good idea to take off her shoes and put her bare feet on the seat in front of her. It was a deterrent for many people, but eventually someone had to risk the bare feet to head contact and take the seat. Ah, the joys of movie-going.
The mandatory 15 minutes of trailers started right at 11:40, only to be interrupted by a family with 3 children ages about 2-5 taking a seat two rows in front of me, which was the front row for the middle dividing aisle. More on that later.
The Watchmen movie trailer looked awesome on the big screen, but I had already posted it to the blog (not quite the same!).
Now the movie. I am not going to go into it blow-by-blow, but I’ll give some overall thoughts and observations.
Warning!!!! Spoilers to come!!!
The character most people wanted to see was obviously the Joker. There’s no doubt that Heath Ledger was amazing. In my opinion, he’ll be nominated for Best Supporting Actor. The depth we experience the Joker and his insanity will be remembered for years to come. Like many ideas/themes/ethical questions we see throughout the movie, the Joker deals with very real issues.
Immediately after watching the movie I thought a comic book movie was too small a stage to address these issues as the script and Ledger’s performance did. It was serious, dark, and I thought maybe compromised by the medium. After a day or two I found myself torn between that thought and thinking that maybe a comic book movie is a good way to examine this psychosis. This type of movie doesn’t have to be “real” – it’s still allowed the leeway to be very blunt and hit hard with the message it’s trying to get across. Quite simply, the character can literally spell (or speak) the message the director is trying to convey. Disturbing character, a defining performance, brilliantly acted.
Next up is Batman. I’ll actually lump his supporting cast of Alfred (Michael Caine) and Lucious Fox (Morgan Freeman) into this. Once again Christian Bale is does an amazing job. Any moments of questioning or doubt are met by Alfred and Lucious with words of wisdom and encouragement. Both those parts are excellent also.
Batman and the Dilemma of Our Time
This time around Batman has to deal with the blowback from his attempt to do “good” by stopping crime in Gotham. As Alfred says, he crossed the line first by upsetting the status quo in the city, and now the bad guys are coming on stronger than ever. And this leads me to the pertinent theme of the movie…
The parallels to the situation in the Middle East are, at least to me, very obvious. There are “bad guys” out there, and a “good guy”, in this case Batman, tries to punish the bad and make Gotham a safer place. But the “bad guys” of Gotham don’t play by the rules like you are I do. No, as Alfred says, some people just “want to see the world burn.” They play by a different morality, doing things we would consider irrational. So how do you fight these “bad guys” that will stop at nothing, that know no rules?
The whole question comes to a head when the Joker demands that Batman reveal himself or he will start blowing up hospitals (the innocent, sound familiar). Should Batman give into these, and I’m not using my words, “terrorist” demands?
At this point we come to the last little moral wrinkle in the story – Harvey Dent (two-face). We get to see the gruesome origin of this character played out in detail on the screen. A quick side note – this is the place where the three year old, now playing on the floor and steps of the movie theater, looked up, shrieked and ran for “mommy” – nice. Nolan plays into the “at what point to we get so hungry for revenge that we turn into a monster” or just like the ones we are trying to stop? Especially when our loved ones (in this case Rachel Dawes) are in danger.
I have to mention one part I thought was particularly entertaining, the cell phone sonar. Let’s see, there’s a way to listen in on any telephone conversation in all of Gotham. Oh no! That’s too much power for one man to have! An outrage! But we have to do it or innocent people may die, there’s no other way! Can anyone say “Patriot Act” in comic book movie form? Luckily, in comic books we can have characters that are honorable and disciplined enough they can just take one little sip of the tree of knowledge and use it for good, walk away and not get burned. The connection to today’s issues were easy pickin’s here. I’d be very curious to know Christopher Nolan’s political affiliations after seeing this part.
This is a comic book movie, so the dialogue can be in your face. The lessons and moral dilemmas can be plainly seen and are easily accessible to almost anyone. You can decide for yourself what you think of these lessons, but for me at least, it was fun watching how Nolan had the characters react, work through and eventually confront these issues.
Overall I really enjoyed the Dark Knight. The Batman bar has definitely been raised. I look forward to seeing the next installment – in about two years or so!