Posts Tagged 'The Dark Knight'

A few of my favourite odds and sods to round off the year

Otherwise known as the lazy blog post of cultural stuff I’ve quite liked in 2008, namely film, TV and music.

Film-wise, 2008’s film of the year should, by rights, be The Dark Knight, which was fantastic in every way. But an understated Pinteresque [1] comedy that starred both Colin Farrell and racist dwarves was also equally as good and, as such, I can’t pick between them.

In Bruges should have probably been discarded the moment you mentioned Colin Farrell’s name in conjunction with comedy and existentialism. But then it’s just possible writer/director Martin McDonagh saw Farrell’s performance in the sadly underrated and little-seen Intermission and decided he’d be perfect for the restless, foul-mouthed, hyperactive naive first-time hitman Ray. And the film world, it can safely be said, is all the better for this casting decision.

In Bruges’ joy lay in the characters and the script, while the plot took a back seat. Watching Farrell and Brendan Gleeson’s mismatched hitmen lay low and bicker in the boring but culturally rich city of Bruges while waiting for orders from their psycopathic boss (Ralph Fiennes) was one of the cinematic highlights of the year. It’s also not often you manage to get a film that has a very soft, sweet centre but such a hilariously profane script that manages to offend pretty much every minority and country, often in just one sentence.

On the flipside was Christopher Nolan’s brooding, intense masterpiece. Had this been a cop film, it would be a shoe-in for Oscars. As it is, it may still get one.

If Heath Ledger picks up posthumous awards then there’ll always be a suspicion that, well, the academy voted for him because he’s dead. But that takes nothing away from his performance as the Joker, which is thoroughly deserving of every accolade anybody wants to throw at him. While Christian Bale’s Batman takes a back seat, almost out of necessity, Ledger’s Joker steals the show completely to the point you’ll completely forget Jack Nicholson ever hammed it up under the facepaint.

Such a majestic graphic novel adaptation has been a long time coming (the first Hellboy probably got closest in the action stakes, with Ghost World leading the way elsewhere) and, with the Dark Knight, Nolan’s raised the bar so high that most other superhero films might as well give up now. Or at least wait a few years. Certainly it puts a lot of pressure on the forthcoming Watchmen film, as if there wasn’t enough already.

On the small screen, sports aside, there’s been one show that has stood head and shoulders above the rest. Britain may be a bit behind on getting Dexter, but it’s been worth the wait.

Michael C. Hall is perfect as the police blood splatter expert cum serial killer, while the scripts are gripping, tight and very playful indeed. It takes a lot to make you root for a serial killer, even one who only offs bad guys, but Dexter pitches the show exactly right – somewhere between extreme black comedy and taught police thriller. Season 2 has already been on FX but comes to terrestrial (ITV1) in the New Year. I’m halfway through it on DVD and it’s every bit as good as the first.

Finally, music wise, the album that’s rarely been off my iPod since I brought it: TV On The Radio’s Dear Science. A mixture of funk, downbeat, noodling experimental electronica and, finally after several albums that promised but never delivered, some tight, killer tunes. A masterpiece from start to finish. Here’s a quick clip of the band performing The Golden Age on Later…

[1] I’m not using this word just to show off I know about his stuff now that he’s dead (although I’ve studied a lot of Pinter in the past). Rather that the film really did remind me a lot of the Dumb Waiter.

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Why so serious?

Even without Heath Ledger’s untimely death, The Dark Knight would have attracted large amount of hype. And following large amounts of hype generally follows disappointment, especially with the superhero genre. Thankfully Christopher Nolan’s film doesn’t just live up to the hype and some, it raises the bar for the genre so high that all other films should just give up for the next couple of years. It’s that good.

The Dark Knight is over two hours but you don’t notice it. From the first set-piece with six paranoid goons carrying out a robbery for the unknown ‘Joker’ to the final climax, the film rattles through at a fantastic pace, but never losing track of the deep characterisation that’s become a feature of Nolan’s films.

The stunts are breath-taking (you can only wonder what they must have looked like on the IMAX) and the whole plot unravels with a plenty of twists and turns that drive the film to even darker depths. Were this a Bond film, oreven a one-off non-superhero action thriller it would be rightly hailed as one of the finest examples of its genre. That it features a man in a rubber-bat suit and another with pasty face paint shouldn’t lessen this on iota.

Then there’s Heath Ledger. It’s impossible not to mention the late actor’s performance. Ledger has completely immersed himself in the character to the point you can forget who the actor is and be completely taken in by this strangely compelling villain, who is a world away from Jack Nicholson’s enjoyable but hammy turn. Ledger’s Joker comes far closer to catching the sinister nature of the character in the graphic novels. than Nicholson ever does and is a fitting epitaph for an actor who, if he was still alive, would be one of the hottest properties in Hollywood off the back of it.

The biggest problem for Nolan is where does he go from here. He could easily spent the rest of his career in the Batman franchise, and that would be no bad thing, although you do wonder if he’ll ever be able to make a better Batman film than The Dark Knight.

But Nolan is also an interesting director even without the Batman films. Memento still stands out as a masterpiece, Insomnia was gripping and The Prestige was a better film than many gave credit. Nolan could literally do anything right now. He could never make another film. The Dark Knight is unlikely to be bettered in a long time.

In some respects, you’ve got to feel a bit of sympathy for all other superhero movies that follow The Dark knight. On the other hand, there have been so many God-awful adaptations (Elektra, Daredevil) that it makes you realise that it’s not hard to do a decent job.

No doubt there will be more to come. Most likely a second Iron Man film, although the first instalment left me distinctly underwhelmed and the film already felt like it was running out of steam by the end. The last Spiderman film was an utter mess but won’t stop another one being hurried out. Maybe somebody will think it a good idea to made another X-Men film (although I enjoyed these a lot more than Spiderman and thought they were a bit underrated. Yes, even X-Men 3). Every minor character will get an outing, I’d expect.

But there is still hope – and excitement for graphic novel fans. First up, Hellboy 2 from the ever-excellent Guillermo del Toro. The first film was a bit of a treat, with the director’s distinctive visual style playing well against a film that had more depth than your average comic book adaptation. Hellboy 2 looks like it’s going to be a solid sequel.

But that is nothing compared to the buzz surrounding The Watchmen. Either this film will rival The Dark Knight or prove such a crushing disappointment (and certainly fanboys and girls will be scrutinising this far more than either of Nolan’s Batman films) that it’ll sink like a stone.

But in the meantime, go and watch The Dark Knight. And if you’ve already seen it watch it again. And again. And again. It’s that good.


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