The Dark Knight – Christopher Nolan – I was Inspired to finally get round to watching this through the release of The Dark Knight Rises. I had wanted to see it for, well, a long time…but my prevailing adversity to ‘superhero’ films only encouraged, an already natural, apathy. I just find it hard to separate the immaculate torso rippling, muscle flexing, cape swishing, gun firing, world saving, tight tight, tight costume sporting, Neanderthal jawline possessing, macho action worshipping, DC/Marvel originating pantomimes from, well, from a pretty adolescent wish fulfillment. The socially awkward outsider who dreams of proving himself, the physically insecure who imagines a 300 Spartan six pack and the keen gym freak who wishes it was more acceptable to revel in tight fitting flamboyant homoeroticism-all of this finds vicarious and masturbatory enactment in the standard fare of superheroes. It’s not a matter of self congratulating elitism, or snidely condemning comics as ‘just for kids’ – it’s just that, in the grand scheme of forms of entertainment, Spiderman/Watchmen/Incredible Hulk/The Avengers/ X-Men and other lycra-clad saviours of the universe are..well, on the whole, pretty silly. Silly aint always bad though, I spend an unnerving amount of my waking (and dreaming) life embracing the virtues of ‘silly’. Nowt much more fun than impersonating an angry duck, imitating a zombie, dancing nude, eating basically inedible substances as an impulsive recreational habit, doodling bulbous eyed rodents on the back of envelopes, wearing trousers intentionally high, insisting you possess a clairvoyant capacity when armed with a pot of raspberry yoghurt, singing loudly when alone, conversing with inanimate objects, learning to safely ingest inanimate objects, painting various areas of the anatomy with glue, declaring penis synonyms with gleeful volume and frequency…and, added to that list…taking the superhero genre too seriously.
BUT, Mr. Nolan has done something wonderful, impressive and (to all the mega mega superhero fans out there…I realize anyone reading this who likes Batman alone ‘he is not a superhero-he has no powers! Etc’ may take massive offence to my misinformed inanity…please don’t…it’s not worth it…so, yeh, for all those BIG fans) massively gratifying: finally a series of films that evokes the very best and most serious aspects of the genre. Mark Kermode, and I’m sure many others, have rightfully praised Nolan’s ability to direct ‘intelligent’ blockbusters. His are inspired action films that don’t insist on dizzyingly quick edits, 90minutes of LOUD explosions, bad dialogue or formulaic plotlines. So, having been ridiculously late in seeing The Dark Knight and Heath Ledger’s, now infamous, portrayal of the joker, I was not disappointed. From the opening sequence, a clown masked bank robbery and the Joker’s first appearance (complete with a darkly humourous Nietzschean soundbite: ‘What doesn’t kill you – only makes you stranger’ , or summat like that) to the tension of the climactic ‘boat scenario’, I found the entire film a very entertaining watch. It has been said a thousand times before, but not without reason, that Heath Ledger’s performance really does add something/everything to the film’s genius. He is simply amazing. To achieve a performance that is genuinely disturbing and unnervingly creepy, while also maintaining show stealing charisma, makes for an unforgettable and (as countless posters/t-shirts/sprawling memorabilia will testify) memorable character act. Apparently much of the Joker’s idiosyncrasies and vocal eccentricity was based on Tom Waits (I’m pretty sure I heard this somewhere…reliably sourced as always..). The croaking raconteur is given a slightly effeminate and frighteningly unhinged make-over, but watching Ledger’s performance with this in mind really does highlight the Waitsian echo…a ‘What’s he building in there…Wanna know how I got these scars?’ hybrid. Also similar to the interviews that Waits has given over the years, the Joker indulges in an articulate and playful (but oh so scary) self mythologizing: continually inventing and reinventing the origin of his scarred clown smile. On top of Nolan’s brilliant direction and Heath Ledger’s unbelievable performance, the portrayal of ‘Two-Face’ is also effectively handled. At the end of the film, as with Inception, one is left feeling satisfied not simply in the blockbuster essential of action and spectacle, but in the imagination of memorable characters, narrative sophistication and acting quality. 8/10