I'm sure I'm not the first or last person to write a blog about the new Batman movie. In fact, I think the intersection of people who blog, and people who have a lot to say about that movie is a fairly large one. That said, I'm going to anyway, because certain things probably shouldn't pass mention.
I saw the movie on Wednesday night. I knew about 5 minutes after walking out of the theater that I would have something to say about it. I just wasn't sure what I'd say, and it's taken me until now to really get my brain around it. I'm not sure I have yet, but it's also gotta be fresh, so here we go.
God damnit am I sad. It's weird...the guy died in January and I was a little sad about it at the time, but it wasn't like...on my mind very much. I wasn't particularly invested in the guy. I loved him in Brokeback Mountain, and Monster's Ball, and well...pretty much everything he'd done, but I wasn't really affected too much.
Not even halfway through The Dark Knight...that feeling of loss was changing. You could tell from the very first time you see him on screen for more than a second (the scene with all of the criminals) that what you were witnessing wasn't something common. Or even something slightly uncommon. What you were seeing was a performance of such odd artistry and thought that I think the performance would get the same level of hype were Heath Ledger able to attend every premiere. I sat there watching this guy... no older than me, doing something legendary. If you took this performance and you took away the "Comic Book Movie" mantle, and the character were just a sociopath doing the exact same things in the exact same way, but there wasn't a Batman involved... We'd all be talking about this being his "On the Waterfront" or his "Philadelphia" or his "Taxi Driver". I really believe he was that good.
Because of that, this enormous sadness has been sort of hanging over my head every time I think about the movie. We'll never see him create another character like that. Don't get me wrong..when you watch Brokeback Mountain and see his portrayal of Ennis...you knew he was that good. Or at least had great performances in the holster from time to time. This one.. this is singular is it's weirdness... it's uniqueness.
I'm gonna move on, because you get my point. Ledger makes this movie more than a Comic Book Movie. He makes it a movie. Comparable to every Flags of our Fathers, and American Beauty, and The Last Emperor. He brings it out of it's genre and makes this movie something even more.
Second, Aaron Eckhart
No one is talking about Aaron Eckhart. That is a tragedy, because the guy is always great.. (See "Thank You for Smoking" some time, and tell me something different.) Harvey Dent is a tough character to play. In the first part, he's almost TOO good. He's too clean. He's too virtuous. That's hard to make interesting. He really does. Then there's the transition to Two Face, who is almost TOO evil. Too unbalanced. Too cruel. You could argue otherwise, what with the coin flipping fairness and all, but the disappointed look in his one good eye when the coin saves someone from his gun is all you need to see. That's tough to play too... When a character is so insane that there's no root in reality, it's hard to identify. That's what makes Ledger's portrayal so stunning. There's literally NO sanity in the Joker, but somehow what he says starts to make an odd sense.
Eckhart does that same thing. He makes the gallant White Knight side of Harvey Dent someone you root for, and someone that you can understand Bruce Wayne believing in, in spite of his personal feelings toward the girl between them. It makes the turn into the utterly unredeamable Two Face all the more tragic...you know that somewhere deep in his brain is the same guy...but it was corrupted by the depth of cruelty that was the Joker. It's too far gone. But you still hope it's there somewhere. I found myself really caring about this. I'm a hard person to invest in a movie.
Third, the script..
Best dialogue I've heard in a while. There are so many good lines, and good exchanges, and the story itself, while possibly needing a tiny bit of trimming was gripping from beginning to end. I love the debate regarding the nature of people, and what kind of symbols they need. I love the debate it brings up regarding the troubles people get into when they throw in their lots with the unknown. It's just phenomenal.
I could really go on, and I realize this is a mostly incomplete ramble. I may take this down and replace it with more developed thoughts at some point. Those thoughts would have to materialize a little more clearly first.
Go see the movie. Marvel in Heath Ledger's performance. I'll miss him more now than I ever would have. I am officially more bummed about him than Phil Hartman. That says something.
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