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Arbogast1960's Movie Reviews (50)

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The Dark Knight 
"I don't have plans. I just do things."
3/4 stars

Has a movie ever been so quickly and excessively praised as Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight? As spectators ranging from casual bloggers to respected film critics have tripped over each other in rushing to proclaim the film's greatness, I cannot help but wonder of what it is they find themselves so enamored. It is, of course, not this film, which is quite good but nothing more; it is instead the fact that it runs (thankfully) so far from the DayGlo abomination that was Joel Schumacher's rendition of Gotham. The saddest part of all this--The Dark Knight, like Juno before it, is a very good film of its sort that will be subjected to a backlash for being unduly exalted.

As for the film itself, as I have said, it is good, but it sidesteps greatness by a considerable measure. It is overlong by at least 20-30 minutes, and has so many ambitions that it ends up unfocused and scattered. Those not wanting to appear uncultured attribute this to a willingness to get dirty, giving the film an "unapologetic density." This may be true, but that does not make it successful. By trying to tell too many stories at once, Nolan succeeds in telling none of them as well as he might have (this disproportion between Nolan's eyes and his stomach accounts, I believe, for most of the film's many narrative glitches and incoherences--although perhaps not those of its action sequences, for which Nolan may want to avoid using Michael Bay as inspiration in future installments). Also disappointing is the woeful misuse of Maggie Gyllenhaal--those having cheered at the replacement of Katie Holmes will be saddened to see such an upgrade in actress negated by such a downgrade in character depth. (This is not the fault of Gyllenhall--it is, I believe, merely a casualty of Nolan's narrative ADD).

As for Heath Ledger's penultimate performance (he will be seen next year in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus), it is both less and more than the hype has claimed. It is surely not one of the legendary screen performances, and I would be quite surprised to see Ledger become only the second actor to receive a posthumous Oscar. But it is an excellent performance, combining wicked humor and chilling evil in every moment. The result is startling, and all the more miraculous for its ability to avoid camp and live plausibly in the pitch-black Gotham that Nolan so successfully creates--it is truly tragic that he won't be able to continue the development of this character (and others) in the future.

I realize I have sounded negative in this review; I have not meant to. The Dark Knight is a very good film, with uniformly good performances (Christian Bale's Batman-as-Patty-and-Selma voice notwithstanding), excellent tone, and wonderful special effects (thank God there still exists an action movie that avoids jarringly cheesy and distracting CGI). And there are many worse things than painting on too big a canvas, so I cannot fault Nolan too much. But most viewers seem to have been blinded by their sadness at the passing of a promising young actor which does the film a great disservice in building it up to a height from which it is bound to topple, through no fault of its own. Go see it, please. Just don't expect it to give you the moon--be happy it gave you the stars.


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