Okay, so I wondered if we'd ever top Iron Man. The summer has actually been a lot better than last years threepeats of shit (exception being Bourne Ultimatum, which rocked the world), but nothing had really been excellent - just good.
Boy, were my fears put to rest.
Enter: The Dark Knight
Hmm.... what can I say that hasn't been said.
This movie was incredible. Best comic movie ever - and one of the better movies I've ever seen. Let's look at some of the examples of great screenwriting/filmmaking in the movie to be a tad different. (SPOILERS AHEAD - DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN)
Amanda, the aspiring TV writer, already commented on a great character moment where the Joker tells us all we need to know about him without actually giving boring exposition. Joker first tells Michael Jai White that he got his scares when his dad cut open his face. Later, he tells Maggie Gyllenhall that they were self-inflicted. So, in two simple exchanges we learn this about Joker - he's crazy. No only that, but he's a liar - he's out to push people out of their comfort zones and frighten them. He's unreliable.
Another great example is how any time he explains himself - he's lying. He tells Harvey/Two-Face that he's not a man with a plan - just an agent of chaos. That what he did to Dent wasn't personal. But, we know as we watch, he's planned everything to a T. Not only has he planned everything, he has contingencies out the wazoo. And his attack on Dent was inconsequential - it was planned. His goal was to destroy Dent, and thus destroy Gotham's hope.
Dark Knight succeeds on every level because it knows how to up the ante continuously and take all the characters' worst fears - and materialize them. If characters can't at least flirt with the worst thing that could possibly happen - then we're bored. With Batman - it's having to go too far to help - to the point where his actions make the Gotham a worse place - not better. With Dent, it's seeing everything around him get destroyed, except himself (great moment in the beginning that shows Dent's flippancy about himself is when the goon in court pulls a gun on him and he doesn't even flinch). With Gordon, it's that his compromising on the police force will, in fact, hurt everyone around him - that the consequences will outweigh the benefits.
The threefold scene of the attacks on Comissioner Loeb, the judge, and Harvey is fantastic. So is every single climax in that movie (I'm still trying to figure out how many acts there are in the film). And with each attack, Joker puts more and more people in danger - pushing the city into a frenzy. At first it's the mob, Batman, the three previously mentioned, the mayor, the police force, hospitals, and then the whole city (as encapsulated by the boat of normal, scared citizens and the boat of criminals). From beginning to end, the movie just keeps ratcheting up (MAJOR props to Chris & John Nolan with story help from David Goyer).
Not only are the characters put in their worst fears - but they're pushed to the edge of what they will do (and often cross it). Think when Batman pushes Maroni off the building - or when Dent essentially plays Russian roulette with one of Joker's goons in the alleyway - all at these times, you're holding your breath, screaming to yourself "He's not going to go that far, is he!?!?" And, sometimes, they do.
Surprises that are well built-to. See: the death of Rachel Dawes. Wow. Did you see that coming? Okay, maybe you did - I didn't. They built her as the linchpin for both Harvey and Bruce - and what better to destroy them both, than kill her. When Batman busts into the building Harvey is in (thinking it is Rachel) didn't your jaw drop and your heart sink? Oh man, still get chills thinking of Harvey screaming "No!" cause he knows that means Rachel will die.
Okay, so I'll wrap it up and finish with just a note about the actors.
We all can agree that Heath Ledger's Joker was the performance of a lifetime - regardless of the length of his life. There was no Heath Ledger on that screen - there was only the Joker. Simply astonishing. I could rave for pages. But I'll stop.
The one downside to that is that I think Aaron Eckhart will get overlooked. His Dent was everything and more. He's a great actor and was so committed to that role, every time he got mad or yelled, I got chills. There was no Aaron - there was Dent. And Gary Oldman was fantastic. Same for Christian Bale, Michael Caine, and Maggie G. Some people may dissent on that, but I thought she brought a maturity and emotional weight to the role that Katie Holmes could only have hoped to have done.
Hats off to Christopher Nolan - my new favorite filmmaker. If you have not seen all his movies, just go buy them. When they're not amazing (Memento, The Prestige), they're still very good (The Following, Insomnia).
Grade: A. A sold "A"