Movie Pick of the Week: Dark Knight

Movie Pick of the Week: Dark Knight

I have written about Christopher Nolan's superb “The Dark Knight” in one of the first (and longest) reviews about this picture.

We are proudly launching a new column, Movie Pick of the Week, which will single out one picture and the reasons to see it on the big screen. Fittingly, the column begins with one of the best, grimmest, and scariest movie of the year–The Dark Knight.

Why Should You See Dark Knight Now

1. As of July, “The Dark Knight” is one of the best and most accomplished American pictures of the year–on any level, narrative, thematic, technical, and acting.

2. The film points to the evolution of Christopher Nolan as one of Hollywood's visionary directors. Nolan is one of the few helmers who have not made a bad picture. Celebrating his first decade as a filmmaker, from the short, small-budget and modest noir “Following,” through the clever and witty post-modernist noir “Memento,” through the well-acted and skillfully shot “Insomnia,” through the visual extravaganza of “The Prestige,” Nolan has continued to sharpen his skills and now works at the top of his form. He is a unique director for whom bigger scale, larger budget, and more polished state-of-the-art special effects translate into all-around better picture; for most directors, it's usually the other way round.

3. “Dark Knight” is by far the scariest comic-hero adaptation you are likely to see this summer season, and perhaps during the whole year. The level of artistry and craftsmanship is so high that it elevates the stature of a genre that has not been taken seriously or held in much respect, within and without the industry.

4. Of all the Batman pictures, including those by Tim Burton and especially by Joel Schumacher, who ran the franchise to the ground, “Dark Knight” is the most interesting–and vastly entertaining too.

5. Heath Ledger's mesmerizing performance as the Joker, which is already generating Oscar buzz. In his dark, macabre humor and malevolent nature, Ledger goes way beyond the Joker that Jack Nicholson magnificently played in the first “Batman” (1989). Consider the line, “You either die a hero, or live long enough to become a villain,” which is repeated several times and serves as the film's motto. (See my column on posthumous Oscar nominations).

6. It's a comic-hero adaptation that goes deeper than other similar films (“Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk” included) into issues of good versus evil, and in which the depiction of these forces if more complex and ambiguous.

7. “Dark Knight” is the only comic-book film that points to the threat of chaos and anarchy, when society's norms and rules fail to regulate behavior and the agencies in charge of social order are either ineffective and/or ineffectual.

8. Despite its literary origins, “Dark Knight” is one of the few comic-book adaptations that are relevant to the way we live now. In this respect, the picture is more resonant than other issue-oriented movies, one that is tune with the fear and paranoid, which prevail in our society in the post 9/11 era.

9. The movie boasts one of the best ensembles of actors working today. In addition to Heath Ledger, the multi-generational cast includes Christian Bale, who reprises the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman from “Batman Begins,” Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, as his loyal team members, Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon, Aaron Eckhart as District Attorney Harvey Dent, and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes (played disappointingly in the first film by Katie Holmes).

The ensemble is male-dominated, and I hope that future films would find suitable roles for more women.

10. In terms of visuals, sounds, and tunes, “Dark Knight” is a supremely mounted roller coaster ride, defined by some of the most spectacular set pieces to be seen in American actioners in years. Not surprisingly, half a dozen of them are encounters between the Joker and Batman, or the Joker and the other criminals, and about 35 minutes of the film (which runs 152 minute long) were impressively shot on IMAX.

We are cheating here, and this column has 11 reasons!!!

11. Critical acclaim: Per Rotten Tomatoes (RT), the website that tabulates critics vote across the country, “Dark Knight” has a 94 percent rate of approval. Put differently, of the 176 notices posted to date, 165 are positive and only 11 are negative.

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