Monday, May 5, 2008

Seven Reasons Why The Dark Knight will be the Best Film of the Summer


First, notice I didn’t say the highest moneymaker. Also, I didn’t say the best-reviewed film of the summer. No, regardless of ticket sales and despite what mood critics will be in, The Dark Knight will be the best film to be released this summer. And here is why.

The Man Behind the Mask
Christian Bale is hands-down the best Bruce Wayne/ Batman of them all. Let’s consider his predecessors. He is only the second actor to portray the character in two films, along with Michael Keaton. Keaton did a decent job and did the best job before Bale of being as sinister and dark as the dark knight of the comics, but was a bit of an oddball choice. He carried a somewhat nerdy quality that didn’t fit as well as Bale’s playboy turned heroic-everyman persona. Val Kilmer was another good choice, though his Batman was less serious and became an unfortunate victim of the campy quality of the film he was in. And speaking of camp, let’s not even mention George Clooney, even he regrets stepping into the suit and proves that even good actors don’t necessarily make a great Batman. With that said, Bale’s serious approach to the complexities of the character make Batman more realistically vulnerable, and make Bruce Wayne more believable as a vengeful young man turned beneficent hero.

The Writer/ Director
You might recall a little movie from 2006 called The Prestige. A superb, well-made film about two magicians, obsessed with their art, and with outdoing the other. It is arguably one of the top films of the past decade. It also starred Christian Bale and was written and directed by The Dark Knight writer/ director Christopher Nolan. Nolan, who also helmed Batman Begins, is an expert at crafting a film and is one of the top directors working today. He proved that Batman could be revived after he disappeared into campy oblivion, and made him more vulnerable and believable than he had been in any previous film. Nolan is known for letting his actors act and taking suggestions from them; and demands to be behind the camera on every shot, no matter if it takes longer to shoot the film. In short, he cares. He cares about the characters, about the story, about the crew, and about the audience. When you’re making a fantasy action movie, that kind of director is essential.

The Supporting Cast
Batman Begins, the precursor to The Dark Knight, boasted some pretty heavy-duty actors. This film brings them all back with even more top actors to join them. Heath Ledger will steal this film and leave an incredible exclamation point on his career, and I’ll elaborate on that in a minute. There are many small parts in this film that could be easily cast to decent lesser known actors that would likely do them great justice. But the caliber of the talent in this movie is unmatched. Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Cilian Murphy, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Eric Roberts. These are all actors that could and have carried many films on their shoulders alone. And all of them are in one film together? Then there’s Aaron Eckhart. Without doubt, you couldn’t find a better Harvey Dent. Plus (mild spoiler), Harvey Dent becomes Two-Face and will undoubtedly be the next villain in the likely sequel to this film. Eckhart is one of the most underrated actors out there today (see Thank You for Smoking), and will assuredly deliver a solid performance as the enigmatic Dent, who requires the subtlety of a great actor. To put it plainly, this is the best cast of the year, not just the summer.

The Story (no spoilers)
Good sequels pick up where the others left off. It obviously takes more than that, but it’s a good start as The Dark Knight picks up just hours after the last film ended. While quickly introduced in the last film, the main villain here is the Joker. As portrayed by Ledger, he isn’t the Jack Nicholson-crazy-old-man Joker (who did have his place in the Tim Burton original film). The Joker here is a psychopathic, ruthless killer, with a mission only for chaos and destruction. And what’s more, he is the product of Bruce Wayne’s decision to fight crime with fear through theatrics. The film explores the consequences that arise when the good guys start putting on masks. The latest tagline reads: Welcome to a world without rules. Interwoven in the story is the continuing relationship between Rachel Dawes (now smartly recast to Maggie Gyllenhaal) and Bruce Wayne, the connection between DA Harvey Dent and Batman, a new mobster running things in town, and of course the focus remaining on the complexities of Bruce Wayne himself and his struggles with becoming Batman. All of this makes for one heck of a complex action movie drama.

The Campaign
Viral marketing is under debate as being the wave of the future. Some think it’s a powerful way to get a lot more attention for a lot less money. It hasn’t proven to be a huge success as of yet, but that’s mainly because one of the biggest onslaughts of the viral campaign before this film was with the campy-on-purpose Snakes on a Plane which did poorly at the box office. The Dark Knight might not necessarily prove the success of viral marketing either, but it has created another world to get lost in. With the media receiving real birthday cakes with hidden tape recorders in them, and the over 20 websites with viral games and realistic Gotham City interaction, this viral marketing has connected fans of the film to the story to the story in a compelling way. You can read up on the news at TheGothamTimes.com, apply to the Gotham Police Department, join a campaign for Harvey Dent at his sit IBelieveinHarveyDent.com, and find a lot of Joker created campaigns if you search them. On top of all of it, there hasn’t been much revealed about the movie itself. It has truly been fascinating, eerie, and uncanny. The ability for anyone to be a part of the story makes it that much more thrilling.
(To get in on the action try whysoserious.com, clowntravelagency.com, ccfabg.com, and rorysdeathkiss.com just to name a few)

The Competition
You can’t claim a film to be the “best of the summer” without considering the competition. And this summer is no walk in the park. Last summer’s abysmal season full of threequels was a terrible mark on the history of summer blockbusters. Entertaining as some of them were, they were mostly horrible and pretty much signified the end to several franchises, including other heroes like Spiderman (thank the Lord for no more crying and emo haircuts). But this season boasts some really great adventures that are giving The Dark Knight a decent run for its money. Spielberg and company have created what is being called the best sequel of the Indiana Jones franchise. And other heroes are making their mark: the superb Iron Man starts off the summer, along with The Incredible Hulk (a do-over after the first bomb), and Hellboy II: The Golden Army will be cool, sleek, and fascinating. Plus there’s M. Night Shyamalan back to his horror roots, the epic new Pixar film Wall-E, a Chronicles of Narnia sequel, and Ben Stiller with his daringly hilarious Tropic Thunder. Whew! Catch a breath. But rest assured, all of these will have only elements of everything The Dark Knight will carry with it in its writing, directing, acting, and everything else already mentioned.

The Joker
Finally, we have Heath Ledger. It is an immense tragedy that this great actor and masterfully unique talent is gone. None of his peers are quite as daring, as authentic, or as dedicated of a talent as he was. It came out in his films and he was exciting as well as provocative, fascinating as well as exhilarating. He was born to do what he did, and it will be no more evident than in this film. Yes, it is a dark character, and some say it wasn’t the perfect note to end on. But if you have to end on something, why not end on one of the most electrifying performances of your career? Rest assured you won’t see Heath up on the screen. No, that isn’t what he wanted. You will see the Joker as an incarnation of vile, cruel and stunningly-fantastical evil. Heath will suck you in to his performance as he has never done before. His true talent will be in this film, have no doubt. The Joker will be an exclamation on his career, and he will steal every scene he is in. The performance will be as close to perfection as it can be, not because the camera angles were right, or the dialogue was perfectly written. It will be because Heath did what he always did best- inhabiting his character. So, no matter when you catch a glimpse of the sly smile or hear the chilling laugh of the Joker, you will know that was as real as the Joker could be. And the experience will be complete.

-Mark Wingerter

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