Tuesday, August 05, 2008

I'm baaaack...

{Well, that was rather an unplanned break... but here we go, back on track, as they say.}

Let's talk Batman--The Dark Knight, which is breaking all sorts of movie records...
1. biggest opening weekend: $158.4 million
2. fastest movie to reach $100 million (2 days)
3. fastest movie to reach $200 million (5 days)
4. fastest movie to reach $300 million (10 days--6 days faster than "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," the previous champion)
5. fastest movie to reach $400 million (18 days--25 days faster than the previous record holder, "Shrek 2")
6. best first 4 days: $182.9 million
7. the opening $67.1 million Friday broke 3, count 'em three, different records: the biggest ever opening day, single day and Friday on record
8. best Sunday ever: $43.6 million
9. best non-holiday Monday gross ever: $24.5 million
10. best midnight sales: $18.5 million (handily beating 2005's Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith at $16.5 million)

But, really, let's talk the Joker. Heath Ledger's the Joker, to be precise. He's much more interesting--more interesting than the broken records, and more interesting than Batman. Ledger's performance is the linchpin of the movie; he is mesmerizing. He is irrational, unpredictable, psychopathic, insane and he is coherent, enthralling, nearly hypnotic. He is villainous in a way that defies reason, slippery and amoral, and also intelligent and crafty. He is the darkest reflection of the dark side of Batman; and for that alone he must be vanquished.

Batman has always been a cipher. And the movies about Batman either played to the inscrutability of the figure or the easy camp of the story's characterology (TV's Eartha Kitt and Cesar Romero come to mind, let alone Jack, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jack, Jim Carrey, Jack - I rest my case) or both. Except for "Batman Begins." What made that film different, and so good, was the window, or glimpse, it offered into Batman--and Bruce Wayne's--soul. Christopher Nolan created a real person, with real demons, albeit a real person who just so happens to be a billionaire with a secret identity. Still.

In the Dark Knight, this middle chapter, there is not much story for Bruce. From that standpoint, the movie is not terribly interesting. It serves, it seems to me, for Batman, simply as a set up for the third, and, I would assume, final chapter. But there is plenty of story for the villain (and for the audience)--and Heath Ledger in that role sinks his teeth into the story without chewing up the scenery. Impressive.

The legacy that he leaves, that the Joker leaves, scars Batman. Although the Joker is apparently defeated, it's at a cost to Batman. Christopher Nolan doesn't take the easy way out, and he doesn't let his heroes take the easy way either. And that makes for good movies.

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