Monday, July 14, 2008

The Dark Knight

I've been a fan of Batman since early childhood. I used to love watching the old campy Adam West Batman on television. I saw Tim Burton's stylishly dark Batman on opening day in 1989, and I adored it. I was extremely disappointed that the sequels that followed that movie got progressively worse, leading ultimately to the nippled batsuit abomination of George Clooney.

When Batman Begins came out several years ago, I was very excited, because I knew the director, Christopher Nolan, could write a damned good movie. Memento and Following were both brilliant, unique films. I knew that if anyone could revive the Batman brand, Nolan could. And casting Christian Bale as the Caped Crusader was perfect. He'd already proven his acting versatiliy in such films as American Psycho and Equilibrium, not to mention his previous work as a child actor in Empire of the Sun.

Batman Begins set a perfect tone for a post-millenial Batman: dark, conflicted, gritty, and painstakingly realistic. Batman had to break out of the pure fantasy world of Gotham City and find his place in a world where evil geniuses really can and do wreak mass terror. The origin story of Batman Begins was a stark humanization of Bruce Wayne, and in his transformation into Batman there was a justification and a real reason for everything.

Nolan's genius wasn't just in humanizing Bruce Wayne and bringing a dark realism to Gotham City, it was also the fact that in doing so, he was able to bring Batman to life in a way that remained almost painstakingly faithful to the original history of Batman's character.

With The Dark Knight, which I will see on opening day, it looks as though Nolan has continued this trend. Heath Ledger's Joker looks to be a brilliant, psychotic departure from Jack Nicholson's manic performance. The movie itself so far has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 100%, which is extremely rare for any movie, let alone a superhero movie.

Christopher Nolan is one of the greatest directors of our time. I look forward to his future work. I hope he keeps making Batman films, but I will watch any movie he makes.