The Dark Knight: Oh, HELL yeah!
This has got to be the single greatest summer for comic-to-movie adaptations in history.
MAY: Iron Man. Completely faithful to the source material, great script, and an outstanding performance by Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark. JUNE: The Incredible Hulk. Amazing upgrade of the character from the lackluster Ang Lee film and made us forget that ever happened. Edward Norton became Bruce Banner and the CGI Hulk was as close to realizing the comics version as we'll likely ever get. Which brings us to JULY....and The Dark Knight, the latest and perhaps greatest Batman ever committed to celluloid.
With the buzz already in the stratosphere regarding the late Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker (and the re-imagining of the character completely from any previous movie or TV version), it's no small wonder the opening weekend for The Dark Knight took in a record $158 million. After Christopher Nolan's film Batman Begins introduced us to the new way things were going to run in the world of the Caped Crusader, people were hungry for this sequel and they turned out in droves. The terrific thing is, no one was disappointed.
Well, OK, maybe not everyone. There were some minor quibbles over what some fans saw as a less-than-subtle message regarding security in a post-9/11 America. Referring to the Joker as a "terrorist", scenes of people running from exploding buildings, and a should-we-or-should-we-not message about how much invasive surveillance is needed to catch a super-criminal. There were some script irregularities still being argued over dealing with character motivations and continuity. I myself didn't notice anything that detracted from my enjoyment of this excursion in the least, and I appreciated the many nods to the comics stories like "The Killing Joke" and "The Long Halloween".
The Joker is far more dangerous than ever portrayed before (Hannibal Lector-level territory) and, the biggest surprise, how prominently Harvey Dent/Two-Face plays into all this (Aaron Eckhart--his CGI makeup is a gas). The character of Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) is marvelously handled and the character truly grows into the man we will know as Commissioner.
That's about as far as I dare go for people who haven't seen the film. It's pretty long at two and a half hours, but it screams by before you know it. The Dark Knight has my highest recommendation. (Our own Mike Smith reviewed this film in last week's Movie Review, giving it 4 stars, our highest rating.)
THE CASE OF THE RUBBER SUIT AND SHRINKING CHEST EMBLEM
While Batman has been reimagined more times in a shorter period than virtually any other superhero brought to the screen, the one piece of art direction held-over from the Tim Burton films of the late '80s is the molded rubber suit, something I resisted accepting for a long time. The Batman I knew needed neither phony muscles nor any "body armor". Gone are the days where an actor had to bulk-up for a role (e.g., Christopher Reeve for Superman), relying instead on a costume designer to make him an instant muscle-man. And I suppose audiences were deemed too cynical to believe a guy facing constant gunfire would manage to escape unharmed without "body armor"! (But they can believe a billionaire-vigilante, dressed like a bat, with ties to the police department.)
The costume's bat chest emblem is another matter. I could swear that, since the Burton films, there seems to be a plot to slowly eliminate it altogether, maybe seen as not essential since the magnificent profile of the Bat sillouhette is kept intact anyway in pretty much any lighting.
While this is still the goal, I've written no less than five different versions of this piece over the past two days and am not happy enough with any of them to sanction release. If this is going to be taken as gospel, I want it to be accurate.
With so much PCR history to sift through, it turned out to be a bigger project than I thought. I'm still writing the damned thing and it's Friday afternoon. I'm giving up for this week, sorry for any inconvenience this caused. Since so much has gone into it already, I feel confident that the final version should be ready for next week's PCR.