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I'm a longtime contributor to MTV, Billboard, Alternative Press and MovieWeb. I've worked as on-air reporter, host, writer and producer for MTV, MSNBC and E!. I have provided opinion and commentary to programs on VH1, IFC, G4, Fuse, Current and Oxygen. I have written for Huffington Post, Premiere, OC Weekly, SFGate.com, NextMovie.com, MTV's television and movie blogs and other publications. I am the founder of Superhero Productions, providing broadcast, online and aftermarket content for a number of clients including Lionsgate, Sony and Warner Bros. I personally handle artist management for a handful of bands. "Ryan Downey has established a history of breaking some good scoops in the last few years, and you could certainly do worse than bookmark [him] to check in on." -- Ain't It Cool

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Movie Review: The Dark Knight

Kevin Smith called "The Dark Knight" the "Godfather II" of comic book movies and after seeing it last night, in IMAX no less, I am inclined to agree. The followup to "Batman Begins" is all I dreamed it would be and perhaps even more-so.

In no particular order, "Batman Begins," "Superman," the restored Donner cut of "Superman II," "X2: X-Men United" and most of all, "The Crow," remain my favorite superhero movies (if I had said "comic book" I'd have to include "A History Of Violence," etc.) and "The Dark Knight" rests easily up there. It may, in fact, upon repeated viewings become my favorite superhero movie ever.

Bruce Wayne: perfect. Harvey Dent: perfect. Gotham City: incredible! Batman: perfect... The stylistic nods to Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns" (spoiler alert: the Concerned Citizens of Gotham directly ties in with something from that) and Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's "The Long Halloween" and "Dark Victory" are welcome and evident without making the movie feel unoriginal.

And as for that white elephant in the room? Heath Ledger had better get at least a posthumous Oscar nomination, if not a win. He completely DISAPPEARS into The Joker: not only do you forget about his sad and unfortunate death, you forget about "Brokeback Mountain," "The Brother's Grimm," "A Knight's Tale," even "10 Things I Hate About You." His performance is flawless and beyond compare in a film filled with knockout acting from top to bottom -- even Tiny "Zeuss" Lister from the "Friday" movies shines in a small role. Heck there's even a crossover with "Spawn!" OK, sort of: Michael Jai White is a gangster.

Ledger resists the urge to chew the scenery... Yes, somehow, his portrait of an anarchistic psychotic sociopath who just "wants to watch the world burn" as Alfred puts it is sort of bizarrely restrained. I know that sounds, well, crazy, but put his Joker next to Nicholson's and it's a SERIOUS take on an often comedic character. And he's fun, he delivers punch lines and black humor, but he's also scary. This is NOT a villain you'd want to hang out with on any level, even if (especially if) you're working for him.

"Spider-Man 3" suffered from stuffing Gwen Stacy, the black costume, the second Goblin / Hobgoblin, Sandman and Venom into one movie when any of those story lines could have supported it's own flick. Miraculously, however, "The Dark Knight" gives us (spoilers) Scarecrow, the Falconi crime family, Hong Kong, Wayne Enterprises, Jim Gordon, The Joker and Two-Face without feeling like a mess. The writing is so economical, so tight, there isn't a moment that could be thrown away.

At the press junket for "Hellboy II" I overheard a blogger from C.H.U.D. complain that the Hong Kong sequence in "The Dark Knight" was incongruous and that the entire movie could have "easily" lost a half an hour. I could not disagree more. The scenes in question are important to the story in terms of mechanics (Batman goes there to nab a figure integrally connected to Gotham's organized crime; further trust is established between Jim Gordon, Harvey Dent and Bats) but also in terms of the overall theme: where Tim Burton's movies existed in a claustrophobic fantastical soundstage gothic world, the Nolan brothers and David Goyer's hero exists in the breathtaking, sweeping and grand real world and on a global stage. The district attorney may have to quibble with extradition treaties, but Batman can get you anywhere!

I'm still absorbing this fantastic film, as I did lying in bed most of last night. The characters - all of them, but especially the Joker -- really stay with you. And the overall feel is very classy, classic and timeless. It's just a GREAT movie.

I remember sitting at the Warner Bros. lot after watching the first of the "Matrix" sequels at a very early screening for MTV where one of my bosses who was good friends with the producer gushed about how "great" it was and I lamented at what a bloated, CGI-filled, wannabe esoteric mess they had made of what was an excellent and original first film. As Quentin Tarantino remarked to me later in an interview, "Why do I want to see a CGI reverse freeway chase when they did a REAL one already in 'To Live and Die in LA?' Why watch CGI guys hanging from CGI helicopters when the 'Darkman' movies did the real thing?" Nolan's use of real stunts, real makeup, real explosions and wirework is so refreshing. Let's hope this trend continues.

Make sure to see this movie in IMAX as the filmmakers intended.

Bravo, "The Dark Knight," bravo.

1 comment:

David Agranoff said...

The Hong Kong sequence was important in my humble opinion. It sent a message that you couldn't hide from Batman, thathe would get you what ever it took. It also showed him using his skills to expand his scope.