Friday, July 18, 2008

"The Dark Knight" is a bit like the chess piece, probing Gotham

Well, if you play chess, the “The Dark Knight” means something. In King Pawn openings, Black brings out the King’s Knight to initiate Alekhine’s Defense, and in Queen Pawn openings, all of the Indian defenses. The Knight always moves two squares in one direction, and one in another, jumping over, and giving it the ability to penetrate a system from distance, somewhat like artillery in the Army.

I hadn’t heard of Batman referred to as a Knight, but I guess it makes sense. In this movie, it is a visual metaphor, but also a world into the way the director British Christopher Nolan’s mind works. Some of Nolan’s other films have included the palindromic "Memento", "Insomnia", and "The Prestige". Michael Caine (who explained “The Prestige”) appears here again as Alfred Pennyworth. Of course, we remember “Batman Begins” in 2005. (Warner Brothers had released an earlier movie franchise Batman trilogy from 1989-1995.) That movie now seems like a prequel, and this one seems like a “meat course.” As before, Nolan uses Roger Ebert’s Chicago for Gotham, more darkly this time, with fewer extraneous phantom landscapes. There is a diversion to Hong Kong, but I think now that directors (including Nolan) may look inland to Chongqing to dazzle viewers in future films. There is no batmobile; the "Dark Knight" stays on figurative horseback.

Christian Bale (youthful in “American Psycho” in 2000) is starting to look ripened as Wayne (Batman), and the mystery of who he is isn’t played up as much in the film as is the morality play started by all the lines of the Joker, who is rather like a playing card always at life. This is perhaps a memorial to Australian actor Heath Ledger, whose passing was senseless, careless and tragic. Here, sometimes the Joker seems to almost be in drag, even if the caricature never comes off. Some of the great lines (this one from the Joker) are like “if you’re good at something, you’ll make people pay for it.” Will bloggers do that? Later, one of the assistant DA’s says that some people are irrational and don’t care about fiat money or self-interest: “they just want to watch the world burn.” It’s not that transparent: the Joker’s rants sound a like Osama bin Laden’s videos.

As New York "Room 8" district attorney, Aaron Eckhardt is still the slicker from “Thank you for Smoking” but this time he becomes a half-face (or "Two Face"), literally like a phase of the Moon. Go see the film, and note that the actual makeup is pretty gross: it makes a good draw for the Joker in drag and becomes something logical in Nolan’s world.

IMDB lists the movie as being in 1.44 to 1 aspect ratio. That is for the Imax version. I saw it on a regular large auditorium at a Regal in Arlington VA on a Friday afternoon, and it was almost sold out. The aspect was standard anamorphic, 2.35: 1. There are a lot of “Hitchcock” close-ups that normally are more common in a standard aspect ratio film.

Warner Brothers shows its studio photo trademark in black and white and with the film’s opening music. I still think it should always use its Casablanca “piano concerto” music as part of its trademark., and not mix the trademark with the movie. (Other visitors know that I have a trademark law blog.) The orchestral music score in the closing credits (Hans Zimmer and/or James Newton Howard) is quite dramatic and could make a concert overture.

The film cost $180 million to make, and is on target to take in at least $100 million the first weekend. Blockbuster "mall" movies are doing well during this "staycation" recession, and some independent films have done well, as do film festivals.

Update: July 24

After his scuffle and arrest in London, Christian Bale said to the media "I never talk about myself or think about myself. I have no idea who I am, really." The clip was shown on Access Hollywood. I don't think this is true of the acting world in general. But is that what it's like to always play another persona? I remember his role in that film from Lionsgate in 2000.

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