Got to do one semi-extra-curricular thing before I got to go home: I went to the local multiplex last night to take in "The Dark Knight," which I loved. I don't know that I have a lot to add to the discussion, plus I'm a little too fried to write coherently, but after the jump I'll throw in a few spoiler-y thoughts on Bats, Joker and company.
It was the damndest thing watching this movie. Here's a big-budget summer thrill ride filled with amazing stunts and visuals, playing before a packed house, and after the first 30 minutes or so, you could have heard a pin drop in the theater. No big laughs for any of Heath Ledger's dialogue, no whoops and cheers during the big chase scene with the Bat-Cycle, nothing. Just silence and, when the movie ended, polite applause.
And yet, I never felt like the audience was unhappy with the product. It just wasn't what they were expecting. "Dark Knight" offers up all the expected elements of a blockbuster superhero flick, yet it does so in the most unsettling way possible. It's hard to get into gung-ho, hells-yeah! mode when you're watching a movie about the random ease with which people can do evil things. When the Joker's plans were foiled, or at least delayed, I never felt thrilled -- just relieved. (The Prisoner's Dilemma scene on the boat was particularly stomach-churning.)
But I'm not complaining. Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, more than any other "Batman" movie-writing team, and more than almost any actual writer of the Batman comic book, were able to capture the insanity and dread that would come from a world that featured both Batman and the Joker. The Joker's not harmless, not charming, not a wacky goof in clown makeup; he's a mass murderer who kills people for the fun of it, often at complete random.
(This has become something of a problem in the comics, where Joker has racked up such a body count over the last couple of decades, always escaping from Arkham about five seconds after Batman puts him there, that there is simply no reasonable justification, even with Batman's moral code, for Bats or someone else to not have put Joker down like a mad dog.)
And every bit of hype about Heath Ledger's final completed performance is deserved. I have nothing to add to all the previous praise, save that I can't imagine any actor stepping into the role for a long, long time, so magnificent and indelible is Ledger's work here. (That, of course, raises the problem of who'll be the bad guy in the inevitable third Nolan/Christian Bale film. Joker and Two-Face, the two most compelling Bat-villains, are out of the picture for one reason or another, and many of the rest would need a major reinvention to fit into the world Nolan has created. And Catwoman only works if there's a much worse villain working alongside her.)
So, to sum up, it didn't get my fists pumping, but "Dark Knight" may very well live up to Fienberg's claim that it's the best superhero movie ever. Much as I love "Superman," "Superman II," "Spider-Man 2" and "X-Men 2," I'm not sure they're even in the ballpark in terms of pure balls-out, riveting filmmaking that still managed to work within the conventions of the genre.
What did everybody else think?