Time for another installment on Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I blog about a movie I own, just so I can justify my binge-watching. Right now, I'm binge-watching the Batman franchise, and we get to The Dark Knight. This is in my notes at June 26, 2016.
The best thing about Batman Begins was you left the theatre craving more. The re-introduction to the world of Batman, and that tantalizing tease of the Joker. It was just enough of a cliffhanger for us to want more, but not an abrupt end to leave us disappointed. That's my main problem with many franchise-starting films today. They spend so much time setting up stuff to pay off in the sequels, that they forget to tell a standalone story. Not so with Batman Begins.
I applaud Christopher Nolan and his crew for holding off on the Joker until the second film. I blogged a long time ago that, with these superhero trilogies, the trend tended to be to rehash the origin story in the first one, and then the second film always tends to be better. Unencumbered by the origin story, they can just tell a good story. So, Nolan finally got the bright idea to not awkwardly shoehorn in the arch-enemy into the origin story...save him for the second film...the good one.
And we don't even get the Joker's origin story! This is kind of a reversal of Tim Burton's Batman. In that first film, we were treated to the Joker's origin, while Batman was this unknown force that everyone was trying to understand. But here, we don't see the showdown at the Ace Chemical Factory. The Joker just shows up, this force of nature, and everyone tries to deal with him. It is a perfect Joker story.
Enough praise has been heaped on Heath Ledger's performance that I don't need to rehash details here. He just nails the character so well.
But there's so much other good stuff going on, too. In a way, it doesn't follow the traditional three-act structure. Every character has their own arc...they're own thing going on, and we just check in on them from time to time. I really love Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent/Two-Face. Again, that's a character that's so perfect. I kinda wish they stuck with their original plan. Apparently, the original plan was to deal with Two-Face's origin in this film, and he was going to be the villain in #3. But instead, they rushed his story to completion in the last 15 minutes.
Everyone in this cast is at the top of their game. Maggie Gyllenhall takes over for Katie Holmes as Bruce Wayne's love Rachael. As far as I'm concerned, she's a step up. Watching Batman Begins recently, I never noticed how Holmes was a little flat. But Gyllenhall is great.
It's fun watching these and seeing what Batman stories they took their inspiration from. This definitely takes its cues from The Long Halloween. Set in about the third year of Batman's tenure, it details with the fall of the organized crime and the rise of Batman's rogues gallery as the dominant criminal force in Gotham City. And just like in this movie, it deals with Batman, Comissioner Gordon, and Harvey Dent making a secret pact to take down organized crime at all costs. And, in the course of this quest, Dent becomes Two-Face. In the film, they just swap out organized crime with the Joker.
You know it's good. I know it's good. I know this whole thing started as the quest to find the worst Batman film, but I'm sure the consensus is in...this is the best.