Sunday, July 20, 2008


I'm still dumbstruck. A day into watching The Dark Knight, I still fumble to put in words the chaos it has flung my mind into.

I've never been a super hero junkie..I hadn't even heard of them till about 10 yrs back....I used to follow Wonder Woman in England, more for the casting song than anything else.

However over the last few years I have followed most of these super hero movie releases because my closest friend and my son end up carting me off to the cinema hall.

I don't like spiderman..I hate the guy who plays him and the gal he falls for...Superman is a dying, when news started floating in about this new Batman flick about a year ago, I thought, god, not another one.

And, then I saw Brokeback Mountain and, I thought, great..I'll get to see Heath Ledger at least.

And then, Ledger died and, I thought, this ones for him.

To say that I was blown out of my mind in the 3 hours I spent in the hall yesterday would be making it as mild as any other superhero flick I have ever seen. I'm still reeling under the impact of the brilliance of a director with a vision of steel.

Every reviewer worth his salt has been calling the movie black, sinister and overtly dark......thats the treatment, I agree.

However, its Nolan's sheer brilliance in capturing the sun beyond all this when he chooses to always fall back on human choice as his most relevant yardstick.

The Joker lives by the adage "why so serious" and while he changes his story everytime he swings his knife around his victim's mouth, he is the fall guy in the the back of your mind you know hes a lunatic for a don't empathise with his reason because never is a clarification given or sought. The fact is that while he is spouting his claims to loving and creating chaos for the fun of know theres still that reason. Hes a parasite of the attention this chaos brings him and in one of the most vulnerable (albeit delivered with the wildness and humour expected of him) he tells Batman, "You complete me....".

The Joker is desperate and hes not hiding it.

Just below this post is something I wrote when I was questioned on what morality is some days back.

The Dark Knight is a tale of criss crossing moralities....Before writing that post on morality, I spent a restless night trying to figure out how honest I was ready to be with myself.

Thats exactly my perspective on the Dark Knight. Its not a superhero movie because it has a great looking costume and some chaalu powers, its a super hero flick because it does not hesitate to question the very morality of decisions we take as humans everyday. Whether its the policeman whose wife is in the hospital, or the criminal who throws the detonator out, or the Joker who chooses to live a life of meaning with Batman, or Batman himself who chooses to save his love instead of Harvey dent its all about taking decisions that are honest enough to be immoral even in their morality.

"Either you die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become a villain", is the basic premise of the travails of each character in the movie. Constant fight between what is expected of them and what they finally do. Conscious decision-making that leads them down the path of either of the two propositions. Elaborate challenges that the Joker throws out to defy human goodness....and as he himself says, "whatever doesn't kill you makes you stranger". The moral weave that we spin around ourselves lies completely in this thought vicinity. The Joker gives you the way out...we may not be stronger for having borne the burden of our baser instincts but we are definitely more worthy of fun, for enjoying the strangeness of it.

Another thing that sets this movie apart from the pure simplistic fare of the comic book genre is perhaps the common refrain that runs through the movie. Theres only so much power is capable of and more of that would in all probability lead to too much temptation and ruin.

The movie works on the Joker knowing Batman's psyche and not vice versa. And, that is why the charaterisation of Ledger's lunatic portrayal of a man gone wrong is so bang on. You do not expect a psycho like that to be in possession of his senses, of his vision to be so clear, of his intelligence to pierce through. But, it does. And, that is the power of Heath Ledger, to have brought out all that through his manic physicality, his frightening humour and his almost delightful wit.

You see his Joker and you can almost believe that thats what killed him in real life.

"Don't start with the head", he says when Batman hits him there and you know why hes saying is his most evil companion. Heath Ledger's instability hits out at the audience demanding a pulse that exhausts as well as exhilrates.

Nolan excites the audience with his emotional queries...."You've got rules, the joker has got no rules.." ...thats the appeal of the Joker. Makes you question where you want to fall on the spectrum, doesn't it?

The Movie is not dark because its treatment is so, its dark because at some base level it appeals to the base side of us.

It makes us meet that part of us that revels in the chaos the Joker creates, the belligerence with which he lives his life and the simple clarity of his vision.

While Batman lives a double life and is racked by introspection, the Joker lives one life, one identity, one honest dream.

Theres more I want to write about.

I'm not done...just exhausted.


Citizen Shaker said...

Thats a brilliant review!! And thank God, I didn't read it before putting mine down.

For a change, we both got the same things out of this mind-blowing intense stuff. Its quite obvious you write so much better.

shaswati said...

God! You can be so verbose! Excellent...

svety said...

Coming from you Abhi, thats quite a compliment...thnx...I can only say that the subject left me know hat I feel abt ur last comment..will take it offline...

Ah..Shaz I wish I could have written more..just exhausted myself...but yes..even I'm surprised...

Abhilasha said...

Hey, visited your blog after a long time, got the clue from scraps on your Facebook wall...Its definitely the best review that I have read of the Dark Knight so far...It has only intensified my wish to watch it.
Btw, had it not been for your closest friend, I too would have missed out on the magical world of Superhero films.
The only point on which I don't agree with you is not liking Spiderman because of the woman who plays MJ. Please, I too find Kirsten Dunst very very unpleasant but simply love Spidey movies..And I think most superheroes have it in their destiny to have ugly leading ladies..Please check out the lady who played Lois Laine in Superman 1 and 2

Raja said...

I dig this review, svety...very well written...

and the fact that you had no exposure to either Frank Miller's Batman or Alan Moore's "The Killing Joke" (from where, incidentally, the whole darkness, intensity and conflict is inspired from) makes it far more interesting to read because one can see that your analysis is bang-on...

for me, the success of christopher nolan lies in the fact that he managed to stun me (and make me overwhelmed to the point of crying in disbelief) with this movie in spite of the fact i had read all these graphic novels..

svety said...

Vidhu..thnk u lots for ur belief...haha even though it was retracted soon after...
I completely missed the comics reading phase of my life so can't really relate to the spidey movies...too much of kid's comic hysteria for me...
haha but i do watch them and u know why....:)

Raja, thnk u for visiting my humble abode..i will see this as an honorary visit from THE EXPERT...come to India soon..we'll watch it again together

A tryst with myself said...

one of the best blog ever written even by your own standard.