Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Chris Nolan is one of my favourite directors, but I guess everyone has to shoot one turkey.

Did I say turkey? That's too strong. This edible foul, and its innards, are really only half-baked, and if I'm honest, that's maybe because I cooked it on the wrong gas-setting.

This metaphor's starting to ruffle my feathers, maybe I'll chicken out here.

Why sure, for a Batman film of course the above puns should all actually be mammal-related, but on the other hand, the film itself didn't make a heap of sense to me either.

It had all looked so promising beforehand...

David and I had waited about a year for a cinema-screening that we could both manage to agree upon. So last night at 11:30pm (it was an actual dark night) we found ourselves in central London seated in front of the biggest IMAX screen in the British Isles. We were even full of coffee.

After the brilliance of Batman Begins (and the, um, opposite effect of Batman: Gotham Knight), this movie had everything going for it, including a year's worth of dazzling reviews.

However then the film actually began.

In the opening minutes, nearly all the principle characters are wearing masks. Then Batman shows up. He's also wearing a mask, but that's not a problem, because his mask actually makes him easier to identify. However, there's so much whizzing about that he seems to be in two places at once. Well, of course he does, he's Batman. He's fast like that.

No, wait, they actually are two different characters wearing Batman costumes. So one of them must be an impostor. Or both of them. Maybe there are more than two Batmen, I mean if I had a moment ago wrongly thought that there was only one of them, then maybe I was now wrongly thinking that there were only two?

In fact, after all the publicity surrounding Joker-actor Heath Ledger's sad death after wrapping this film, I found myself (again wrongly) second-guessing why so many of the cast's faces were hidden. Was that really Mr Ledger under there? It later turned out that it had been, but at the time I didn't know that.

This opening sequence is all centred around a bank heist. One by one, the (masked) Joker executes each of his (similarly masked) accomplices as they cease to be useful to him. I sat in the cinema narrowing my eyes, really, really hoping that the rest of the film would not feature anyone else agreeing to work for this established backstabber. After all, these were high-profile betrayals, not many crooks would be willing to trust the Joker after this.

What actually happened was that the Joker spent the rest of the 152 minutes thoroughly dependent upon the loyalty of others. One guy even allows him to surgically plant a bomb inside him. Maybe he did it because he thought his family were going to receive a payoff after his death or something, but even this would be inconsistent with the Joker's record.

The flipside of my criticisms is this: pretty early on I gave up trying to follow the story.

Like I said in the second paragraph, my dissatisfaction is arguably all my fault.

However, with my brain turned-down, I did really enjoy the whole thing. It seemed pretty intelligent, and looked awesome throughout, though in much the same meaningless way that Mission: Impossible II had.

The whole cast, too, plays this one flawlessly.

Which brings us back to Heath Ledger's Joker again. In the face of so much sad publicity, it's hard not give this performance an unjustly greater scrutiny. Would Heath's portrayal really turn out to have been as good as everyone had said it was, or had they all just said that because of his untimely death?

I can't argue. Ledger is surprisingly good, managing to underplay such a ludicrous character in such a way as to make him thoroughly believable. In fact, I'd even say that this is really Heath Ledger's film, with Aaron Eckhart (Harvey Dent / Two-Face) as his second lead, and Christian Bale's title-role coming in third.

Also, even though some of the camerawork and editing had me confused, Chris Nolan's overall direction is still as excellent as ever. When the effigy of the Joker dressed as Batman suddenly smacked into the office window, I literally jumped back in my seat.

Likewise the sequence in Hong Kong was breathtaking, and Nolan's choice of spending much of the few IMAX minutes available on aerial shots was wise indeed.

I have never, ever liked widescreen. For me, it's always been like having to watch everything through a visor. What a relief that these comparatively taller screens are making a comeback.

If anything, it's a shame that Nolan's wish to shoot the entire thing in IMAX, instead of just a quarter of it, could not have been accommodated. If Hollywood doesn't have the resources to achieve this, then who does, especially with a budget of $185 million dollars? The result of continually cutting between these two shapes was a film that, to me, felt like it wasn't yet complete.

Maybe that sense of incompleteness was also due to all my plot-problems having explanations that I'd missed. Perhaps Harvey Dent's sudden lack of acquired resistance to temptation, after the many years he'd spent publicly standing-up to it, was clarified somewhere. Maybe there was also a reason for why the boats didn't blow up at the end. And maybe that mask at the start meant that no-one on the street knew that it had been the Joker killing all those accomplices. Yeah, maybe I really should have paid more attention.

My biggest problem though was with the story's ending. Our heroes Batman and Gordon actually decide that the public - remember we're the public - are all much stupider than they are, won't be able to understand that their hero Harvey Dent went bad, and need to be lied to.

It's a real kick in the teeth after all the sacrificial heroism of the two boatloads of people minutes earlier. For me, the film finishes with Batman and Gordon becoming the bad guys.

Batman: "You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain."

It's almost as if he thought so too.

Available here.
Review of Batman Begins here.
Review of Batman: Gotham Knight here.
Review of The Dark Knight Rises here.

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