CHAOS [CBS, Fridays, 8/7C] is a spy dramedy that seeks to expand CBS’ number of procedurals and comedies. In that mix, it is, apparently, trying to duplicate the drama/humor mix that makes USA Network the most successful basic cable network. It’s a laudable attempt, but the comedy too often feels forced onto the procedural. When the two don’t overlap – which is seldom – each works just fine. It’s when the two are jammed together that things fall apart and chaos.
By now you will have read reviews that say The Dark Knight is The Godfather of summer movies; The Untouchables with Batman as Elliot Ness and The Joker as Al Capone; The Silence of the Lambs with The Joker out-scaring Hannibal Lecter. You will have also read that Heath Ledger’s final performance equals – or betters – performances like Sir Anthony Hopkins as Lecter and that Mr. Nicholson has left the building, ‘cause, baby, there’s a new Joker in town!
These claims are not hyperbole. The Dark Knight – and Ledger’s performance as The Clown Prince of Crime [or in this case, Chaos] – are really that good.
The main reason that The Dark Knight works is that director/co-writer Christopher Nolan has treated the film not like a superhero movie [which, technically it isn’t, since Bruce Wayne/Batman has no superpowers – only superb training and determination, along with those fabulous toys] but as a crime thriller that poses questions that we all face to some small degree in life: is there such a thing as evil; why are there rules; how far are we – any of us – from turning into savages?
There are a good many other questions posed in what should be merely a summer extravaganza, but that is precisely why The Dark Knight is special. Just because a movie blockbuster comes out in the summer months, is there really any good reason why it shouldn’t be intelligent and thought-provoking? Of course not. We’ve already had one intelligent, thoughtful summer blockbuster on PIXAR’s WALL*E, so it’s not like the summer has been totally bereft of quality. By the same token, while WALL*E was simply the best film of the year when it was released [can it only be three weeks ago?], The Dark Knight raises the bar to the next –stratospheric – level.
For the rest of the year, every major release – whether it be the next comic book movie or the next “serious drama” – will have to contend with what is the best film Christopher Nolan has made, thus far.
While we could talk about the crisply choreographed action sequences and stunts [the flipped semi? A practical effect], or the fight sequences where we actually see Batman beat down hordes of the ungodly with surprising ease – and savagery; while we could talk about superb performances [Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman and the rest cast are all in top form] or debate the questions raised by the film for hours, and/or the film’s achievement purely on an entertainment level, what makes it a masterpiece is that it is all of these things and more.
The Dark Knight is worth your ten bucks [twelve-fifty in much of Canada] a dozen times over. It is a film to be experienced rather than merely viewed; a film to be savoured. You can’t say that about many films at any time of the year.
Final Grade: A+