Monday, August 25, 2008

The Dark Knight at BFI IMAX

Watching The Dark Knight on a screen that's the height of five double-decker buses with an 11,600-watt digital surround-sound system was the equivalent of being run over by five double-decker buses, peeled off the road by screaming baboons, stuffed into a cannon and fired head first into a brick wall.

As a viewing experience it has to go down as the most painfully dumb, excessive and utterly pointless battering of the senses I have ever experienced in a cinema, although I would hesitate to label the IMAX a cinema in the tradition sense, as the general effect of flying, sweeping, dipping and diving around the skyline of Gotham City is more in keeping with a rollercoaster ride that just... doesn’t… end. Leaving me feeling like I’d been subjected to some pointless human foie gras experiment and force fed four thousand cream cakes then ordered at gun point to trampoline for two and half hours whilst someone told me a really shit story that just... wouldn’t… end.

Talking and telling. There’s so much talking and telling in this film. With his ridiculous 80-a-day voice (we’re talking cigars here, Marlboro Man’s a pussy compared to this bloke) and a mask that obscures all but his mouth, it’s only natural that Batman's teeth become the focal point of attention, especially as he’s constantly spouting endless soul destroying bat wisdom (what is it with all the endless ridiculous philosophizing? Is there some kind of Batman bible? The Book of Bat? Bat Zen: the art of sucking the life from an audience via their ears?) and so it quickly becomes apparent that his mouth and teeth bare a striking resemblance to those of David Beckham’s, which further highlights how utterly ludicrous his more-gravel-than-a-footballer’s-driveway voice is. It is ridiculous. Then comical. Then annoying. Really annoying. To the point I started fantasizing about headbutting the chair in front of me until my skull caved in rather than sit through one more minute of endless bat babbling from what sounds like an asthmatic mountain gorilla who’s just eaten a maxi-tub of crunchy peanut butter at high altitude.

Ledger’s performance is good, it does stand out, but more so because of a distinct lack of competition. The Joker, expectation-wise, surely has to be an easy character for an actor to play, and Ledger strolls through this (with his “I’ve just shit myself” geriatric shuffle) like a natural on auto-pilot with no surprises. Which is the problem. No surprises. Everything about the Joker is predictable. From how he is first introduced to how he acts/reacts throughout the entire film, and the only real surprise is that he doesn’t figure in the finale. Go figure. Or not as the case may be. Bizarre really. The finale is gifted to Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent, Mr. Two-Face to his enemies, who turns overacting into an artform and screams and shouts a lot about a lot of stuff we really don’t care about - a performance that will surely be the envy of Nicolas Cage. Oscar-worthy performance from Ledger? Not if he was in last year's category, but then he’s gone and sadly done that dead thing so watch this space.

In summary: the movie was an assault on the senses, yet still felt ponderous. It was already long at two and half hours, yet felt considerably longer. Crucially, although based on a comic book, it took itself very seriously, and because it took itself very seriously it subsequently failed in opting for caricature over character and cliché over invention. Overall the film displayed little grasp of the subtleties involved in good storytelling with only limited effort aimed at making dramatic sense. It was all about the glorious spectacle.

The only thing that might have improved The Dark Knight would have been opium-dipped popcorn. And possibly a gun. My journey home that night was delayed due to an unfortunate person under a tube train. I'm thinking a quick rummage through bloodstained pockets would have revealed a ticket stub for the IMAX.