Sunday, 10 August 2008

Review Round-Up 3: "The Dark Knight", "Spider-Man 3", "Blades Of Glory"

The Dark Knight [director: Christopher Nolan; stars: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal] - I can't remember a film being hyped up as much as The Dark Knight for quite some time. The film had a lot to live up to: the follow-up to Nolan's acclaimed "reboot" of the Batman franchise, Batman Begins; the return of Batman's archnemesis The Joker, last played on the big screen by Hollywood heavyweight Jack Nicholson; and, overshadowing almost everything else, Heath Ledger's final complete performance before his unfortunate death, talked up a great deal even before Ledger passed away. So, does it deliver? Oh yes. In The Dark Knight, Nolan has essentially crafted the closest I have ever seen to a perfect comic book action film. Bale is superb taking up the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman once again, and the strength of his performance in Batman Begins allows him to put across a very real, yet very fantastical, portrayal of the hero. Eckhart also gives a stunning performance, making his character Harvey Dent a complex weave of honesty and dishonesty, charm and smarm, and always teetering on the edge of stability and sanity. His transformation throughout the film is expertly put across. The supporting cast are never anything short of extremely solid - the dependable trio of Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine return from the first film to provide a solid foundation to the film. Caine's chemistry with Bale is something I picked up on, particularly on a second viewing, providing the film with a great deal of heart, but also humour. Ledger's performance is monumental, stealing every scene he is in, making his portrayal of The Joker a cocktail of madman, nihilist, sociopath and comedian. The amount of detail he includes, from The Joker's distinctive menacing drawl his to ticks and mannerisms means that his is a villain who you truly believe in at every moment in the film. In terms of writing, direction, cinematography, action sequences, length, and pretty much anything else you can think of, The Dark Knight delivers, and delivers incredibly well. The overarching story is one of the best I can remember seeing in a film for quite some time. I can't actually think of anything I can fault. Absolutely superb.

And to finish, just a couple of quick reviews of films I recently rewatched.

Spider-Man 3 [director: Sam Raimi; stars: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Topher Grace, Thomas Haden Church] - I enjoyed this less than I did the first time I saw it. There's nothing particularly wrong with it, but then it doesn't do much that's worthwhile either. Maguire, Dunst and Franco add nothing to their characters from the previous two installments. Grace is vastly underutilised as Eddie Brock and his alter-ego Venom. Haden Church is an excellent actor, but he has absolutely nothing to work with as Flint Marco/The Sandman, a character who had no purpose whatsoever in the film except watering it down, reducing the focus and needlessly complicating facts already laid down in the franchise. Enjoyable enough overall, but it largely has no direction in terms of story whatsoever, bumbling along instead giving you very little to care about.

Blades Of Glory [directors: Josh Gordon, Will Speck; stars: Will Ferrell, Jon Heder, Jenna Fisher, Craig T. Nelson] - Better on a repeat viewing. Heder and Ferrell portray the characters of Jimmy Mackleroy and Chazz Michael Michaels respectively very well, although there are moments throughout the film that I sensed they were merely on comedy auto-pilot, Ferrell in particular. Some of the other characters come off as somewhat one-dimensional, but the laughs are still there, meaning the film never becomes tiresome. Ultimately very enjoyable and very funny, if nothing particularly deep or highly crafted.

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