Friday, July 18, 2008

Movie Review: The Dark Knight

After the phenomenal success of 2005's Batman Begins, everyone thought topping that masterpiece was impossible. But director Christopher Nolan set out to prove them wrong with the much anticipated sequel The Dark Knight. And he has outdone himself beyond all imagining. The basic setup of the plot is this: Batman's war on crime, begun in the first movie, is going well. With his allies, policemen Jim Gordon and District attorney Harvey Dent at his side, the Caped Crusader has forced the mob into hiding. But just has Gotham City finally sees hope for the future, out of nowhere appears a monster: a scarred raving psychopath known only as the Joker. Unleashing anarchy, crime and death upon Gotham City, the Joker soon makes the city worse than ever before, and causes the Dark Knight to question his own mission.

The Pros: There's far too many to list. With all the buzz surrounding The Dark Knight, some people are probably thinking it may be all hype. I know, I used to think so. How could it possibly be better than Batman Begins? Believe me when I say, this film transcends anything that has ever come before it. Christian Bale continues to amaze us as Batman, as do the other members of the returning cast. Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine all fill their roles flawlessly. Newcomer Aaron Eckhart, who is being tragically overlooked by all the focus on Heath Ledger, gives an unforgettable performance, both as Harvey Dent and his alter ego Two-Face.

But make no mistake; Heath Ledger's Joker is undeniably the star of this film. I know many will see this movie because it is tragically the last complete film role of the late actor. But Ledger more that deserves every bit of praise he has received. Previously, I, like many, had thought know one to bet Jack Nicholson's portrayal of the Joker. But this blows anything that came before it right out of the water. The Joker is satanic, terrifying, yet captivating. You can't take your eyes off him, no matter how badly you want too. He bloodily carves his way through the film with such malice and flair that all other cinematic villains pale in comparison. Christopher Nolan doesn't waste time on an unnecessary origin story, instead letting the Joker torment his victims, and us, with gruesome false tales of his mysterious past. This was one of the elements that had made the character so enduring in the comics. And the Joker doesn't just kill you, he's out to prove that deep down, everyone else is just as bad as he is. He relishes is tormenting his victims mentally just as much, if not more so, that he does physically.

And the acting & characterization is just the beginning. The special effects continue to impress, remaining nominally realistic but still mind-blowing. CGI effects used to create Two-Faces scarring are particularly amazing, as if the character had walked right off the comic book pages.

The Cons: As much as I hate to admit it, this movie did have a minor problem that I must point out. While Harvey Dent is phenomenal as Two-Face, and his inclusion doesn't clutter up the storyline like multiple villains usually do, the character really isn't done justice. Those who know Two-Face from the comics know that he is a tormented schizophrenic, constantly warring mentally with his darker personality. But in order to fit him neatly into this film, that element had to be lost in order to compress his character. While he worked fine as is, it seems like a terrible waste. In truth, Two-Face deserves a Batman movie of his own.

The Rest: In case you haven't figured out, this movie is incredibly intense. Don't let the PG-13 rating fool you. This movie may not show much gore, it it still manages to be very frightening and disturbing. So it's probably not a good movie to take little children too. This ain't Cesar Romero, people.

The End: Brilliance, that's all I can say. No words can truly give The Dark Knight justice. Few films can truly be considered "must see movies", this is one of them. Movies like this only come along once in a lifetime. In the space of 2 1/2 hours, Christopher Nolan transports us into a world where literally anything is possible. This film is far from predictable, because it has the courage to break boundaries and do things that have never been done before. This is the film the Joker has always deserved, so people can see him as the frightening figure he truly is. This is a good as it can ever get, at a time when we thought it couldn't get any better.

Overall, I rate The Dark Knight as a 10 out of 10.

Click here to visit the official website for The Dark Knight.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Movie Review: The Mutant Chronicles

I'll be the first to admit that I know nothing about the role-playing game upon which this film is based. But if you're a fan of the Mutant Chronicles RPG, let me assure you that based on what I do know, The Mutant Chronicles is only loosely based on its namesake. But it more or less sticks to the man idea, so hopefully you will be satisfied.

As for the movie as a stand alone, here's the basic synopsis. Thousands of years ago, an evil machine fell to earth from space and began turning people into undead "necromutants". A warrior raised an army, subdued the mutants, and sealed the machine underground. Fast foreword to the year 2707, where corporations rule the world instead of governments, waging endless war on each other. During a one such battle they accidentally uncover the machine and it resumes zombie making, forcing humanity to flee the earth. An order of monks, who've guarded against the machine since its burial, have a prophecy that foretells the machine's destruction, and the head monk gathers a small squad of soldiers to go underground and blow it up.

The Pros: This movie looks pretty good especially for an independent film. It's mostly stuff we’ve seen before, but the incorporation of steampunk sci-fi makes it slightly more memorable. The cast is probably the best part of this movie, particularly the two principle actors, Thomas Jane and Ron Pearlman. They may be playing stock characters, but they still give excellent performances. The action was pretty descent, and the combination of gun fighting and sword play was pretty cool to watch.

The Cons: The plot is pretty simplistic and predictable. Most of the time it feels more like a video game than a movie. The basic logic of the world they've set up is also pretty implausible. They've got a future world where everything’s powered by steam, and yet they still have space travel. I'm sorry, but I just don't buy a steam-powered spaceship, and I doubt many people will. The zombie science is kind of ambiguous; apparently swords hurt them but not bullets for no given reason. Also the term "Necromutants" was kinda stupid. Just call 'em what they are: zombies!

The Rest: Just so you know, this film is uber-gory (what else would you expect from a zombie flick?) It's not jut zombie gore, either. A lot of humans get pretty ripped up too. So if you’re easily grossed out, this is not for you.

The End: Overall I did not hate this movie. It wasn't great, but it was good enough to hold my attention to the end. Thomas Jane is one of my favorite actors, and as usual he kept things cool with that tough raspy voice and no nonsense attitude of his. It was also interesting to see Ron Pearlman playing against type as the holy man. Except for the steampunk element, there's no difference between this and every other zombie flick you've ever seen.

Overall, I rate The Mutant Chronicles as a 7 out of 10.

Check out the movie official website here.