Thursday, August 5, 2010

Short Reviews: The Prestige (2006), The Dark Knight (2008)

The Prestige (Christopher Nolan, 2006)

I found the confusion experienced by The Prestige at first an intriguing mystery, but ultimately an unnecessary deterrent from its value as an entertaining film. This is quite a morbid film about fierce rivalry and personal obsession told via flashback and using techniques of misdirection. Christopher Nolan's film tries to replicate the subject of its narrative, existing itself as a magic trick, utilizing, via special effects, an ability to replicate his leads. The mystery is how the characters achieve the same means within the film. Both Borden (Bale) and Angier (Jackman) are quite well developed and it is their respective approaches to their craft that provide the quite obvious reveals, despite all of Nolan's misdirections. I believe The Prestige is far too long, and a case of being 'too clever for its own good.' It takes a very long time to stick to an idea, rather than just recounting their rivalry. Bale and Jackman are both solid but unspectacular, presenting a pretty unlikable pair of rivals. Michael Caine is always great, and David Bowie was impressive but Scarlett Johansson was flat out awful. In my opinion, this is the weakest of Nolan's features to date.

My Rating: 3 Stars

The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)

The Dark Knight, surrounded by so much hype and the tragic death of the films' star Heath Ledger, answered the challenge better than most films in 2008. Originally I was blown away, but my opinions of the film have diminished on subsequent viewings and the flaws in the narrative have become very obvious. Technically it remains a fine achievement, but it stands only as a solid sequel to the more impressive Batman Begins (2005). The Dark Knight doesn't just sit as a superhero film but of a dark urban crime thriller drawing issues of terrorism and anarchy, a criminal underworld, and the blurred lines of what people perceive to be a heroic figure. Many of the key cast members have returned, and are once again excellent. But i don't remember Maggie Gyllenhaal's performance being so awful. With really little to do in this one, Christian Bale returns as the conflicted persona of Bruce Wayne, challenged on all sides by a diminished public popularity, copycats, and unrelentless taunting from his newest adversary, known as The Joker (played astonishingly by Heath Ledger). The Joker is a disfigured, twisted character who seeks to dominate Gotham City with anarchic behavior and leave it in ruin out of pure evil. Batman, with the aid of Gordon (Gary Oldman, always superb) raise new DA Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) to the status of Gotham's heroic figure, or white knight, a face that Gotham can turn to in this time of unrest and chaos. It's a well conceived plot that never lets up the intensity, but is let down by moments of unbelievable convenience and frequent wallows into cliche. The action scenes are truly spectacular, and the best moments of the film are owned by The Joker. On repeat viewings, the film feels far too long, with many of the sequences unnecessary. Yet Harvey's transformation into Two Face seemed ridiculously rushed and the Joker's capture at the conclusion disappointingly swift. Heath Ledger's performance will forever be remembered, and despite the growing list of issues, The Dark Knight is still one of the better film releases of 2008.

My Rating: 4 Stars


  1. Hey Andy, looked this up after your twitter comment that you had re-watched TDK again, and still had many issues with it (as do I, btw).

    Can you expand on this: "...but is let down by moments of unbelievable convenience and frequent wallows into cliche"?

    1. Whoa this was so long ago. I don't necessarily agree with that excerpt now.

      I really dislike the sequences on the boat, because it is an extension of an idea that had just been addressed prior with Harvey and Rachel being held separately. It is just too long, and just about every sequence following the Joker's destruction of the hospital is weak. Its incoherent when Batman utilises that giant surveillance machine to locate the Joker, and the sub-antagonists - the corrupt cops that Harvey goes after - are an unconvincing addition.

      Whenever Heath Ledger occupies the screen the film is fantastic, and visually it is an experience, but some of dialogue, and the convenience of bringing back characters after they have been introduced a few times before makes me cringe. Also, because of the length, I just lose interest in the last act. It has depreciated every time I watch it. I never really understood why.

      My interest in TDKR: about 70%. Something I'll get crucified for saying haha.