July 14th, 2008
01:53 PM ET

Three thoughts on 'The Dark Knight'

Just got back from “The Dark Knight.” The following is not a review, but merely observations - to borrow from Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, three things I think I think. (And I don’t think there are any stupendous spoilers to follow, but as always, I think “caveat lector” is in order. You have been warned):

Heath Ledger's Joker (above) may have earned all the raves, but don't forget about the rest of the cast - including Gary Oldman and Aaron Eckhart.

1. Heath Ledger has been earning all the praise - and justifiably, since his Joker is terrific - but the heart of “The Dark Knight” belongs to its one unalloyed good guy, Gary Oldman’s police lieutenant Jim Gordon. Who would have thought that the actor who created a number of his own reckless personalities - including “Sid and Nancy’s” Sid Vicious, “JFK’s” Lee Harvey Oswald and “Hannibal’s” Mason Verger - could be so true?

2. a. I miss Anton Furst. The production designer for 1989’s “Batman” created a bleak, cavernous Gotham City based on a New York with no zoning laws. “The Dark Knight” calls its locale Gotham City, but like “Batman Begins,” it was largely filmed in Chicago - and it looks like Chicago, right down to the landmark Board of Trade looming over one major scene. (“Batman Begins,” with large chunks set at Wayne Manor and in the Far East, didn’t make the city as big a character - nor was it as brightly lit, at least in memory.)

2. b. On the other hand, though many critics will call “The Dark Knight” a “comic-book movie” (which is often damning praise), it’s really more like a gangster film with supernatural elements. (It even includes Eric Roberts and his gang talking in the tough-guy ‘30s gangster movie vernacular, and - at times - Ledger's voice seemed to contain elements of Peter Lorre and James Cagney.) In that respect, Chicago is the perfect setting, with its rich film history leading from “The Public Enemy” to “The Sting” to “The Untouchables.” Given more time and a story that didn’t require summer-movie heroics and special effects, I think director Christopher Nolan could have given “The Dark Knight” even more depth than it has. At times the operatic splendor of the film, along with its deliberate pace, reminded me of “The Godfather.” I’m not joking.

3. When a movie is called “The Dark Knight,” it means it. The emphasis is very much on “Dark.” If there’s a nod to its PG-13 audience, it’s that - for all the gunshots and explosions - there isn’t much blood. Which doesn’t mean that the movie doesn’t have a pessimistic soul. If it had been made in the early ‘70s - free of today’s glossiness - it would have made “The French Connection” look hopeful.

It should be noted that "The Dark Knight" is from Warner Bros., which, like CNN, is a unit of Time Warner.

Stay tuned for Tom Charity’s review, coming Thursday. And here’s what Time had to say.

Finally, if you've got some Batman trivia, we've got the perfect place for it: our iReport site. Go here and offer your suggestion.

- Todd Leopold, CNN.com Entertainment Producer


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