Review: The Dark Knight in IMAX
GOTHAM'S shadowy crimefighter boasts a batsuit made out of a Kevlar material which can deflect bullets and looks great in the dark.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a zip in the crotch, which is why there’s a huge queue of caped avengers waiting for the men’s cubicles at the BFI IMAX in South Bank.
It’s carnival time at London’s biggest screen, and the guest of honour is a costumed crusader who wouldn’t be seen dead at a party – unless there’s a clown or two to punch in the face.
While Memento director Christopher Nolan’s first stab at the stricken Batman franchise was a big deal, it was a straight-to-video Steven Seagal caper compared to The Dark Knight.
Batfans pierced through the heart by previous helmer Joel Schumacher’s horrifying rubber bat-nipples would have started queuing for this at Christmas if security had let them. And the tragic death of previously-maligned Joker actor Heath Ledger turned sniffy critics into flag-bearers for a crusade to invite a comic-book villain onto the Academy’s top table.
The resulting frenzy has seen The Dark Knight break box office records in the US, slapping the awful Spiderman 3 off its tower with a $158.4 opening weekend. And fans have already flooded film website IMDb to crown the movie as the best of all time, above The Godfather and Casablanca.
The UK epicentre of this shockwave is in South Bank, where the BFI IMAX has been leaving its projector on throughout the night to deal with world-record breaking demand. As many as 44 of the 139 screenings sold out before the film even launched. Organisers laid on 2.30am and 5.30am showings for the batty and bleary-eyed, and sold them out for three days straight. Big Brother’s tabloid target Russell Brand turned up on opening night, tugging his black beanie hat over his features for privacy like a woollen budget-hero.
After all, if you’re going to witness movie history, you might as well have it jammed into your brain like a china plate through an eye socket. The Dark Knight features six sequences filmed with IMAX cameras, which means that when Batman leaps off a Chinese skyscraper in the dead of night, you be sure to check that your stomach hasn’t leaped out of your throat into your popcorn.
But The Dark Knight isn’t just a cinematic show-boater, an epitaph to a fine actor or a backdrop to Batman actor Christian Bale’s row with his relatives. It’s an unrelentingly bleak two-and-a-half hours which gets into the brains of its characters, before cruelly burrowing into yours.
While Batman Begins developed the back-story of Bob Kane’s 1940s creation, The Dark Knight explores the madness that drives his crusade, and the far darker roads it can take you when it splinters off into anarchy. Batman’s code of honour is the central theme of Nolan’s tale, one that puts him into conflict with Heath Ledger’s Joker, an “agent of chaos��? who torments Bruce Wayne as he moodily mulls over his responsibilities, his desires and his role in crime-riven Gotham.
Ledger is an intoxicating presence, full of lip-smacking menace, but the film stands up on three other legs as well, balancing the stony-faced snarl of Bale’s twisted vigilante, the fragile human heroics of Aaron Eckhart’s district attorney Harvey Dent, and the simple dedication of Gary Oldman’s honest cop Jim Gordon.
The Dark Knight doesn’t offer you a smile as slashes at your brain, but it’s a welcome addition to the smart set of comic book classics. Better still, if you can beg, borrow or steal a ticket for South Bank, you can see it all on a screen nearly as big as your house.