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‘Dark Knight’ ‘s ‘ledger-demain’ might fool ya!

Carly at the Movies column by Carl Larsen

Just because “The Dark Knight” is breaking all kinds of box-office records does not necessarily mean that it’s the greatest thing to come along since plastic vomit. And the fact that it’s worshipped by virtually all the critics doesn’t mean that you and I, dear reader, have to bow down at the Bat altar.

This film, the follow-up to Christopher Nolan’s popular “Batman Begins,” is over two-and-a-half hours long, and believe me, it seems to get longer and longer as chase scene follows chase scene and a variety of Bat vehicles screech around the streets of Gotham while heroes and villains alike pause to muse on the nature of good, evil, fear and everything else under the sun except the price of bologna.

Yes, it’s true: this comic-book movie is stuffed with the same solemn pomposity that flawed “The Matrix” films, and brings an end to rational thought in a rapidly-growing list of stinkers like “Sin City” and “300.” A stellar list of actors (Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Eric Roberts, et al) having to pretend to take all this dime-store philosophy seriously is grating on one’s nerves. And to boot, like newly-hitched lovers, one is bound to grow weary from the story having too many climaxes.

On the other hand, you might very well have the wool pulled over your eyes by the (pardon, but couldn’t resist the pun) Ledger-demain of Heath’s performance. Though not the nominal star (that would be Christian Bale, with voice rarely rising above that of a hoarse whisper, which indicates seriousness, I assume), Heath Ledger sweeps up the film with a bravura performance. Playing the comic villain The Joker (last assayed by Jack Nicholson), Ledger brings an absolutely maniacal existentialism (“I just do things!” he says) to what has always been a role for nothing more than a wise guy. He pulls it off with a magnificent intensity.

If the film weren’t so long, so serious, so dreary, so dark, and so puffed full of hot air, I’d see it again just to enjoy Ledger’s enjoyment of himself. He is honestly, deliciously good at being a guy so evil that he enjoys blowing up a hospital.

Why drag you through the needlessly-complex plot? It’s variations on a comic book, fer chrissakes. And so full of twists and turns (peppered by pregnant pauses for penny-dreadful philosophizing) that eventually one grows weary of simply following the dalliances of too many characters.

Yes, I admit it. I lost focus. I didn’t know what the hell was going on. And after awhile, I just didn’t care who was doing what to whom, and simply fidgeted while awaiting Ledger’s next scene. Forgive me. I am only human. Most of the time.

Looking back on these first 400 words, I realize this is not a review, but a reaction. So, you want to know what happens? Watch TV. Richard Roeper, the stuck-uppedy guy running Roger Ebert’s “At the Movies” show, will try to convince you to see the movie whilst repeating his Bat mantra, “This is the greatest comic-book movie ever made.” And after hearing that, I couldn’t help but mutter, “And your point is?”

Frankly, I wouldn’t take young kids to see “The Dark Knight.” It gets a bit graphic, and while the wee ones will enjoy the car chases and explosions, there’s a bit too much gore between the sessions of smug sanctity.

Sorry I can’t recommend this film. It seems to have duped the vast majority of movie critics. Unless, of course, I have entirely missed the boat. And the mere thought, the whisper of a chance that I might be wrong about something is enough to upset my delicate stomach. So excuse me: I have to go to the Bat’room.

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