Heath Ledger was from my hometown, so when he expired from TOO MUCH DRUGS back in January I was subject to a cacophony of wailing tributes and memorials about what a great guy/Australian/actor/etc he was, became extremely fed up with it, and stuck firm to my opinion that any father of a three-year old daughter who dies from a drug overdose cannot possibly be a good person.

But a went and saw the Dark Knight today and holy fucking shit. I no longer find it at all difficult to believe that playing such a demented, twisted character contributed to his death somehow. That’s the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in the can right there.

Even aside from Ledger’s performance the movie is brilliant, being not only the best superhero movie ever made but also the best movie of 2008 so far (and I saw There Will Be Blood this year). I dislike the idea of superheroes. If you grow up with them and therefore reserve a soft and tender spot of your heart for your childhood heroes, you may find it difficult to judge them without bias. They’re fundamentally silly. I’m sorry, but that’s all there is to it.

But The Dark Knight is more of an action/thriller film than a superhero movie, with scenes reminiscent of Heat or The Departed, dealing with corruption in the police force, desperate hostage scenarios, and disturbing themes. There’s some excellent cinematography, a great soundtrack… really everything a jaded cynic like myself could ask for. I was thoroughly impressed and more than a little pissed off at Ledger for getting himself killed and thus depriving us of the Joker’s presence in another Batman movie.

While on the topic of superhero films, I also learned that a trailer had been released for Watchmen. If you hadn’t heard, it’s halfway through production and slated for an ’09 release date. The word that comes to mind is “ill-advised.” Particularly when the director is Zack Snyder, whose most notable only accomplishments are Dawn of the Dead and 300.

The trailer was somewhat painful to watch, especially because it made me realise that this wouldn’t actually be a bad movie if a better director was at the helm. Watchmen does not, of course, need to be a movie – it’s a story about comic book heroes that’s successful because it’s a comic book – but it could be a damn good one if it was done properly. It’s just highly unlikely that Snyder is capable of doing that. The trailer goes to great lengths to portray the heroes as total awesome badasses when the entire point of Watchmen was that they’re not. I could use the phrase “the entire point of” to give you another dozen examples of why this movie will be an embarassment to everyone involved in its production, but I won’t, because right now I’m still riding that Dark Knight buzz.

If you haven’t already seen it go do so, and every ten minutes imagine what it would be like if they’d kept the original Batman theme.

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