I finally got around to seeing The Dark Knight over the weekend.
And wow… the film looks nothing like the previous Batman movies.
In fact, it looks more like a Michael Mann movie.
The Chicago location gave Gotham a much more realistic city atmosphere than we've become accustomed to seeing in the previous Batman movies.
And when I read that one of director Christopher Nolan's biggest influences for the film's style was the movie Heat, which starred Al Pacino and Robert Deniro, I wasn't surprised.
Anyone viewing the two movies will immediately see this in the cinematography and editing styles. There's even a nod to Heat with the cameo appearance of William Fichtner as a Bank Manager during the opening robbery sequence.
In fact, if The Dark Knight wasn't a superhero movie, I'd swear it was a crime drama along the lines of Heat, Thief, Miami Vice or Collateral. From the use of the color blue as a motif to the glass window offices, penthouses and buildings of Gotham's inhabitants, the film just felt like a Michael Mann crime drama.
Heath Ledger's performance was excellent. It was dark, brooding and scary. I can see how he may have fallen into a depression after dwelling in the mind of such a psychopathic character.
As usual, there were some fun supporting character turns from Morgan Freeman and Micheal Caine, as well as a more nuanced performance from Gary Oldman, who I can't help but think looks like The Simpson's neighbor Ned Flanders when I see him wearing that mustache and glasses.
Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart and Maggie Gyllenhaal also turned in first-rate performances that could easily have translated into more conventional crime drama movies.
The Dark Knight's grim and tragic sensibilities also gave it a totally different viewpoint than your standard superhero flick. Whether this is good or bad depends on the viewer.
Now, don't get me wrong. I loved the film. I'm a huge Michael Mann fan. And I applaud Nolan for a job well done.
I'm even convinced this is a better approach than the comic cartoon versions turned in previously starring Clooney, Kilmer, et al.
But all of this does bring up the question: Is this going to be a trend we can expect to see more of in American superhero action films?