There’s something kind of paradoxical about seeing the movie theater you are sitting in on the screen in the movie you are watching. That was the case as two ferries pulled away from Gotham Harbor, or should I say Chicago’s Navy Pier, in the second installment of the latest (and far superior) franchise of the Batman series: The Dark Knight.
Chicago played a more believable background for this epic battle of good and evil, especially compared to Tim Burton’s miniatures in the campy Batman franchise of the nineties. Sitting in the theater it was fun to hear the excited whispers of people pointing out some of the more recognizable locations in and around Chicago. Bruce Wayne’s penthouse is across the street from the hotel my parents stayed in when they came to visit. Remember when Harvy Dent meets with the mob boss? That takes place in a rail yard about three blocks from my dorm. The buses of the Gotham Transit Authority seem to have a very familiar blue and red stripe of the Chicago Transit Authority’s buses (but then again, it’s not hard to make CTA look like GTA). The city hall is the old post office (which is right along my daily bus route). The forward-flipping 18-wheeler scene takes place all along LaSalle Street, about 8 blocks from where I work: I’m essentially spending the summer in Gotham City, working for PepsiCo-Gotham.
But was there any other choice for the location of Gotham. Yes, Gotham it is loosely based on New York City. But Chicago is a better fit for the mold of a city with a rich history of crime (well-organized at that) bubbling underneath a city of commerce and ordinary citizens. With few of the city’s landmarks receiving more than a pan-over, the art-deco architecture looks as though it was pulled out of the pages of a dark comic book; beautiful yet forebodingly dark, one-time symbols of progress that serve as timekeepers of a city’s changes through the decades. A background for the good, the playground for the corrupt.
As far as the movie goes, this is truly one of the best movies of the year, and if you know me you know I do not throw that term around lightly. My wish is that, if you any qualms about seeing a movie about a comic book character, move beyond them. The movie is more than just good guy and bad guy; it’s about self-sacrifice, resolve and the admission of responsibility even at great costs. The acting is superb, and that’s not just limited to the much-lamented Heath Ledger. Plus, it’s awesome to see a car exploding across from a nearby Potbelly’s.