Written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Running Time: 2:32
for intense sequences of violence
and some menace.
The Dark Knight was a strong, but long, superhero movie with one outstanding performance.
Gotham City has cleaned up a lot of the criminals since Batman stepped into the world. With Lieutenant Jim Gordon and new D.A. Harvey Dent on the job, Gotham is very close to getting rid of the last mob ties to the city. But a new criminal is on the loose, and he is more sadistic and insane than anyone really knows. The Joker has no background, no morals, and no problem killing everyone in sight, just to make a point. But the more he kills, the more the people of the city start to wonder if Batman really is worth having around. And the guilt that lives within Bruce Wayne may force him into the shadows for good.
Let me first say, I don't think The Dark Knight is the be-all and end-all of superhero movies, no matter how much money it makes this weekend and overall. I did like the movie more than Batman Begins although I did have some of the same problems. What sets The Dark Knight apart however is the criminal genius known as The Joker and a tremendous final performance from Heath Ledger.
Hype is an amazing thing. It can drive people into a frenzy without having any real idea what they're in for. The hype for The Dark Knight was out of control and a lot of that was based on Ledger. Some of it has to do with his untimely death a few months ago and there are some people who will go to see the movie for that reason. But in my opinion, the hype for Ledger's performance is all completely deserved. Considering the kind of movies he started with, Ledger turned into one of the best actor's of his generation. I still have his role in Brokeback Mountain as one of my top 5 all-time favorites. It was so heartbreakingly real that to this day his final scene still haunts me. And now the entire world can see just how talented he was. His take on The Joker leaves the campy version of Jack Nicholson in the dust. Ledger's Joker is a demented, brilliant and psychotic criminal who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. He's always one step ahead of everyone and at times, two and three steps ahead. The simple joy he gets from torturing innocent people is scarier than anything I've seen since Hannibal Lecter appeared on the scene in The Silence of the Lambs. Whether a role in a film like this is going to gain Oscar recognition is still to be seen, but there is no question that as Ledger's final performance is one for the ages.
The rest of the cast was pretty good. Christian Bale as Batman was as solid as he was in the first film. He didn't seem to have as much to do this time around. When I think back on the film, I can't picture him in a lot of scenes, but I know he was there. There was a lot of brooding and uncertainty this time around. The one thing I will say is that his Batman voice can sound a little comical. When he's yelling at people and barking out lines, it's not bad, but when he goes into a 3 or 4 sentence monologue, it's a little funny. Morgan Freeman didn't have a lot to do this time around. Maggie Gyllenhaal took over the role of Rachel from Katie Holmes and it wasn't an upgrade, although it wasn't a downgrade either. Really, any actress could play this role since it wasn't a really important one. Gary Oldman was strong as Lieutenant Gordon and he had a much larger role this time around. The other real big performance came from Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent. He had arguably the biggest character arc of anyone and we get to see him go from a do-gooder to being morally corrupt. It was a pretty stellar transformation.
The other big thing about Eckhart was when he turns into Two-Face. The special effects used to turn half his face ugly was incredible. It looked amazingly realistic and completely disgusting. Be forewarned, it's kind of hard to look at, but pretty impressive. Along with that special effect, the rest of the look and feel of the film was really nice. Batman has always been one of the darkest of the superheroes and the city of Gotham has always been fairly gothic. This film feels like it takes place in present day while at the same time feeling old and worn. There are a lot of shadows in which to hide and a lot of places where things can go bang in the night. It doesn't have the overly comic feel of the Tim Burton version (and thankfully not the cheesy Vegas look of Joel Schumacher's) but the city is a real character in the film. The action sequences were OK if not all that special. Watching the truck flip in the street was nice, but as it was showcased in previews, there was no surprise there. There were your typical fight scenes and shots of Batman flying through the air, but a lot of the mayhem came at the hands of the Joker.
The plot of the movie was interesting because there wasn't a real linear story. It was more about dealing with right and wrong and people's moral values. Things would happen and at each turn someone had to make a decision that could lead to good things or really bad things. I suppose the story at its most basic is about Batman hunting down the Joker, but really the story is about what each one of us would do in a certain situation. The Joker wants to try and exploit people's values while Batman is determined to hold on to his. It was a rather refreshing story in that there was nothing forced in to try and make it a normal superhero movie. It was dark and depressing and at times, very psychotic, but it certainly made you think.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall I enjoyed The Dark Knight. It was one of the better superhero movies I've seen, although still not the best I feel. It was long, much like the last one, and if it had been shortened by maybe 30 minutes and the pacing kept up, it would have been great. Basically from an hour and fifteen minutes in, to the end of the film, you had a great movie. It was the first half that felt a little slow and plodding. But it all comes to a good conclusion and you'll walk out of the theater satisfied. And likely talking about what could have been with the late, great Heath Ledger.
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