Title: The Dark Knight
Movie directed by Christopher Nolan; screenplay by Christopher Nolan and Johnathan Nolan; starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Morgan Freeman
Somehow, some way, someone upstairs must’ve decided that I deserved an early birthday present, and I got some free passes to see The Dark Knight yesterday evening. As you probably have surmised from the header and the fact that we are having a Batman weekend, my expectations for The Dark Knight were astronomically high.
And The Dark Knight was everything I could ever have wanted. And more. It blew my expectations out of the water.
Examining the summer blockbusters so far, we have Iron Man, Indiana Jones, Wall-E and Hellboy II. While arguably Wall-E deals with deeper issues, all these movies have in common a summer blockbuster-y levity to them. The Dark Knight says ‘eff-you’ to all that nonsense–this is a winter movie masquerading as a summer blockbuster. Take this as a caveat–if you go to watch The Dark Knight this weekend (as you all should do), do not expect the light, super fun flicks we have come to expect. This is a film that lives up to its name and relishes in the darkness of its subject material–and at 2 and 1/2 hours long, the oppression is complete. Rest assured that it is tempered with hope, but know that this is not your light-hearted Tony Stark or delightfully camp Indy flick.
As Wayne Manor has been destroyed in the events of Batman Begins, Bruce and Alfred take up residence in a penthouse. The Batcave has been relocated and revived in an underground lair, beneath a Wayne Enterprises construction site. And Batman is busy at work, dismantling Gotham’s money laundering and mob scene criminal by criminal. With old mob boss Falcone indefinitely incapacitated, new bosses, like Marconi, have taken up the reins. The thing is, the criminals of Gotham are hitting a slump. The masked Batman has become a symbol of hope for the people, and noble minded folk like District Attorney Harvey Dent and Lieutenant Jim Gordon are not afraid to take a stand against crime and the criminals they might have been coerced into shutting up for in an earlier time. So, the bosses face a common problem. And a solution presents itself.
The Joker crashes the party. With his moldy colored hair, his smeared, creased makeup, and scarred face, he tells the bosses that in order to stop the wave of hope mucking up their plans, they have to treat the cause, not the symptoms. That cause would be the Batman. At first, the criminals dismiss this as the machinations of a madman, a freak. But when Harvey Dent, Rachel Dawes and Jim Gordon manage to bring a serious case against ALL of the major criminals in Gotham, they decide to take the Joker up on his offer, and let the proverbial dog out of his cage…and Gotham needs all the help it can get.
Heath Ledger’s Joker blends the comical flair of Jack Nicholson’s portrayal, but manages a terrifying edge that speaks true to its source material–the Joker of The Killing Joke, The Man Who Laughs and The Dark Knight Returns is personified flawlessly here. The late Mr. Ledger is not overhyped in the slightest–his performance is perfection, simply put. He makes this movie, and manages to blow Jack Nicholson’s version outta the water.
The Joker cares nothing for ends or purposes; his only purpose is chaos. As the Joker says to Harvey, he’s like the dog that chases a car in the street: should he ever CATCH the car, he would not know what to do with it–it’s the DOING, the CHASE that matters. And thus, his fixation with the Batman. All his actions in this movie helping the mob bosses, all stem back to his fixation with the man behind the mask, who he sees as a freak…like him. In a particularly morbid line lifted from Jerry Maguire, the Joker tells Batman–“You complete me.”
Perhaps the best thing about this film is the feeling of futility in the face of madness. The Joker is a man that has no agenda other than anarchy–as Bruce Wayne tries to find SOME way to get through to him, Alfred tells him that there are some men that do not need reason for their madness–they just are. As the demented schemes the Joker concoct escalate, the darkness is choking, oppressive. How can you deal with a man that has no remorse, or personal ties? A sociopath this complete and this intelligent is capable of unspeakable acts, and The Dark Knight conveys this with aplomb. What can you DO with a criminal that wants nothing but death in return?
The other very notable entry here is Aaron Eckhart, in his role as Gotham’s knight in shining armor, the honorable Harvey Dent. In all invocations of his character, Mr. Eckhart plays to perfection. He has that trustworthy charm that one sees in good politicians, reminiscent of his role in Thank You for Smoking, in the role of the D.A. As for his fate…well, as they say, that is history. Fans of the comics, particularly of the Frank Miller arc, will not be disappointed.
And what about the Dark Knight himself? Christian Bale’s reprisal as Bruce Wayne is, as expected, brilliant. He is an actor that fills out his roles to the fullest, and his Batman here is no exception. The characterization of Batman here holds true with graphic novels Ana and I have been reading and reviewing this long weekend. He makes some questionable decisions in this film, and sees just how far he will have to go to catch a madman like the Joker. The question is, is he willing to go there? Batman isn’t a ‘hero’, like say Superman. He is masked and dwells in darkness and shadow–he watches and protects Gotham, and will be whatever he is needed to be. The conclusion of the movie only exemplifies this.
As for the other main roles: Maggie Gyllenhaal does a fine job transitioning to the role of Rachel after Katie Holmes, Michael Caine is a cynical but funny Alfred, and Gary Oldman does an impeccable Jim Gordon. Gordon’s role here is larger and more significant than in the first film, to which I say, Thank Goodness.
The plot is multilayered and incredibly complex. At 2.5 hrs, this is not the fastest, easiest movie to watch, but it is so very worth it. And, lest you think that it is all death and corruption–at the end of the day, the message is one of hope, despite bleakness. In the words of Harvey Dent, “the night is darkest before the dawn.” And the dawn is coming.
Indeed, The Dark Knight delivers on every level. This is my favorite movie of the summer, and of the year so far.
Additional Thoughts: The previews for this huge blockbuster ain’t too shabby either. Case in point, the first ever Watchmen trailer! Fittingly set to Billy Corgan’s (The Smashing Pumpkins) song from Batman and Robin (the only good thing to come out of the movie), ‘The Beginning is the End is the Beginning’, Watchmen is another one of those movies I am peeing my pants over. It looks awesome. You can check it out HERE
Rating: 10 Perfection – My favorite movie of the year thus far. Worth watching by everyone, and I highy recommend it.