Yes, in order to prove that at least some of my interests are concurrent with prevalent cultural norms, and also in order to have two concurrent blog posts indicating my affinity for alliteration (almost always attempted (alongside assonance), as appropriate), here is a bit of a review / analysis of The Dark Knight, starring Christian Bale and Heath Ledger, and directed by Christopher Nolan. It, of course, attempts to stay as spoiler-free as possible.
Caveat: I’ve never been a huge fan of the Batman movies. I’ve seen both of the “Batman Begins” movies now, and Batman and Robin, part of Batman Forever, and that’s it. I’ve always been a much bigger fan of the animated Batman, watching the old Batman animated series, Justice League (and JLU), and Batman Beyond (will I get stoned by DC purists if I say that’s my favorite Batman story?). I grew up with Batman action figures and toys, and I always knew he was cooler than Superman, but I’m no super-fan. That said, don’t look here for comparisons to the comics or whatnot; this review is based as much as possible around the film endeavor itself.
And the film does not disappoint. This movie has it all – great writing and acting, superhero action, a forbidden love drama subplot, gut-wrenching inner turmoil on the part of the hero, and even a few laughs, mostly at the hands of a truly chilling and incredibly evil villain. Plot-wise, the movie shows the rise of the Joker, a maniacal anarchist who forces Batman to make critical decisions about the method in which he continues his vigilante crime fighting. Bruce Wayne has to deal with the pressure both from the criminal underbelly of Gotham city and from its legal justice system, enamored with the sparkling new DA, Harvey Dent.
This film is incredible on so many levels, not the least of which is its writing. It manages to convey Batman’s sense of insecurity about what he must become in order to be an effective crime fighter – realizing that in order to fight the most ruthless enemy Gotham has ever faced, he must become ruthless himself, even going so far as to become hated by Gotham’s citizens. This dilemma is presented from different angles and through different choices made by Bruce Wayne throughout the film, and probably represents the central theme of this movie. If Batman Begins was about Bruce Wayne’s transformation into Batman, this movie is about Batman’s transformation into Batman (does that make sense?).
There are other factors involved in Batman’s drama, including Bruce Wayne’s would-be mistress Rachel Dawes, and the aforementioned DA Harvey Dent. Some of the things Wayne does as Batman strain his real-world relationships with everyone from Rachel to his gadgeteer Lucius Fox to his butler Alfred. Meanwhile Dent’s star is rising, and the District Attorney shows a gusto for doing Batman’s job both legally and charismatically. Some of the greatest tension in the film comes when Harvey Dent has to make real decisions about the consequences of his actions with Gotham’s criminal circuit.
This movie literally had me gripped in a mixture of anticipation and dread the whole time, partially because of the aforementioned overall tension, and partly because of the gravity of this film’s villain, Heath Ledger’s Joker. Ledger owned the role in this movie. The Joker is creepy, perverse, and downright evil, and everybody knows it but the Joker, who thinks he is doing Gotham a service in his anarchic antics. Mr. J in this film was constantly a leering step ahead of the heroes, either tricking them into falling in line or simply letting them do their hardest to avert his schemes, and watching them play into his tricks. Every time the Joker was on camera, the movie became that much more compelling, and my biggest complaint with this movie is that Heath Ledger won’t be able to reprise the role in a later film outing (the actor died in January of a pill overdose).
Speaking of complaints about the movie, I have none. Okay, I lied. I have one; the Batmobile causes too much collateral damage. Okay I’m done. Otherwise I don’t have a single problem with this movie, which is great because the makers didn’t make a single mistake in producing it. The Dark Knight gets, from this theatregoer, a 9.5/10 (-0.5 for too many explosions, seriously Batmobile), and a 10/10 when I stop whining and think objectively about the film. Go see it.
Oh, and one more note. Apparently this film was one of the first to be shot using IMAX film cameras for a few scenes. It’s worth shelling out a couple extra bucks to see it in IMAX if you have one near you.