Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman, Eric Roberts, Nestor Carbonell
It's finally time to see if the sequel to Batman Begins lives up to the hype that has followed it since the death of Heath Ledger earlier this year. Reviews have been positive all around and the buzz is that this is THE film of the year. So, is it?
And now, in the words of The Joker himself: and here....we....go!
The Dark Knight begins with a bank robbery, organised by the clown prince of crime himself. It's just the beginning of what will be an ingenius plan to bring Gotham City to its knees.
Speaking of Gotham, it has changed from the time Bruce Wayne returned to it in the first film. Thanks to Batman and Lt. Jim Gordon, the criminals in Gotham are running scared, and the presence of the Batman has inspired some wannabe vigilantes dressed up like bats. But now, the city receives two new players to the game.
First and foremost is District Attorney Harvey Dent, who along with Bruce's former girlfriend Rachel Dawes work hard to prosecute all the major crime bosses in the city. He is so successful that Gordon recommends to Batman to join forces with him. Together, the three men are triumphant in arresting a Chinese money launderer in cahoots with organised crime in Gotham, which is a big win for the right side of the law.
But then, here's where the second player steps in to change the rules. A man simply known as The Joker. He's strange, psychopathic and wears white makeup to intimidate, yet gain the attention of the criminals of Gotham. He offers them a chance to seize back control of the city, but what The Joker really wants is something more basic yet complex at the same time. Chaos.
The Joker strikes at the heart of the triumvirate of Gotham's protectors, which include personal attacks, citywide destruction and terrorising the public. His goal is to unhinge the moral reasoning amongst the people of Gotham. All this bring Gordon, Dent and Wayne to the edge as they scramble, struggle and fight to maintain order and bring The Joker in. In the end, one of the three men falls from grace and as the crisis gets uglier, sacrifices have to be made to end the madness.
It may seem like I'm not giving away much here, but it's only because you'll have to see this film for yourself to comprehend the goings-on. And the fact that The Dark Knight isn't an easy film to process. But it never stops being the masterpiece that it truly is. Christopher Nolan has truly outdone himself this time, by directing and co-writing (with his brother Jonathan) a film that surpasses Batman Begins on many levels, and presents something that no other Batman filmmaker could ever come close to giving movie audiences. Nolan gives everything character, from the players involved to the city of Gotham itself. Some characters may be more prominent than others, but each of them serves its purpose, so there is a tremendous amount of depth in every corner of this story.
But the million dollar question is of course: Was Heath Ledger any good? As Randy Jackson would say on American Idol, "A 100% yes." In fact, I'd give Ledger 150%. He is great, no doubt about it. This is The Joker as you've only imagined him to be if you read the comicbooks, and Ledger makes him even scarier than I thought. Some of you may recall Jack Nicholson's take on the character in Tim Burton's film, and I'll say this about Nicholson: he made The Joker clever, campy and anarchistic as the script wanted him to be. But just watch Ledger at work, and you'll be terrified, and truly convinced that this is a man that isn't just mad, but someone who sees the dark side of irony and laughs at the world going down in flames. It is unfortunate that The Joker is Ledger's last role. I think he deserves an Oscar nomination, not because he's gone, but simply because he's that damn good.
Not to be outdone is Christian Bale, who gives his character the bravado to be strong in his darkest hour. Ironically he spends more time being Batman than Bruce Wayne here, and he'll be remembered for that. Gary Oldman gets more screen time as Gordon, and he is the heart of the film. Gordon is the balance that Harvey Dent and Batman can't seem to achieve, and becomes the most vulnerable character here. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman lend able support as Bruce Wayne's trusted allies, providing some minor humorous moments here and there. Gyllenhaal fares better than Katie Holmes in playing Rachel Dawes, but doesn't get much to do. Also keep an eye out for cameo appearances from William Fichtner, Edison Chen and Cillian Murphy, reprising his role as The Scarecrow.
Lest I forget is Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent. Now, I'm not a big fan of Eckhart, and I didn't even enjoy his scenes in the trailers for this film. But you know what, he ain't half bad at all. His Dent is ambitious and bold, and isn't afraid to do what is necessary to defeat The Joker. Some of you may already know that Dent will transform to his fated character of Two-Face in the film, and I must admit that I preferred Eckhart's performance as Dent over Two-Face. But he gets an A for effort from me.
With a film with this much hype, can anything go wrong? Perhaps, if you look close enough. It stretches at 152 minutes, and though I don't mind that, it somehow highlights the notion that Nolan is trying too hard to fit so much story into one film. He's the guy who can make a complicated story like The Prestige turn out to be an amazing work of art, but here in The Dark Knight he could have made it a little easier to digest. I'm thinking Nolan wasn't planning for a third film, which is good because then we'd have another bloated film like The Matrix Revolutions or Pirates Of The Carribean 3. But still, the feeling of overload is slightly present, as the quick editing in several scenes will attest. And in the end, you'll feel that this film is more about Harvey Dent than about the titular character, which in some ways may be right. But hardcore Bat-fans might ask for more of the caped crusader.
Nonetheless, this is a film you just can't miss. This is a superhero film that is furthest from the concept of a superhero film you'll ever see. It's as dark, brooding and filled with awe as you'll ever hope for it to be. You'll remember this one for the ages. (4.5/5)