Oh y-y-y-yeah. It’s taken me a few days to find the time necessary to review this movie, this cinematic masterpiece, the illest movie of the year. Some movies manage to be all things to all people, and while everyone does not love the new Batman movie as much as I do, I think it managed to have a little something for everyone, from the fanboy purists to your average moviegoer.
I almost don’t even know where to start. The Dark Knight was pretty close to perfect. There was not a single wasted scene, character, or piece of dialogue. Everything fit together like a perfect puzzle. The performances, score, script, everything was amazing. Sometimes you can tell when you’re watching something special, and that’s how I felt the entire time.
Heath Ledger’s (Brokeback Mountain, Monster’s Ball) portrayal of the Joker lived up to its morbid hype. Word on the street was that this was the performance of his career, even before his untimely death. I’ve seen his interviews where he discusses the psychological demands he suffered in preparation for the role, immersing himself in the character. His performance was truly something to behold. Ledger’s interpretation of the Joker was chilling, unnerving and complex. It was nuanced and idiosyncratic, from the way Joker licked his lips, to the way his tone shifted between high pitched and gravelly. It was brilliant, menacing, and ultimately sad. The movie would have had a dark and heavy vibe anyway, but when you acknowledge the reality that Ledger is no longer with us, his performance becomes even more haunting. This is not the Joker of old, the laughing cartoon-ish villain of the sixties television series, decked out in a ridiculous campy get-up. Oh no. Ledger’s Joker is a sadistic criminal who cannot be intimidated or bullied because he values nothing. Possessing a cruel sense of humor and diabolical intelligence, he torments Gotham City for sport. His desire is to give Gotham “a better class of criminal” and to expose Batman’s true identity, all under the nose of Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman, Dracula) and new district attorney Harvey Dent. Which brings me to…….
Harvey Dent/Two-Face (Aaron Eckhart, Paycheck): Wow. I think everyone expected Ledger to turn in an immortal performance, but I must say that Eckhart almost stole the show. Almost, but not quite. His character Harvey Dent represents hope and change for Gotham, a sort of take-no-prisoners Elliot Ness type of guy. He begins as a straightforward idealist, but tragedy causes his devolution into a vengeful madman, who doles out his own brand of justice. I won’t take the time of discussing every character, just the three principals, which brings me to….
The Dark Knight himself, Batman. Christian Bale (American Psycho, The Machinist) makes a wonderful caped crusader, in my opinion. To some he comes in a close second to Michael Keaton in terms of Batman greatness, but I haven’t seen Tim Burton’s Batman in years, so I give the edge to Bale. He was outshined by Ledger and Eckhart, but I think it’s because they had more to work with. Bale did an admirable job, playing Batman as the straight arrow who is conflicted about his role and responsibility to Gotham. He is an imperfect hero, hailed one moment but willing to be vilified the next. Beyond all else Batman is selfless, and sacrifices his personal desires for Gotham’s greater good. He and the Joker are locked in a bizarre battle, each adhering to their own personal code. Yes, even Joker has a code, one rooted in his own concept of criminal honor. My only problem with Bale was his choice (I assume it was his choice) to use a hoarse whisper when shifting from Bruce Wayne to Batman. That was a little lame, but it’s not enough to detract from his overall performance. While I’m at it, I might as well give a brief word about Maggie Gyllenhaal, even though I said I would stick to the three main characters. She wasn’t hot. Sorry, that’s mean but it’s my opinion. It’s unbelievable to me that Harvey and Bruce are in love with this “beautiful” woman. Poor casting.
I could go on and on about this movie. It is not like the corny installments we had in the 90’s, rather the Nolan brothers have crafted a dark, psychologically provocative and emotionally-charged tale that will leave you transfixed. There are many scenes that touch upon the fragile balance between insanity and normalcy, between what is right and wrong, and that call upon us to question what we are capable of when pushed to the brink. Words almost don’t do this movie justice, but words are all I have. It was an experience, and if rumors of Ledger being in contention for a posthumous Academy Award are true – he is most deserving. Yes, Jack Nicholson did his THING back in the day, and I take nothing away from Jack – but Heath completely freaked this role. As a matter of fact, no one else can fill his shoes. There, I said it. To the Nolan brothers: don’t let anyone else play the Joker. Heath smashed it, it’s done. Sorry for the rant, but if you are a fan of movies, not just comic book movies or action movies, but real movies: go see The Dark Knight. Spiderman, Superman, Iron Man, Hulk – step your game up because the bar hasn’t just been raised, to borrow a line from Jay-Z: this is high level, not eye level.