There aren’t many people who haven’t heard of The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan’s followup to 2005’s Batman Begins. The hype surrounding it has been tremendous, even more so after the tragic death of one of its leads, Heath Ledger. Many times when hype surrounds a movie as much as this one it becomes an impossible act to live up to. Luckily for this movie, this is not the case.
From the moment this movie opens you can feel the intensity of it pouring out on the screen, virtually mesmerizing the audience. What starts out as a normal bank robbery with masks turns out to be one of the greatest introductions to a villain ever placed on film. Make no mistake, Heath Ledger’s Joker is one of the greatest villains since Sir Anthony Hopkins portrayal of Hannibal Lecter. Every scene he is in he makes you uncomfortable. Why does he make you uncomfortable? Well, because at times he is actually very funny, but he is so depraved and insane that he puts you on edge. Get ready to hear many of his lines repeated to you by over-enthusiastic movie goers this summer.
Ledger isn’t the only actor in this movie that gives a great performance. It is really a shame how much Ledger’s death has impacted the promotion of this movie. Not that the platitudes piled upon him aren’t deserved, it is just that they overshadow the rest of the cast. The majority of the cast does an amazing job. Aaron Eckhart brings a great likeability to Harvey Dent, when you should dislike him because he is the foil to Bruce Wayne’s romantic relationship.
The acting quality for Batman/Bruce Wayne is once again superb. Christian Bale is now for sure the definitive Batman. He has the look of a playboy, but when needed smolders with intensity. He is the only Batman I can remember on screen where there are three distinct personas of Batman. The Batman who the criminals fear, the real Bruce Wayne who is only himself around Alfred and Rachael, and then the billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne. He acts all three so convincingly that his performance should earn him just as much praise as Ledger. As the part does not require the over the top feeling the Joker gives many people will miss the nuances of his performance.
The supporting cast does a fine job, with the exception of Maggie Gyllenhaal. It is still an improvement over Katie Holmes performance in Batman Begins, it still lacks the heart it needs. There were moments that fell flat for her. Not once in the movie did she convince me that she was in love with either Harvey Dent or Bruce Wayne. She is a promising actress, however in this film her performance rates no where near the rest of the cast.
The Dark Knight continually ramps up through the movie, almost at a constant climax. For some people this might be a flaw. Since it continually seems to get bigger it might feel bloated to some film goers. Coming in at two hours and thirty-two minutes, it is a long movie for the superhero genre. It seems that this film might just as well be classified in the crime genre along with Heat, The Godfather, and The Usual Suspects.
I was stunned at how few scenes felt over the top for me. So many superhero movies I see leave me thinking, ‘Yea, that was cool, but it couldn’t possibly happen.’ With the exception of two scenes everything in this movie seems very grounded. Now the possibility of something like this happening? Well, there is no chance. Nolan’s great story and direction make you think otherwise. You might casually think to yourself that if you were the owner of a billion dollar corporation, with Olympic level athleticism and a whole lot of time, you could be Batman.
I am highly doubting my review will want to make someone want to see or not see The Dark Knight. My hope is that people will go into this movie with an open mind and try to see just how well a superhero movie can be made. There is no need to dumb down source material for a broader audience. Write it and they will come.