Batman Begins made a believer out of me. The blinders were lifted from my eyes, and I not only understood why a billionaire would transform himself into a bat-inspired superhero, but felt compassion toward both the man inside the costume and the Batman. What other Batman films had failed to do, Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale achieved in 140 minutes. But after delivering one of, if not the best, comic book-inspired movies of all time, could the team top it with The Dark Knight? The answer is a resounding yes.
The Dark Knight is a brilliant follow-up to Batman Begins and the definitive Batman movie to date, which makes you wonder what Nolan will accomplish if he decides to do a 3rd Batman film. The Dark Knight takes place in a world where the line between good and evil is drawn in pencil. The screenwriting duo of brothers Christopher and Jonathan Nolan turned to the dark side for their 2nd Batman movie (although Batman Begins wasn't exactly light fare), with The Joker's lunatic smile and gleefully malicious manner setting the tone for a wild romp through a world gone mad. Batman's universe is teetering on the edge and the conflicted superhero is trying to unravel the puzzle of how best to protect Gotham City while believing he's not the savior his city deserves.
Gotham City's falling to pieces and Batman is both the problem and the solution. The caped crusader has taken down a king-sized helping of bad guys, although he's not working on his own. Ordinary citizens have taken up his cause, donning their own Batman costumes and patrolling the streets. And now the mobsters left in town have joined forces in order to keep the real Batman at bay.
Fortunately for Gotham City, the newly elected district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) is a real hard-ass on crime. Even Batman approves of this steely-jawed White Knight, and getting the superhero's stamp of approval wasn't easy since Harvey is spending lots of time with Batman's ex, Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Rachel couldn't handle Bruce's covert nighttime activities and now keeps company with a man unafraid of the spotlight.
Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel and Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent.
© Warner Bros Pictures
However, the local mob and Rachel's preference for a non-costumed boyfriend aren't Batman's biggest problems. A new villain has emerged on the scene and he's not playing by any rules. Sporting smeary clown makeup that emphasizes a smile carved into his flesh like a pumpkin on Halloween, the maniacal character known as The Joker (Heath Ledger) is ready to take over as the leader of Gotham's underworld. The Joker's single-minded in his desire to inflict pain and unmask Batman. The formidable though strictly unofficial team of Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), Harvey Dent and Batman must take down this sick clown before Gotham City turns into Slaughter City.
2005's Batman Begins introduced Christian Bale in the dual roles of Bruce Wayne and Batman, and The Dark Knight serves to cement the fact he is the perfect casting choice to shoulder the lead in the Batman film franchise. At this point Bale has to be included toward the top of the list of actors who've taken on the task of playing a superhero in a feature film.
We don't see as much of Bruce the man as we do his costumed alter-ego, which means Bale has an even more difficult task of bringing out the human behind the superhero this time around. Even though the redesigned batsuit allows him a little more freedom of movement, Bale's expressive face is covered beneath a bat mask. Yet he's able to convey everything he needs to with just the lower portion of his face, piercing eyes, and menacing voice. Bale is Batman. Period.
No disrespect meant to Jack Nicholson but this is the performance of The Joker everyone will remember. Nicholson's Joker in Tim Burton's 1989 Batman fit perfectly with the tone of that movie. In The Dark Knight, it's Ledger's Joker the rest of the cast needs to keep step with. This Joker is nasty-scary, a greasy, grotesque creature lifted straight from the nightmares of coulrophobics. Even those not given to fearing clowns are going to recoil in fright from Ledger's mesmerizing performance.
Ledger came up with a series of tics - licking his lips, sucking on his cheeks, carrying his entire body in an off-kilter way - to define the character of The Joker. He also created a voice and manner of speaking that's inimitable and perfect for a homicidal maniac who gets off terrorizing his victims. Ledger will long be remembered for bringing to life one of the best villains ever in a comic book-inspired movie. With his last completed performance before his untimely death, Ledger left behind a Joker who's one of the most disturbing villains on film.
Aaron Eckhart's movie star good looks fit snugly with his character DA Harvey Dent. Eckhart nails the part of a knight in shining armor come to slay the dragon and save his city and his fair princess. Although his performance isn't garnering the attention of Ledger's, it is nearly as impressive. Dent's a major player in The Dark Knight, and if Eckhart weren't believable, then The Dark Knight would suffer greatly. Eckhart knows how to wrestle his way through playing morally conflicted characters and does so again with gusto as Harvey Dent.
Heath Ledger as The Joker in 'The Dark Knight.'
© Warner Bros Pictures
Supporting players Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are a joy to watch in their limited time onscreen. The same goes for Maggie Gyllenhaal who takes over the part of Bruce Wayne's ex from Katie Holmes. Gyllenhaal's a wise choice to step into the role which seemed a little above Holmes' level of maturity in Batman Begins. Gyllenhaal plays her tough yet vulnerable, and her one scene with Ledger as The Joker shows exactly why director Nolan sought her out to be Rachel.
The Bottom Line
The Dark Knight's action sequences are controlled chaos with cars and motorcycles and Mack trucks careening down city streets, and the film's quieter moments are equally as engaging. There's just so much to say about The Dark Knight, so much I want to analyze and discuss, but expanding on a review of the plot would lay out potential spoilers and it's best to go into the film without any knowledge of the storyline other than the bare minimum. Nolan and company have surpassed what they accomplished the first time out, and The Dark Knight is everything you'd want from a superhero movie and much, much more.
Borrowing a line from Jerry Maguire, The Joker tells Batman, "You complete me!" Let's hope writer/director Nolan doesn't share the same sentiment about The Dark Knight in terms of the Batman franchise. Nolan needs to return at least once more to revisit the characters he's reinvigorated on film. Batman #3 is set up to feature an even darker and more disturbing world, and Nolan must be the director to take the franchise there.
The Dark Knight, in my opinion, was the most remarkable action movie I have ever seen. The storyline, action scenes, make-up, and actors make the movie feel like it’s not a movie at all. It’s real life. The storyline is creative and memorable. The beginning has a great hook, and makes you suspicious. At first I found this movie to be kind of scary and dark, only because I'm deathly afraid of clowns. But, as the movie progressed, I began to fall in love with it. The action scenes in this movie are so fantastic, there’s no word to describe it. The Joker constantly comes up with new ""games"" and adventures. My favorite scene was when the Joker was driving the truck, and Batman flipped it over. I have never seen anything like that; it thrilled me to finally see something new. I love how scary parts and snuck into the movie; I never saw any of it coming. The make-up in this movie was outstanding. The Joker looked very creepy. I couldn't even tell that Heath Ledger was underneath all that. Everything looked natural. The actors were the best part. They really got into character. The Joker is humorous and Batman is the dark hero he's meant out to be. Harvey Dent plays a great two face. He falls into the villain he's supposed to be once everything he had was lost. His story was one of a kind. The Dark Knight was the perfect action thriller movie I have ever seen. Watch it and you'll fall in love with every second of it. This movie is like magic, the way it draws you into it. So if you really want to see a magic trick, watch the movie. You won't be disappointed!