Main cast: Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Heath Ledger (The Joker), Aaron Eckhart (Harvey Dent), Michael Caine (Alfred), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Rachel Dawes), Gary Oldman (Jim Gordon), and Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Oh god, if I were not a delicate person of refined gentility, I would happily bear Christopher Nolan’s babies and do his laundry, because The Dark Knight is a movie that… wow, look at me. I’m incoherent even after I believe that I have calmed down a few hours after watching the movie. I love this movie. No, that is an understatement. It’s easily the best movie I’ve seen this year and if this is movie is a hot a guy, I’ll renounce my love for Hugh Jackman and run away to Las Vegas with this movie. Because it’s so good that way.
The principal cast from the previous movie Batman Begins are back here, except for Katie Holmes who had a spaceship to catch and therefore was unable to reprise her role. Not to worry, though, Maggie Gyllenhaal looks very much like an older Ms Holmes in her role as Rachel Dawes. In this movie, Bruce Wayne has been too successful in his vigilante crusade against the mob bosses (which include Salvatore Maroni played by Eric Roberts in what must be his biggest role to date, heh) because when a mysterious psychopath bearing the Joker card as his calling card arrives to play, most of them are happy to play along with him if this means that it will get rid of Batman. Unfortunately for Bruce and his allies, the Joker isn’t just a villain – he is a chillingly amoral psychopath who knows just which hot button to push in order to render his opponents helpless.
If that is not enough, poor Bruce can only watch as Harvey Dent charms and sweeps Rachel Dawes off her feet. Bruce genuinely likes Harvey and he even believes that Harvey, a DA who is willing to put villains behind bars when everyone else is too corrupt or afraid to do so, is the hero that Gotham City needs. Perhaps… Harvey is even what Rachel needs. But this aspect of the plot isn’t just some mawkish soap opera in the making, mind you. If you know your Batman lore, you will know the eventual fate of Harvey Dent. The script, written by Mr Nolan and his brother Jonathan, has this love triangle play out to its heartbreaking conclusion that has me actually tearing up in the cinema.
The Dark Knight has its share of flaws, oh yes. I personally feel that the movie has shortchanged the character of Harvey Dent significantly because his character is complex and tragic enough to deserve at least a movie of his own. The way his storyline is resolved in this movie is too rushed. The character deserves better, I feel. Also, the character of Rachel Dawes should have been written better. Her lines and Ms Gyllenhaal’s demeanor make Rachel come off like a character from a romantic drama who has somehow stumbled her way into a movie full of angst-ridden and brooding antiheroes. Also, one can rightfully argue that the Joker, for a man with no clear history in this movie, is way too omnipresent when it comes to predicting the moves of his opponents. Where does he get all the money to bribe what seems like two-thirds of the police force? How does he get access to his arsenal of bombs as well as information?
I feel that, apart from the Harvey Dent thing, these issues are pretty minor. This movie is a spectacular example of how to turn a one-dimensional comic character into a heartrendingly human if still larger-than-life character. This movie drives home every thing Bruce has to give up in order to pursue his quest to make Gotham City a better place. Also, while I am normally leery of Oscar hype lavished on a recently deceased actor since there is also a degree of maudlin sentimentality that catalyzes the outpouring of such lavish hype, I have to agree with many people that the late Heath Ledger has turned the Joker into a terrifying villain who is chilling in how real he can be despite the fact that he is a psychopath. The Joker here plays mind games with his victims, making them behave as if they have read Lord of the Flies too often in their desperation. Mr Ledger plays the Joker brilliantly. He has the creepy mad man’s tics and chilling nuances of his voice down pat. The Joker is one of the most effective villains I’ve seen in a while because as over the top as he can be, the movie makes me realize that there are enough human components in the Joker to make him real.
As for Harvey Dent, he is a beautiful tragic foil to Batman in this movie. His path to darkness is similar to Bruce’s for most of the journey, only their paths divert differently at a crucial point. I really wish that this movie has saved Harvey for the next movie where the character can get enough room to shine.
There are some really over-the-top moments, especially when this movie is trying to drive home how much Bruce has lost and will continue to lose as he continues on his path as Batman. My husband and son find the last fifteen minutes of the movie way too much, for example, even to the point of being corny. But hey, since this is a movie based on a comic, my personal opinion is that a few over-the-top moments are to be expected. The hero of this movie wears a black codpiece and identifies with a bat, after all.
The Dark Knight is one of those rare movies that make me wish I can walk back into the cinema and watch it again once the movie is over. I don’t know how my mere words can even describe half of what I feel about this movie. I love the character study, I love the action scenes even if sometimes I wonder whether poor Batman will ever get a break, and I love all the light and heavy-handed anvils that this movie has to offer. The Nolan brothers have, in my opinion, taken Batman to places that even Tim Burton couldn’t. They have done more than made the Batman franchise a spectacular two-for-two so far – they have made Batman and his opponents human beings that I can relate to, laugh with, cry for, and have my heart broken along with.