Worth A Look: 18.49%
Pretty Bad: 2.1%
Total Crap: 5.04%
10 reviews, 178 user ratings
|Dark Knight, The
The late Heath Ledger will be missed because of his ability to make a green-haired clown into the most terrifying sight in recent memory.Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” may be the latest Batman movie, but Ledger’s eerily mesmerizing turn as the villainous Joker is the film’s crowning jewel. While Ledger’s passing is undeniably tragic, his final completed role ensures that his brief career will still leave a lasting impact.
"Heath Ledger is dead, and Andy Dick is still living."
From his first moment on screen, Ledger’s Joker quickly dominates the screen. Even as the Joker’s face is hidden by a mask, his shambling but energetic walk quickly establishes his identity. His awkwardness belies a quick but lethal approach that subdues anyone foolish enough to cross him.
This includes all the mobsters in Batman’s troubled Gotham City. The Joker is as audacious as he is psychopathic, so robbing a mob-owned bank isn’t unlikely for him. He also has a unique way for ensuring that his accomplices will never bungle their work or betray him.
Just the sight of Ledger’s Joker is eerie. Cesar Romero and Jack Nicholson knew how to make this character entertaining, but Ledger knows how to make him threatening.
With his smeared makeup, disheveled hair and high, almost whiny voice, the Joker gives the impression that he doesn’t really care what others think of him and can be as unpredictable as he is conscienceless.
Ledger may dominate “The Dark Knight,” but thankfully his unforgettable turn is hardly the only virtue of the film. It takes an inspired actor to upstage Christian Bale, Sir Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Aaron Eckhart. If you can take your eyes of the Joker, you’ll see some other engaging performances.
Bale’s close-to-vest portrayal of Billionaire Bruce Wayne and his altar ego Batman doesn’t leap out a viewer, but if you watch his face closely, he can convey a lot of emotion in just a few quick glances. Bale’s Wayne vacillates between foolish certainly and paralyzing doubt. He’s not as guilt-ridden as a typical Marvel superhero, but he’s occasionally surprised at the toll that his vigilantism has taken on his life.
Caine and Morgan Freeman are both terrific as Alfred the Butler and Lucius Fox, the Caped Crusader’s mentors, and Aaron Eckhart might have walked away with the film if Ledger hadn’t been assigned the most intriguing character.
Like the characters, he’s played in “In the Company of Men” and “Thank You for Smoking,” Eckhart’s Harvey Dent is an eloquent District Attorney whose spiritual development has fallen short of his compelling rhetoric.
His zealous prosecution of criminals belies a rashness and a fanaticism that could undo all the effort that Batman and Lieutenant James Gordon’s (Oldman) put into ending a troubling crime wave.
One noticeable improvement over Nolan’s 2005 “Batman Begins” is in the casting of prosecutor Rachel Dawes, whom Wayne pines after. Maggie Gyllenhaal is a vast improvement over Katie Holmes. Gyllenhaal projects enough intelligence and nerve to make a viewer believe she could hold her own in a courtroom. She can certainly hold her own against the unusually strong male leads.
Nolan and his brother Jonathan, who co-wrote “Memento” and “The Prestige,” have a lot more on their minds than simply having costumed characters duking it out. One intriguing touch is that Batman often has the unenviable task of trying to stop less able amateur crime fighters from imitating him.
The Nolan brothers handle this material far more intelligently than the posters might imply. Batman is obviously on the side of good, but he occasionally makes mistakes. As a result, he has more than simply the Joker’s unrelenting bloodlust to deal with.
Throughout the film Batman and his cohorts wrestle with the question of whether the Joker’s ruthlessness requires an equally merciless response. The answer is not clear cut because the Joker’s capriciousness renders any subsequent action moot. In addition, mercy and vengeance have surprising consequences regardless of intent.
These ideas make the film more involving for adult viewers, but some of the violence and the dark tone make this a questionable choice for showing children.
If your experience with Batman is limited to fond memories of the campy 60s TV-series and the Joel Schumacher-directed movies from the 90s (“Batman Forever,” “Batman and Robin”), you may be unpleasantly surprised. Nolan’s take owes more to writer Frank Miller (“The Dark Knight Returns”) than to Adam West.
Because “The Dark Knight” is mentally sharper than the average superhero adventure, it’s shame that the action scenes are fitfully engaging. The quick, shadowy movements are sometimes appropriate because Batman often creates dark, confusing environments to subdue crooks. But because the fights are sometimes tricky to follow, they’re not as gripping as they should be.This is a minor quibble about what is an otherwise fresh and thoughtful take on what could have been a stale subject. After having raved about Ledger’s work for the first several paragraphs, it’s worth noting that his performance might not have been so memorable if the film behind it weren’t worthwhile.
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originally posted: 07/18/08 14:12:58
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