THE DARK KNIGHT IS THE
YEAR'S BEST MOVIE SO FAR...NO JOKE!
How can you possibly write a
review of The Dark Knight without going on and on and on about
how great Heath Ledger is as The Joker. Remember the first time
you saw Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter? Or saw Darth Vader
walking through the doorway? Or Jack Nicholson busting through
the bathroom door in The Shining? I was curious that the
advance buzz on Ledger's performance was just misty eyed
fondness since it was his last full movie role. Ledger's Joker
is easily one of the greatest screen bad guys of all time. And
I'm not talking "of all time" like just the last 20 years.
Seriously, it's one for the ages.
Every second Heath Ledger is on screen in this movie is like
watching the most beautiful train wreck you've ever seen. So
good, in fact, that if he killed Batman 15 minutes in and just
spent the rest of the movie fucking up Gotham City, I'd have
been perfectly fine with it. Every little detail he brings to
the part is gorgeous. His lip licking, hair flinging, posture,
cackling and overall presence just exudes evil. But an evil
unlike anything you've
seen before. The Joker isn't looking to to become the king of
crime, or even kill Batman. He merely wants, as Alfred tells
Bruce Wayne, "to watch the world burn."
The Joker appears as a fully
realized creature without the tedium of an origin story. You
get a bank heist that's as fast paced and tense as anything
that Michael Mann has directed that just gives you a small hint
of how nuts he is, but when he shows up to one of those classic
table full of criminal meetings it's mindblowing. He shuffles
in like a zombie that just crawled out of a swamp. Why would
any of these established kingpins even give him the time of
day. A simple magic trick convinces them in one of the most
memorable "I really shouldn't be laughing at this because it's
so sick" moments I've seen since Vincent Vega accidentally shot
the kid in the backseat of Pulp Fiction.
This is truly The Joker's movie. Batman is in it and he gets to
be Batman and kick some ass. He still has the same problem I
have with all the other movies, old and new, is that I can't
stand that black rubber outfit. Aside from a more beautiful
series of capes that flutter in the wind or even fan out like a
giant dragon, it still looks ridiculous. The cowl looks worse
than ever. In some scenes, it looks like his cheeks are
inflated. The sharp angles and eyebrow lines are almost
nonexistent, at times looking like a big black blob. But if
that's my biggest nitpick, then we're off to a good start.
I'm a giant Batman fan who's loved the character for nearly 35
years now. I loved the TV show for what it was, but have had
big problems with all the movies. The script and performances
sucked total ass in Tim Burton's 1989 debut, but Nicholson was
at least funny enough to make it watchable. And Batman Returns
started a trend of silliness that never stopped. Once Joel
Schumaker took the franchise over, I gave up any hope. I kept
watching, but I just wasn't going
to get the Batman movie I wanted to see.
Fortunately Batman The Animated Series at least gave me that
Batman Begins was a good start, in that it at least tried not
to be ludicrous. But I never though Ra's Al Ghul was much of a
villain, and watching Liam Neeson fight Batman isn't as
cinematic as I hoped for.
The Joker was made for the big
screen. His colorful bigger than life persona and psychotic
anything goes behavior makes him the gold standard for bad
guys. The stuff he does in this movie is mind blowing. He's a
scary sadistic bastard who throws choices out there many of us
would be hard pressed to make. There's a lot of "What would you
do?" moments that make the movie very engaging.
Aaron Eckhart is very good in different sort of way as Harvey
Dent. Bruce Wayne is even impressed, noting that he's putting
away a ton of bad guys, and doesn't even have to wear a
costume. He's charming, rugged, tough, and inspiring. Which
makes his eventual fall and conversion to Two Face all the more
Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are great in their supporting
roles, as is Gary Oldman in a much more fleshed out
Commissioner Gordon part. Thankfully, Gordon doesn't hop on the
new Bat-cycle and say, "I've got to get me one of these" in
The fight choreography and stunt work is more easy to follow
than the last installment, which often was so dark it was hard
to see what was happening. Batman's still a creature of the
night, but he brought along a better lighting crew this time
There's also a nifty bit near
the end where Batman has a mask modification with cameras in
the eye slits that finally gives us the shiny white-eyed
version of the character from the comic books, albeit for a few
The Nolan Brothers script is very good. It borrows some
elements from Frank Miller and Alan Moore's work that defined
the relationship between Batman and The Joker, and pushes it
further into all new areas. There's a scene in the trailers
where The Joker plays chicken with Batman in the middle of the
street. Batman swerves at the last minute, because he won't
kill. This "code" is something he struggles with in a very
Batman's entire role for Gotham city is questioned throughout
the movie in a thoughtful manner that I've not seen explored
often in the comic books. Is he a hero, vigilante, symbol,
menace, or savior? At times he is all of these things. Copycat
amateurs try to be just like him with fatal consequences. His
very presence is causing people to be killed. He has serious
options to unmask and end it all, but what would that bring?
There's a lot of moments for the citizens of Gotham to shine,
or fail, as well.
I also thought the soundtrack was very good. It doesn't smack
you over the head with the inspirational zing of Danny Elfman's
work. The James Newtwon Howard and Hans Zimmer music is
powerful, often punctuated with disturbing quite buzzes that
makes you uncomfortable, wondering what's coming next.
I will say, that I don't
recommend this film for kids at all. By omitting all profanity,
sexuality, and having only incidental blood, the violence and
sadistic acts that occur make it completely inappropriate for
anyone under 10. I'd even watch it yourself to see if 11 or 12
year olds should watch it. It pushes the "almost R" limit more
than any PG-13 movie I can think of. The Joker's actions and
face are certainly the stuff of nightmares, but the scarred
side of Dent's face once he becomes Two-Face is a grotesque
masterpiece that's hard to look at. You can see bits of exposed
bone and facial tendons, along with a fully exposed eyeball
that is very discomforting to see look all about. Not cartoony
in the least.
It's a shame that the merchandising aspect of this movie
totally makes it seem kid friendly because all of those cereal
boxes and fast food meals pimping it out are very misleading
for parents who don't know any better. Personally, I think they
should have just kicked it up a bit further and went for the R.
It's a lot more shocking than The Matrix films.
The Dark Knight is a great movie with a lot to say, and a lot
to look at. Lots to scare you and lots to thrill you. I think
it's now the movie to beat for the year, too. I loved Iron Man
a lot, but The Dark Knight is a whole new level of superhero
film. I feel like I could write 5 more pages about how much I
like it, but then I'd have to start spoiling the film.
And yes, thanks again to Heath Ledger for finally giving me the
Joker, and Batman film, I've been waiting for.