The Dark Knight

Right, it’s time for me to review the feel-bad hit of the Summer. How does the Caped Crusader’s latest adventure stack up? Let’s find out…

The Dark Knight (2008)

“Batman Begins” was the re-start the Batman franchise needed. However, I always wondered where they would go from there. OK, they fixed the mistakes made in 1989’s “Batman” and they’ve made it grittier and more realistic, but now what? Where was this new direction going? Was it just a matter of time before the Batsuits with nipples made an appearance again? Well, in “The Dark Knight” I have my answers- and they’re feckin’ fantastic ones at that.

“Wanna know how I got these scars?”

It’s a year on from the events of “Batman Begins” and Gotham’s criminal underworld is running scared from the shadow of Batman (Christian Bale) . The city also has a new district attorney-Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) who vows to clean up the streets, aided by Bruce Wayne’s old flame, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal, replacing Katie Holmes). However, the arrival of a mysterious and sadistic criminal simply called “The Joker” (Heath Ledger) starts a wave of terror and choas which Batman must put an end to. It’s a great story and far more intelligent than you’d expect from a superhero movie.
It’s no secret that the stand-out performance in this film is Heath Ledger’s Joker. I never really liked Jack Nicholson’s take on the character in the original. He was just playing himself with some wacky cartoony quirks. To be honest, this is what you get when you cast someone purely on the grounds that they’re famous and have a memorable smile. Hence why I surprised when the news of Heath Ledger’s casting broke. Sure, the guy’s a great actor- but would he have a faithful spin on the character? As it turns out, yes. The Joker is a joy to watch. He’s psychotic, funny and scary all at the same time. The scene that outlines how successful “The Dark Knight” is at somehow making the ridiculous seem totally plausible is the interrogation scene between the Joker and Batman. In any lesser film, it would have been an unintentionally funny scene involving a guy in a rubber bat suit talking tough to a clown. In this film, it’s a superbly written, disturbing scene where the Joker just laughs as Batman mercilessly beats him to the ground. The thing I love about the Joker is that he’s a self-confessed agent of chaos, who arrives, turns everything on its head and leaves. He’s not in it for the money, he “just wants to watch the World burn” as Alfred (Michael Caine) eloquently puts it. Throughout the film, the Joker is likened to a dog and I think this is very apt. Dogs are impulsive. They don’t really think- they just do. Let’s not forget also that dogs can be vicious.

Whilst the Joker is causing chaos, the character of Harvey Dent – “Gotham’s White Knight” is being dragged down. He has a slow tragic fall and becomes the character of Two-Face, a man who relies on a coin flip to determine decisions- in his book, the only fair way to tell right from wrong. Whilst I love the Joker, I think Two Face is a brilliant villain too. You understand his motivation and you empathise with him. He’s not out for World domination, he’s out for revenge against fate and chance, which makes for a much more interesting and believable character. I hope the “Spider-Man 4” people are taking notes because this is how you do a multiple villain scenario.

The action is genuinely jaw-dropping, with the tunnel sequence culminating in an 18-wheeler truck getting flipped being my favourite. I also love the following scene where the Joker is walking down the street, muttering and machine-gunning random civilian cars-insanity at its most entertaining. Plus, if it was not illegal or frowned upon I would make the Batpod (i.e. this thing) my wife. It’s the perfect Batman vehicle, my only gripe being that the Tumbler (i.e. this thing) had to be sacrificed for it. Ah well.

The supporting cast of Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman are all great and still eclipse Bale’s Wayne/Batman performance, although by not nearly the same amount as Aaron Eckhart and Heath Ledger do.

As for the nit-picks, there are a few problems I have with “The Dark Knight”. When I heard the news that Katie Holmes was to be replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal, I was pleased. Gyllenhaal’s a much better actress and arguably more attractive than the former “Dawson’s Creek” star. Thing is, she’s pretty much wasted in the film and not given enough to work with. She’s meant to be the emotional core of the film, giving Bruce something to work for, but she ends up as just another character rather than a meaningful one. Let’s just get this out of the way, I quite liked Bale’s Batman voice in “Batman Begins” as it made sense to disguise his voice into a much scarier, gruffer tone. However, in “The Dark Knight” it goes a bit too far and I found myself wishing he could just take a break and suck on a Strepsil.

“You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

So that’s “The Dark Knight”-a fantastic film with some amazing performances. However, don’t consider all this as a recommendation to see it, consider it a condemnation of the fact you haven’t seen it yet. I can’t give this film anything less than a Bat-tastic:

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