The Dark Knight: A 4 out of 10 movie review
Gone are the days it seems of camp-ness in Gotham City. In fact at one point (throughout the Joel Schumacher incarnations) the Batman movies seemed to regress back to the 60's TV show starring Adam West. This vision was destroyed though, with Nolan's Batman Begins (2005) and a more gritty and real Batman emerged.
Following on from "Begins" then is The Dark Knight: a movie that does not need "Batman" in the title (and is the first to do so). This movie has been hyped to the gills. You'll have to trust me on this one. I've sat through all the videos and the 41 viral and official websites. The unfortunate death of Heath Ledger (as the Joker) has also added weight to the hype, along with the rumours surrounding Harvey Dent and whether we will get to see his alter ego in the film.
Well, since this review is spoiler free, I have no intention of sharing with you how, why, what, when and where Harvey "Two-Face" Dent is (bugger) and concentrate instead on the practical stuff.
It seems that Nolan has assembled a great cast this time around. Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, the recently arrested Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, the seemingly ageless man from Lost (Nestor Carbonell) and Eric Roberts all play solid roles in the movie. I have omitted one particular name due to the importance of her role. Maggie Gyllenhaal replaces the one weak link in Batman Begins (and that was Katie Holmes). I'll be honest: a one legged Chihuahua would have been an improvement over Holmes, but Gyllenhaal's performance shines so far above her it's implausible. In fact, you look at the screen and think: "you can't be Rachel Dawes: you can act".
Nolan's casting choices seem very strange at first glance. He hires the American Psycho to play Batman / Bruce Wayne, cockney Michael Caine to play Alfred (usually portrayed as a posh but wise butler), Gary "I'm not known for my niceness" Oldman as James Gordon and Heath Ledger as the Joker. Heath Ledger? When the world was told that Mr Ledger would take on the role of the Joker, half of them raised their head and said "pardon"? The Australian "heartthrob", best known for his roles in A Knight's Tale, 10 things I hate about you, The Brother's Grimm and Casanova was not the announcement everyone had expected. Watching Ledger on screen though is a delight. Instead of mimicking the role played by Jack Nicholson (in Batman, 1989), he makes it his own. A psychotic, unyielding force with no intent rhyme or reason, but to cause as much anarchy as possible (kind of sounds like the Sex Pistols). He plays a type of clown who haunts most of our worst nightmares at night. It feels as if this was the role that Ledger needed in order to be taken seriously as an actor (and not some teenager's crush). It just solidifies the loss that we have all had, considering the potential that this young actor had going for him. Aaron Eckhart on the other hand is cast playing a charmer (a role he is well suited for). What is not expected though is..............Whoops........nearly slipped up... Let me just say that he plays an excellent part along with all of the others.
The story is as the title suggests: "dark" and the underlying theme that the darkest time is just before the dawn is very prevalent. I have heard suggestions that this film was too long and could have ended earlier. In truth, I'm glad they kept it the way it is. The fact is, if they hadn't they would have stretched it out to cover a third film. So many sequels these days come ready written for a third to be made and this stands alone. It works well because of it.
In Tim Burton's Batman (1989), Michael Keaton had to play second fiddle to Jack Nicholson's Joker. Despite this not spoiling the film at all, you felt slightly cheated that you went to see a Batman movie and got to see a Joker one instead. The same could be said of this movie, as Batman almost takes a back seat amongst the more unstoppable and chaotic Joker. The fact is though, this movie makes no pretensions from the very beginning. The movie is about Gotham City, not just the Batman. In fact better than that, the movie actually has the brass ones to escape Gotham City (for Hong Kong) for a brief time.
As Heath Ledger's swansong (along with the upcoming movie The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) this film shines. It shines way above what Ledger has achieved before and shines above any other Batman before. As Aaron Eckhart's springboard, it shows the world that he is so much more than a pretty face (get it? Oh never mind).
We can only hope now that the next (inevitable) Batman in the series goes further, instead of regressing back to the neon days of Batman Forever.
We have been completely spoiled this summer with hit after hit including Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Wanted, Kung Fu Panda, Mamma Mia, Wall-E, Hancock and the Dark Knight. What with Hellboy II and the third Mummy movie still to be released, this is a great time to get back into the cinema.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Heath Ledger as the Joker: good or bad? Excellent or embarrassing? Did you enjoy The Dark Knight as much as I did? Do you hate it with a passion and desire there never be another Batman film as long as you exist? Share your opinions here and we'll all have a good argument.