REVIEW: The Dark Knight

Alright, so due to the vast amount of hype this film has received over the past few weeks, I could help but be drawn to it like a fly towards light. I’ve wanted to see it for some time now, but just as of late the urge to see it has built up and now was the moment of that release.

The Dark Knight, a follow up to 2005’s Batman Begins, chronicles Batman in his most entertaining, stimulating and fierce times. Having to deal with his most known foe, The Joker, what Batman experiences through this 150 minute long film is more of a man’s struggle against a master manipulator, rather than a superhero taking on a super villain. Even though the film cognates appropriately with its origin, the film itself is unlike the origin at hand. Originally, The Joker was just that: a joke. In this film, he is written and directed to not only one of the most memorable villains of all time, but also one of the most memorable characters you’ll ever see on film.The film starts off with a riveting bank-robbing sequence that will not only astound viewers with its creativity, but it also packs the laughs of absurdity that everyone can enjoy. You’ll be awaiting the next moment in the scene, but it constantly remains unpredictable. You’ll never see what’s coming and you’ll love every second of it. From here on it’s a joy ride full of twists, turns, action, romance, drama, suspense, heart-ache and laughter. One film can invoke so much emotion; this is that film. Whether it be The Joker’s eerie presence, in which he licks his lips in a reptilian fashion or it being the cheesy one liners that occasionally arise to make you go “what?”, the film contains it all.

Christopher Nolan has found his placement in the film world. The Batman films are his best achievement to date, this being one of the best hero films ever. Akin to Batman Begins, the film follows the same setup in terms of plot structure in most ways. Apart from the way the film’s opened, the formula is generally the same, and if you adored Batman Begins, you’ll adore The Dark Knight even more. It oozes pep and will give you a joyous high that can’t even be reached via morphine. Nolan captured the essence of both villains perfectly. Perfectly. Personally, this is far more than just Ledger’s turbulence, but rather everything. Everyone and everything can and will become evil at one point or another. Nothing is safe, no one is humble and everything will go wrong; barring a few instances where the film shows there is sanity and humanity in society, but that’s beyond the point. What I’m getting at is the film manipulates all characters and setting to make them malicious and putrid, and the way this setting and these emotions are brought up and thrive throughout creates an atmosphere that draws you from your seat and into their reality. His usage of symbol-incorporated foreboding was very interesting. The second time around I saw more symbols within the film. Small things like a firetruck being on fire – hinting at “not even the things meant to save you can”. With this, Nolan creates a very dim and horrific atmosphere – especially in the scenes involving Two Face and The Joker. Needing someone to capture this atmosphere justly was severe for the film to work as a whole in its thrilling aspects. Fortunately, Wally Pfister was able to bring back most of his wonderful technique from Batman Begins to this film. A few shots were just excellent, but all around the film is shot just well. The cinematography was good and all, but it just didn’t have some of the beauty the first film had. This could be due to the lack of beauty and sufficiency of the wretched the film beholds, but it is still a poorer attempt, nonetheless. Another thing that makes the atmosphere what it was was the excellent score. Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard collaborated on this film very well, making the movie a lot more cinematic and overwhelming way. A very stylish and substantial take on the film. Direction = spearheaded. Audience = transfixed. Life = complete.

So the plot is simply this: The Joker is frolicking around Gotham City causing mayhem because it’s fun. This is how The Joker gets his epicurean sense and feels complete. Not money, not women, not fame: he just likes to play games. He has as simplistic a front as any villain you’ll ever meet, but deep inside, you know there’s a story awaiting release. Whether or not it’s special or not is nothing, because everyone knows The Joker is fairly insane. Insanity is his shtick and no one can help themselves from loving it. Along comes Batman to save the day, like usual, but has he met his match? We’ll see. The Joker puts in motion several calculated mind games that no one can figure out. Not only is Batman in a state of panic, but as are the civilians. Can anyone do anything to stop The Joker? He’s far too cynical and way too manipulative to allow mistakes. Every mistake is just a gateway to another game; each game is just a gateway to another mistake; and so on and so forth. This eventually grows to be all one maze that everyone has been thrown into, after have been throttled and thrashed about just before hand. No one can escape, which allows panic to overcome common sense. This leaves a bigger mess for Batman to sweep up, as all the townsfolk cry “Dismiss Batman from our presence for he is the wicked one!”. Of course, as stubborn a man as Wayne is, he feels the pressure to help the city by not helping at all or trying to do the right thing. He feels unneeded and clumsy and in believing so, finds himself to be a gauche fellow. He feels he’s met his match and who wouldn’t? The Joker just clowned your ass, fool. The Joker is relentless with his array of selection for game, taking out everyone who may pose any sort of threat to him, whatsoever. Of course, he is a much more tactful and ingenious than a man that goes by Two-Face. Harvey Dent: The White Knight to some. He is a man of his word; an authority figure that everyone loves; a man that can do good within the confinements of the law; and certainly, he is a man that can be malicious if bent to one man’s whim. On the outside, Harvey Dent is as solid as a rock, but deep down, he’s as malleable as a slinky. His only weakness is capitalized on, and with that, Two-Face is born. With a masterful and diligent villain like The Joker and a ruthless psychopath on the verge of getting revenge at all who caused his physical and mental suffering in any possibly connective way, you’ve got a handful. With such disparate villains fighting side by side, the chances of surviving with anything are slim. Also, we cannot forget the little things, like everyone hating Batman, right? So not only does Bruce Wayne have two men that have a top priority such as massacring everyone and everything, but he’s also got to take on all those who stare at him and believe their only way to live in peace is to commit a horrid murder. Good luck, Bruce.

Essentially, this is the story, but just throw in a few subplots about the crime ratio springing to an all-time high and an awkward romantic story and you’ve got a story no one can resist. Well… almost. The film is almost perfect. It has only one flaw, and this flaw is much more than a tiny blemish. The drama; the sorrow that the film is meant to invoke is just not abundant enough. The film cuts away just before a scene would get a sorrowing reaction. The film has bad editing in that sense. Some scenes went on for too long, hoping for a reaction that just doesn’t play out correctly; in others it would prepare you for devastation and just falter. Flimsy job in this area. Very flimsy, indeed. The one scene that has that emotional impact is a scene involving Harvey Dent and his methods of getting someone to speak. The pain you can see in Eckhart’s eyes, along with the frustration that controls him in that scene is one of the best acted scenes of the film. Up until the conclusion of the scene (which is quite painful, in and of itself) is considerably powerful – especially compared to the rest of the film. Though this is a major fault, it doesn’t tarnish the film much at all, as this is just one layer of this superimposed film.

The cast is really why the film stands out in my opinion. There has never been a superhero film with such an awe-inspiring cast. Christian Bale ‘heads’ the cast (heads is in brackets because he isn’t really the lead; just the titular character) as Bruce Wayne/Batman. He really doesn’t have much to do in the film. Neither persona’s of Mr. Wayne show much emotion during the film at all. Also, another issue with his performance is that while he is charming, whatever charm he had is completely scraped away by his very annoying and painful turn as Batman. His Batman voice – like discussed in many a 2005 conversations – is very retched and painful to sit through. Unfortunately, his voice hasn’t gotten any more heroic, tough or interesting. However, he is very good as Bruce Wayne. Next is Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent, who does an excellent job with both of his persona’s: Dent and Two Face. As Dent, Eckhart is very powerful. He takes a simple politician and makes him very real and warming. When he feels, you feel. This is the film’s only emotional feat. When Dent becomes Two Face, you don’t know how to feel. Of course you feel resentful at his decision to become a villain, but you also accept why he’s doing it because he is just trying to do the right thing in getting revenge; albeit, in a very remorseless and cold way. Just a performance that is put together exceedingly well. Gary Oldman is also quite good. Though his performance is primarily just a typical one-note cop, Oldman does manage to get loose of the cliché and stereotypical character from time to time, turning in great scenes here and there. Nothing special, but still good. No one else in the cast really did anything special, but I will say Gyllenhaal did a slightly better job than Holmes as Rachel Dawes, but I think it’s more of a ‘boring character’ issue rather than a ‘bad actress’ one. Now onto the reason why most were excited for the film in the first place: Heath Ledger’s performance is like nothing you’ve seen before. His ability to create such a dark version of The Joker is frightening and to be quite honest, I doubt you’ll ever hear-tell of a performance quite like this. Whether it be his shrill and alarming cackle of a laugh or his alluring and eerie tellings of contradictory stories past, Ledger’s ingenious approach to this character is remarkable. If you love the movie or not, he will put a smile on your face. ***½/****