The Dark Knight is an unbridled masterpiece; a dark and gloomy commentary on the state of our country today. Filmed in blacks and dark blues, there are only occasional rays of hope as Batman takes on Gotham’s latest batch of evil. Yet there is a feeling of giddiness as you exit the theater and realize that you’ve just viewed a remarkable piece of cinema. This is the kind of movie going experience that people tell their grand kids about. The expectations were through the roof, but director Christopher Nolan and his team have delivered a challenging, haunting, and unforgettable film.
The stakes have been raised in Gotham City. Picking up where Batman Begins left off, the citizens of Gotham City have embraced Batman (Bale) in mixed fashion. Some see him as a savior while others view him as a criminal getting away with his crimes. Batman, along with Lt. James Gordon (Oldman) and newly-elected district attorney Harvey Dent (Eckhart) have been putting away Gotham’s unsavory characters. That is, until The Joker (Ledger) arrives on the scene. The mysterious man, dressed in a custom purple suit and donning messy clown makeup, wreaks havoc at will in Gotham, thus challenging Batman on a personal level and to his very core.
A common complaint with cinema in general is that too often a film tries to do too much. The Dark Knight is that rare movie that actually accomplishes the feat of being multiple genres for multiple people. It works as action, drama, suspense, and even as a romance. Screenwriters Christopher and Jonathan Nolan have crafted the best screenplay so far this year. It is balanced, effortlessly challenging, and generously developmental towards its characters. We are rarely provoked morally as effectively as we are in The Dark Knight. In terms of action, Nolan shows us things we’ve never seen before. Any filmgoer knew he was a special talent back in 2000 with Memento, but he shows incredibly maturity in his direction of The Dark Knight’s slate of action sequences. They’re gritty, gripping, and stunningly executed without any musical cues or frivolity.
Nolan also has the best cast to date in this genre to work with. Christian Bale continues to shine as the new Bruce Wayne / Batman. He hits all the right notes, whether they are witty or deadly serious. His character is explored even deeper in the film, and there’s no doubt that Bale recognizes this as the role of his life. Gary Oldman is the perfect protagonist alongside Batman, as he brings out the human emotions of a man in danger and who is really just scared. The additions of Aaron Eckhart and Maggie Gyllenhaal (replacing Katie Holmes from Batman Begins) are also strokes of casting genius, as each develops their characters to perfection. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman not only add veteran acting credentials to the cat, but they are both having a whole lot of fun. As tough as it is to stand out with this caliber of cast, Heath Ledger owns this movie. In his final and all-too-premature gift to us, Ledger is nothing short of astonishing as the demented Joker. With his crusty makeup and constant nervous tics, Ledger has simply transformed before our very eyes. You may find yourself forgetting it’s even him at times. The menace and intimidation he creates is palpable and will rattle you. He is one of the all-time great villains in film history, and this work will never be forgotten.
Rarely do I dish out the A+ rating, but then again rarely does a film this perfect come down the line. Somehow Nolan and company have met the seemingly unrealistic expectations thrust upon them by the success and audience reaction to Batman Begins. Nolan has turned this into not only the premiere superhero cinematic series, but the premiere franchise in all of current film. The themes and challenges of this story reach across all genres and will hit home with anybody. To make a film this complex and gripping and still have that happen; well, that’s an act of a genius. And it won’t soon be forgotten.
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Length: 152 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and some menace.
Theatrical Release: July 18, 2008
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Jonathan Nolan & Christopher Nolan. Story by Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer. Characters created by Bob Kane.
Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman