Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and some menace.
Starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman.
Written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan.
Directed by Christopher Nolan.
by Dan Metcalf
When I was a little kid, Batman was my favorite comic book hero, mostly because the original TV series was on the air way back then (okay, I admit to being middle-aged). My parents have photos of me in my cape and mask, all ready for trick or treating. To be sure, The Dark Knight is not the Batman of my youth. It's a film that lives up to it's billing with special emphasis on the word "Dark".
The Dark Knight is a prequel-sequel far removed from the more tepid installments of the past two decades with the likes of Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney donning the black mask and cape. It's also a fantastic follow-up to 2005's Batman Begins, reuniting most of the cast with writer-director Christopher Nolan.
The story of The Dark Knight begins with a violent and intense scene involving the Joker (Heath Ledger) in the middle of a bank robbery. From there, the plot twists and turns as the Joker becomes involved with the baddest of the bad mob leaders of Gotham, and the protagonists trying to bring all of them to justice.
The man leading the charge against the mobs is Gotham district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) along with his assistant Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is the only acting replacement from Batman Begins, taking over for Katie Holmes), Bruce Wayne's former flame since their relationship has apparently hit the skids. Dawes and Dent are apparently romantically involved as well, setting up a love triangle that makes for some drastic consequences near the end of the movie.
As Batman and the soon-to-be Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) work to round up bad guys, Dent trumps them all by finding a legal loophole that puts all the mobsters in jail...except one. The Joker.
The story is too intense an involved without giving away an abundance of spoilers, so I'll digress before exposing too many shocks and surprises. Anyone familiar with the comic books and graphic novels can be assured that The Dark Knight stays true to the nature and conflict behind Batman and his complex villains.
Heath Ledger deserves all the accolades and lives up to the hype he's been given prior to the movie's release. It's an unfortunate reality that one his final roles would be so dark, so evil...and yet, his best work. It's rumored that Ledger's personal form of method acting led to his use of some of the prescription drugs that accidentally killed him. If Ledger's Joker does not net him at least an Oscar nomination, I'd be more than surprised if not for the 'mourning factor' alone. Needless to say, Ledger's Joker portrayal is very creepy and it definitely moves the audience out of their comfort zones.
Suffice to say that The Dark Knight is cinematic triumph for its actors, director/writer and movie producers. Michael Caine's presence as Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred is also well-played, along with Morgan Freeman as Lucious Fox, Batman's mentor. Both veteran actors keep the young cast grounded and give The Dark Knight more legitimacy as a drama rather than a special effects summer action flick. Even with its complex theme and story, The Dark Knight has plenty of action, superb special effects, and stunt work.
I have only a few complaints about The Dark Knight. One is the movie's length (2 & 1/2 hours). and the other is the story, which seems overly complex and a little hard to follow at times. Also, Bale's hoarse 'Batman voice' is sometimes hard to understand.
It's a good thing to have such a mind-twisting morality play, but The Dark Knight has entertainment enough to fill two movies. Truth be told, there are many movies I enjoyed so much I wished they could go on longer, but there has to be a saturation point, and I think The Dark Knight got there at the two-hour mark.
The Dark Knight is not a special effects action movie, but more like a melodrama or a Greek tragedy, complete with a litany of moral dillemnas suited for the main characters and the audience. Those moral questions are deep and dark, just like Batman himself, and the societal implications are certainly germaine to many real-life contemporary scenarios, especially those concerning how society deals with evil and terror.