|Posted on May 14, 2010 at 11:15 AM|
Let me start by saying, this is an incredible action/superhero film. X-Men, Spiderman and Batman Begins were all impressive flicks. They combined immersive storylines, interesting and engaging characters and first-rate action sequences into a dynamite package that perfectly captured the comic-book mythology from whence they spawned ... but The Dark Knight (Nolan, 2008) blows them all away. While the aforementioned titles were all top-notch movies and faithful adaptations of their respective hero, The Dark Knight goes above and beyond; transcending the mere superhero genre and letting us experience a film of pure intensity; a film that delves deep into the darker side of human impulse, the nature of crime and punishment, the complex psychology of the legendary Bat-Man and his arch-nemesis The Joker. Don't get me wrong, The Dark Knight has everything you expect from a movie of this calibre—amazing action sequences, great one-liners, fierce battles (all of which surpass that of their predecessors)—but The Dark Knight goes beyond these conventions and delves into the profound and thoughtful mythology of the Batman series.
Bale plays the tortured and fiercely principled masked hero with such skill and intensity. So often the thoughtful hero is overshadowed by the sheer larger-than-life style of the villain, but Bale engages the audience with a character that is both alien and human at the same time. We see in Batman a person relentless in his pursuit of ridding the world of evil, but a man so far removed from love and compassion that he is unable to enjoy his success (a common theme within the genre, but one that is reflected on much more seriously here). Beside Batman stands his greatest enemy, The Joker, described by Alfred as a man "who isn't looking for anything logical" and "just wants to watch the world burn". Ledger plays the part with amazing skill and ability. The Joker is a character of great intelligence on the surface, but bubbling with a kind of visceral madness that truly makes him a worthy foe. Unlike Batman's other enemies, who could all be tracked and fought on even terms, The Joker's power is that he is truly psychotic, loyal neither to his own soldiers, villainous allies or even his own objectives. This is what makes him impossible to defeat, as he is completely unpredictable and allegories the nature of modern crime in Gotham. Bale and Ledger (who I am pleased to say gives his greatest, and sadly final performance) are electric together, because, rather than competing for the audiences attention they share a profound and terrifying sensory connection that makes them outsiders in their own environment. The Joker calls it "the Tragedy and the Comedy". The other characters in the film are all well portrayed, with particular kudos to Aaron Eckart as the self-righteous Harvey Dent, and Gary Oldman as the quiet, but principled Lt. Gordon. But nothing compares to the ballet of destruction its two leads dance throughout the film.
As I said, the action sequences and storyline are all amazing and will more than satisfy the mainstream audiences, but the true power of this movie is in its deep examination of its central characters, and the dark themes it unearths about society, crime and the human condition. With Batman Begins, Nolan was able explain the origin of Batman, introduce the story's primary characters, set the scene of Gotham's criminal underbelly and moral decay, and put into motion our hero's quest for justice and order in an insane world. It was an excellent reworking of the series, but essentially acts as a mere introduction to The Dark Knight. This is play - the confrontation between the legendary hero, raging against the hosts of evil and injustice, and The Joker, his greatest enemy, who strives, not for money or power, but for chaos and destruction. The stage is set, the players are ready... See it now!