(No Spoilers Ahead)
This movie surpassed even my lofty expectations as a Batman fan. Epic in nature with nonstop action and a tight, logical storyline that organically meshed with the characterization of its players, The Dark Knight deserves every bit of the accolades it’s amassing.
Christian Bale’s Batman is truly a force of nature-savage yet noble, fierce yet heroic. He teems with intimidation and generally looks like he could explode at any given moment, which is all part of Batman’s psychological warfare against the criminal world. Other actors have played Batman either too coy or too cool, but Bale depicts Batman as a warrior, someone ready to take back his streets by force. Bale brings an emotional intensity to Batman that is totally necessary to the character and translates brilliantly to the screen.
With the untimely death of Heath Ledger, there was a palpable fear that folks would go overboard in applauding his efforts as the Joker. Christopher Nolan earned my respect with Batman Begins, so when he broke convention and cast Ledger, I trusted his decision. However, when people started talking about an Oscar for Ledger’s Joker, I snickered a bit. Let me tell you, after seeing his performance, it would not surprise me in the least if Ledger was nominated. Ledger was absolutely unrecognizable as the Joker. It didn’t look like Ledger, it didn’t sound like him-it really felt as though what we saw on screen was THE Joker, not just an actor playing a role. Ledger utterly disappeared. I knew Ledger would be good, but he was so incredible brilliant, I was blown away. And his Joker wasn’t the flamboyant “mobster” of 1989’s version or the harmless clown from the 1960s-his was a calculating, homicidal, disturbed, “agent of chaos.” I rarely have nightmares, and just last night Ledger’s Joker entered my dreams and scared the pudding out of me. No joke.
Aaron Eckhart’s role as Harvey Dent was much bigger than I expected, and he also brought a real complexity to the movie that added a thematic layer about “heroism” versus “duty” that really enriched the overall story. His character when compared and contrasted to Commissioner Gordon’s and Batman’s showed you all the various shades of goodness and just how fragile such a notion can be. If you know the comic books, you know Dent’s fate. I won’t spoil anything for you, though.
Finally, all the actors were sublime. Oldman as Gordon, Freeman as Fox, Caine as Alfred, Gyllenhaal as Dawes-all of them worked hard to make their characters well-rounded, emotional people that we could connect with. I think the actors’ dedication to their characters-no mater how small the role-along with Ledger’s performance and the raw emotion of the movie pleased me the most.
Director Christopher Nolan really seems to understand what makes Batman tick. His The Dark Knight felt like all of the best qualities of a comic book blended with the noir of a thriller rooted in realism. I’ve never quite seen anything like The Dark Knight, and judging from the box office, neither has anyone else. Whether you’re a fan of Batman or not, this one is definitely worth the price of admission and I guarantee you’ll enjoy it on several levels.