Logline: Batman must face The Joker, an agent of chaos who is wreaking havoc on Gotham City.
Review: Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight is the perfect Batman film; a psychological study and exercise that raises many interesting questions about choice, social codes, and duality.
Having re-established the Batman character in Batman Begins (2005), Nolan explores the fascinating dynamic between the Caped Crusader and his greatest adversary, The Joker. Batman and The Joker are dark reflections of each other. Both have experienced tragedy in their lives but one has made the choice to do good while the other has chosen evil. The Joker is, as he states himself, an agent of chaos who threatens the very premise of Batman. The Dark Knight poses the question,”How different is Batman from the so-called freaks he goes up against?” Jonathan Nolan, who wrote the screenplay with his brother Christopher, understands the deep psychological overtones in Batman’s mythology, which is part of what makes these characters so compelling.
Besides its incredible psychological depth, The Dark Knight is a pure adrenaline rush. With a running time of nearly two and a half hours, the film never lets up. The acting is first rate. When I first heard that Heath Ledger was going to play The Joker, I was a bit skeptical and had a difficult time envisioning him in the role. I loved Jack Nicholson’s turn as the Clown Prince of Crime in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989). When I finally saw the film in theaters, Ledger’s performance blew me away. Ledger far eclipses Nicholson and brings an entirely fresh interpretation of the character; one that is darker and more terrifying. Ledger’s premature death at age twenty-eight before the film’s release was a tragedy. The Joker remains one of his best and most memorable roles.
Christian Bale, reprising his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman, is fantastic. Bale’s performance shows the conflicted personality of a man struggling between his conscious and subconscious self. As Bruce Wayne, Bale shows that it is conceivable that this man is divided between two personas: a billionaire playboy and a masked vigilante. Gary Oldman is amazing as Commissioner Gordon. Before Batman Begins, Gordon was barely featured in the Batman films, which was disappointing because he was such an important part of Batman’s mythology. In Nolan’s films, though, Gordon plays an integral part and Oldman is perfect in the role. I do not usually like recasting but Maggie Gyllenhaal is a much better Rachel Dawes than Katie Holmes was in Batman Begins. Aaron Eckhart is mesmerizing as Harvey Dent, another man divided between two personalities but more dramatically so than Bruce Wayne. Nolan shows Dent’s transformation from a good-willed district attorney to Two-Face, a mad anarchist.
Batman Begins was a strong film in its own right but its sequel, The Dark Knight outdoes it in every way imaginable. The Dark Knight elevates the so-called “superhero movie” to an art form. Simply put, it is a masterpiece and one of my absolute favorite films of all time. I have been watching, reading, and collecting anything and everything Batman for my whole life. I love this character. He is one of the few superheroes who is human and that is what makes him so compelling. For me, The Dark Knight is the definitive Batman film.
Rating (out of ****): ****
Great scene: This is a clip from one of my favorite scenes in which Batman interrogates The Joker.