Maggie Gyllenhaal - er, The Joker
When I went in to see “The Dark Knight” at midnight on Thursday, I decided that there would only be two possible outcomes. The movie would be an awesome summer action flick, or would be a complete and total let down. Since this movie has been getting advertised all over the place for at least the last few months, my expectations were about as high as they’ve ever been for a movie. What I didn’t expect was that it would be one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time, and may actually crack in to my top five favorites if it holds up after repeat viewings. Everything was great about this movie, so I’ll try to do a little breakdown of things.
First off, I have to say that this interpretation of Gotham City along with Batman/Bruce Wayne himself is absolutely perfect. It could not be better in any way. Director Chris Nolan’s interpretation of Gotham is one of a hopeless wasteland of a city. Mob corruption permeates the police force, the DA’s office, the mayor’s office, and pretty much any government service Gotham has to offer. Nolan exhibits this time and time again throughout the movie, and I actually asked myself a few times, legitimately horrified, how could a city get this bad? Gotham’s corruption and moral bankruptcy was perfectly portrayed. And Batman/Bruce Wayne as a dark character, viewed simultaneously as a hero and vigilante criminal by the people of Gotham, is absolutely perfect. Bruce is only human, but the Batman can’t be. Bruce has limits, both physical and moral, the Batman can’t (except for his one rule: he doesn’t kill). The whole movie, Bruce’s limits are tested: how much is Batman really worth to the city, how much can he take, and when is it time to stop?
Secondly, the action sequences stood out for a whole lot of reasons. They were entertaining, suspenseful, and seemed real. Why is that? Because Director Chris Nolan doesn’t use CGI in order to make action sequences seem more authentic. In a summer where movies like “Wanted,” with a plot that was pretty much “The Matrix” and “Hey we have CGI technology, see?”, are near the tops of the box office, it’s nice to see a director have some balls and ingenuity instead of being lazy and just getting computers to do everything for him while actors awkwardly stand in front of a green screen making weird faces (see: McAvoy, James). A lot of the stunts were absolutely jaw-dropping, and the crowd was ooh-ing, ahh-ing, and cheering for several of them, which is the first time I can remember a crowd doing so since “The Lord of The Rings” movies were in theaters and had those huge, sprawling battles. Aside from that, there was also Batman and his gadgets. In the finale, he uses a new one in addition to some old favorites with breathtaking results. The Batmobile was great, the Batpod, his motorcycle type vehicle, was even better. The action was great, and if you saw “Batman Begins,” you can expect some of what you saw and some improvements as well.
Third, and quickly, the writing was fantastic. While drawing inspiration from the comics and combining that with some new ideas, the writers created an intelligent plot (were this not a superhero movie, the plot could’ve ended up working for a great cop-thriller type movie with a few tweaks), and some great characters, both villains and heroes. “The Dark Knight” didn’t leave plot holes (suck one, “Wanted”) and created some moments that were actually pretty terrifying, especially in the build up to the climax and the climax itself. The script did a great job developing Bruce’s inner struggle to find his limits in the face of The Joker, a villain who doesn’t know the meaning of limits. Which brings me to…
The acting. Sweet, sweet Christ, the acting. All across the board, the acting was absolutely perfect. I didn’t know if Aaron Eckhart would do well as Harvey Dent, but he was amazing. He executed Dent’s character flawlessly, creating a courageous and charismatic DA who puts Gotham on his back and tries to carry it out of it’s dark age. ***MINI SPOILER*** My only problem with Eckhart was that once Dent turned into Two-Face, he went a little overboard at first. But in the later scenes he got a hold on it, and he did great, playing Two-Face as an understated character who was out purely for vengeance against anyone responsible for his life’s deterioration. ***END SPOILER*** Morgan Freeman was excellent as always. Michael Caine does an amazing job as Alfred, who can be funny but shines in his moments where he becomes Bruce’s sage for advice and guidance. Gary Oldman is excellent as Jim Gordon, who starts to become the face of Gotham PD’s effort to clean the streets, and is much more of a central character in TDK than he was in “Batman Begins.” Maggie Gyllenwhatsit played Rachel Dawes well, even though she kind of looks like The Joker without make-up on. Christian Bale does great work with his character(s?), expertly navigating the waters of some of his darkest moments. When he actually has the bat-suit on, it’s mostly just a lot of growling and punching people (until the finale anyway), and that is awesome. Then there’s Heath Ledger as the Joker. I mean. Hold on, that gets it’s own paragraph.
Good God, Heath absolutely nailed the Joker. It’s worth noting that, when one thinks of the best villains of all time, most of them are villains you rarely, if at all, see on screen. Think two Kevin Spacey roles; Keyser Soze in “The Usual Suspects” and the killer in “Seven.” One of the quintessential horror scenes of all time is the shower stabbing in “Psycho,” and you don’t actually see the killer. So, in order to have a villain who is on screen for much of the movie while still staying scary, you need to do something special. Like Javier Bardem did in “No Country For Old Men.” I won’t say Ledger’s performance was as scary as Bardem’s because I’m still afraid Bardem will hunt me down and kill me like 8 months after seeing the movie. But the Joker wasn’t such a great character because of how scary he was (though he was scary). The Joker’s allure lies purely in his unpredictability. I’m not sure if I’d say he’s my favorite movie villain ever, but his first scene (sort of), a meeting with Gotham’s mob leaders, is the single greatest entrance for any character in any movie ever. I will stand by that. Not only that, but that moment of introduction is a perfect summary of what you get from the Joker for the whole movie. He goes from moments of joking around and laughing, to moments of horrific violence. He is the most unpredictable character I have ever seen, and Ledger is perfect for it. Some of his scenes are hilarious, some are terrifying, some are both at once. I went into the movie skeptical about this Oscar talk for Ledger but I mean… he really earned it, or at least a nomination (obviously this is pending the rest of the year’s performances). He was a complete force on the screen. The only way to replace him? Easy:
Greatest Actor In History
In an age where people cite trash like “Transformers” or “Wanted” as good movies, or even their favorites in the case of several mentally handicapped folks, it’s just nice to see that someone can still make an action movie that’s more than just explosions and slow motion camera angles. And even better, make that action movie with likable and interesting characters, authentic looking action, and a well written script. When you combine all of these good qualities and maybe take them up a notch or two, you get “The Dark Knight.” It’s a movie that may end up being one of my all-time favorites.