Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer
Let’s put a smile on that face.
– The Joker
When the credits started to roll and the house lights came up, I might as well have been hit with a lethal dose of Smilex gas because I’m pretty sure there was a grin on my face from ear to ear. The Dark Knight is deserving of every superlative I can think of to describe it. But to impress upon you just how good this movie is (and a big reason why it’s so good), let me put it this way. To say my expectations for TDK were high would be the understatement of the summer. Considering how good Batman Begins is, considering that Nolan and Bale and all involved in that film are back for the sequel, considering all of the interviews and glowing reviews and such that I’ve read online, my expectations for this movie were astronomically, unrealistically high. Yet not only were they met, but my expectations were tied up to a dozen barrels full of gasoline and high explosive and gleefully blown to holy hell by Nolan et al. I don’t want to talk in specifics. I don’t want to spoil this movie for you by revealing plot details or anything of the sort. But I do want to talk about some of what I liked so much in TDK, and I’ll try to do so without revealing too much.
Some men just want to watch the world burn.
– Alfred Pennyworth
Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman all reprise their Begins roles in TDK, and they all give solid performances. I’d like to set them aside for a moment and talk about the newcomers. Maggie Gyllenhaal steps into the role of Rachel Dawes, and she does something with this character that Katie Holmes never could. Gyllenhaal holds her own with the men in TDK, and she gives Dawes a credibility and a bit of gravitas that was lacking in Holmes’ performance. Too bad Gyllenhaal couldn’t have been cast in Begins.
As you are most likely aware Aaron Eckhart joins the cast in the role of Harvey Dent/Two-Face. I don’t think it is much of a spoiler to confirm that Two-Face does appear in the film, and as Eckhart himself has revealed, Two-Face’s time in the film is quite substantial. Eckhart makes a great turn as Dent/Two-Face, and any residual memories of the ridiculous performance by Tommy Lee Jones in Batman Forever will be seared from your mind. The makeup/special effects employed to create this scarred character are truly gruesome in their photo-realism. TDK presents this character as fans of the Batman comics would expect, as this character should be portrayed: serious, heroic, and tragic.
Last (but certainly not least) let’s talk about Heath Ledger’s turn as the Joker. Many will be apt to compare Ledger’s performance with Jack Nicholson’s in Batman. I don’t want to take anything away from Nicholson’s performance; that movie blew me away in 1989 and I thought Nicholson made a great Joker. But what Ledger has done, what he and Nolan have created for TDK is a whole other animal. From his chilling, shocking introduction to the end of the film this is the Joker of Batman: The Killing Joke and Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth. A homicidal maniac, a psychopathic killer clown. On our way home from the theater, a friend I saw this with made the bold prediction that Ledger would get an Oscar nomination for this performance. Whether or not that comes to pass, I have no doubt that come awards season, Ledger’s name will grace nominees lists for various ceremonies. I’m really glad that Nolan didn’t shy away from presenting Ledger’s performance in all of its sadistic glory. If this is to be Ledger’s final film, a final performance to cap his legacy, it is a fitting one. Seeing Ledger’s brilliance makes his untimely passing all the more tragic, as we see another example of just how talented he was.
You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.
– Harvey Dent
TDK should serve as a lesson to every screenwriter, director, and producer working on a superhero/comic book film. In my opinion, this is not only the best movie of the summer, not only the best movie I’ve seen this year, but the best comic book/superhero movie ever. Some have criticized its run-time of 2 ½ hours, but I relished every minute of it. This movie is so good mostly because of its story, one that Nolan has given the same loving attention to as he did in exploring Batman’s origin in Begins. On a final note, if you have the chance to see this movie in IMAX, I would *highly* recommend it. Not doubt it is excellent in the normal format, but Nolan has a great sense of cinematography when it comes to using the IMAX cameras. He knows when to “go big” and when he does, that 70-millimeter format blows you away, adding to the scope, the scale, the grandeur of the film. This movie more than lives up to the hype; it's The Godfather Part II, it's The Empire Strikes Back, it's, ACK! words fail me! Gawd! I can’t wait to see this again!
Who Watches the Watchmen?
As a little bonus, I'd like to say say few words about another highly anticipated comic adaptation. The first trailer for Zack Snyder's attempt at what some say is impossible, namely bringing Alan Moore's Watchmen to life on the big screen, will be debuting in front of TDK. This is the first real glimpse of what Snyder's vision is going to actually look like, and I've got to say, it was pretty stunning. I've been a bit dubious in the past about this project, but this trailer has me *very* excited for this one.