The Dark Knight
I went into The Dark
Knight with just a little trepidation. Yes, I had heard all of the
fanboy critics falling all over each other to anoint this THE GREATEST FILM
EVER! However, they also said similar things about Christopher Nolan's
first Caped Crusader film Batman Begins - and I did not get that
movie at all. It was okay, but not the modern masterpiece that
everyone had said it was.
The Dark Knight, on
the other hand, comes pretty damned close.
I can not stress strongly
enough how much better this film is that its predecessor. However,
this bump up in quality is not so much because of the main character - who
still is a rather dull hero. It is completely because he is surrounded
by a much better class of villain.
A hero is only as good as
his nemesis, and in his last performance, the late Heath Ledger created a
bad guy for the ages.
Not that he exactly created
him - the Joker has been played by everyone from Jack Nicholson to Cesar
Romero. However, Ledger has reinvented him in a performance so
startlingly nuanced that the former Jokers fade to black.
Add to that Two-Face (Aaron
Eckhart) a good guy-turned-secondary villain who is also more interesting
than the threat from Batman Begins. (I still can't figure out
why they would pick a lame bad guy like The Scarecrow to reopen the
franchise, though Cillian Murphy does a brief cameo in that role here as
Luckily The Dark Knight
is not nearly as relentlessly bleak as the first Batman comeback
film. Not that it's a light-hearted film - hell no - but it knows how
to balance the tragedy with pathos and some pitch black humor.
Even the Joker, who is in
some ways a tragic character who has overcome some kind of vague horrifying
history (and the character changes his backstory regularly depending on who
he is talking with) has a twisted but real funny streak - somehow making
what he does even more horrific.
As Batman, though, Bale
still has no real chance to be anything other than a tragic figure - a
martyr for the good. (He is also saddled with a new strange tough-guy
whispery voice in the costume which verges on the comic when it is trying to
be intimidating.) I still don't quite buy the need to ostracize Batman
for the good of the people. In fact, the final scene where Batman
convinces Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) that Batman must be unjustly
accused in order to save Gotham City makes no real sense for the Caped
Crusader or the policeman - the crimes he offers to go on the hook for could
have been easily explained away in other ways.
However, the action
sequences here are much better and more imaginative (and much easier to
comprehend, too.) The writing is superior - and it goes without saying
that the threat is much more evocative. The supporting actors are
generally better as well, though frankly Maggie Gyllenhaal's read on the
character of Rachel Dawes - while less strident than Katie Holmes' take on
the same character - still doesn't quite resonate as the one woman who Bruce
Wayne truly loves. Add to that the fact that the two best performances
of Batman Begins - Michael Caine as Alfred the butler and Morgan
Freeman as Bruce Wayne's confidant in his company - are present and
accounted for and still steal every scene they are in.
I'm not going to totally
buy into The Dark Knight hype - for example, as terrific a job as
Ledger did in his role, it is not worthy of an Oscar - as so many are
suggesting. If he gets one, it would be out of sympathy for a very
good actor who died too young, not on its own merits. This is not
really a deep, nuanced performance so much as a impressively quirky and
That said, The Dark
Knight is by far the best Batman movie made - ever. For a hero who
has been on film so often over the years, that's saying something.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: August 5, 2008.