This is probably the most hyped up movie of the summer. Ever since Batman Begins successfully revived the franchise, fans anxiously anticipate the release of the sequel, featuring the notorious villain, The Joker. With Heath Ledger’s accidental death and the buzz about his brilliant performance as the psychotic clown, many moviegoers see the film because they don’t want to miss his final role. And all the hype and buzz were justified, as Ledger did not only rob banks, he also stole every scene he was in.
Since Batman Begins introduced Batman to Gotham, the city’s scum and cons have been having a bad time. In The Dark Knight, Batman (Christian Bale) seeks to round up the last criminals that plaque the streets with help from the loyal Lieutenant James Gordon (Gary Oldman) and the persistent new district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). While he is happy to see that people of Gotham start to believe in justice and brighter future, a new sadistic criminal mastermind known as the Joker rises to challenge Batman and everything he represents. The battle soon turns into a personal one, as Bruce Wayne’s love interest, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) became the target of attack, and Batman has to stay in the shadow in order to bring the light to Gotham.
Every synopsis I could write would be an oversimplification of The Dark Knight, because the film is the most complex superhero movie I’ve seen. We’re used to see a plain conflict between good and evil, but with a smart script from Nolan brothers, who have once again outdone themselves, we see that the Joker is not just a mental criminal, he is actually a very sensible cynicist. He has no regard for humans’ wellness, because he sincerely believes that humans has none for one another, either. When he releases chaos, he is not trying to gain fame and fortune, he is conducting a social experiment to expose human nature at its worst. And since he is having so much fun in the process, we start to question our own morality if put on the spot. Of course, Batman would always come to the rescue, and there is still hope in human beings. But hell yeah, it was a hell of the ride. While Ledger’s performance was mesmerizing, a lot of credits should be awarded to the writers, especially for conjuring up twisted plots to drive people against each other.
Christian Bale has a playfulness to his Bruce Wayne/Batman that was not comparable in any other Batmen before him. This reminds me of Tony Hawks, a.k.a. Iron Man, Batman’s the Marvel Comics counterpart. He seems to have fun bickering with Alfred (Michael Caine), the only comic relief in this very dark movie. He can be serious when carrying the weight of Gotham City on his shoulder. He is strong and vulnerable, both physically and emotionally, blowing humanity into the character, a much needed virtue in a comics-based movie.
Heath Ledger was a character actor, being able to disappear into his roles. He completely transformed himself as the Joker. With his eerie grin, creepy voice and mischievous attitude, we constantly forget this was the shy and quiet Australian rising star. He demanded the audience’s attention and grabbed our focus whenever he was on screen. You know he made his mark as the Joker when he could radiate terror just by sitting in a jail cell and staring at the camera. My heart was almost aching when I was watching him laughed louder and louder when he provoked the crime fighters to beat him up. A young talent was lost way too early. You’ll be forever dearly missed, Heath.
Gary Oldman is very likable as Lt. Gordan. As one of the few uncorrupted cops, he is a trustworthy ally and someone we gladly root for. Aaron Eckhart successfully escaped the fate as the shallow pretty boy in the movie. He’s the white knight, the new face of justice, but he bumbles on a date with Rachel or at the fundraising parties. This makes the turn in his character’s plotlines much more dramatic. However, perhaps it’s not a fair fight, but his acting still pales in comparison to seasoned actors such as Bale and Oldman, and the flashy Ledger. Maggie Gyllenhaal was a disappointment to me. I was excited to hear that she replaced Katie Holmes, but she she seems uncomfortable in the role of Rachel Dawes. That doesn’t tarnish her acting chops, because I still love her in movies such as in Stranger Than Fiction. Caine’s Alfred and Morgan Freeman as Lucious Fox are two of my favourites. Alfred had never been so funny before Caine stepped into the butler’s shoes. I’m just susceptible to that British sense of humour. Morgan Freeman carries grace and wisdom with him. In his very limited screen time, he dishes out one of the most memorable lines in the film. A couple of other villains are also worth mentioning. Cillian Murphy makes a brief cameo appearance as Scarecrow. And Eric Roberts as the mobster Salvatore Maroni, who is so annoying that I really wanted to see Batman beat him up just to wipe the grin off his face.
The Dark Knight has broken many box office records in weeks. While many argue that Ledger’s death raised interest in the movie, the superb script, acting and direction all deserve praises, making The Dark Knight the rightful reigning king of the summer blockbuster season. The only question remains, how in the world do they surpass this in the next Batman movie?
- There are many records set by The Dark Knight, but I’ll just mention several in relation to Spider-man 3, which is overrated in my humble opinion:
- Set a new record for the biggest opening-day gross at the box office with $66.4 million. Former record holder was Spider-man 3.
- Had the biggest three-day opening weekend of all time with $158 million beating Spider-man 3.
- Set a weekend box-office record for IMAX venues with $6.2 mil. Former record holder was Spider-man 3.
- Matt Damon was Christopher Nolan’s first choice for the role of Harvey Dent but turned it down.
- When asked, "Why Heath Ledger as the Joker?" Christopher Nolan said, "Because he’s fearless."
- It’s Sir Michael Caine’s opinion that Heath Ledger beat the odds and topped Jack Nicholson’s Joker from Batman (1989).When filming the scene where the Joker pays a visit to Bruce Wayne’s penthouse, he’d never met Ledger before, so when Ledger arrived and performed he gave Caine such a fright he forgot his lines.
- The Dark Knight made a revolutionary change to the bat suit: Batman can now move his head from his neck.
- All photos © 2008 Warner Bros. Pictures