After the ferocious viral marketing campaign over the past few months, I went into the cinema with huge expectations, almost unreasonable; I had heard all kinds of accolades, most notably “The greatest comic book movie of all time”. I remained sceptical, though, because history tells us to. This is one of those rare occasions where the film not only met my expectations, it exceeded them.
We have already seen that Nolan can indeed write and produce quality films as 2005 brought us Batman Begins and the rise of a new up and coming talented director. The Dark Knight, because of the success of Batman Begins, could have been a relatively safe bet for the production team; just throw in a bit more action, different castings and a few more explosions, whilst keeping a similar direction to the original. What’s great about this film is that it throws that concept out the window with a daring, bold and risky film with some really great ideas and a very strong cast to back it up.
A spectacularly gruesome and destructive scene is the perfect introduction to the most famous arch nemesis of Batman, the pale and smeared as a dead man walking “Joker” played by Heath Ledger, dubbed as being the “scariest suppervillain of all time”. It is by no accident that I am mentioning this character before the protagonist, Bale. The performance is a cut above anything I have seen before from Heath and it’s a real shame he’s not around to pick up the accolades as this would have seen him move undoubtedly into the ‘A’ list. Ledger has a menacing take on the joker - “Mad-crazy-blazing” is the best description I’ve read; sums it up perfectly. Gone are the days where the bad guy makes the threat but never carries it out, here we have a psychopathic clown who is “twitching at the will to execute them”. And I promise you, the pencil scene (you’ll know what I mean when you see it) and accompanying quote “now you see it, now you don’t!” will be one of the lasting memories from this incredible film. The outstanding performance from the 2008 joker really puts the nail in the coffin of Tim Burton’s wrong decision to cast Jack Nicholson as the character in the 80’s Batman. As a side note, (slight spoiler here) listen out for the Brokeback joke that Heath throws in the film...
On the opposite side of the good to evil spectrum we have Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Gotham City’s new district attorney. Fighting against a city riddled with crime alongside Batman but interestingly not all innocent, as the film alludes to hints of a darkside to his character, which is a nice touch. As the film progresses, Harvey becomes two-face and hats off to the CGI team as a fantastic job has been done of delivering a terminator style appearance of flesh, muscle and bare bone on one side of the face; You can google the pictures, but animated and on the big screen it is really quite impressive. I wasn’t immediately convinced when it was announced Eckhart was cast for this role, but I can safely say that I was wrong and Nolan was right, which is probably why he has just directed this year’s summer blockbuster as opposed to me!
Returning to the concept of a good/evil spectrum, I introduce Batman, the middle ground between the “goody” and the “baddy” so to speak. Christian Bale also puts in a great performance for which many plaudits are deserved, although I predict that his role will be somewhat overwhelmed by the oscar worthy performance from Heath. My only criticism, and I didn’t think this at the time but am inclined in retrospect to agree with another review, is that sometimes Batman’s voice can come across as “gruntish” – you’ll have to watch it to understand!
Visually the film is stunning; Whereas the previous films reminded me of London, the surrounding area in this latest saga is similar to that of a big American city like New York. 360 degree pans around characters are used but not too commonplace such that they’re relied upon or abused in any way (I read that these are being labelled as ‘Michael Bay’ specials, now!).
I have made a deliberate decision to not go into too many details about the plot and thus spoil the film; It would be disastrous to have this year’s best film destroyed by careless review writing. In summary, we have here an excellent film full of dark comedy that will have you unsure about whether to laugh nervously or to crawl under your bed in terror at the ways of the psychopathic clown. A great comic book has been turned into to a great film - one that really can’t be missed on the big screen. If you go to see one movie this year then make sure it’s this one. Finally I leave you with a quote that like from a recent viewer: “Heads up! A thunderbolt is about to rip the blanker of bland we call summer movies”.
Nolan has set himself up beautifully for a third film, of course. I can’t wait for it already!