When Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated sequel to his “Batman” franchise finally hit theaters, it happily sent hysterical fanboys into mass frenzy and casual movie goers into a state of ecstatic delirium otherwise only achievable through the most potent of hallucinogens – or maybe Poe.
Perhaps the brightest aspect of Nolan’s sequel to “Batman Begins” is Heath Ledger’s (Brokeback Mountain) now legendary performance as the Caped Crusader’s arch nemesis, the Joker. Although his acting is stupendous, the real challenge was the creation of such uniquely paradoxical role.
The de facto villain was simultaneously terrifying and irresistibly charming, with a knack for magic tricks. He personified the seemingly contradictory combination of amusing ineptness and chilling, sadistic lunacy.
The Joker’s persona valiantly forced the desperately enchanted audience to either forcefully vie for his capture or silently hum in submissive celebration of his woefully misguided, alarming quest for anarchy.
Anything to keep his presence on the screen.
The character is driven primarily – and perhaps solely – by his quest for annihilation.
His very existence can reasonably be suitable physical incarnation of fire – a haphazard and unpredictable element – irresistibly charming and feeding on destruction.
Joker, in a remarkably appropriate scene says, “It’s not about money. It’s about sending a message: everything burns.”
This aforementioned duality of the film is further echoed with the introduction of yet another characteristically sympathetic villain, Two-Face – the former seemingly unyielding and iron-willed, self-proclaimed ‘White Knight’ of Gotham City, Harvey Dent.
Dent, played by Aaron Eckhart (Thank You for Smoking) provides the subtle touch of Greek tragedy for the film. He begins the movie as a deeply committed and idealistic District Attorney, seeking to rid the heavily corrupted city of crime without the crutch of a mask or secret identity.
Due to his valiant resolve, he quickly usurps the local crime lords and gains the adoration of the surrounding public, earning him the ire of the Joker, which ultimately culminates in a highly Shakespearean turn for the hero, reminding us that even the best of us can reasonably fall, given the correct stimuli.
“You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become a villain,” he says.
Eckhart approaches the role with sympathy and charm, leaving the audience reasonably satisfied and appropriately weepy.
Christian Bale (Equilibrium) resumes the lead role in the eventual saga, though even his arguably solid performance in Batman Begins is quickly overshadowed by the depths portrayed in this highly philosophical film.
Maggie Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko) takes over for Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes, a childhood love of Bruce’s. Her performance is fiery for a character that is otherwise a very useful and well-executed plot device.
Michael Caine (Children of Men) continues to shine as Mr. Wayne’s highly capable and stubbornly wry butler-cum-surrogate father, Alfred Pennyworth. The exchanges between the two never fail to provide unexpected yet mercifully appropriate bouts of humor within a sea of chaos.
Morgan Freeman (Unforgiven) illuminates his role as the sage, yet intellectually tough, Lucius Fox, who maintains an air of morality in a city increasingly seized by social fire. Gary Oldman (The Fifth Element) reprises his role as Lt. James Gordon, a secret supporter of the Dark Knight’s unorthodox form of guardianship. He is graceful and leaves the audience with a distinct desire to see him again.
Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard return to the franchise to compose the haunting score for “Dark Knight.” In a series of well-crafted scenes, the music seemingly blends unto the background, though is pivotal for the full emotional impact of the moment.
The drawbacks of “The Dark Knight” are few, though they are limited to the perhaps intentional predictability of an eventual plot twist and the neglect of a character very central to the future Batman mythos.
Otherwise, the film roared in submission to an ancient and oft-quoted cliché – just like the poignantly referenced immovable object and unstoppable force, the facets of duality within the film and its surrounding, vastly realistic world will be at war forever.
No doubt “The Dark Knight” is a quality piece of cinema, but Christian Bale’s voice, combined with shoddy dialog ruin what could have been the best comic book inspired movie of all time. Sounding like he’s in need of some cough syrup, Bale’s demeanor as the caped crusader is laughable at times and lacks the poise and darkness that made him so enjoyable to watch in the first film. The dialog between the characters at times is equally as passable, as Harvey Dent’s line “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain,” is a joke. Remember people, you cannot foreshadow events when you already know something is going to happen. That’s not wit or charismatic, it’s bad writing.
Thankfully, Heath Ledger turns in a remarkable performance as the Joker and saves the show. Again, good movie, but could have been great.
-Patrick Hickey Jr.
-Video by Jacob Menaged