Review: The Dark Knight
Never before, and most likely never again, has a movie effected me this way. I’m simply at a loss for words, which in itself is odd, considering the fact that this was a Summer Blockbuster Comic Book Movie — this first thing I do, and I’m sure many of you enjoy participating in the same post-movie tradition, after a big-budget, big-action flick is immediately reminisce with my friends about “the best part” or best explosion or whatever.
A few minutes into the credits I was still collecting my thoughts after literally two-and-a-half hours of relentless, punch-in-the-gut action, acting and drama. I finally turned to my friend and all I could mutter was, “That was intense,” which is, if you don’t know me, kind of a throw-away phrase when I’m pretty much speechless for whatever reason.
And that’s still how I feel now. Maybe the girl that was sitting about three rows behind me — the one hysterically crying to the point of near hyperventilation — had the only sensible reaction to the movie. At least that way she had some time to collect her thoughts as her friends tried unsuccessfully to calm her down. So, I may not have had enough time to digest the flick immediately after to discuss it with my friends, but now, an hour later, I feel like I might be ready to try. But I still don’t know if I can give this movie a good enough review. I don’t know if I have a deep enough vocabulary to accurately depict just how incredible “The Dark Knight” actually is. But we’ll work through this review together, and let’s start with arguably the most compelling aspect of the entire movie and the reason “The Dark Knight” could smash the record for opening weekend box office:
You have to trust me when I say that I wanted to be able to say something negative about about his performance. I went into the movie thinking that I’d be, above all, a voice of reason; Someone that didn’t buy into the hype, so I could be the level-headed, unbiased observer. The one guy with the cahones to step up and say, “Guys, he just wasn’t anything special.” But, no matter what I wanted to do or say, I have to calls ’em like I sees ’em.
Ledger as The Joker is, hands down, the most intense, interesting and BEST comic book movie villain ever. Not “may be,” and not “one of the.” Once in a great while a performance is good enough for a writer like myself to throw aside those useless qualifiers.
He’s the best ever. And I dare you to watch this movie and prove me wrong.
You forget he’s an actor. You forget, as odd as it sounds, that The Joker isn’t real. Every line, every movement, every lick of the lips and every twitch of the eyes is absolutely, 100-percent deliberate to the point that you’re completely enthralled in everything Joker from the very beginning to the very end.
But no matter how many praises I throw at Ledger’s performance, one word above all describes it perfectly: Realistic. And I mean it. After seeing this, there’s no doubt in my mind the a psychotic dude with serious flare for the dramatic and a unexplained affinity for clown paint could totally reign terror over an entire city. It was truly offsetting to see just real The Joker’s insanity was — it was an unavoidable thought to wonder what kind of impact The Joker had on Ledger’s life. Everything about him on screen was completely insane; it’s sad to think that may have carried into his personal life.
The Academy might as well announce Ledger’s nomination for Best Supporting Actor tomorrow morning. Of course, they won’t announce that he’s actually won the award until the ceremony. But let’s get one thing clear: It’s not hype, and it’s not hearsay. Heath Ledger will not be topped this year. This is truly an unforgettable performance, and if he doesn’t win the Oscar, I’ll officially give up on the Academy forever.
But he’s not the only one who gives a stellar performance. Gary Oldman as Lt. James Gordon really cements himself in this movie; nothing about Oldman or Gordon is memorable in “Batman Begins,” but not only is the character more central to the story line this time around, but Oldman really brings out the emotion, especially in the more intense scenes. Ledger steals every single scene that he’s in, but Oldman’s got some seriously breath-taking moments of his own. No one was as surprising, though, as Aaron Eckhart. I mean, I expected Ledger to be good, even though I never thought he would be THAT good, and you know what to expect from Christian Bale by now (absolutely no emotion and a growly snarl whenever the Batsuit goes on). But no one ever talked about Eckhart, really, but his performance is definitely worth mentioning. He essentially had to play to characters, because the mindset and mannerisms of Harvey Dent and Two-Face are so vastly different, and he was compelling as both. I think he plays more of a key role than anyone would have suspected, especially since the advertising campaign focused almost exclusively one Batman and The Joker, but he’s able to handle the big role perfectly.
Wow — almost nine hundred words in and I haven’t mentioned the story yet. Well, here you go: We finally have a comic book movie that challenges the audience to keep up, that doesn’t insult the intelligence of its fanbase with simple and predictable story arcs. This film is so dense, so enthralling, I can’t imagine another comic book movie topping it anytime soon. Let me put it this way: take away the silly bat costume, the Joker makeup and such and what are you left with?
An incredible and poignant crime drama.
Go ahead, try and find another comic book movie that could honestly stand alone sans the superhero elements. It can’t be done. Part of that’s the believability of the acting, but most of it is the script that Christopher Nolan and Co. put together. There’s so much going on here; Backstabbing, untrustworthy cops, crazy villains, government corruption, the downfall of the “White Knight” Harvey Dent, and if you’re not watching intently, I’m telling you right now, you’ll get so lost, you’ll have no idea what the hell is going on. This isn’t a fun, summer Hollywood movie. This is a serious, dark, twisted, bleak and depressing tale. Your small children won’t like it, but I’d be willing to bet you will, even if you go in expecting not to; it’s got the kind of crossover power that, up until now, has been sorely missing in the comic book movie genre.
And one of the most remarkably un-Hollywood things about the film (an aspect for which I really, really respect Nolan and “The Dark Knight) is the fact that there really is no big cliffhanger. This is a great stand-alone movie, not just some cheap set-up for the trilogy. If, for some reason, Nolan decides not to make a third one, I’d be fine with that. “The Dark Knight,” ends in such a way that I can see where a third one may go, but it doesn’t unnecessarily push that way just to force a trilogy.
I hate stirring up minute negative things in a film this good, but it’s a review, and I have to. So, I’ll let you in on just a few things I could’ve done without in “The Dark Knight.”
One is Scarecrow, the villain from “Batman Begins” played by Cillian Murphy. His cameo comes very early and is really confusing — I couldn’t tell if he was a bad guy, a newly turned good guy or just still really messed up from the hallucinogenics from the first movie. It was a complete throw-away scene, that only served to throw me for a loop and wonder for the next half hour, “Hey, is anything every going to happen with that Scarecrow scene?” My only thought is that, because he doesn’t die or anything at the end of the first one, Nolan thought he might have to tie up those loose ends.
Secondly, goes out to Christian Bale, Batman himself. Seriously, dude, what’s with the snarly growl? There were times when Batman had extended dialogue and the growling became over-the-top and irksome. Seriously, guys, I told you my complaints were small. And although the filled up every last second with gripping cinema, it really is hard to stay focused for over two-and-a-half hours when everything in the story is so crucial.
Anyways, it’s a good great freakin’ movie. I’m already planning to see it again in a few days. So, so, so unbelievably awesome — see it. This weekend, or you’ll be sorry when it’s all anyone’s talking about for the next week.
9.5 out of 10 stars, maybe 10 out of 10 sans Scarecrow.