When Spiderman first premiered in 2001, a revolution was beginning. The era of the comic book film had begun. As comic book films progressed, the great ones became not just moving imitations of the comics but real, 3-Dimensional people and conflicts. For now, the comic book film has reached it’s pinnacle with a masterpiece known as The Dark Knight.
Yes, The Dark Knight is a masterpiece. It’s more than just a movie based off of a comic book (although that’s not necessarily an insult) but a real action film. A real drama. A movie with characters we care about. It’s seething with wit, thrills, and suspense that no movie this year to this date has come close to providing. I didn’t think this movie could get any better than it’s predecessor, Batman Begins, but The Dark Knight proved me wrong.
The Dark Knight’s story is based off the cliffhanger of Batman Begins, and much more. Things have changed around Gotham City. The biggest mob boss in the city is no longer ruling the streets. A new person has taken over Wayne Enterprises. But, there sits Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) still dawning that costume every night and fighting crime as Batman. Batman has improved quite a bit. He’s quicker, sharper, and packed with much deadlier weapons. Something else has changed majorly in Gotham though, and not for the better. The city is getting worse; even more dangerous. There seems to be hope on the horizon as new DA Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart, who makes the character seem like he’s hiding something) promises to clean up the crime ridden streets of Gotham for good. However, a new villain is about to rule the streets, one more dangerous than both Batman and Dent combined could ever imagine.
This new bad guy is The Joker (the late Heath Ledger). He’s a psycho that not even your worst nightmare could handle. Some might take sympathy in his claims that his father’s terrible abuse of him is the reason he wants to put his pain on the entire world. That however is not enough of an excuse for what he does but only a tiny fraction of the reason. He’s the kind of man with no soul; who takes absolute pleasure in watching everything burn and knowing he caused it.
What makes the Joker stand out from any other psychopath in the world of movies is the actor who plays him: Heath Ledger. He went to unimaginable lengths just so he could play the Joker perfectly. This ranged from keeping a diary to staying in a hotel room alone for a month. It’s this that drove him mad, and so unfortunately killed him. It was a death too young for an actor who was just beginning a bright and beautiful future. His maddening method performance is one on the level of Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando, and Daniel Day Lewis for like these three actors Ledger commands the screen in every scene he is in and becomes all the scarier. No other actor could’ve played the Joker as Ledger did. And it may be early but I think Ledger is a definite shoo-in for a posthumous best supporting actor nomination.
Ledger’s performance isn’t the only great one in The Dark Knight. Everyone puts something to the table, especially the always great Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman and Michael Caine. Bale as Batman is great as always. Two newcomers contribute something to the cast as well. Eckhart’s Dent is a man filled with so many emotions it’s impossible to tell whether we should love him, feel for him, or totally loathe in. Giving the role of Rachel Dawes to Maggie Gyllenhaal over Batman Begins Katie Holmes was a wise choice especially with the fact that Holmes suck. Gyllenhaal brings life and emotion to an extremely important character.
So much more than just the cast makes The Dark Knight a great movie. There’s the daring decisions made by writer/director Christopher Nolan (Memento) that helped make Dark Knight different from most comic book films. The effects are stunning without relying too much on loud and unnecessary explosions and CGI.
Nolan has improved from the first movie in shooting action sequences and fights. Each one is done so well with so much stealth and heart racing suspense that you don’t want them to end but you want so badly to see how one side will get out of it.
The Dark Knight is the kind of movie that shows its audience what makes movies so great. The story grasps the audience from its first shot and begs them to keep guessing and learn more and wait until the film ends to see how it will all turn out, because you’ll never see it coming. The final cliffhanger leaves us with even more unanswered questions and even more of a reason to tune into the next movie in the series. It is one that shows a city that has become so dark and evil that it is literally impossible to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. Then you look around and realize, there may be no good guys out there and that beacon of hope and that knight in shining armor aren’t going to be arriving for a while. Even Batman, the distinguished hero, may not be as good as we thought.
The Dark Knight creates a vision of the world that’s so dark and disturbing that may be even more realistic than the hellish society in Se7en and Blade Runner and more towards the wholly realistic hell holes seen in Taxi Driver, Chinatown, and The Wire.
It may be based off a comic book but I take no shame in saying that The Dark Knight is far and away the best film so far this year and may even remain so come the end of December.