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The Dark Knight (2008)

Batman: The Dark Knight

Why So Serious?

Directed by:

Christopher Nolan

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 152 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12A

Country: United Kingdom

The Dark Knight had a lot to live up to. Before the death of Heath Ledger, the buzz had been buzzing about his portrayal of this generation’s Joker; after his passing, the hype was deafening. Had the role sent him into a spiral of depression that indirectly led to his death? Would he be nominated for—and ultimately win—the countless posthumous awards he was already being touted as a shoo-in for, even before anyone had seen the film? Finally, and most importantly, could the cloud surrounding the movie be penetrated enough to allow audiences to appreciate it as a whole, not just as Ledger’s last work?

Make no mistake—this is the Joker’s movie. From the get-go, that crazy clown is running around with his band of masked accomplices, taunting both the good citizens of Gotham and its sizable criminal element with equal glee. He makes it clear—it’s not about the money, it’s about the fun. Of course, the fun consists of bringing the “good guys”—especially all-American hero and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart, who is rumored to be the next big villain in the franchise), over to the darkness. That’s where Batman (Christian Bale) comes in, fighting to save the city, his friends, and his true love, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) while waging his own private war with his anti-hero nature.

So much works in this movie. Ledger lives up to the talk and is unrecognizable as The Joker—and not just because of the makeup. He’s not the Jack Nicholson Joker, nor should he be. The nice thing, though, is that this Joker isn’t a total departure from Nicholson’s either; it’s almost as if you can imagine them on a timeline, and this younger version can eventually morph into the older, more jovial villain.

But enough about him—there’s more to look at than the clown. Gyllenhaal, for example, as Rachel Dawes is a vast improvement over Katie Holmes, and Eckhart brings just the right amount of swagger, confidence, and conflict to Gotham’s new hero. Action abounds, and there are plenty of twists and surprises to make the two and a half hour runtime blaze by. It’s also somewhat refreshing to find a superhero movie that doesn’t sugarcoat human nature, and The Dark Knight is able to throw in a few zingers about the inescapable black spots on the soul of every character, even the good ones. My only complaint is, oddly enough, with Batman himself. He’s always been a brooder, but he’s a little too dour, a little too dark—and that Batman growl-voice sounds like he’s trying to channel Tom Waits. It’s a little distracting, but not enough to take away from this wildly enjoyable ride that lives up to everything you’ve heard.

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It's Got: A brilliant villain, a perfect supporting cast, and lots of pretty explosions and gadgets.

It Needs: For Batman to figure out how to disguise his voice without sounding like Rolf the Dog.

Alternatives:

Batman, Batman Begins, Iron Man

Summary

This sequel to Batman Begins is better than its predecessor, and Ledger’s Joker will go down as one of the best screen villains of all time.

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One Comment

  1. Rosie
    Posted August 5, 2009 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    <i>”Gyllenhaal, for example, as Rachel Dawes is a vast improvement over Katie Holmes,”</i>

    I disagree. I’m not saying that Holmes was better than Gyllenhaal, or that Gyllenhaal was better than Holmes. I’m saying that Holmes was lucky to portray a better written Rachel Dawes. Gyllenhaal had the bad luck to portray a Rachel who was nothing more than an object of desire and a plot device.

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