Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Dark Knight

Year: 2008

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Christopher Nolan, Johnathan Nolan, David S. Goyer
DC Comics: Bob Kane

Stars: CHRISTIAN BALE, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Nestor Carbonell, William Fichtner, Eric Roberts, Anthony Michael Hall.

In this hotly anticipated sequel to Director Chris Nolan's "Batman Begins" (2005), Christian Bale once again dons the black rubber suit and gruff-voices his way through the murder and mayhem of another comic-book movie. This time however, Batman has moved up-town, and the criminals in Gotham have turned a whole lot more violent for even the most intreped caped-crusader to overcome.

An intricate story is being woven in Gotham City and surprisingly, The Dark Knight plays as one long, action-filled drama. We could never have imagined this from a comic-book interpretation. It neither looks like, or feels like, a super-hero movie. It's a crime thriller, with all the twists. It's a mob flick, with kingpins popping up at every corner. It's a sci-fi adventure set in a realistic tomorrow. It's a love story, with a study in mental health... all rolled into one!

As with other intricate stories, The Dark Knight is not without its faults. The first twenty minutes are confusing, you have to concentrate, which is not easy, as things move at break-neck speed. Old faces appear and disappear rapidly, only to confuse. Eventually, you get the gist of what is going on, just as Christian Bale's 'Bruce Wayne' realises this new 'Joker' in town is no ordinary villain, and things are more than serious, they're deadly.

With a cast list resurrecting such names as Eric Roberts and Anthony Michael Hall, you know this is going to be the strangest foray into the genre yet. The whole movie gleams with actors you've seen before and wondered what happened to. Actors like William Fichtner, appearing to tantilize us for a mere few minutes.

But let's not waste any more time. Who did we really come to see? Our chief protagonist, Christian Bale? He is well within his rights to be stoney faced in interviews, because this film is truely Heath Ledger's epitaph. The Dark Knight is overshadowed by Heath's presence. Nothing less than casting genious. It will certainly re-write the history books, being the most awesome bad-guy characterisation of The Joker ever, perhaps leading to a postumous award of somekind.
As The Joker, Heath Ledger plays the ultimate rebel, with the craziest one-liners, and a compulsion to explain the scars. Yes, he's dressed in a cheap purple suit and wears make-up, but that's not what makes him so scary. Exposing Batman is The Joker's latest trick, and one which he will go to enormous lengths to pull-off. When he jokes that he's going to kill someone... he means it!

What makes The Dark Knight such enthralling viewing is the sheer audacity of Batman's latest foe. The Joker will do anything, even risk his own life, for the hell of it, and Heath Ledger really pulls it off. He is unrecognisable here, a sure sign that his acting talent far outweighed his understated celebrity.

In fact, there is superb acting all round, including Gary Oldman as Lieutenant Gordon. The visuals seem sharp and realistic, the sound and score are lavish, and the story twists are intriguing. Add to this a career-best by Aaron Eckhart, portraying the golden boy District Attorney 'Harvey Dent', ready to take on the bad guys. Although he is not given enough screen time to show up in many critics reviews, he's a pretty good match for Bale's 'Bruce Wayne', and is someone that you just have to take seriously, like it or not.

There is almost too much happening in this latest Batman installment, to say anymore will spoil the experience. It's something that should be savoured. The political moral of the story allows for a kind of irony that will change your opinion about comic-book heroes forever. I'm not so sure that's a good thing, but I have faith.

Toward the finale, Batman explains his motivations with the sage-like words, "Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded". This may be true, perhaps we have been rewarded, with a comic-book film that more than lives up to the hype.

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