The Dark Knight, sequel to Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, definitely lives up to the hype that surrounds this type of action movie. With Batman Begins helping to wash away the memories of the horrible Joel Schumacher films (Batman Forever, Batman and Robin) and with comic-based movies in general taking a more respectful approach to the material, The Dark Knight looks to raise the bar for movies featuring costume clad heroes. It keeps the dark tone of the previous movie, yet does not venture into the weirdness the was in the Tim Burton films.
The movie finds Batman (Christian Bale) tying up some loose ends from the previous film (remember, the Scarecrow was still on the loose.) The Gotham Underworld is on the defensive, being hit hard by Batman, Major Crimes Unit’s Captain Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and the new District Attorney, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). With their money being tied up, the mobsters get a visit from the Joker (Heath Ledger), a psychotic criminal with a penchant for anarchy. He offers to get rid of their problems, including the Batman for half their money. The Joker and his followers assassinate a Judge, the police commissioner and invade a party being held for Harvey Dent, being held at Bruce Wayne’s penthouse. Of course Batman intervenes and confronts the Joker. Here Joker makes his demand on Batman: Unmask or every night, people will die.
The movie is well written and paced and develops all the major characters well. The Joker, whose origin is never seem on screen (in fact, he offers at least two different accounts of it) is menacing, yet believable. He is portrayed as a master manipulator playing the mob against the police, playing the people of Gotham against each other and trying to get Batman to cross the line and kill. He also plays with Harvey Dent. seeding doubts that he can make a difference within the law, within his own moral code. Harvey’s two headed silver coin shows how he makes his own luck, but when he survives an attempt on his life by luck, a 50-50 chance, it leaves enough doubt that the Joker could exploit. To go into any more would spoil things, but if you know the comic, you know what to expect.
This movie is, in my opinion, the best of the four comic based movies this summer (Iron Man, Hellboy, the Incredible Hulk are the other three). It is a shame that Heath Ledger’s death will cast a shadow over this movie, but this movie shows what a terrific actor he was and that Hollywood truly lost a great talent. If this is the last completed movie he is remembered for, there is no shame in it as it’s one of the best in it’s genre and a great movie overall. 5/5