The Dark Knight, 5/5

Rated PG-13. Click here to view the trailer.

Holy crap. The Dark Knight, my friends, is one heckuva movie and although it’s not quite perfect (it’s a fuzz too long), it’s pretty freakin’ close. It’s not just a great comic book adaptation, this is a truly excellent movie.

The story is very complex and tight and from the opening bank robbery scene to the very last shot, director Christopher Nolan dares you to look away. A new super-villain has appeared in Gotham, and everyone including the cops and the mob, is running scared. Everyone except Bruce Wayne/Batman, which the Joker uses to his advantage. He continues his sadistic terror campaign throughout the city and pins most if not all the blame on “The Batman.” Harvey Dent, the new district attorney believes in Batman, and Bruce Wayne believes in Harvey, but they may or may not be able to pay the price that justice demands. Make no mistake, people are going to die in this movie, and no, the Joker isn’t one of them.

Nolan knows how to direct a movie and it feels very real. Everything, from the casting, to the music, to the special effects, to the script, to the title, to the theme of anarchy and self doubt, everything is spot on. Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman hit the exact perfect notes with their roles, especially Eckhart as “Gotham’s White Knight,” District Attorney Harvey Dent. Gyllenhaal is adorable and feisty as his girlfriend while Caine makes me want to take out a loan and hire an English butler oh so much. Freeman’s Lucius Fox and especially Oldman’s Lt. Gordon and are simply joys to behold.

Of course, I’ve left out the two main stars: Christian Bale and the late Heath Ledger. I went into The Dark Knight knowing I’d enjoy the movie, but I was ready to point out its flaws and eagerly downplay the Heath Ledger hype as I once again preached the Gospel that is Tim Burton’s 1989 vastly underrated “original” movie. What can I say? I was wrong. Not only is The Dark Knight a (way) better movie than Batman, but Bale’s Caped Crusader could literally rip Michael Keaton’s version (also vastly underrated) limb from limb simply by glaring at him (I’d LOVE to see Adam West’s reaction) and Ledger’s Joker would make Jack Nicolson’s wet his pants. Bale is absolutely perfect (there’s that word again) as the darker, more philosophical Batman. Can he continue to cash the checks of justice, even if the people of Gotham must pay with their lives? At the very least, his determination is beginning to crack. As for Ledger’s Joker, well, I sincerely hope there is no one on this planet half as sadistic and hell-bent on anarchy as he. Every detail about him – his hair, his makeup, his scars, his voice, his mannerisms, his stride – screams criminally insane. He’s in charge of the movie and the movie’s plot from the word Go. As Caine’s Alfred tells Bruce Wayne, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

Subconsciously, we’re drawn to the Joker because of Ledger’s death a few months ago, but to lay the character’s appeal on that alone is to deride Ledger’s genius portrayal. Truly, this is a new criminal for the ages. There really isn’t anything more that can be said about it.

The Dark Knight is very, well, dark. And intense. This not a PG-13 movie your 8-year-old should be seeing, unless he (or she) particularly enjoys sociopaths shoving pencils through mobsters skulls. There are some very adult (not bow-chicka-bow-wow adult, just, “grown up adult”) themes as we watch Batman transform into a dark knight, not to mention some very graphic and painful-looking injuries.

In my review of Iron Man I mentioned that I’d love to see Favreau and Downey take on every super-hero franchise. While that high praise was and is certainly true, the same could be said for Nolan and whoever wrote The Dark Knight (I’m too lazy to look it up). They are two sides of the comic book coin: one smart alek, fun and clever, the other dark, scary and philosophical. I hesitate to say which I prefer, because they are so obviously the yin and yang of modern action/comic book movies. But, like a flip of Harvey Dent’s two-headed coin, you really can’t lose with either.


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