The Dark Knight (2008) (PG-13)
Director Christopher Nolan is no idiot. He blends action with philosophy so deftly that you couldn't imagine you're watching an art house movie as semis plowing their way through the underground of Gotham city, wrecking hevoc as they go—yet "The Dark Knight" has no real resemblance to a 'typical' block-buster film. Look at "Avatar", "Titanic", and "The Avengers"—these are block-busters in their truest form: fun, even moving, stunning visuals, well-done, and not that mentally challenging. Along come Nolan who crafts a super-hero movie with a sick twist.
Since "Batman Begins" gained people's attention with how Batman could be turned into a credible superhero with believable weaknesses and strengths, the audience was watering at the mouth to get back into the theaters and devour the next film—the hype was unbelievable. Add to this the unexpected death of its resident super-star Heath Ledger and you have a frenzy waiting for you. It's impossible to avoid the tragedy and that emotion is painted right onto the film.
As the dawn of the mob bosses rises in Gotham city, Batman has to question the idea of vigilantism. A devilish character, known as the Joker (Ledger) has decided to introduce anarchy into the system. With nothing to lose and no real motive, he is cruel and malicious for the sake of it. Starting off the picture with a bank robbery, symphonically and flawlessly executed, "The Dark Knight" proves that this is not your average comic-book movie. In fact, the darkness of the picture may get a little excessive for some, weighing down into your heart. It's an exhaustive film.
Battling the corruption is Batman and along his side is Gordon (Gary Oldman), the only ethical cop in Gotham. Then there's Harvey Dent, the district attorney from heaven. He's a little cocky, perfectly idealistic, and dating Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Knowing that the caped crusader cannot keep purging the streets of crime forever, Dent is prepared to battle in court to—as Travis Bickle would say it—sweep the scum off the streets.
But the Joker manages to sneak in, unknown to all, a mastermind in crime and begin his little games. For most of "The Dark Knight" we have a cat-and-mouse game between the Joker and the rest of the people, including Batman. He's always one-step ahead, always moral-less, and always achieving some sick satisfaction from the actions of the deranged. Never has a psychopath been so chillingly portrayed in a huge movie like this, and never has the point of the villain been lost as greatly as it is here. The Joker is not a fun character, he's not nice (that's putting it mildly)—but let's be fair, who wasn't entertained by Heath Ledger? We all had the same voyeuristic pleasure of watching the bad guy tear apart the city. Yet we are supposed to fear the man, for he stands for everything is evil; but he is the one we remember the most from the film. I use this as my proof: what's the most famous line of the movie—
"Why so serious?"—and that is the core of the Joker's tangents in one line. Heath Ledger is beyond critique as the made-upped murderer; but this is one of the rare occasions that most of us were okay with the villain defeating the hero.
"The Dark Knight" shouldn't have been a hit. It's too emotional, too deep, too dark, and too complex for it to merit its mainstream status. Yet, there you have it—one of the biggest movies ever made.
My problem with the film lies as such: Nolan bit off more than he can chew. It's a film that encompasses as much as possible and never finalizes any of its ideas. There's the concept of villainy versus heroism, good versus evil, the transformation of the pure mind, the nature of humanity, the ethics of NSA spying, the power of technology, and the need for a pure martyr—above the rest of them is the overriding commentaries on fairness and justice. Still at the movie's closing frame, what did that get me? I feel confused and overwhelmed every single time I see the film.
Christ figures, astonishing writing, and stuns that will take your breath away—"The Dark Knight" is a little too much philosophy and not enough action. For me, the transformation of Dent becomes a little comical, just on the visual aspect alone; but all these are just semantics.
"The Dark Knight" is a better-made movie than "Batman Begins" and possibly one of the sleekest looking movies ever, thanks to cinematographer Wally Pfister.
The film would gain Heath Ledger a well-deserved posthumous Oscar and firmly cement Nolan's name in fandom, stardom, and beyond. The cast is enormous, acting veterans Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman join the already packed list of A-stars.
"The Dark Knight" remains a movie lost in time. It has such a deep sadness, such terrifying ideas, and such wonderful action that it will remain in people's minds long after the decade of the film has faded.
Though I am skeptical to what the film is saying, at least Nolan is trying to say something; and God bless him for that.
Posted by Micah Jones