My (very Long) Review!
By the way, this is my longest review ever. It's going to take quite some time to read. You have been warned. i am a film/theater major. bear with me please XI
I'm not even sure where to start with this movie. It was mindblowing - and I never use that term. As of right now it is the 2nd highest grossing movie of all time (it has only been in theaters for a little over a month!)...and for good reason. Christopher Nolan's visionary take on the classic graphic novel world is so realistic, you forget it sprang from DC Comics.
The Dark Knight has 7 bright stars, all of whom are potent (the definition of potent being: "having or exercising great power or influence"). They are: Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Christian Bale, and Heath Ledger. (Also, some notable minor characters include: Lau, Ramirez, and Reese.)
I have always loved Morgan Freeman. He has that classy polish no matter what role he's in. His turn as Lucius Fox is no exception. Lucius Fox essentially runs Wayne Enterprises for his friend and employer Bruce Wayne. As both a genious and one of the few that know the true identity of Batman he designs all of The Batman's vehicles and gadgets, as well as his suit. He is invaluable throughout the movie, helping to take the next step forward when Bruce hits a wall. Lucius also has a strong concience, and when in the movie he is faced with a moral choice, one in which either choice his values would be compromised, he struggles, but ultimately makes the choice for the greater good. It's always an enjoyable experience to see him onscreen, he's somewhat relaxing in his calm strength, and reassuring intelligence.
Maggie Gyllenhaal was an IMMEDIATE improvement of the acting-impaired Katy Holmes in "Batman Begins" (which "The Dark Knight" is the sequel to). I mean seriously. Let's face it. Her portrayal of Rachel Dawes sucked. Then along comes her replacement (Katy Holmes turned down the opportunity to reprise her role in order to star in the total flop "Mad Money". Can you say "worst career move of the century?), and Maggie Gyllenhaal knocks it out of the park! She's very sexy, but in an unconventional off-beat way. Her appeal is all her own, and she made Rachel Dawes the woman she needed to be to fit into the puzzle of the tale. One scene imparticular highlights her actng skills (the party scene). In that scene, she brings fire and fear in perfect balance. Her Rachel was strong (brave to the end), with just the right amount of emotional weakness. Her tenderness toward Bruce and her commitment to Harvey made you as confused as she was. All in all Maggie not only hit the nail on the head, but managed to be endearing :D
Michael Caine played Bruce Wayne's butler, Alfred, who is also his best ally and close friend. He has wise insight into the way the world works, as well as the nature of good and evil, and the fluxe between them. He clarifies for Bruce upon many an occasion. He also cares for him both physically and emotionally. He risks alot to be a help to The Batman. He is intrguing because of his vast and undefined past experience, invaluable in the madness of crime and vigilante justice. One of my favorite monologues of his involves the nature of The Joker. "Some men aren't looking for anythig logical," he explains, "They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn". Later in the film he is burdened with a secret from Rachel (whom he has known as long as Bruce) and struggles with the decision of whether or not he should tell him. Alfred's almost-fatherly emotional involvement with Bruce is touching.
Gary Oldman is such a superb actor. He melts into any role he plays, whether it be a vampire, Serius Black, or in the case of "The Dark Knight", Jim Gordon. Jim Gordon is the leader of the Police force (but not he Comissioner). He is bound to an emphatic sense of duty, which is constantly at odds between the legal and illegal, whichever will bring justice. He beleives in the rules, but also is in cahoots with Batman. He is the one that shines the "Bat Signal" in the night. Very few people know about his compromises with Batman. Those who do support him, some of those who don't are suspicious. Usually he let's the mysterious Batman have his way, but at times he protests in favor of more lawful approaches (usually to no avail). At one point during the movie, he is shot and presumed dead. But then, just as the Batman is about to be captured by the murderous Joker, he shows up and saves the day! "You're are playing this pretty close to the chest, aren't you?" Harvey Dent says in reference to an earlier conversation on the morality of utilizing Batman. When he captures The Joker (who later ingeniously escapes) he is promoted to Commissioner, a proud accomplishment that he deserves. Oldman takes Gordon's commitment to his family to an even more intense level than his sense of duty, and that is saying something. Through facial ex
Aaron Eckhart plaed Harvey Dent, the new DA, aka "Gotham's White Knight". His campaign slogan is "I Beleive in Harvey Dent". Bruce at first finds this cheesy, but as he observes him (Dent is Rachel's new boyfriend, and Bruce keeps tabs on her) he becomes curious about him and shows up at a resteraunt where he and Rachel are having a romantic dinner. As they talk over dinner, Harvey voices his opinions of justice and politics, as well as his support of Batman. Bruce is convinced that Havey could be the man to end the need for Batman. He proclaims a fundraising event, and ignore's the humble protests of Harvey. Later, at the fudraising party, you see just how much he adores and dependsd on Rachel. Privately, he professes his desire to spend the rest of his life with her. He is sad when she replies that she's just not sure. (The party then ends when The Joker and his psycho henchmen crash the party. Bruce shoves Harvey somewhere sae before rushingof to change into Batman). During a funeral parade for the recently poisoned commissioner (by the Joker of course), Gordon is shot (as was mentioned earlier), and Harvey discovers that Rachel is The Joker's next target. He is enraged...many events follow, escalating in their levels of destruction, and slowly you can see him begin to lose his grip on his morality. Batman attempts to bring him back to what he needs to be: the public face of hope, the force for reform. However, when a particularly horrible event takes place, in which not only is he emotionally wrecked, but his faced was terribly burned on one side, he is a changed man. Through his recovery in the hospital, he refuses pain medication and skin grafts. In his greif he rejects everything he has ever beleived in, and prefers to be permanently disfigured. When The Joker pays an unexpected visit, he tactfully twists Harvey's mind, another battle won for anarchy ("I'm an agent of chaos." he says frankly). Harvey becomes "TwoFace". He flips a coin to decided who lives and who dies, and he singles out those who he believes to be responsible for his losses. Aaron Eckhart smoothly shows his complete abandon to a misguided sense of fairness: that of simple chance. He alternates between the calm talk of Harvey, and the harsh outburts of TwoFace, which are startling in their contrast. Eckhart's character is eventually killed in a fall while facing Batman (he had been threatening Gordon's family...in front of a defenseless Gordon). Gordon remarks on how horrible it is that all the good works will be undone. (To which Batman says, "The Joker cannot win", and convinces Gordon to save Dent's reputation by blaming TwoFace's murders on him). Eckhart's Harvey Dent makes a believable swing from good to evil, one that he makes all the more compelling with the use of his voice, which I believe to be his biggest asset.
Christian Bale (intended to be the star, but outshined by Heath Ledger) expertly melds together the inner demons of Bruce and the valiant efforts of Batman. He is constantly conflicted with the desire to protect and the desire to be normal. He punishes his body each night, and Alfred stitches him up each morning. Of course there is amazing action and kick-butt fighting from him, as well as highly exciting driving skills (and a niftily disguised voice when he is being Batman), but what really made me love watching him was the inner struggle he subtly displayed. Throughout the film, Bruce undergoes a reflective period of contemplation, in which he questions his values, how far he is willing to go. He remarks to Alfred that Batman has no limits (physical, emotional), but Alfred reminds him that Bruce does. Bale is still and dark, brooding over what's best for Gotham, as well as life in general. All his emotions are shown through his eyes, even when he is battling as Batman. His one rule is never to kill, to capture instead. But as he is faced with greater and greater evil, he begins to waver. He ultimtely decides to stick to his commitment, to be true to what he considers right. The Batman became a real person through Bale's multi-dimensional study and performance. It would be hard to make a comic book hero a real human being with a past, and varied thoughts. He does it well, drawing on all the subtext established in the previous movie. Just as Toby McGuire upgraded Spiderman to an intriguing and compelling look at humanity within one man, Bale transformed the outdated 2D Batman into the same, but darker. Not once do you question his sincerity. He is the glue that holds everyone and everything in the movie together. And strong glue he is. Super glue.
Now on to my favorite character! Heath Ledger as The Joker. I was flabbergasted at how mesmerized I was by him! I haven't been this impressed by an actor since I watched "On the Waterfront" starring Marlon Brando (who is one of the greats). Who knew Heath Ledger had such power in him??
Alright, so I could write a 20+ page ode to his performance, however I am going to try and force myself to keep it as short as I can...but reader beware...I will probably go into far too much detail. ;S
First of all, we've all heard the old adage "you can tell a good actor by the eyes", and I believe that's true. However, I believe that a GREAT actor changes his/her entire psychology to become the character, and shows it not only through the eyes, but in every way: the way they stand, the way they walk, the way they speak/manipulate their voice. The way they sit, gesture, hold their hands/shoulders, how they move their head, lips, eyes, arms, and chin. The rythm of their speech, the intensity, spastic, or calm control of their movements. Adding little quirks to solidify uniqueness. Moving from one mental and/or emotional state as events progress. Basically no longer being ANYTHING but the character. Thinking the way the character would. Allowing the role to consume them while they are performing....and Heath did that. No small feat! The strength and mental presence that takes is rarely present in anyone.
Don't get me wrong, there was no weak link in the movie, but The Joker stole the show. No matter what was happening in the scene, my eyes were oddly magnetized to him. He inexplicably managed to be both a quick-witted genious, and an unpredictable madman. He was filled to overflowing with insanity, yet logical in his shocking but explainable way. The movie's opening immediately establishes his physicality, and his utter disregard for human life. The Joker indesputebly has all the best lines and monologues of the movie, and the screenwriters (Jonathan and Christopher Nolan) didn't waste any time putting them in. For example, one of The Joker's first lines is: "I believe, whatever doesn't kill you, simply makes you...stranger."
Throughout the film, he makes joke after joke, but you can tell he means every single word, which makes them unsettling rather than funny. His madness is made obvious, without being in-your-face. It's all the little things added together, which makes him reminiscent of (but extremely different from) Hannibal Lecter, in his brilliant ingenuity and disgusting intimidation.
I am now going to use a quote from the Variety review (only what's in quotations). He is masochistic (enjoys being in pain), and frequently vocalizes his "near-poetic musings on his own bottomless sadism". Sadism definition: deriving great pleasure from being extremely cruel. He undestands how people think, and uses this to control and manipulate. He also has correct though horrifying insights into the nature of how and why things happen.
Unlike most villians, he admits (and embraces) the fact that he is evil. He proclaims "I'm an agent of chaos". However, he has no plan, the chaos he so loves causing is reflected within him. He has no grand scheme, he simply moves from one small organized event to the next. "I'm a dog chasing cars, I wouldn't know what to do with one if I caught it! I just...do things".
Ledger and Nolan give one particularly chilling glimpse inside The Joker's brain in this impromptu taunting (fab scripting here btw): "Do you want to know why I use a knife?" (and he always has a plentiful supply of blades in his pockets) "Guns are too quick. You can't savor all the little...emotions. You see, in their last moments, people show you who they really are. So in away, I knew your friends better than you ever did. Would you like to know which of them were cowards?" The Joker does use guns when neccesary, but you can tell he really loves his knives, by the way he handles and brandishes them. It's so difficult to show a relationship with an ob
(Here I could name many other very specific parts that show Ledger's genius, and explain exactly why I consider each scene incredible, but that would take far too long. So, if you are interested in discussion, contact me.)
One wardie remarked to me that he couldn't enjoy "The Dark Knight" because the tension was constantly ratcheted up, with no breaks. But that's one of the reasons I love it! That is a DANG HARD thing to acomplish! Most people usually easily get bored with movies that so persistantly add stress, but because of The Joker, things are so random and varied (twisting, turning, and careening at record speed) that is doesn't matter that the intesity never drops!
One of the most striking monologues is near the end of the film. It's the final showdown between Batman and The Joker, who expresses an observation, which pretty much sums up his relationship with the Caped Crusader: "This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable ob
Next time you watch The Dark Knight (and you simply must watch it at least twice, for you notice more the second time aound), watch for The Joker's little unconscious ticks, his contradicting behavior, his crazy voice and intonations, and all the other irregulrities! It's truly remarkable.
If Heath Ledger is not posthumously awarded the Oscar for Best Actor, I will consider it a crime. Blasphemy against the Gods of Cinema.
All in all, the movie was perfection. There are only a handful of such movies. Each puzzle peice not only fits together with the others perfectly, but can hold it's own. Plus, the action sequences (especilly the scene involving the BatPod) are to die for. It deserves the praise and money it has gained. Appreciate what should be appreciated!
Bravo to all involved, every single person, from the Producer to the Director to the Screenwriters to the Editor to the Cinematographer (the cinematography is FANTASTIC by the way) to the Gaffer to the Key Grip to the Best Boy, up and down the scale, and everyone in between. What a seemingly psychically connected team. Encore!