Review

The Dark Knight Review

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Jul 18, 2008 | 4:59am EDT

After re-invigorating the Batman movie franchise by taking him back to his beginnings three years ago director Christopher Nolan again tweaks the superhero movie genre and turns it on its ear with this riveting and brilliantly executed sequel. You could safely say this is The Godfather II of comic-book movies because at its dark heart it really plays like a crime movie more L.A. Confidential than Iron Man. Joining a triumvirate to eviscerate crime in Gotham City Batman (Christian Bale) teams with Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and crusading D.A. Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) to triumph over evil. But as a true anarchist The Joker (Heath Ledger) is unleashed by the mob and determined to cause holy bat terror for no apparent reason other than his own enjoyment. Right from the beginning Batman and his colleagues realize they are not dealing with any rational criminal and must use all their ingenuity to combat him. The film explores the extreme damage one determined person can have on an entire society an apt analogy to the real world where local terrorists can create havoc beyond human belief. Things also get complicated when a love triangle develops between Batman’s alter-ego Bruce Wayne Harvey Dent (who truly has a dark side ) and Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Bale is back in a role that fits him like a glove--the perfect Batman and suave Bruce Wayne. Fans can also take comfort that Morgan Freeman as scientist Lucius and Michael Caine as loyal butler Alfred are both back along with Oldman whose role as Lt. Gordon has been considerably beefed up for the better. Eckhart’s complex turn as Dent is the most intriguing of all as his eventual predicament sums up the film’s most salient point: There is a fine line between justice and revenge. Gyllenhaal does what she can to ratchet up Rachel (a role played originally by Katie Holmes)--Bruce Wayne’s true love now romantically involved with Dent. But as good as this cast is--and it doesn’t get much better in the genre--The Dark Knight is Ledger’s film a fitting finale for an all-too-short but enormously impressive career. The late actor took on the daunting task of filling Jack Nicholson’s shoes but makes his Joker one of the most memorable of all previous Batman baddies (and that includes Jack’s). It’s a fearless performance bitingly alive and ironic--a clown on crack as it were. This a movie villain that might even scare Hannibal Lecter. Ledger’s posthumous performance may be headed toward the bittersweet moment of a certain supporting Oscar nomination if not the award itself. Perhaps it’s the fact that Christopher Nolan got his feet wet directing small gems like Memento that The Dark Knight feels so intimate in its theme--even though the film itself is played on such a large scale. Nolan has created a dark creepy Gotham City where anarchy reigns justice is confused and the criminals and the crime fighters are seemingly interchangeable at times. Nolan’s boldest move has been to film six major action sequences in the IMAX format giving this sequel a scope that few other movies out there have. He has also jettisoned the tired overuse of CGI trickery for good old-fashioned stunts--including a spectacular sequence in which a giant Big Rig is flipped as well as numerous high-flying chases from Gotham to Hong Kong. There is also the addition of a new mode of transportation for Batman--the Batpod a heavily armored two-wheeled all-purpose driving machine that makes the Batmobile look like a Honda. Ultimately though Nolan who co-wrote the screenplay with brother Jonathan Nolan has more on his mind than mere gadgets and movie mayhem. The Dark Knight’s true power comes in the way this darkest of knights puts a mirror up to society and shows us we are all potentially on the eve of destruction--unless we summon the elusive will to stop it.

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