The Dark Knight Review
Hype; it's a funny thing. It can build up your expectations and can sour your opinion, but rarely is it justified. The Dark Knight is a very rare thing - not only does it justify all of the hype, it does so in a way as to make you wonder why it didn't receive even more; and for one of the most talked about films of the year this is all the more surprising.
The film starts with a bang, the first major film to use IMAX cameras (albeit just for a number of key scenes), watching in a conventional cinema doesn't quite manage to give the scale that I can only imagine an eight story screen might be able to offer, but this isn't to the film's detriment. The pace of direction and editing means that any technical and shooting techniques can only add to a sequence that is perfectly judged. With very little time spent introducing new characters and reintroducing familiar faces we thrust into the middle of the action and it doesn't really let up until the closing credits.
We're spared an origin story for The Joker (Ledger), he's at the forefront of the film from the start, as manic and depraved as we've been lead to believe. He's a mad man with no morals and doesn't give a second's thought to the massacre of hundreds of civilians. Much has been said regarding Ledger's performance in this film, in the wake of his unexpected and untimely death. Many have suggested the Oscar-worthiness of his performance, and indeed he truly becomes the Joker. A role that Jack Nicholson once owned, Ledger takes everything about this mad man to the next level. He's dark, truly evil and very very funny. Every thought the character has is on new ways to create havoc and death in as wild a way as possible, and Ledger really loses himself in the mania. So, Oscar worthy? For sure!
In any other film, Ledger's performance would overshadow everything else, however every other major actor is perfectly suited and strong in their respective roles. Bale's dual portrayal of Bruce Wayne as a billionaire playboy and his suited alter-ego is perfection; no other actor would fit both suits as well as he does. Eckhart's white knight, Harvey Dent is convincing as a shining light against Gotham's increasingly dark mob-fuelled criminal underworld and his eventual transformation into 'Two Face' is well handled by both director and actor. Oldman adds layers of previously un-tapped depth to Leiutenant Gordon - the pure definition of a cardboard cutout in previous incarnations; here he is a man of principle and will do anything he has the power to do for the good of the city. Rather than praise each and every major player in the film, it'd be more apt to say that there isn't one that doesn't give their all to their character.
The biggest weakness of the first film was Katie Holmes' take on Rachel Dawes, a part that was little more than Bruce Wayne's love interest. Too young, and too inexperienced an actress, Holmes just didn't convince as a normal person in a film full of excess. This time around she has been replaced with Maggie Gyllenhaal taking over the same role. She is a far more rounded actress able to convey everything that the character needs. As the centre of a love triangle between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent, she walks the tightrope well and is a very strong character now played by a very strong and assured actress.
From the opening bank robbery scene, right through to the dark conclusion, there isn't a second of The Dark Knight that isn't justified. Christopher Nolan doesn't just know how to direct scenes and actors, he's able to trim out anything that might be dead weight - something that almost every other action director should aspire to. With this film, Nolan cements himself up there with the directing elite. Since Batman Begins he has matured, not just as an action director, but as someone who can get the best out of the entire cast. He knows what works and what doesn't. His screenplay, written with his brother, Jonathan, is another triumph - adeptly flipping between seriousness and dark humour with little more than a second's thought and constantly doing the unexpected. There are so many moments that will leave your jaw scraping the floor as the film twists and turns as Gotham heads towards a major showdown that places the city's inhabitants in the position where they themselves determine their own destiny - Gotham, more than any city in any film before is so tightly woven into the fabric of The Dark Knight that the film wouldn't be the same had it been set anywhere else. It isn't just a backdrop to the action this time and is really a character in its own right.
I've been struggling to find anything about the film that doesn't come up to par - but I've drawn a blank and as such I'll put my reputation on the line and can say without a doubt that The Dark Knight is not only the best comic adaption to date, I'd say it's one of the top summer blockbusters since Jaws invented the term back in the seventies.