Why so serious? A "The Dark Knight" review.July 29, 2008
A couple of days ago I saw the long-awaited The Dark Knight. I'm a fan of Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan's first Batman film from 2005, so I was looking forward to it's follow-up.The film has garnered some incredible hype on the internet. It is getting thumbs up reviews from most critics (94% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of writing) and is loved by most 'regular' movie goers (a #1 spot in the all-time top 250 on IMDb with an average rating of 9.4). All this hype was built on a very solid first film, an incredible marketing machine and the untimely death of Heath Ledger (who stars as The Joker).
Joining Heath Ledger are all the stars from the first film: Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Michael Caine as Alfred, Gary Oldman as Lt. James Gordon and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox. Aaron Eckhart joins this all-star crew as Harvey Dent while Maggie Gyllenhaal replaces Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes. Christopher Nolan takes another seat on the director's chair while his brother Jonathan joins him to write the screenplay.The screenplay is based on a story penned down by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer. Batman, Lt. James Gordon and new DA Harvey Dent are successfully rounding up Gotham's top criminals until a new criminal mastermind only known as the Joker starts to wreak havoc on the city.
When Heath Ledger's name was first linked to the part as The Joker I was a bit worried. I hadn't seen that much of Ledger's work but how could this guy top Jack Nicholson's performance in Tim Burton's Batman? I thought he wouldn't be able to. That is, until I saw the first stills and teasers. The dark, grim Joker in this film has nothing to do with the Nicholson's funny, over-the-top Joker. Don't get me wrong, The Joker gets a lot of laughs in this film, but every time you laugh at one of his jokes it only takes a fraction of a second to bite your lip for laughing. That is the strongest part of this Joker, as a viewer you clearly feel he is pure evil, yet you cannot help to nervously laugh at all his escapades. The brilliance of The Joker isn't just Ledger's performance, a lot of credit has to be given to the make-up department. His pale purple and green outfit combined with his smudged make-up and scarred mouth are the finishing touch to Ledger's performance.
Besides Ledger all the actors deliver awesome performances. The only annoyance I had with the performances was Batman's voice. Bale uses different voices for playing Bruce Wayne and Batman. This in itself isn't a bad thing. Unfortunately Bale uses an extremely gravely voice when playing Batman which is really over the top.The film tells a very twisty, dense story. It weighs in at about two and a half hours and is filled to the brim with (back)story. It doesn't slow down one moment and is one big roller coaster ride. The biggest critique I had with the film is related to the story though. The first and second act of the film are awesome (although I didn't think Batman's Asia trip in the first act was all that necessary). For me it really fell apart in the third act though. Nolan uses a silly technological solution to solve one of the problems which has a really comic book feel to it. This is a shame because nothing in this film breathes comic book at all (except for the capes of course!). It's a gritty, action-oriented crime drama all the way through to the third act and then suddenly turns into a comic book adaptation. The same could be said for all the psycho-analysis and social commentary at the end. All the things they are trying to say are intelligent and thought provoking. Unfortunately all those things are literally spoken out by the characters. These are all conclusions I could have drawn myself and would have wanted to draw myself.
At first I walked out of the theater a bit disappointed. This because of the events in the third acts. After a couple of days of pondering though I'm still blown away by the majority of the film. The Dark Knight is the best superhero film I've seen, one of the best action films I've seen, features the best film villain I've seen and is probably the best film of 2008 so far.
So... What are you still doing here? Go see it!