The Dark Knight. And I mean really, really dark

(This review includes spoilers.)

I'm going to pay this movie the ultimate compliment. It was so dark, edgy and realistic that I literally forgot I was watching comic book characters. That has never, and I mean never, happened to me before. In fact, it got so intense that at one point, I was flashing on Brian dePalma's Untouchables, which is probably my favorite crime movie. It was that heavy.

Heath Ledger was fabulous. Every time he was on screen I was on edge, expecting him to kill or mutilate someone, and I was rarely disappointed. The insane, homicidal Joker was almost like the grim reaper, three steps ahead of everyone else, killing both deliberately and randomly for the sheer, perverse pleasure of it. He felt unstoppable. I actually didn't think Batman would ever ultimately catch him; that's how good he was.

And it wasn't just Ledger. The Dark Knight had an unbelievable cast. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman were wonderful; they always are. Maggie Gyllenhaal gave weight and depth to the two-dimensional Rachel. Gary Oldman was appropriately stiff and forthright as the stiffly forthright Commissioner Gordon. The supporting cast was jam-packed with familiar, talented faces from many of my favorite television shows. In such illustrious acting company as this, it says a lot that Aaron Eckhart's agonizing transformation into Two-Face was the standout.

Faces. Masked faces, mutilated faces, distorted faces, vulnerable faces. People in this movie were constantly turning into something I wasn't expecting. The Joker, who told people different stories about how his own face was mutilated, was obsessed with seeing Batman's true face. Were any of his stories true? I kept wondering if perhaps he did it to himself. Much like Harvey Dent did when he refused the skin grafts that would have given him a human face again.

I haven't mentioned Christian Bale yet. Yes, I think this movie belonged to Heath Ledger and Aaron Eckhart. But Christian Bale's nearly demented interpretation of Batman grounded this movie, just as it grounded Batman Begins. As the climax approached, I was starting to think that the movie would stay dark to the end, that there would never be a light at the end of the tunnel. But there was. It began with the two men on the ferries who unexpectedly couldn't bring themselves to sacrifice another boatload of people even to save themselves. And it ended with Batman's sacrifice of his own reputation in order to save the public face of Harvey Dent. In a last bit of symbolism, Commissioner Gordon even smashed the light, the bat signal that was always clouded and difficult to see, anyway.

Yeah, I know I was way late reviewing this movie. I wasn't even sure I wanted to see it. I didn't think it could be as good as everyone said it was. But I was wrong. It was excellent on pretty much any scale you would care to name: writing, acting, production, direction, supporting cast, special effects, you name it. It was so rich and full of depth that viewers will get more out of it with every subsequent viewing. It was even Oscar-worthy. What comic book movie can say that?

I think Heath Ledger would have been proud.

Four out of four stars,

Billie
---
Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

2 comments:

CJay said...

While I agree with most of what you wrote, Spider-Man 2 is surely Oscar worthy. Themes like growing up, losing innocence, and finding out what love really means can all be found there. Then there's the neat trick that all the films (even the scatterbrained and overloaded second sequel) are simply about a slightly irresponsible young man learning how to be a good person. The Dark Knight takes on so many ideas and is packed with social commentary as it takes an entire city's population as it's cast. Spider-Man 2 and even Superman 1 and 2 are telling stories about one character that are just as stirring and thought provoking.

Ben said...

Totally agree with you. This movie blows me away every time. Its head and shoulders above Batman Begins and that movie remains my favourite comic book movie by a clear mile. This movie is one of my favs of all time.
There is nothing, nothing that you can say to discredit this movie. The acting is steller from everyone; Ledger deserved his reward big time. The writing and thought behind each charactor is amazing. And while this movie focuses more on the psycological aspect, it has some kick ass action as well; Batman making a grand escape attached to an aeroplane springs to mind.
This movie will be hard to top, by Batman 3 or any other comic book movie that follows it. Unbelievably epic. Superb.