Anthony's Film Review
The Dark Knight (2008)
A top-notch superhero movie that tells a much deeper story about good versus evil...
Films based on comic superheroes usually involve certain expectations from the audience: a strong hero, an equally tough villain, and explosive action between the two. The Dark Knight, which follows 2005's Batman Begins, has just enough of these elements to fit the basic definition of a superhero movie. You have Batman versus the Joker and the minimum amount of action necessary to categorize the movie in the action genre. The basic components are there. Yet, for this movie, I could not help but look at The Dark Knight as an emotionally driven drama that just happens to involve comic book characters.
Let's begin with the Joker, portrayed memorably by the late Heath Ledger. This character is truly frightening, perhaps more so that Jack Nicholson's Joker from the 1989 Batman movie where he's more like a well-groomed clown. Ledger's Joker is a psychopathic man whose evil has indeed stemmed from childhood trauma, as the Joker briefly describes in one scene where he's holding a knife up to a man's mouth. The Joker may not have a flashback scene or lengthier dialogue that reveals his past, but his brief anecdote tells enough and makes the character believable.
On the other side are not one but two major heroes. Billionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), with the help of his butler Alfred (Michael Caine) and his technical advisor Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), continues to battle the criminals of Gotham City as the fearsome Batman. In the movie, there is public debate about whether the Batman is a hero or a vigilante. In light of this, they turn their attention to district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), who is a promising new hero for Gotham with his ability to clean up the streets faster than anyone else. He may possibly replace the Batman as the ray of hope for Gotham's citizens.
The conflict between good and evil is intense here. You have the Batman, Harvey Dent, Lieutenant Gordon (Gary Oldman), district attorney Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal, who replaces Katie Holmes as the actress for this character previously seen in Batman Begins), and the Gotham City police versus the Joker and a large mob. The real intensity, however, comes from imbalance in the conflict. Evil seems to have an overwhelming influence from the start. The Joker's schemes are so clever that any progress by the good guys ends with a major setback. The Joker also presents Gotham City with tough decisions where either choice gives him the upper hand. For example, he demands that the Batman reveal his true identity or else some innocent victim pays the price. And the climax features a situation where many Gotham citizens, who have fallen into the Joker's hands, must make an incredibly tough life-and-death decision.
But the Joker's winning streak is not the only sign that evil truly prevails. The Batman and Harvey Dent find themselves facing evil and being possessed by it. The Batman takes on a ruthless persona, making him seem less like a noble hero. In fact, there is a particular scene where the Batman confronts the Joker face to face and clearly sinks to the same level as the monster he's hunting. As for Harvey Dent, he soon reaches a tragic turning point where he transforms into the villainous Two-Face. This part of the story also illustrates where evil begins.
There is not a single dull moment in The Dark Knight. It's captivating, exciting, and emotionally riveting. I give everyone involved much credit for their hard work, but I would like to give special mention to two people. One is Heath Ledger. His performance as the Joker has a very good chance for post-humous nominations for the Oscars, Golden Globes, and other film awards. The other is Christopher Nolan. As writer and director, he was successful with Batman Begins and delivers the same extraordinary talent for The Dark Knight. He is no doubt the man to carry on the Batman film franchise. In any list of the greatest superhero movies or even the greatest movies ever, The Dark Knight is a strong and worthy contender.
For more information about The Dark Knight, visit the Internet Movie Database.
In addition, check out my review of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises.