Rating: 5 Pulses
Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Caine
Directed by Christopher Nolan
An incredible amount of hype has gone into this film, thanks largely to the phenomenal word-of-mouth its predecessor, Batman Begins, received in 2005. Given that hype for this new entry in the series has been built around the Joker’s mayhem, it made sense that Heath Ledger’s untimely death would only increase the mystique of the film.
So the question is simple: does The Dark Knight live up to these long-fermented expectations? The answer is a resounding “yes.” Everything about this film is refreshingly captivating. Never before has dialogue in a comic adaptation been as sharp as what director/writer Christopher Nolan and brother/co-writer Jonathan have written. The film is certainly not without its fantastic (and relatively CGI-free) action sequences either, and that is what makes this a one-of-a-kind film. The cast and crew maintain the pop-escapism that summer moviegoers look for while combining an epic and psychological crime drama with a Shakespearean tale of morality.
Ledger’s performance in the film cannot be understated. Gone is the camp from Jack Nicholson’s turn in the 1989 Tim Burton-directed Batman. Ledger dives into the psychological twists and turns that The Joker is meant to be characterized by. He is certainly a hinge on the doors of the film but he never steals the show from the supporting ensemble, anchored by Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent and Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon. Maggie Gyllenhaal does a wonderful job as Rachel Dawes, replacing the somewhat miscast Katie Holmes from the first film. Last, but certainly not least, are Michael Caine as Alfred and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox returning to provide the moral compasses to Bruce Wayne, as well as the closest things he has to any kind of family.
Despite its origins as a comic book, The Dark Knight both perfects its genre and transcends it to become something special in an overall film pantheon, very much in the footsteps of The Godfather, Lord of the Rings and the original Star Wars.
Oscar recognition is almost a certainty for this film. Ledger has earned a posthumous statue for his role and it is not inconceivable that Nolan will be recognized for his directing and possibly with a best picture nod. Nolan and company have created a masterpiece template of what comic universes will only be able to try and emulate for years to come.