Batman – Nolan’s Dark Knight, with Bale, Ledger and Caine, is Nothing Short of Sensational

I don’t applaud at the end of movies, and I never will. But if any movie ever made me want to it was Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Truly, it was incredible.

Heath Ledger and the Joker

Let me start with Heath Ledger as that seems to be all anyone can talk about. That’s why I’ll make it brief and get onto other things since you all already know how good he is. His performance is unrivaled. Simply unrivaled. What’s more, I’m certainly not the first person to say that he deserves an Oscar. I could drone on, but it’s really that simple when it comes to Ledger so I’m not going to dwell.

I will say that I love the way the concept of Joker was written, which really had very little to do with Ledger, I’d imagine. That is, Nolan’s Joker truly embodied the chaos and anarchy that the character was meant to. Unlike Nicholson’s Joker whose history we are given, this Joker knows no history and the twisted words out of his mouth about himself make that all the more apparent. This Joker, in spirit, is the ultimate opposite of what Batman is and by very virtue of that fact the character itself may render all future Batman villains in this series somewhat disappointing. How could any be as twisted, maniacal or disturbing. That, with Ledger conveying these elements: unbeatable.

The Cast

No actor fell short in this film. Christian Bale’s character wasn’t nearly as tormented as in Batman Begins and so in a certain sense we get less out of him than before. Nonetheless, his performance was nothing to scoff at. He still made a great Bruce Wayne and an excellent Batman – though sometimes the deep pitch of his voice while playing the Dark Knight made understanding him a little hard.

Maggie Gyllenhaal was, I dare say, better than Katie Holmes, who, already having taken the crazy-plunge by the start of Batman Begins, wasn’t the wonderful girl I fantasized about during Dawson’s Creek. This Rachel wasn’t as hell-bent on saving Gotham, but she did have a spark – a life – that made her a great addition to the movie.

My feelings about Aaron Eckhart are mixed (potential spoiler alert – this paragraph only). I think he’s a great actor and entertaining fella to watch on screen. As Harvey Dent trying to be Gotham’s new hero D.A. he was compelling and believable – like the good guy many of us imagined him to be in Thank You For Smoking. I will say that by the end of the film, something about his performance was not adding up for me. Disappointing since as many people know by the previews, the third installment of this Batman series will most likely have Aaron Eckhart playing our villain (or at least one of them).

As a Film

The movie itself, actors aside – script, plot, themes, action – was sensational. Yes, the actors made it what it was, but Christopher Nolan deserves a hat off for this one. In true Batman spirit it was dark as could reasonably be done. Moreover, as absolutely twisted as it was and as much as we were visually privy to, Nolan never made us watch the few things that would have been unnecessary to show and only good for shock value (well, not only, but close). The discretion he exercised as a writer/director should be lauded. Finally, I was shocked by at least two facts that I didn’t see coming at all, and was so caught up that the plot twists were surprises to me as well – I love that when I’m watching a movie.

And yet with all this the movie was not simply great acting amidst exciting action sequences. It was food for thought. Mostly thanks to the dialogue written for Joker, the film intimately explored ideas as simple as right and wrong while also probing our hearts about human nature. We are made to practically plead with the film to reaffirm or restore our sense of human decency and it reminds us, without making us feel as though it’s trying to, that we are allowed to hope for better, brighter things. Concepts like the rule of law, anarchy, justice and more are also woven throughout the movie. Not once, though, are we made to sit through a director’s attempt at jamming anything down our throats. All of this is skillfully and seamlessly interlaced through dialogue, action, and plot, leaving you at the end to digest a whole lot more than what you thought you were getting for the price of admission (in some sense the opposite of the feeling you had when The Happening ended).

The Audience

I have never in my life seen a crowd like this. Applause before previews, when it began, periodically throughout and of course at the end. There was a huge line waiting to get in before the movie, but thanks to my sick girlfriend, we were able to bypass the whole thing and be the first ones in the theater. This, naturally, resulted in a threat on my life by the man first in line who had probably been there two hours ahead of time (we arrived thirty minutes before the start of the movie), and though I understand his disposition, I have a tough time believing that, as the second person in the theater, I picked the precise seat before him that he had so desperately waited to get.

There was not an empty seat in the house – and this at a theater that had midnight, three a.m. and six a.m. showings, and then all day right until ours. Fortunately I had my favorite seat in the house – dead center in the middle of the theater, both up and down, left and right. It really couldn’t have worked out better … for me.

Words to Leave You With

To conclude succinctly, this movie exceeded my expectations, and considering that they were so high, this was nearly impossible to do. When I expect great things from a movie, I rarely get them, a sad fact which resulted in my movie philosophy of no expectations but a hope for entertainment. This film, however, shattered the highest expectations I may ever have had for a movie. I thought it was over twice – and would have been wholly satisfied had it been – and was twice given another slew of great action, dialogue and entertainment. And so much more.

For a truly spectacular film, I award my first full 10 Chocolate Salty Balls. Someone tell Nolan – he’ll be thrilled.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts about this film in a comment below. Get your copy of The Dark Knight. You won’t regret it.

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11 Responses

  1. I have to agree wholeheartedly! Your review is better than any one I would have/could have written for my blog, so I’ll just link my blog to yours for it.

    The only nit I will pick with you is who the villain for #3 will be. If you are correct, I can’t wait to see how they do it!

  2. Thanks Barber of Civility! I really appreciate the complement, and don’t worry – despite what I said I also can’t wait to see how they do number 3.

  3. Ledger – Yes. But it must have been, in part, script-driven, director-driven and the whole tone/POV the Joker was given in this movie. But Ledger took what he was man-given and wrapped it all in one big psycho bundle of chaos. Delicious.

    The movie – The fastest 2-1/2 hour movie I think I have ever seen. The longest movie-gasm I have ever had. Dialogue, acting (Ledger stole it – The Dark Night? – like candy from babies), action, humor!, special effects… yum, yum. Two-Face was there (wonderful and gruesome special effects for T-F), but Batman and Joker were the two sides of the coin. My one negative comment: Some action scenes felt so close that I couldn’t tell what was going on; I wanted to “back up” some.

    And: “Dark” from beginning to end. Someone said that kids under 13 shouldn’t go. I don’t know that you can put a specific age on it, but this is much more intense than what the kid is reading the comics. Make sure your kid can handle it and knows it’s a movie, actors, special effects. If they are afraid of clowns, think twice. If they aren’t, they may be afterwards.

    Pre-rant: Some kids clearly don’t belong in this 2-1/2 hour movie. I loved this movie, but my viewing experience could have been much better. When I bought the tickets Tuesday, I asked the seller if the show already had a lot sold; she said they were selling constantly, but that we were the first two tickets sold for this show (3:40PM). When we got there, there was a long line and my friend suggested I go ask if he was in the Batman line (he was holding a place in line; I arrived second). The usher said to go on in, so I waved to my friend and we got the seats we wanted (dead center, like you). I think the line was for our movie but the usher, for whatever reason, sent us in. Thank you, Mr. Usher (and why a famous singer was taking tickets at a movie…). I could pretty much ignore whatever pandemic the man to my immediate left was spewing; at least it wasn’t constant. And the 3, 4 or 5 year old with the hyperactive mouth in the row behind me to my left could be silenced at intervals; if I gave the “over-the shoulder movie scowl”, his slightly older brothers would pound him to “Shut up!”.

    Rant: However, one seat over to my right, next to my “mandate” (the friend I attend all these movies with that our wives do not have any interest in seeing – mixed marriages both of us), were I believe, 3 generations: mother, daughter, granddaughter. If I had to guess: Mother was my age, daughter was in her 20s and granddaughter was 1-1/2 or 2. This poor cute little child CLEARLY did NOT belong in this movie and was a distraction to me the entire movie; I missed dialogue. Mommy wanted to see the movie and kept hushing the baby. Overall, the kid was well behaved and she was age appropriate: a little crying, a little babbling, a little talking. No kid that age is meant to “Hush!”, “Sit down and be quiet” for 3 hours (counting extra long previews). I wanted to slug that dense mother and felt very sorry for the kid (and me) – total, constant distraction, too close to tune-out. I may have to see it again after the crowds dwindle some. To top it off, the mommy’s phone rang at the beginning and the mother’s phone rang at the end, at a climax (interrupt-us); she didn’t even know it was her phone until my friend told her, so it rang several times.

    Future: Like Jack Nicholson in the first of the old Batman series, like the villain in the first Dirty Harry, etc, etc – it’s going to be hard to top this Joker. Unlike the Hulks, the bar has been set extremely high.

    Irony: For whatever reason, comic book villains usually go through at least several issues before being killed off, if at all, but in most of the movies, they get killed off after one movie (e.g., Raz Al Gul, Goblin, Doc Oc). And in this movie, I believe Harvey Dent/Two-Face dies (unless the memorial service was a “fake” and they are hiding what happended to the still living Dent). But they didn’t kill off the Joker (but even his appearance in a sequel would have been hard to top his presence in this one) – no, he died in real life. Real shame (for anyone, and for his family, but for us movie-goers, too).

  4. Wow Sam – great review. I really appreciate the rants too – it’s amazing how much things like that can screw up a movie. Hope this was a little cathartic.

    Everyone else – please feel free to accept my invitation to leave your thoughts here in the form of full reviews like Sam did. Smaller comments are welcome, too, of course, but it would be great to turn this into a forum for discussion of the movie.

  5. [...] news days, however, and what happened in 2001 can hardly be called ‘in the news’ [...]Batman – Nolan’s Dark Knight, with Bale, Ledger and Caine, is Nothing Short of Sensational July 19, 2008I don’t applaud at the end of movies, and I never will. But if any movie ever [...]

  6. [...] got something to say My Movie Forecast fo… on Batman – Nolan’s Dark Kn…Jay Solomon on Batman – Nolan’s Dark Kn…Sam on Batman – Nolan’s Dark [...]

  7. Ledger did a Nicholson on the Nicholson’s joker. Great movie. Too bad my wife only likes Chick flicks and musicals.

  8. great movie! I think Ledger made a good joker. I hope my girlfriend don’t mind batman though LOL

  9. [...] For Jay Solomon’s review of the Dark Knight click here. [...]

  10. i still wish Katie Holmes had stayed on board as Rachel Dawes for the Dark Knight; it was like the time spent getting familiar with her character in Batman Begins was wasted…

  11. Greets! Really funny. Big ups!

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