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.
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).
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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