It came out in NZ on Thursday and so I only just saw it today and I feel like it all lived up to the hype, the first movie for a long, long time to stand up for itself like this. I mean, in general I was avoiding reading reviews but the two I saw were both 5 stars and saying that Ledger’s performance was literally extraordinary, views that were echoed by a couple of radio reviewers I like.
I can’t compare it to every other superhero flick because I haven’t seen them all but I do know it blows the undercooked Batman Begins away by at least the length of the home straight. Universally better performances, characters, story and action than Nolan’s first shot.
I like Bale’s Batman the best, he’s far more suited to the action/fighter side of the character and although his Bruce Wayne is still second to Michael Keaton in suaveness and charisma, Bale’s still fine and completrely believable as the fearless billionaire. Ledger was everything he needed to be, a natural, raw talent handed a role for the ages. Under Nolan’s direction he, like Bale, takes a cartoon character and makes him human, brings him into our world and makes him potent, makes him matter. Aaron Eckhart plays more or less to type, not stretching anywhere near as much as Ledger or even Bale, but is rock solid in every moment of his screen time.
I don’t have a problem with Gyllenhaal, I don’t care that she’s not pretty enough to get the roles that Kate Bosworth or Jessica Alba get because she has more than that type of actress offers a serious film like this. Wayne and Dent are men of substance and men of substance are attracted to women of substance. There are plenty of reasons Bruce Wayne would walk into a party with 3 bombshells on his arm but if he’s going to be impressed by a woman it’ll be a sharp scientist or businesswoman or attorney. Same with a DA like Harvey Dent, he’s too strong a man to give a shit about having a model trophy wife. Gyllenhaal was one of the main reason The Dark Knight kicks Batman Begin’s ass, Holmes is cute but empty, impotent. Gyllenhaal’s Rachel is more ordinary looking but so much smarter and more courageous.
The other great character improvement, albeit a minor support role, was Eric Roberts mafia don compared to Tom Wilkinson’s. In Batman Begins the mob boss is a flacid muppet, almost a joke, the kind of man Tony Soprano or Michael Corleone eats up for breakfast and shits out before lunch (not Wilkinson’s fault, he’s a fine actor, the character was lame). I wasn’t the least bit convinced I should fear or respect him. Roberts’ Salvatore was no work of genius but as a character and performance it served the story so much better, not a bit out of place.
Oldman, I’ve been a fan of for a very long time, I guess since Leon: The Proffesional, and I loved every second of his Jim Gordon. He’s one of the few actors you can say he’s never bad. Never. Even in balls like the Lost In Space remake he’s so watchable. Caine and Freeman I like a lot too but they always play themselves, they lack Oldman’s chameleonic skill. That’s no dis on them in The Dark Knight though, they’re great, all they need to be.
There’s stuff I could have done without in The Dark Knight, the sonar being the chief pebble under the mattress, the bike’s handling and maneuverability another. How is it The Joker’s getaway schoolbus just manages to drive out of the hole it’s made in the bank and slot into the line of other schoolbuses without anyone being able to trace it? The driver behind at least would have had to have been thinking, “Holy shit, that bus that just pulled in front of me just drove out of the hole it made in the bank.” Driving out of a hole in a bank, during rush hour no less, is not the way to get away unnoticed. And I’m supposed to believe a busfull of cold, hardened crims suddenly grow enough heart not to mutiny when they’re threatened with imminent death.
Whatever, the movie still is a comic book movie so they should be forgiven one or two comicbook touches and overall I wouldn’t knock it back below 9/10 just for those things. The only improvement I would’ve asked for in the story was to have Bruce Wayne show a little more vulnerability, a little more of the smack to the heart that losing his oldest friend meant to him. It’s not that he’s not humanised, it’s that as much as I love Batman’s story I don’t relate to the trials of a billionaire as much as I do to someone like Wolverine or Peter Parker. But if you show the billionaire has a heart and feels pain you see more that underneath he’s like you.
Ledger had it in spades, that thing that sets the teen heartthrobs apart from the great actors. He was a work in progress, sure, still finding his way to chosing the roles that would allow his weapons full range. But he’d shown it in Monster’s Ball and Brokeback Mountain, and to a lesser extent in Two Hands, that if he has a script and director who could steer his fire in the right direction he could be immense, a screen presence to stand among the elite. Now he’s shown us again, finally and heartbreakingly, that he was something genuinely special, a force of nature and study and brilliance in the art of film acting.
(Frank, one of the first things I talked about when I left the theatre was that I loved when The Joker started telling Rachel a different version of his scars’ origins. His first story, about an abusive father, was harrowing enough but also seemed too small to explain the hugeness of the villain. When he started telling Rachel a different story it was like a black mark against the film was erased because, like Bryan says, part of The Joker’s power and menace is his mystery, better we don’t have that ruined yet by knowing his origin story. The Asian subplot, I like it because it made the film feel bigger, like Gotham isn’t just some closed comicbook universe. It was one more thing to bring the story into our world.)
(More than one wordy fucker on the mighty SOS boards now. I don’t apologise.)
- Women sense my power and they seek the life essence.