The Dark Knight (2008) Reviews
I asked myself… was it batman movie or joker movie? was it good vs evil? good looking heroes or a psychopath killer? who would have guessed that the one with his face hidden behind twisted clown makeup, whose perfect features and fair brow are not glimpsed even once, would prove the most memorable?
This is not because Heath Ledger died in January, though that event does perhaps add some otherwise unearned melancholy to the film. It’s because Ledger’s performance is so intense and so lasting; it’s because despite the insane mask, it’s a subtle, nuanced piece of acting so powerful it banishes all memories of the handsome Aussie behind it. The makeup seems to have liberated him: He’s supple of body, expressive with only his eyes, and his voice has undulations of irony and mockery and psychopathology to it. He’s an essay — in a way he’s never before been, playing straight-faced characters — in pure charisma.
His portrait of the Joker owes nothing to Jack Nicholson, even though that in itself is hard to imagine. This knife-wielding psychopath isn’t jaunty, but hunched and frowzy. His mirthless grin isn’t fixed, but the lipstick smear of a crazy street lady. His awkward moves, speaks in a bright, crisp voice , and play with tounge and licks his scarred chops with a frequency that suggests heavy doses of anti-depressives. If the stories he tells about those scars are contradictory, they are never less than creepily entertaining. He’s the best-written character in the script, but it’s Ledger’s acting that plumbs the depths of the Joker’s derangement.
The Dark Knight of the title is played, as in “Batman Begins,” by Christian Bale, an actor of such intensity that his smolder would be another star’s blaze. Maggie Gyllenhaal is a welcome replacement for Katie Holmes as the assistant D.A. Rachel Dawes, but Rachel remains a hard case to care about because her feelings for Harvey and Bruce Wayne are so fraught with ambiguity.
Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are back as, respectively, Bruce’s butler and the CEO of his business empire. So is Gary Oldman as the upright police lieutenant Jim Gordon. The production outbonds Bond with technology that includes a new Batsuit made of titanium-dipped triweave fiber (so Bruce can turn his head), a two-wheeled vehicle called a Bat-Pod (they couldn’t call it an iPod and they didn’t want to call it a motorcycle, i really hav no idea) and a new Batmobile that looks to be less than brilliant when it comes to gas mileage. Quick shots of the control panel show two of the car’s operating modes to be Loiter and Intimidate. The movie’s main mode is Suffocate.
The effects and stunts are first-rate, though for big bangs, the opening bank robbery was probably the most powerfully done. Batman’s ability to ride the thermal columns between Gotham shafts downward to safety is very cool. So is the magical way the Batcar becomes a motorcycle with the purring of some electric gizmos, and a lot of the time this Batman seems like Daniel Craig that has been successful transform 007 ,than anyone named Keaton, Kilmer or Clooney who came before.
The Dark Knight (152 minutes) is rated PG-13 for mayhem, menace and intense sequences of violence.