When it comes to comic book films, there’s a certain level of entertainment that’s expected to be provided to ensure a box office success. The story should be simple, filled with enough action, and most importantly, it should be kid friendly and crowd pleasing, because after all, it’s the boy (or girl) in you that started reading the comics when you were young. Films like ‘The Fantastic Four’ and ‘Spiderman’ and its sequels have done so to a great of success, and when ‘Batman Begins’ came out, it was one best transitions from the comic book to the big screen.
Now comes the sequel, ‘The Dark Knight’, which not only is the opposite of kid friendly, but dark, mature and thrilling; it’s also a comic book adaptation that succeeds on story, acting, and cinematography. Folks may go into the film because of the hype surrounding Heath Ledger and his last performance here, but he’s just part of an ensemble this makes film hard to miss. From Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, director Christopher Nolan, and many others, all hands were on deck to make this film truly irresistible and one that folks will talk about long after leaving the theaters. Nolan hasn’t just created another comic book film, but a well crafted solid engrossing thriller.
When last seen in ‘Batman Begins’, Bruce Wayne was just getting used to his alter ego Batman and saving Gotham City from crooked criminals like the Scarecrow and gangsters, but in ‘The Dark Knight’, he faces his deadliest foe. Seems like there’s a villain in town who doesn’t appreciate what Batman is doing to Gotham's underworld. Batman’s presence has made them fearful at night, and making them work twice as hard not to get caught. The Joker (Ledger) wants to send him a message. He robs banks for fun and intimidates anyone to bend to his knees. With Gotham D.A Harvey Dent (Eckhart) looking to be the white knight and rid the city of major crimes, the underworld reluctantly have no choice but to turn to the Joker for assistance. With Dent, Batman, and Police Lieutenant Jim Gordon working together, one would think that the city is safe to walk the streets, but they have no idea who the Joker is, and what he will bring the table. His level of chaos exceeds anything they have encountered and brings mayhem to the forefront. Using the city as bait, as well as Dent and Batman’s affection for Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), The Joker will stop at nothing until Batman comes out and reveals his identity.
From the moment he was cast as the Joker, many wonder if Heath Ledger had the courage to be in the shadow of Jack Nicholson, who had previously played the role in the ’89 Batman film; and when Ledger died suddenly months before the movie’s release, the film would take on a challenging marketing campaign. No one wants to exploit Ledger’s death to hype the film, but the Joker is a big part of the film and must be highlighted. Not only does Ledger bring the house down with his performance, he defies the conventional villain role. From his looks, his vocal tone, and his unrelenting, merciless attitude, Nolan has created one of the best villains on the big screen. His performance matches The Silence of the Lambs’ Hannibal Lecter for their dark, cold, deliberate viciousness.
As mentioned earlier, The Joker is only part of the ensemble that makes this film work on all level. Bale seems comfortable in both roles as Bruce Wayne and Batman as with the sequel, the characters are more defined than introductory. Same goes for Oldman, who’s Gordon character has been elevated from just being the cop who helps Batman to a career lawman looking to enforce justice. As the lead female in the film, Gyllenhaal is an improvement over Katie Holmes and adds strength in her character instead of just ‘window dressing’. Eckhart plays his part with gusto and his transition to Two Face is mesmerizing. Freeman plays Luscious Fox with finesse. He’s the equivalent of ‘Q’ from the James Bond films.
Shot with IMAX cameras, Nolan captures lots of scenes with amazement. From the opening bank robbery to scenes of Batman flying in the sky to different shots of Gotham City, the visual effects is just electrifying. ‘The Dark Knight’ is more than Batman Vs. The Joker. It’s filled with a high level of excitement. There a love triangle, plenty of fight sequences, and great acting. At 2 ½ hrs, it doesn’t feel long and it never wavers from being tense filled. This film will go from just being another summer film to being unforgettable.