You’ve heard the hype. You’ve undoubtedly heard what everyone else had to say. Is it possible Christopher Nolan has made the greatest comic book movie to date? Find out what we thought after the jump.
There are very few adaptations which manage to capture the essence of the source material so perfectly. There are also very few sequels which manage to be a more superior film than the first. Fortunately for people looking forward to seeing The Dark Knight, both of those statements are true of this film. Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan and David Goyer create a world where Christian Bale, Heath Ledger and Aaron Eckhart breathe so much life into the franchise, it’s hard to imagine anyone else making a better film based in comic book lore.
I wanted to see the movie a second time before writing this. It wasn’t that I thought I missed something, but more because the film was so heavy I needed a second sitting to just watch the performances. What I enjoyed about Batman Begins was keeping the major characters to a minimum. Too often, an entire film can be muddled by trying to incorporate too many characters into a film that should be about one man (Spider-Man 3). Unlike earlier Batman films with a variety of villains, The Dark Knight manages to keep all the players in place, and hit the right beats at just the right time in each of the major players’ (Batman, Harvey Dent, Joker) stories. The Nolan brothers certainly know how to craft a story that will have you on the edge of your seat (Memento, The Prestige), and sitting through their latest Bat-film is no exception. With a little help from David Goyer, the writers were able to make a film that continues Bruce Wayne’s growth from the first film, while keeping it completely accessible to people who hadn’t seen Batman Begins. When every line for minor characters (Gordon, Alfred, Lucius) has to count, it becomes an incredibly difficult task making viewers care about those characters. Luckily for everyone watching, the actors they have in those roles are so deft in their craft they sell each and every word of every line they’re given.
As for the big stars (Bale, Ledger, Eckhart), each one more than carries his fair share of the film. Christian Bale continues his growth into the cape and cowl, and it would honestly be a shame if he decided to not come back. Watching his Bruce Wayne become the Batman has been an absolute joy for a nerd like myself, and I don’t look forward to the day when he outgrows the role. Aaron Eckhart plays a lawyer well, as his turn in Thank You For Smoking can attest. Here, playing Harvey Dent, who is less morally ambiguous than Nick Naylor, Eckhart is able bring a bit of charm to the screen which rivals Bruce’s disingenuous playboy. It’s interesting watching his arc over the 2 1/2 hour film. Each moment on the screen pushed his character further and further from the point we saw him at the beginning, despite Dent only appearing in about an hour of the film.
While Eckhart and Bale both did commendable jobs, everyone who has seen the movie knows that it completely belongs to Heath Ledger’s Joker. The hype surrounding his performance would have tarnished it for just about any other actor in any other film. Here Ledger is able to completely disappear into the consciousness of a madman, whose only goal is to have a little fun–even if it comes at the expense of innocent lives. One thing is for certain, while he may not actually get an Academy Award nomination, Heath’s performance will go down as one of the finest villains in the modern era. Heath Ledger quite simply steals this film away from the hero, and you just may find yourself rooting for him to succeed, despite how awful the Joker truly is.
Having heard that Nolan didn’t want to return because he felt there was no way they would be able to top this film, I was a little disappointed. Then I saw the film and found myself seeing his perspective. I honestly don’t think there’s anyway for the team behind this film to make a better one next time around. Do I hope they come back? Hell yes. The two Nolan Batman films are some of the most entertaining films of the last few years, and that’s not even considering their superhero roots. But the way they see it, if you can’t make a better film than the last one, why make another? It would certainly be a tall task. The film has already broken just about every box office record it can. Of course they’re not out to just break records, but it certainly makes a case they don’t need to do another themselves. They’ve said all they need to say. If you haven’t seen it yet, get out of the cave you live in and take a walk down the cinema. If you did see it, I highly recommend a second viewing. You can appreciate so much more of the work put into the film when you’re not worried about what’s going to happen on screen next. Congratulations, Batman, you’ve seen the bar Iron Man had set, and placed it another twenty rungs higher. Good luck to whoever plans to follow this up. You’re going to need it.