The Dark KnightA love letter to Gotham City
By Adam Frazier
That's the only way to describe my initial reaction to "The Dark
Knight." For the years of waiting, the months of staring at pictures
and watching theatrical trailers frame-by-frame, I was still completely
blown away by this film. From Heath Ledger's tragic death and all the
insurmountable hype surrounding this film, I was still left shaken and
staggered by "The Dark Knight."
At the finish of Christopher
Nolan's 2005 film, "Batman Begins," Lt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman) and
Batman (Christian Bale) meet on a Gotham rooftop to discuss their next
move in purging the city of crime and corruption.
this guy," says Gordon, who presents Batman with a clear plastic
evidence bag containing what appears to be a single playing card.
"Armed robbery, double homicide. Got a taste for theatrical, like you.
Leaves a calling card."
Batman turns the playing card over to
reveal a Joker. Our fearless Dark Knight examines it a moment and
simply replies, "I'll look into it."
The card belongs to
Batman's nemesis, the Joker (Heath Ledger). An agent of chaos, the
Joker is an anarchist in the vein of Sid Vicious, with a peculiar
fashion sense. His green hair, white clown makeup and daring purple
suit are a direct reflection of the escalation Gordon and Batman spoke
of in "Batman Begins."
Some men just want to watch the world
burn, and nothing could be more true for the Joker, who rips through
Gotham City with no master plan or overall goal - except to upset order
and introduce a little mayhem to the system.
Since he first
appeared in Batman #1 in 1940, the Joker has gone through several
interpretations. Some people might be familiar with Caesar Romero's
portrayal of the clown prince of crime in the ‘60s "Batman" television
series, where he was a goofy trickster of little to no real threat.
of course, there's Jack Nicholson's performance in Tim Burton's 1989
"Batman." Nicholson's interpretation took the fun loving trickster of
‘60s camp and gave it a more murderous edge - but even still the
Joker's role was more a comical jester than anything.
might not know is that when writer Bill Finger and Batman creator Bob
Kane invented the Joker, he was a violent sociopath who murdered people
and committed crimes for his own amusement - not quite Adam West
material, I guess.
Joker is very much alive in "The Dark Knight," thanks in great part by
the brilliant performance of Heath Ledger, who died shortly after the
film's completion. You've already heard how chilling and fearless
Ledger's performance is, and all I can really say is that everything
you've heard is right. Ledger's Joker is one of the best movie villains
How fitting that the greatest foe to ever grace comic book
panels has found his cinematic counterpart. The Joker is a sadistic,
depraved liar with a lust for lawlessness and Ledger gives the
performance of his, sadly short, career. No one will ever be able to
top or even duplicate Ledger's role - it's that awing.
the Joker, Batman and Gordon gain a powerful ally in District Attorney
Harvey Dent, played by Aaron Eckhart ("Thank You For Smoking"). Dent is
a new political force sweeping through the city, Gotham's own "white
knight," vowing to clean up the streets and put corruption behind bars.
This newly formed trio has their work cut out for them, as every
mobster in Gotham is out to get them, and the Joker's crimes grow more
and more deadly by the minute.
In the comics, Harvey Dent
eventually becomes one of Batman's greatest foes, the conflicted
coin-flipping Two-Face. Where as the Joker is the embodiment of pure
chaos and disorder, Two-Face is an example of a good guy gone bad.
Harvey knows the difference between good and evil, but is so conflicted
by his duel personas that his choices are left to a coin flip.
"The Dark Knight," Eckhart takes the considerable challenge of playing
such a complex, nuanced character and performs exceptionally. As the
District Attornery, Dent is a pure and just force to be reckoned with.
Batman sees Dent as the heir to his throne - someone to take up his
mantle. Wayne believes that there will be a day when Gotham no longer
Among the long list of memorable performances in
"The Dark Knight," Eckhart provides his best on-screen performance to
date. He's a guy that you can really get behind - an equal to Batman -
and when he is victimized by the city he tried to save, it's truly
heartbreaking. If I had my way, Eckhart and Ledger would both get Best
Supporting Actor nominations.
Another new face to Nolan's Batman
franchise is Maggie Gyllenhaal ("Stranger Than Fiction") who takes over
for Katie Holmes in the role of Rachel Dawes. Gyllenhaal is a
considerable upgrade from Holmes and fits nicely into a love triangle
between Harvey Dent and Bruce Wayne.
As for the returning cast,
there's Michael Caine ("Children of Men") as Alfred Pennyworth, the
fatherly butler of Wayne Manor. Alfred doesn't just wait on Bruce hand
and foot, he guides him along and provides invaluable wisdom - and when
he must, deliver the honest truth.
Morgan Freeman returns as
Lucius Fox, Batman's gadget guru who is now the CEO of Wayne
Enterprises. Lucius provides our caped crusader with all the tools of
the trade, and there are plenty of new gadgets and gear to gape at in
"The Dark Knight."
And as previously mentioned, the magnificent
Gary Oldman returns as Lt. James Gordon - one of the few good cops in
Gotham who believes in Batman's cause, and aids him in putting
criminals behind bars.
As he has for the past 60 years, the
joker pushes Batman to his limits in "The Dark Knight." And while Bruce Wayne tells himself,
"Batman has no limits," he does have one rule - he won't kill. So what
happens when this brooding, incorruptible figure faces a killer without
rules? As the joker puts it best, it's what happens when an
unstoppable force meets an unmovable object.
"The Dark Knight,"
is one of the best films of the year. I'm not going to sit around and
say, "Oh it's the best ‘Batman' movie," or "The best comic book movie
ever" because frankly that's just insulting. This film deserves to be
taken seriously, which is why it succeeds in the first place - because
Christopher Nolan and all parties involved set out to make a great
dramatic film, not just some simple superhero flick.
Bottom line, "The Dark Knight" is the reason I love movies. It's a haunting, poetic
experience that will stick with you long after viewing. Its multiple
layers, each so deep with subtle nuance, may completely absorb you into
the universe DC Comics and Christopher Nolan have created.