You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become a villain.
-- Harvey Dent
Let's get a few things out of the way first.
Yes, The Dark Knight does live up to the hype.
Yes, Heath Ledger puts in a truly amazing performance, well worth an Oscar nod.
Yes, the effects are awesome.
Yes, the story is dark, nightmarish, and important.
Yes, it does make excellent use of its 2.5 hour run time.
Yes, this is one of the 25 best films ever made.
Yes, if you have the opportunity to see it in IMAX, do that. The view is spectacular.
No, Heath Ledger's Joker is not 1000 times better than Jack Nicholson's. They are two different Joker's in two different roles and decades. The stories around the two Jokers are very different, and their role in the story is also different. Nicholson couldn't have portrayed the Joker in The Dark Knight, and there is no way Ledger could have played the Joker in Batman. But don't worry -- I'm not about about to defend Cesar Romero and Adam West.
There are plenty of reviews gushing over Ledger's insanely good, and just plain insane, portrayal of the Joker. So I won't spend much time on that.
In this movie the Joker is not evil. He is definitely the bad guy, but he is more a force of chaos in contrast to Batman's role as a force of order. The Joker is the personification of Entropy -- a fundamental element of the breakdown of not just society, but of everything in the world. Batman is simply trying to hold it all together long enough for the general population of
The Joker is crazy, but we never quite learn why. His origins remain a mystery, and that's okay. He just shows up, causes chaos, and sits back to admire things. The fact that we don't know where he comes from makes him all the more believable as that force.
Within that structure, the Joker wreaks his havoc.
The movie is beautiful. The opening sequence -- which dispenses with the credits all together -- is truly amazing cinematography. It's also one of several scenes shot with an IMAX camera, and they take full advantage of the monster screen in an IMAX theater.
The city scape is amazing. They shot the film on some beautiful sunny Chicago days. I don't know why they still call the city Gotham, though. There not even pretending the film isn't shot in Chicago. There are great shots of the El and glamour shots of the river. The world renowned Chicago bridges play a significant role, as does Lower Wacker Drive. Even the license plates are all Illinois plates. It's clearly Chicago in all its Chicago-ness.
It's a long movie but it never drags. The pace, and suspense hit all the right nerves.
This movie is filled with surprise twists. It kept me in shock throughout the film. There was a new dark surprise around every corner. There were even a couple little bursts of light.
There are several tense moments in the movie, but they aren't of the variety of "Will Batman solve the problem in time?" "Can he catch the Joker?" "What is the Joker going to do next?"
Instead the question is, "Will this person do the right thing?" And that's what makes this movie so compelling. It is filled with little morality plays. The Joker puts major and minor characters in tough situations and it turns out they have a choice. Will they do the right thing, which is likely to hurt them? Or do they take the easy way out and act solely in their own best interest?
The way people answer those questions drives the story forward in fascinating ways.
In that way, the Joker is a catalyst for the plot, in addition to being a plot element himself.
This movie is actually about Harvey Dent. It's not about Batman. It's not about the Joker. It's about how their actions affect Dent, and by extension all the people of
I would like to have seen more of his story, though. It was a bit rushed. But to expand on his story would have meant adding another 30-45 minutes to the film (a bad idea), cutting back on the Joker (a worse idea), or ending the movie earlier and sending Dent's story into the next movie (the worst idea). So I'm satisfied with how it turned out, I guess.
The film has a strong story, heart rending twists, incredible acting, beautiful cinematography, and great fodder for later discussion. It's a winner.
Here's what some other bloggers had to say:
- The Dark Knight (Not in My Book)
- The Dark Knight (Q'ner Industries)
- Most Things Aren’t Worth the Hype… And Then There’s The Dark Knight (My Geek Life)
- The Dark Knight: Review, Does it live up to the hype? (Mr. Pappagiorgio)
***NOTE: Spoiler in later comments***