The City is of Night; perchance of Death
But certainly of Night
– The City of Dreadful Night, James Thomson
The hype surrounding ‘The Dark Knight’, and predominantly good reviews, has ensured that this will be the biggest Batman blockbuster of them all. And assures that the franchise will flourish for at least the next two or three sequels.
Of course, the tragic death of Heath Ledger has created an inordinate amount of interest in his portrayal of Batman’s arch-nemesis, the psychopathic killer, the Joker. He doesn’t disappoint. Played with maniacal, almost reptilian, relish by Ledger, he makes Jack Nicholson’s earlier Joker look like Alfred E. Neuman by comparison. Heath’s Joker is a one-man terrorist movement, as destructive and amoral as a typhoon, singularly focused on the destruction of the Batman. He’s scary like a coiled snake, you can’t tear your eyes off him.
He and the Dark Knight are drawn to each other, like twins separated at birth. As the Joker likes to remind Batman, they’re more alike than he cares to admit. Everyone is potentially insane. All it takes is a little push.
This is not the ‘Batman and Robin’ of our childhood. Dark and grim, there’s little of the camp and antic levity found in the first two Tim Burton movies of the series, which ushered in the present-day Batman era. Gone too is the oft-imitated Gothic atmosphere. This Gotham is a gritty, contemporary urban setting, with all the glitter, menace and random violence of a crime-ridden megapolis, much like New York (with a nod to Hong Kong, for additional global appeal).
Director Christopher Nolan, who also wrote the screenplay with brother Jonathan, imbues the superhero with a gravitas not found in previous incarnations. Nolan has himself described Batman as “a grim character” and his movie as “operatic”. It is that, and more. There’s romance, pathos and tragedy, but also action. Lots of it. So much in fact that the action sequences can be a bit confusing and exhausting.
There’s of course the expected Bat-toys, from his Batmobile, wide-tire bike, gear, weaponry and other high-tech Bat-stuff , to make sure that the merchandising side of the business is taken care of.
Despite some improbable philosophical and moral dilemmas, “The Dark Knight” has sympathetic, believable characters and a taut storyline worth your hard-earned bucks and two and a half hours of your life.
The Scientific American explains why Batman is a realistic superhero, much like Iron-Man. He has no special powers from being born on a distant world or bitten by a radioactive spider. All he has is his billions and a will to develop his physique and fighting skills in order to eradicate crime in Gotham city, thereby avenging the death of his parents.