The Dark Knight: the Ultimate Batman Movie

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. Ledger’s Joker is a one-man terrorist movement, as destructive and amoral as a typhoon, singularly focused on the destruction of the Batman and anyone else who might get in the way. He’s scary like a coiled snake, you can’t tear your eyes off him.

He and the Dark Knight (Christian Bale) 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.

“The Dark Knight” took in a record $155.34 million in its first weekend, topping the previous best of $151.1 million for “Spider-Man 3”.

Christian Bale shows his dark side, is accused of assaulting his mother and sister just before the European premiere of the latest Batman movie. Joker’s psychosis contagious ?

A psychological explanation for the family conflict manifesting at this point in Christian Bale’s career.

Christian Bale has the Joker under his skin.

Trivia: Bale’s stepmother is none other than feminist icon and author Gloria Steinem. What would she say to this unseemly display of male dominance and aggression ?

The obvious question, from Peter Travers of Rolling Stone:

What about the Heath Ledger factor? His performance as the Joker is award caliber. But would The Dark Knight have so stirred your interest or grossed nearly as much if Ledger had been alive at the time of its release? A macabre question, but a valid one.

8 thoughts on “The Dark Knight: the Ultimate Batman Movie”

  1. I found The Dark Knight, or whatever it’s being called now, had a few cool gadgets and tech, as Batman it better have, but as for the movie itself, wait for the cheap DVD and watch it in HD at home on your computer. You won’t be missing anything, especially the poor and overhyped acting performances, and the obvious lack of a plot.

  2. The storyline is a bit thin, since it’s derived from a comic book after all. Its all about character, atmosphere and complete suspension of disbelief.

    Thanks for dropping by, Andre.

  3. I agree completely with your review of the dark knight. Ledger’s performance was indeed superb. I however do not believe that Ledger was better than Nicholson. Nicholsons Joker was portrayed during a time when a lot of restrictions were put on actor since the film was created primarily for children. Unlike the Dark Knight which has a more mature audince in mind. If you watch Nicholson in The Witches of Eastwick, You will see how diabolical he can be. Even though the said movie also hadrestrictions at the time, the fact that it was targeted towards a more mature audience gave Nicholson more room to perform.

    Thank you for giving us such a great review so that those who still haven’t seen the film can look forward watching a movie well worth their money.

  4. There is no lack of plot; rather, plot is driven by the insanity of the Joker. That’s why we keep gasping after each plot twist becomes another plot twist. This movie has captivated me more than any I have seen since Lija 4ever. A lot of movie critics have called it a masterpiece or best movie of the year, just wikipedia “The Dark night.”

    I’ve also been wondering why the Philippine blog community does not talk about “our Gotham” in relation to the movie.

  5. @ Michael Gutierrez, true, Nicholson had to play the Joker for a broader, less mature audience. And he was demonic in Witches of Eastwick but even more so in The Shining. No one can portray insanity in all its wicked nuances like old Jack. A truly crazy dude. And I mean that as a compliment.

    @ BrianB, right, the plot is character-driven. It has raised the bar in its genre. Now I see why they had to release Iron-Man earlier. It would have been clobbered if it went head-to-head against The Dark Night.

  6. I’ve never been a movie buff but will take an exception; just might see this film (my first for the year), thanks to your review.

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