In "The Dark Knight" the Joker is Wild
The Batman series in celluloid has had more than its share of ups and downs, with four of the films; "Batman," "Bateman Returns," "Batman Begins," and "The Dark Knight" reasonably fine entertainment, and worthy of some notoriety amongst aficionados of the "caped crusader." Arguably, "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight," with Christian Bale as the more physical Batman, have made significant moves toward a more conflicted and onerous relationship between hero and villain, the Gotham bystanders and the audience's perception of such.
As exposed in "The Dark Knight," Christian Bale's Batman had grown more intense - projecting more of a low growl in his trademark gravelly voice once he slipped into his alter ego - as he was pushed to the limit by his greatest nemesis of all time, The Joker, portrayed by the late Heath Ledger. Heath Ledger revealed The Joker as a malevolent menace bent on homicide whenever possible. From a pencil shoved into the brain of a street thug to blowing Rachel Dawes, portrayed by Maggie Gyllenhaal, to smithereens. I guess it would be too much to ask that Katie Holmes get her role back as the first Rachel Dawes in the sequel after being replaced by Ms. Gyllenhaal, and, moreover, the producers will never be able to replace Heath Ledger as The Joker.
Heath Ledger took The Joker far beyond the campy version portrayed by Jack Nicholson in the inaugural "Batman" to an inestimable level and furthermore, any comparison of Ledger's version of The Joker to the former Nicholson version is a vast understatement of Ledger's richly textured and totally realistic picture of the deeply disturbed sociopath. The Joker's musing, "This town deserves a better class of criminal... and I'm gonna give it to them" sums up his sense of avocation. An avocation that would have no purpose without The Batman, even to the point of his misguided idea of solidarity, represented by the Joker's statement to the Batman, "Don't talk like one of them. You're not! Even if you'd like to be. To them, you're just a freak, like me!"
And therein is the conflict. To the fickle public of Gotham, Batman often is the hero and sometimes the freak as espoused by The Joker. While Batman feels a responsibility to those same people, he is well ready for another to pick up the proverbial baton, and lift this ominous burden. Good citizen Harvey Dent, played by journeyman actor Aaron Eckhart, is willing and may be capable, but, you'll have to rent or buy this fine film to see how that turned out. Besides Eckhart and the other aforementioned actors, "The Dark Knight" boasts an all star cast; Morgan Freeman reprised his role as the tech wizard of Wayne Industries, Lucius Fox, as did Michael Caine as the loyal Alfred, and the great character actor Gary Oldman as the young Commissioner Gordon.
The acting is superb, the action is brisk, the dialouge is surprisingly excellent and the story, while disturbing to normal young children, is seamless, believable and even at 152 minutes of runtime, never a dull moment. It was truly an excellent movie and the best yet in the Batman series, and is strongly recommended at 4 stars.
Released December 8, 2008. Rated PG 13.