So often, something you’ve been anticipating for so long leaves you a little flat when it arrives. Expectation isn’t fulfilled, hype not lived up to.
I’ve been looking forward to The Dark Knight ever since the final scene of Batman Begins when Lt. Gordon tantalised us with the description of this new criminal with a taste for the theatrical. I’m not a comic book fan, I’m not that knowledgeable about the Batman universe even, but the 1989 TIm Burton Batman was one of my favourite ever films. Returns was good, but let’s not talk about the Schumacher efforts. Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins blew me away and I literally couldn’t wait for The Dark Knight to arrive. Lana has put up with me repeating lines from the trailers to her for months. “Why so serious?” “Evening Commmmmisioner.” “You’re just a freak, like me!” She must have thought I was insane.
But with Nolan’s incarnation of The Joker, immensely played by Heath Ledger, I think insanity has been redefined. This Joker must be one of cinema’s most purely psychopathic evil geniuses. The pure opposite of Jack Nicholson’s portrayal. Whilst the trailers and various interviews whetted the appetite, nothing prepared me for how intense the character was, and that speaks volumes for the skill of the sadly departed Ledger, but also to the Nolans’ screenplay. There’s no origin story for The Joker here, bar some hints at paternal issues, there’s no reason for his actions – he just is. From the first meeting with the mob and a game of hide the pencil (not really a spoiler) you know that this is no joke(er)
It also sets the tone for the rest of the movie. This is no sugar coated violence flick. Whilst the camera might cut away at the crucial moment you are left in no doubt as to how brutally some characters are dispatched. Whilst previous Batman films were basically family friendly, and even Begins was fairly tame, The Dark Knight contains more than “fantasy violence” and is all the better for it. How it got a 12A certificate I do not know.
This is no more true than in the eventual reveal of Two Face. One of the film’s most closely guarded secrets, the build up to the first view of Harvey Two Face is full of expectation as to what he will look like. It’s fair to say that (without spoiling anything) they went far further than I ever expected. This is no Tommy Lee Jones that’s for sure.
This film also goes further than any other comic book film in plot terms, giving viewers a complex, question laden 2 hours and 32 minutes. There’s no lazy reliance on action sequences to carry the third act, it doesn’t resort to a duel to the end between the two main adversaries. In fact one thing that I noticed was that Batman and indeed Wayne himself received relatively little focus despite being the main protagonist. The film allowed it’s incredible array of strong characters to be developed to the full, none more so than Dent. It also poses difficult moral questions that tax more than just the hero, but when it does, it does it in a deep way that makes Peter Parker’s troubles in Spiderman 2 look, well, comedic.
Criticisms? Well right now, I don’t really have any. Yes, Bale’s Batman voice is a bit overdone, but quite honestly there aren’t that many lines to get too bothered about it, after all Batman has always been measured by actions, not words. Length? It seemed fine to me and I didn’t notice it dragging out.
Does it deserve the huge acclaim it is getting? Right at the moment, yes. Time will tell whether it becomes a true great, as opposed to just the best comic book film of all time but I reckon the odds are short. I’d say Nolan is a cert for a Best Director Oscar, and it has to be in the running for Best Film I’d imagine. If Ledger was still alive then Best Supporting gongs would be in the bag for sure, but we will have to wait and see how various awarding bodies handle that one.
It’s jumped straight to the top of the IMDB top 250 with a score of 9.3, pushing down opposition such as The Shawshank Redemption and The Godfather (and Part 2) Again time will tell, but what I can say personally is that it exceeded my expectations and hopes, and for that I stick it right up there.