by Ken B.
If Christopher Nolan managed to wow us with Batman Begins, he blows us away just within the first few minutes of The Dark Knight, which commences with a brilliantly shot bank heist. This may be the best superhero movie ever made. It stands tall among movies in general as well. It’s breathtaking, well-acted, fast paced, and consistently engaging.
There’s a new supervillain in Gotham. It is, of course, the Joker (an absolutely outstanding performance by the late HEATH LEDGER), wreaking mad havoc across the city. Bruce Wayne/Batman (CHRISTIAN BALE) is now at work attempting to track the sadistic criminal down, at the call of Lt. Jim Gordon (GARY OLDMAN). Remvoing The Joker from his crime spree and the mob he’s enlisted is also a top priority of the district attorney, Harvey Dent (AARON ECKHART). But trying to stop one so clever and brutal is a difficult task, and the subject for this film.
The acting is marvelously superb all around. Although the weakest links are in the secondary cast, grade-A performances are visible from Ledger, Bale, Oldman, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman, among others. You wonder if Heath Ledger knew something about acting the others of his generation didn’t, completely disappearing into the role, playing it with absolute perfection. While his posthumous Oscar was well deserved, it’s impossible to shake the feeling it wouldn’t have been awarded if it wasn’t just that – post-death. The Academy won’t give a superhero movie anything in the acting categories, no matter how fantastic, if you’re alive. The outrage that would have followed would have been unfathomable. Simply put, Ledger steals every scene that he’s in. It could be anything from the film’s dazzling final confrontation between Batman and The Joker, or the video he takes handheld and is shown on the news.
A characteristic mood becomes quite apparent. Nolan enjoys the separation of interiors and exteriors, especially to the point of night and day. Interiors are often splashed with vivid whites and yellows, and the exteriors often focus on a grim blue hue, or sleek and shiny blacks, such as the Batmobile, and an affinity for the bright reflection of yellow street lights. The tone is obvious: this is a gritty, emotion-heavy production. There will be no reference to the healing power of laughter.
The stylish cinematography by Wally Pfister is as good as always expected by the camera work master. It does well at highlighting the radiant special effects. For a movie that is so concerned with highlighting the crime world, there are few superhero movies better to look at.
And then there’s the score, covered by James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer. The point was not to create some sort of John Williams-esque bursting anthem, it was to create a foreboding line of tension to highlight what has been created. And it works, truly and deeply.
The Dark Knight represents a game changer in the world of superhero movies. At this point, Nolan could not go back to a Tim Burton type entry for the third installment. He had given us a taste of what was to come in Batman Begins and ultimately sealed his trademark with The Dark Knight. This is an unbelievably good movie. It leaves you wanting nothing more than what it gave you.