He’s the Hero Gotham Deserves, But Not the One It Needs: Batman – The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight poster

So here it is, the response to our request for a review of Batman from the-blog-of-blogyness on Tumblr. I’m only sorry it’s taken so long!

Ok, so for my review of Batman I chose The Dark Knight. This is for one reason and one reason alone: it is my favourite of the Batman films. Directed by Christopher Nolan and studded with an impressive array of stars from the late Heath Ledger in the unmistakable role of the Joker, Christian Bale in his recurrent role as the eponymous hero, and Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent to old favourites including Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman and Michael Caine.

Of course, with Batman nothing is simple. The hero is a billionaire industrialist who likes to beat people up. The only good cop in the city employs dishonest ones. The psychotic terrorist torturing civilians and chopping up criminals…well, he’s just about the most charismatic character you’ll ever meet. Welcome to Gotham, where no good deed goes unpunished. And welcome to The Dark Knight, an anarchic, malevolent fury of a movie that takes a blade to the face of summer conformity and carves a work of twisted beauty out of it.

This sequel to Batman Begins, which finds the titular superhero coming face to face with his greatest nemesis – the dreaded Joker. Christian Bale returns to the role of Batman, Maggie Gyllenhaal takes over the role of Rachel Dawes (played by Katie Holmes in Batman Begins), and Brokeback Mountain star Heath Ledger dons the ghoulishly gleeful Joker makeup previously worn by Jack Nicholson and Cesar Romero. Just as it begins to appear as if Batman, Lt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman), and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) are making headway in their tireless battle against the criminal element, a maniacal, wisecracking fiend plunges the streets of Gotham City into complete chaos.

The Dark Knight is Ledger’s movie. It is a towering performance. From his menacing, pencil-packing greeting to Gotham’s Mob fraternity (one of the most economic and effective character introductions ever), to the threat and fire he conjures in exchanges with Maggie Gyllenhaal’s sexy, sophisticated brief and Batman, to the Sophie’s choice surprises of the third act, he is pure, powerful, immense. Informed by Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke and Jeph Loeb’s The Long Halloween, Ledger’s Joker is anarchy in a three-piece, a ruthless villain who cares for nothing, not even himself. His function, crafted in the hive mind of the Nolans and as Ledger plays him, is to cause chaos, to question everything, to push everyone to extremes, to show Batman there are no rules to this game.

This doesn’t mean Christian Bale is sidelined as either Bruce Wayne or his suited, re-booted vigilante. Bale is too muscular and committed for that, the Nolans’ script too evenly interested in every character in its universe. In this movie, then, Batman is more conflicted than ever, still clinging to his parents’ memory but minus the scowly brooding that can make DC’s darkest hero feel like a moody teen. Now his concerns are much more immediate: how to neutralise a threat that could destroy a city, how to empower a new DA without blowing his cover, how to work outside the system without bringing it down. He’s a good guy gone bad with a conscience…a conscience The Joker plays like a violin.

Oh Wanderers, I’m so glad we had this request. It’s never a hardship to rewatch a film you love, especially when you’d normally have to make excuses to take the time out and enjoy a movie.

I’d give this film four and a half out of five, because although I love this movie, some parts can be a little slow-paced.

Hannah Carter (knows Batman’s a comic hero but really loves this film)

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