Movie Chronicles » The Dark Knight

First “Official” Dark Knight Review online June 26th, 2008

Rolling Stone’s Peter Tra­vers has posted his review of The Dark Knight for us to dis­sect and envy; the first of the big pub­li­ca­tions to give their opin­ion on our much antic­i­pated sequel.

Describ­ing The Dark Knight as a thun­der­bolt that rips through a sum­mer of bland movies, Tra­vers heaps praise on the mad-crazy-blazing bril­liant Heath Ledger as The Joker. I’ve picked out the part I love the most:

The haunt­ing and vision­ary Dark Knight soars on the wings of untamed imag­i­na­tion. It’s full of sur­prises you don’t see com­ing. And just try to get it out of your dreams

Once again the full review comes after the break. We’ve already posted an unof­fi­cial review from a well known Spaced character.

Rolling Stone Review

Heads up: a thun­der­bolt is about to rip into the blan­ket of bland we call sum­mer movies. The Dark Knight, direc­tor Christo­pher Nolan’s absolute stun­ner of a follow-up to 2005’s Bat­man Begins, is a potent provo­ca­tion decked out as a comic-book movie. Fever­ish action? Check. Daz­zling spec­ta­cle? Check. Dev­il­ish fun? Check. But Nolan is just warm­ing up. There’s some­thing raw and ele­men­tal at work in this art­fully imag­ined uni­verse. Strik­ing out from his Bat­man ori­gin story, Nolan cuts through to a deeper dimen­sion. Huh? Wha? How can a con­flicted guy in a bat suit and a vil­lain with a cracked, painted-on clown smile speak to the essen­tials of the human con­di­tion? Just hang on for a shock to the sys­tem. The Dark Knight cre­ates a place where good and evil — expected to do bat­tle — decide instead to get it on and dance. “I don’t want to kill you,” Heath Ledger’s psy­cho Joker tells Chris­t­ian Bale’s stal­wart Bat­man. “You com­plete me.” Don’t buy the tease. He means it.

The trou­ble is that Bat­man, a.k.a. play­boy Bruce Wayne, has had it up to here with being the white knight. He’s pissed that the pub­lic sees him as a vig­i­lante. He’ll leave the hero stuff to dis­trict attor­ney Har­vey Dent (Aaron Eck­hart) and stop the DA from mov­ing in on Rachel Dawes (feisty Mag­gie Gyl­len­haal, in for sweetie Katie Holmes), the lady love who is Batman’s only hope for a nor­mal life.

Every­thing gleams like sin in Gotham City (cin­e­matog­ra­pher Wally Pfis­ter shot on loca­tion in Chicago, bring­ing a gritty real­ity to a car­toon fan­tasy). And the bad guys seem jazzed by their evil­do­ing. Take the Joker, who treats a stun­ningly staged bank rob­bery like his pri­vate video game with accom­plices in Joker masks, blood spurt­ing and only one win­ner. Nolan shot this sequence, and three oth­ers, for the IMAX screen and with a finesse for chore­o­graph­ing action that rivals Michael Mann’s Heat. But it’s what’s going on inside the Bat­head that pulls us in. Bale is elec­tri­fy­ing as a fal­li­bly human cru­sader at war with his own conscience.

I can only speak superla­tives of Ledger, who is mad-crazy-blazing bril­liant as the Joker. Miles from Jack Nicholson’s broadly funny take on the role in Tim Burton’s 1989 Bat­man, Ledger takes the role to the shad­ows, where even what’s comic is hardly a relief. No plas­tic mask for Ledger; his face is caked with moldy makeup that high­lights the red scar of a grin, the grungy hair and the yel­low­ing teeth of a hound fresh out of hell. To the clown prince of crime, a knife is prefer­able to a gun, the bet­ter to “savor the moment.”

The deft script, by Nolan and his brother Jonathan, tak­ing note of Bob Kane’s orig­i­nal Bat­man and Frank Miller’s bleak rethink, refuses to explain the Joker with pop psy­chol­ogy. For­get Freudian hints about a dad who carved a smile into his son’s face with a razor. As the Joker says, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stranger.”

The Joker rep­re­sents the last com­pleted role for Ledger, who died in Jan­u­ary at 28 before fin­ish­ing work on Terry Gilliam’s The Imag­i­nar­ium of Doc­tor Par­nas­sus. It’s typ­i­cal of Ledger’s total com­mit­ment to films as diverse as Broke­back Moun­tain and I’m Not There that he does noth­ing out of van­ity or the need to be liked. If there’s a move­ment to get him the first posthu­mous Oscar since Peter Finch won for 1976’s Net­work, sign me up. Ledger’s Joker has no gray areas — he’s all ram­pag­ing id. Watch him crash a party and cir­cle Rachel, a woman torn between Bale’s Bruce (she knows he’s Bat­man) and Eckhart’s DA, another lover she has to share with his civic duty. “Hello, beau­ti­ful,” says the Joker, sniff­ing Rachel like a feral beast. He’s right when he com­pares him­self to a dog chas­ing a car: The chase is all. The Joker’s sadism is lim­it­less, and the masochis­tic delight he takes in being punched and blood­ied to a pulp would shame the Mar­quis de Sade. “I choose chaos,” says the Joker, and those words sum up what’s at stake in The Dark Knight.

The Joker wants Bat­man to choose chaos as well. He knows human­ity is what you lose while you’re busy mak­ing plans to gain power. Every actor brings his A game to show the lure of the dark side. Michael Caine purrs with sar­cas­tic wit as Bruce’s but­ler, Alfred, who har­bors a secret that could crush his boss’s spirit. Mor­gan Free­man radi­ates tough wis­dom as Lucius Fox, the sci­en­tist who designs those won­der­ful toys — wait till you get a load of the Bat­pod — but who finds his own stan­dards being com­pro­mised. Gary Old­man is so skilled that he makes virtue excit­ing as Jim Gor­don, the ulti­mate good cop and as such a prime tar­get for the Joker. As Har­vey tells the Caped Cru­sader, “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see your­self become a vil­lain.” Eck­hart earns major props for scar­ily and mov­ingly por­tray­ing the DA’s trans­for­ma­tion into the dreaded Har­vey Two-Face, an event sparked by the bru­tal mur­der of a major character.

No fair giv­ing away the mys­ter­ies of The Dark Knight. It’s enough to mar­vel at the way Nolan — a world-class film­maker, be it Memento, Insom­nia or The Pres­tige — brings pop escapism whisper-close to endur­ing art. It’s enough to watch Bale chill­ingly ren­der Bat­man as a lost war­rior, evok­ing Al Pacino in The God­fa­ther II in his delu­sion and des­o­la­tion. It’s enough to see Ledger con­jure up the anar­chy of the Sex Pis­tols and A Clock­work Orange as he cre­ates a Joker for the ages. Go ahead, bitch about the movie being too long, at two and a half hours, for short atten­tion spans (it is), too somber for the Hulk crowd (it is), too smart for its own good (it isn’t). The haunt­ing and vision­ary Dark Knight soars on the wings of untamed imag­i­na­tion. It’s full of sur­prises you don’t see com­ing. And just try to get it out of your dreams

Comments No Responses to “First “Official” Dark Knight Review online”

Keith June 26th, 2008


Jay June 28th, 2008


Jay June 28th, 2008

Sounds amaz­ing!
That father thing sounds really stu­pid though.
Other than that I can­not wait!

Charles August 3rd, 2008

This movie was not as well pol­ished as the first. bat­mans pre­for­mance was over shad­owed by many sup­port­ing actors. Also the choice of span­ish street fight­ing as bat­mans prin­ci­ble mar­tial art made him look skil­less. The fact that many iconic bat­man fight­ing moves wern’t used made me feel like this wasn’t a bat­man movie. bat­mans mar­tial arts skill take a dis­tant back seat to tech­nol­ogy. Sup­port­ing vil­lians also feel like they where weakly thought out, ready to take a pathetic john wayne punch. Even though both the joker and two face where well por­trayed accu­rately. This movie felt like truly sad attempt at cap­tur­ing the dark night.