The Dark Knight (2008)
Starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Eric Roberts, and Nestor Carbonell
Directed by Christopher Nolan
The two things I vividly remember about watching The Dark Knight in theaters four years ago was that the show I was seeing had a projector issue causing a "brain wrap" (in projectionist terms) which made the film stop (forcing me to head to another auditorium to watch the end) and that I thought Heath Ledger was perhaps a bit overrated in his role as The Joker. At that point in time, I thought that Aaron Eckhart was the one who should be getting more praise for his take on Harvey Dent/Two Face and that Ledger's death was giving him some (slightly undeserved) great posthumous reviews.
Years later, I realize that perhaps I was a bit too harsh on Ledger. Not that I ever thought his performance was bad, but I always felt that because of his death, he was being praised more highly than he would have had he been living. While that may very well still be a true statement, the fact is that he did a heckuva job with The Joker. Freakishly malevolent, there's an eerie psychotic presence whenever The Joker is onscreen.
It's because of both The Joker's maniacal evilness and the stalwart Harvey Dent's shift into the flawed Two Face that make The Dark Knight an infinitely better movie than Batman Begins. These two figures bring much more to the table in terms of conflict than anyone did in Christopher Nolan's first Batman film, but it's not just the "villains" that are wreaking havoc on Gotham City. Batman himself is finding himself loved and hated by the city and Bruce Wayne is forced to come to terms with whether he is helpful or harmful to his fellow citizens. Now that the origin tale has been told in the first film, Christopher Nolan is able to delve a bit more into the psyche of Bruce/Batman and it's a welcome addition.
Once again, supporting turns are all top notch. Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Gary Oldman all add an aire of professionalism to the film which often isn't felt in comic book adaptations. Maggie Gyllenhaal takes on the role originated by Katie Holmes and fares a bit better. Holmes was never bad (I feel like I'm one of the few people who actually liked her in Batman Begins), but Gyllenhaal felt a little less morose than the somber Holmes, although it's entirely possible that the role was just given a bit more life beyond "love interest" than in the first film. Also, I find it invigorating that Nolan isn't afraid to create characters that are capable of dying. Gotham City isn't a pristine town by any means and by having deaths occur to characters we come to know, Nolan creates a sense of urgency and fear that we don't normally feel in comic book adaptations which always seem to feature immortal characters.
The Dark Knight isn't perfect -- once again, Nolan drags the climax out for much too long -- but it's darn close to the best -- if not the best -- comic book flick I've ever seen. Here's hoping The Dark Knight Rises finishes off the trilogy on a positive note.
The RyMickey Rating: A-