REVIEW OF ‘THE DARK KNIGHT’
Although, in the movie promotion business it can be said that ‘any publicity is good publicity’, this might have been untrue in the case of actor Heath Ledger’s demise before the release of the new Batman movie ‘The Dark Knight’. Although there is no doubt in my mind there would have been a high degree of hype around this movie, the death of Heath Ledger seemed to catapult audience anticipation through the roof. In turn, when the initial reviews and soundbites hit the press, ‘The Dark Knight’ was on a massive ego trip- largely due to the favourable reception of Heath Ledger’s performance of ‘The Joker’.
Now, lets be clear, although the fact that Ledger died just before the film was released, doesn’t entirely account for the hype surrounding the movie OR his performance. Any self respecting movie fan would have been champing at the bit to see such a vibrant and talented actor like Heath Ledger, take on Jack Nicholson’s role in a prequel. It was a good choice, infact, it was really a no-brainer in my opinion. About three or four years ago I had the discussion with my brother about who we would like to see take up previously portrayed characters.
Following his roles in ‘American Psycho’, ‘Shaft’ and even ‘Equilibrium’, we discussed that Christian Bale could be a good candidate as ‘The Batman’. Recognising the need to take ‘the Batman’ back to his dark roots- we knew that after his role in ‘The Machinist’, Bale could provide the split personality effect needed. We were not wrong. Christian Bale has managed to maintain the internal strife of the character of Bruce Wayne, but develop them and make them more complex within himself- so that we are aware of the pressure within the character without the need for this to be overstated or oversimplified in the script itself. In this discussion, the role of ‘The Joker’ was raised and after a long hard think, my brother suggested Heath Ledger. We had followed him from his very early career and we could see he had a lot of great roles ahead of him. Of course, when we heard he was to actually play ‘the Joker’, we were ecstatic.
Yes, the tragic death of Heath Ledger has brought a mixture of adulation for the actor and for the character into one. Is this justified? Should Heath Ledger win a posthumous Oscar award? In short, yes he should. I have given careful consideration to his performance and I am telling you, dear reader, that the character of ‘The Joker’ is as believeable as any character could be. There simply was no trace of Heath Ledger present in the movie.
Therefor, it is no surprise to me, that people who actually knew Heath Ledger are calling for him to win an award, not simply as a token because he died but because they have witnessed the greatest performance from a very talented actor who manages to immerse himself completely in that role. Despite comments that the character is ‘creepy’ I would disagree with this, I would say he is joyous to watch. Every scene in ‘The Dark Knight’ which did not have ‘The Joker’ present is about 5% less enjoyable to look at.
The decision to replace Katie Holmes with Maggie Gyllenhaal was, as you will hopefully find, the right one. In my opinion, it was a mistake to overlook Maggie Gyllenhaal in the original cast of this Batman series. She had given some sterling performances in movies such as ‘The Secretary’ and ‘Criminal’. She brings a real quality of credibility to the character of Rachel Dawes. The viewer can see why Bruce Wayne is so in love with her, and she is feisty and tough.
Other characters who really contribute to the richness of this movie are Gary Oldman as CI Gordon and DA Harvey Dent and the fabulous (although slightly superfluous) Lucius Fox. Without a doubt, you will find great pleasure in watching Micheal Caine take up the role as Alfred because he brings everything the character needs to the screen and more.
This film needed to be an action movie of epic proportions. This is because, a new generation of movie fans- maybe without much or even any knowledge of the comic history- roots need to be entertained. More than this, let down staunch fans and comic geeks and you can kiss goodbye to any future credibility to the Batman movie franchise. It would be torn to shreds.
I have tried not to give any of the plot away in this review. I refuse to give spoilers in reviews because it completely disloyal to readers who just want an honest opinion before they spend good money on a cinema ticket. What I have tried to explain is that ‘The Dark Knight’ is rich, well thought out, well cast, well structured, and above all, well scripted. I would ignore the naysayers who complain this movie is over-hyped or does not fulfill expectations, that is is benefiting from the death of a young actor, or that it is all non-stop violence and no script. This is rubbish. Book your seat, take in a large popcorn (if you eat when you are in suspense like me, you will need it) and leave your expectations at the door. This way, you will truly appreciate the cinema triumph that is the second series in the long overdue reworking of ‘the Batman’ franchise. Enjoy!