This film is relentless. Both within the story and from the audience perspective. Things start badly for the citizens of Gotham, in a merciless and chaotic bank robbery attempt, and they go only lower from there. Ultimately, ordinary citizens and shackled convicts end up on modes of public transportation with detonators in their hands, faced with impossible moral choices. Choices are what the Joker is interested in; he expects the worst at all times, and he wants everyone else to get on board with his nihilism. As he explains so happily to his foe, he’s almost an inevitable result of Batman. “You complete me,” he giggles, and the joke is in hearing those words from a romance movie in this type of movie… Which is more like Saw than it was like Batman Begins for this viewer. Torture porn. If the Joker is all that Batman’s war on crime in Gotham has called up, then things truly are hopeless. Or as the Joker says, whenever someone surprises him by doing good “they just haven’t been broken yet.” At this point everyone has their own best Batman. He’s had 60-some years to evolve. Morrison is currently writing every version at once, in layers, in the title comic, and having fun doing it. His anemic, ill, mad and loony Joker is a lot like Ledger’s. Nolan opens up the screen to Ledger’s creative, playful, wacky and totally entertaining performance, and the whole movie falls into it. As Joker, he offers a different version of his scarred origin story to each of his victims, and they’re all plausibly twisted poems of pain. There’s a giddy scene where he walks, giggling, in a nurse’s dress, out of a hospital, pesky malfunctioning detonator (the FX budget is entirely explosions in this film. And a bat-cycle. And then more explosions) in his hand. Ledger milks these surreal moments for everything they might possibly offer. But unfortunately, he’s not the only villain in the movie. And none of the rest of them seems to realize he should be. When you see Joker, you don’t stand up to him. You don’t dare him. And you most definitely don’t insult him. You run and hide. Plain and simple, there’s nothing else to do, short of being Batman yourself. There’s no tension in the scenes where Joker reacts to his victims; it’s a predator playing with his already dead food. And that’s just sick. Gyllenhaal gives a more soulful, warmer reading of Rachel Dawes than the previous actress, important to this film as she is the one gleaming light of hope in two men’s shadowed eyes. Gary Oldman is excellent as the always compassionate Chief Gordon. Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine execute their supporting roles with their usual meticulous craft. But Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent had me longing for the Tommie Lee Jones version. When I wasn’t reflecting on the meta-textual fact that Heath Ledger has flirted with both Gyllenhaal siblings on screen at this point, I was squirming in my seat and looking at my watch by the beginning of Dent’s demise. At least Tommie Lee’s Two-Face could smile (hard not to with Jim Carrey preening around in a green leotard I suppose). Dent is caught in an impossible role as Gotham’s “White Knight.” Everyone (Batman included) sings his praises while his inevitable fall is glaringly evident in every frame. Maybe there just isn’t a way to do his character on film: what makes sense on the comics’ page sometimes looks ridiculous on screen, and yet what this movie lacks most of all is a sense of humor. It also lacks Gotham. The grim urban environment, full of ports and ferries, is absent the Wayne Industries imprint and all of those elegant elevated trains from the last film. The art direction must have been very simple: gray, and Joker’s lipstick. All of the interchangeable mobsters are just clones of Tom Wilkinson’s criminal from the last film. With Wayne manor burned down, Bruce has nothing but faceless lofts in deep sub-basements or high above ground to brood in between battles. A brief visit to China makes little difference, because he just flies from high-rise to high-rise as he would in Gotham when he gets there. Any sense of international exoticism is eaten up by Gotham’s infinite grim blank panes of glass. As is Bale’s performance, a role without quirks, save for silly visual and vocal effects. He doesn’t know it at all, but his Batman screams out for Robin at this point. I’ve realized at least who my Batman is. He was last seen in a much more interesting city, flirting with Michelle Pfeiffer. And he needs more of a life than that provided by Alfred. Or Rachel. He needs a sense of the absurd, bubbling somewhere on the screen. Not just the absurdly deadly. Gotham needs to look like a place worth saving. It may even need to be a city where saving an orphan whose aerialist parents were murdered could give a dark knight a reason to live. The Dark Knight (2008) Review2.0Overall ScoreShare this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.