Screen Gems Movie Reviews
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The Dark Knight July 18, 2008
The Dark Knight
Studio: Warner Bros.
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and some menace

Director Christopher Nolan returns to helm his second superhero feature in "The Dark Knight."

Batman (Christian Bale) and police lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) are still working together to clean up Gotham City. They join forces with new crusading District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) to finally take down the mob by grabbing its money.

But the accountant they need to make the charges stick is on the run, so the men discuss how to bring him back for trial.

It's decided Batman will travel to Hong Kong and snatch the man illegally. He succeeds and that puts the crime bosses under even more serious pressure. They turn to a new criminal for help. But in this case the Joker (Heath Ledger) may be a cure that's far worse than the problem. Friend and foe alike aren't safe as he weaves a deceptive web of murder and betrayal.

To call "The Dark Knight" just another superhero movie is really not doing this film justice.

It feels more real, with a greater sense of urgency than any other "comic book" movie I've ever seen. The way the story moves is brilliant. The characters make logical choices and it doesn't take leaps of faith to connect the different pieces of the plot together.

Nolan also makes a pretty bold decision to show bad results coming from good deeds. It's a very impressive, risky choice that works beautifully to maintain the tone of the story.

Despite the best efforts of Batman, the police and Dent, Joker-orchestrated events in Gotham start spiraling out of control. Even with good intentions, the result is chaos and death, with very little silver lining evident in the storm cloud of trouble.

To go along with its great story, "The Dark Knight" has equally wonderful performances.

Bale's Batman is probably the best the series has seen. Working outside the law to try and save Gotham, you truly believe in his commitment. As for his other face, Bale's Bruce Wayne lacks emotion and depth. But I think it's a good interpretation of the reality of the character.

That's because Wayne is his disguise! The billionaire playboy persona is only necessary to interact with people in everyday life. Batman is truly who this guy is! An avenging force so scarred by the murder of his parents he puts on a mask and fights crime.

As good as Bale is, Ledger is even better. This is not a cartoonish, zany Clown Prince of Crime. This Joker is a dangerous, unpredictable force of nature. Everything from his scarred, makeup-covered face, to the way he walks, to his voice defines the character as never before. I've been a Batman fan for years, both in the movies and the comics, and this Joker is as good as I've seen. Seemingly without a plan, he manages to outwit and outthink just about everyone, even our masked hero. And his "magic trick" is something you'll remember for a long time.

Ledger disappears so completely in this role that I didn't even think about his tragic early death in January from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. It's sad that such a remarkable performance will be his last, but I'm glad we have a chance to see him play this character. It's an Oscar-worthy performance, even though it comes in a "summer" movie. As a matter of fact, until I see something onscreen that just blows me away...I'll go on record and say Ledger should win the Oscar.

But the third part of the film's acting trio is equally strong. It is Eckhart's Dent who serves as the movie's lynchpin. Batman and Gordon wager everything on his image as Gotham's savior. This is Eckhart's best work both as a heroic crime fighter and a horribly wounded crime victim.

Much the same can be said for the rest of the supporting cast.

Oldman's clean cop in a corrupt town works with Batman under the radar. But the Joker also forces him to make a difficult decision which bleeds over into his personal life. We learn a little more about Wayne's faithful butler Alfred (Michael Caine.) Apparently, he hasn't always been a "gentleman's gentleman." And he also reaches a crossroads where he makes a decision you may or may not agree with. Morgan Freeman is still a pillar of integrity and ingenuity as Wayne Enterprises CEO Lucius Fox, who also serves as Batman's chief gadget maker and moral compass. Finally, Maggie Gyllenhaal takes over the role of Rachel Dawes from the departed Katie Holmes. The assistant D.A. might be Wayne's one chance for a normal life, but a budding relationship with her boss forces Rachel to make a choice between the men. Each of the supporting actors is much more than just a background character. They all play significant, important parts in making this film as good as it is.

Finally, when it comes to "comic book" movies I'm a huge fan of the genre. I read the books as a kid and still enjoy the characters today.

Since it debuted, "Iron Man" has been my favorite movie of the year. I loved Robert Downey, Junior's portrayal of Tony Stark. Also this summer, Edward Norton infused "The Incredible Hulk" with an emotional center that made the movie much more than just a special effects bonanza. "Wanted" was a fun popcorn movie and the sequel "Hellboy II" was even better than the first movie in the series.

But when you're talking about "The Dark Knight," you just have to put it on another level. This story sets the standard for these types of films.

On my rating scale, "The Dark Knight" hits a Home Run.

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