"The Dark Knight" is the 2008 sequel to "Batman Begins" and once again we have Christopher Nolan in the director's chair as well as the return of cast members Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman along with a new cast consisting of Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and of course, Heath Ledger as the Joker.
To give a basic synopsis of this movie would go something like this: The Joker has arrived in Gotham to wreak some havoc in the city and now it's up to the triumvirate of Batman, Commissioner Gordon, and District Attorney Harvey Dent to put a stop to him. That's the gist of it, but the movie's story is actually a lot more involving than that. This movie deals with other things such as the mob, corruption, societal behavior, and chaos, all of which play into what makes this movie stand out as more than just a Batman comic book movie. When it all comes down to things, "The Dark Knight" is a crime drama with a compelling story, and one that just so happens to have Batman in it. Could you really ask for more?
The driving force behind this movie is the Joker, played by the late Heath Ledger in what is most definitely a performance that will be remembered for many, many years to come. This is one of those performances where the actor completely loses himself in the role and you actually see just the character. It's easy to say that when you have an actor covered in makeup like Ledger, but it's also about everything ranging from the Joker's mannerisms down to his voice. It also goes without saying that Ledger did some legitimately investing research on a character like the Joker, locking himself in a hotel room and writing his own little journal based off of the Joker's persona. That's a serious amount of dedication for just one performance, but it both payed off and ended tragically as it lead to Ledger's posthumous Oscar win, one that was necessary due to his unfortunate passing in early 2008.
As for the character of the Joker himself, he's easily now among some of the most iconic movie villains of all time. There are plenty of things that make him stand out such as his relevant views on how society functions, his mysterious backstory, and his ability to make anyone, even Batman, crack and bring them to their lowest low. But in my eyes, the thing I love most about the Joker is how he's the perfect embodiment of pure anarchy. Joker basically plans out elaborate things such as blowing up a hospital and carrying out the murders of notable Gotham public figures, but in the grand scheme of things, he really has no motivation. Most villains always have a reason for what they do, but with the Joker it's simply a matter of him causing all this destruction simply because he can. The Joker is chaos incarnate, bringing an entire city to its knees because he knows all the buttons to push in order to spread true fear and terror. Chaos is something that can't be fully predicted or controlled and the Joker represents that perfectly.
The other villain in this movie is Aaron Eckhart as Gotham's District Attorney, Harvey Dent who goes on to become Two-Face after being left horribly disfigured in one of the Joker's traps. Harvey Dent spends a majority of the film as a legitimately good guy. With "Batman Begins", you had Ra's al Ghul who is ultimately a more extreme version of Batman in terms of carrying out justice, but to contrast that is Dent, a government official who wants to put an end to crime by still doing it in a more legal, by the books manner. However, as the movie progresses, Dent begins his downward spiral to becoming every bit as corrupt as the men he wants behind bars, but the edge to him is that even though he's still not carrying out justice in legal terms, he's still a firm believer in making things fair when carrying out the right punishment, essentially flipping his coin when it comes to deciding if his victim should live or die. His motive is that his girlfriend, Rachel Dawes, was killed by the Joker, but her death is also brought upon by corrupt cops who handed her over to him. It's a revenge story for Dent, but it's elevated by everything going on with his character, than and Aaron Eckhart's fantastic performance.
I stated earlier that this movie is more than just a comic book movie. It feels like a legit crime drama with real social issues and real characters put in a tough situation with the Joker and the mob. If fact, the mob is the main focus for Batman at the start of the film and that aspect adds much more layers to this movie. The classic hero vs. villain stuff is enthralling to watch, but this movie deserves credit for making an equally compelling story dealing with the mob and their role in unleashing the Joker upon Gotham.
Another aspect of the story that's great to watch is Bruce Wayne/Batman's internal conflicts given everything that's going on. You see early in the film how Bruce Wayne wants to be able to live a normal life with Rachel Dawes along with hoping to lay the idea of Batman to rest since Harvey Dent is doing a fine job of cleaning up the city on his own, especially considering the he's able to do with legally and without controversy from the people of Gotham. But all of that hope is taken from him as the Joker goes full swing with his attacks, killing Rachel and successfully corrupting Dent. The scene that really emphasizes Bruce's turmoil is the scene after Rachel's death where he's sitting in his apartment talking to Alfred. That's the one scene where you fully connect with Bruce as a human and you empathize most with him as everything he ever wanted was ripped away from him.
With Batman's conflict, it's obviously due to the Joker and how he knows what makes Batman tick. When it comes to being the Dark Knight for Bruce, his one and only rule is that he doesn't kill and the Joker knows this. Batman is challenged in killing the Joker on quite a few occasions, but the problem is that the Joker wins in virtually every choice made. If Batman kills the Joker, it's a big moral defeat for Batman, and if he doesn't kill him, then the Joker is pretty much free to do as he pleases to Gotham, regardless of if he's behind a jail cell or not. Unfortunately for Batman, the Joker does end up getting his victory after Batman kills Harvey Dent in order to save Jim Gordon's son, thus leading to Batman taking the blame for all of Harvey's crime and exiling himself from the public in order to ensure Dent's good image and create a false sense of victory over the Joker, these events setting up for "The Dark Knight Rises".
For me personally, "The Dark Knight" is one of my favorite movies of all time. It's great as a Batman movie in which character like the Joker and Two-Face are done perfect justice and you get to see plenty of cool Batman action, but this movie has its own story to tell, one that plays off as a dark, gritty, and compelling crime drama with a fantastic look at stuff like chaos, corruption, and basic human behavior and motivation. "The Dark Knight is one of the perfect examples of a sequel that outshines its already well made predecessor, as well as being able to stand on its own as a well told story.
Rating: Better Than Sex!!