The cast/crew bit: written & directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Christian Bale, Gary Oldman & Heath Ledger
The ten-word synopsis: A reinvigorated Joker plots and schemes against Batman. Fun ensures.
Confession time: I never really ‘got’ the Joker. To me, he was never a villain worthy of the hype. He was just some bloke with in make up. No powers, just a cackling laugh. Slightly mad, which is always good, but just lacked oompth. You may have noticed that the last paragraph was written in the past tense, because the moment I saw The Dark Knight, something clicked.In Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan created a world. It was real, and visceral and gritty. He built a film around this world, but never let the plot get in the way of establishing it. With this job out of the way, the sequel can focus on the characters and the events that unfold around them instead, and it does it with some pizazz. The opening scene shows a heist by a gang in clown masks. What happens next is just a small part of the incredible job Nolan did with the Joker, establishing him as possibly the greatest on-screen villain ever seen. The trick was simply to ground him in reality- He’s a madman. Clinically, properly insane, but more importantly than that, believably insane, right down to his newly-coined ‘Why so serious?’ catchphrase. Watching him set alight a huge pile of cash is one of the most iconic moments of modern cinema. No longer is he a common-or-garden robber with a thing for car tricks who fell into a vat of chemical waste, his reinvention as a nutjob suffering from suggested emotional trauma makes him into a character that we, as an audience actually like.
So much of this is down the an incredible, deservedly Oscar-winning performance, from the late Heath Ledger. It’s said that the role messed with his head to the extent that he overdosed on sleeping tablets, killing him. This level of insanity comes through. However, what Ledger really adds to the role, something often ignored when analysing the role, is heart. Traces of sympathy seep through the audiences collective crawling flesh, as a character who is essentially a merciless, deranged killer tells us of saddening past experiences. The way he changes his story each time adds so many more levels- Is he making it up? Has he been abused at many different points? The character is fascinating, and one of the strongest features in the film.
However, as I mentioned in my Batman Begins review, Gary Oldman is the best thing in any Nolan Bat-flick. Given a bigger role than in the other two, Oldman provides the soul of the film. He’s the human link. While the character of Rachel (Now played by Maggie Gydenhall, who does a fine job of channelling Katie Holmes from the previous film) is suppose to provide a human drama for Batman, it’s with the wife and kids of Jim Gordon than we true assosiate. Gordon shows the failings of a normal man. He wasn’t trained by Ra’s Al Ghul. He doesn’t have a suit and infinite amounts of gadgets. He’s just a man whose heart is in the right place. Oldman brings spirit and vigour to his every scene. He’s incredible. His ability to change into a completely different person is unmatched. The accent and appearance are spot-on, which may be small things compared to the magnitude of excellence in his performance, but they shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Michael Caine also deserves credit, as he really proved himself as Alfred, a role that perhaps he didn’t seem suited for at first sight. However, despite the praise I’ve already given out, the film really revolves around Aaron Eckharts’ Harvey Dent. Another character given a flesh lick of paint (Or petrol in this case) by Nolan, again to his credit. Dent is portrayed as a truly good man, a hero even. This just goes to make the Two Face ark even more interesting. Instead of having acid chucked over his face, Batman causes half his cranium to catch fire, removing the flesh from one side. The corruption of Dent is another coup in the metaphorical hat of Mr Nolan as the world grows but more real. There is no black and white in Nolans’ Gotham, and that’s what makes it darker. Eckharts is solid, but was in an excellent position to really steal the show, though no complaints can really be made as such.
The plot is far more straightforward than the other two films in the trilogy, (Or any of Nolans other work, come to think of it) with no acrobatic somersaults of logic in the plot or twists that’d make Olympic gymnasts hurl. This works to its credit, as the film is essentially a character study on the Joker. Everything comes through Ledgers’ evil clown, with Oldmans’ emotion and Dents’ fall du grace only possible because the Joker let them happen. He’s presented as twisted, but a genius. He’s given all the oompth in the world by everyone and everything in the film. I defy the Joker to not click for any watcher of the Dark Knight. He’s a villain who’s in charge. He’s the reason that the Dark Knight is, in my eyes, the undisputed best superhero movie of all-time.
9 Heroes Gotham Deserves Right Now out of 10