What movie was that...?

16 November 2009

The Dark Knight

directed by Christopher Nolan

I have always liked to think of Joker as timeless, without a past or a history, as simply awakening or materializing in the shadows after Bruce Wayne put on the cowl one night. Well, Joker has a history in Christopher Nolan’s newest Batman film, The Dark Knight, he has a past, and it’s whatever works for his audience. Like telling a joke, Joker uses fear and violence as a punch line, a gag to be laughed at and a spectacle to be ogled. This time around, Bruce has more villains, more problems. Battling gang wars on one front and fellow vigilantes who heard his call on the other, Batman, it seems, has only made the problem worse. Like Gordon said at the end of Batman Begins, it’s escalation. Bullets are met with Kevlar, which is then met with armor piercing rounds, and the same goes for a not totally sane citizen vigilante who dresses up as a bat and fights crime at night. Now, is Joker crazy? I think not. Malicious, yes, violent, yes, ruthless, yes, but he maintains a complete awareness about his identity and his role in Gotham City, while Batman is doomed to toil under the self-designed premise that he will perform his duty until he is no longer needed. But who decides when he isn’t needed anymore? He does. And when you are as clearly obsessed as Wayne is, that day will never come. Nolan’s film plays out less like an action film (though it has that in spades) and more like an essay on the comic book hero himself, an essay in which his enemies are like dark reflections of himself, all just as crazed and adamant about their point of view. Aaron Eckhart is admirable as District Attorney Harvey Dent, who becomes Two Face far too late in the game, and Bale, Caine and Oldman are reliably excellent. It is the late Heath Ledger who steals the show in a force of chaos performance wrought from the darkest places of mankind’s inner workings. Ledger’s Joker is the best portrayal you will find, either in print or on film (sorry, Mr. Nicholson, I still loved your Joker), the brutal fixation on destruction and Batman is as frightening as ever. As he says to Dent, “I’m like a dog chasing a tire. I wouldn’t know what to do with it if I got one.” Steeped in the metaphysical realm of Batman’s ultimate moral judgment like Batman Begins was steeped in the Frank Miller frenzy of Batman’s origins, The Dark Knight poses questions and leaves its audience to find the answers. Is the film long, yes? But is it worth it? Yes. What might have been if Mr. L hadn’t passed away…

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