(I’m going to try my best to limit the use of superlatives here but in all likelihood, this write-up will seem biased. But then again, I’m the kind of Batman fan you’d stay away from – the kind that owns all the landmark graphic novels, books his ticket a month in advance, queues up at the cinema two hours beforehand sporting a Batman t-shirt and foams at the mouth during the screening. Blame it on Stendhal I say.)
The Dark Knight is by far the finest cinema experience I’ve had in the last few years. It’s a rich, dark, complex and compelling crime saga told so brilliantly that you’ll have to remind yourself that it’s based on a comic book character who runs around in a cape and cowl. The film surpasses it’s predecessor on almost every level. A lot has been said about the performances but what struck me the most was the solid writing. The screenplay is outstanding and borrows heavily from The Killing Joke and The Dark Knight Returns with lines that never seem forced and are sure to elicit some sort of debate on vigilantism and surveillance.
Every successful comic book film has to have unforgettable villains and TDK delivers there. Heath Ledger’s Joker is a maniac – an absolute that runs rampant through Gotham. He has no motives and no back story; he simply refers to himself as an ‘agent of chaos’. Ledger’s performance can hardly be called a performance; it’s more or less free form improv. I cannot imagine any other actor inhabiting a character that psychotic. It will go down in history as iconic. Period. Harvey Dent‘s character arc is fantastically realized too. Dent is the white knight as opposed to the morally ambiguous Batman; a man Bruce Wayne wishes he was but cannot be. Dent’s transformation into Harvey Two-Face…well, the less said, the better.
Despite taking comic book liberties, the film explores serious themes; mostly dwellings on the nature of heroism and our innate need for heroes. Not once do you feel like it aspires to be something that talks down to you. For once, a comic book film takes itself and the audience seriously and treads that fine line between pulp art and reality.
Sadly, The Dark Knight does have flaws that keep it away from masterpiece territory. The James Gordon arc felt a bit forced at times and the sequence at the beginning with the copycat Bat-men felt like it belonged in a different movie altogether. However, at the end of the day, this is fantastic and mind-blowingly brilliant pop art – a film that raises the bar so high that it’s next to impossible to follow it up with something this good.
(Oh and I have tickets to a double-bill screening of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight for this Sunday. Be jealous.)