Movie Review: The Dark Knight

Mood: Excited

J has been talking about seeing The Dark Knight since we met, and after a long and exhaustive wait, the day of the night finally dawned last Friday.

The plan was to see the movie at the IMAX, but alas, no one would listen to me when I told them that bookings would be essential to secure seats at the IMAX on a Friday night. J and I had acquired a few IMAX discount vouchers along the way and were keen to use these for The Dark Knight, but alas, they will now be saved for another time.

The follow-up to the action hit “Batman Begins”, “The Dark Knight” reunites director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale, who reprises the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne.

In “The Dark Knight”, Batman raises the stakes in his war on crime. With the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman sets out to dismantle the remaining criminal organisations that plague the city streets. The partnership proves to be effective, but they soon find themselves prey to a reign of chaos unleashed by a rising criminal mastermind known to the terrified citizens of Gotham as the Joker.

Academy Award nominee Heath Ledger (“Brokeback Mountain”) stars as arch-villain the Joker, and Aaron Eckhart plays District Attorney Harvey Dent. Maggie Gyllenhaal joins the cast in the role of Rachel Dawes. Returning from “Batman Begins” are Gary Oldman as Lieutenant Jim Gordon; Oscar winner Michael Caine (“The Cider House Rules”) as Alfred; and Oscar winner Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby”) as Lucius Fox.

There has been so much hype surrounding this movie, most notably the tragic death of a young actor whose career would have skyrocketed into the stratosphere based on his brilliant portrayal of the Joker. Heath Ledger’s performance garnered him much critical acclaim, and by all accounts, the chances of Ledger winning an Oscar from this role are high. I found Ledger’s Joker gripping – he was maniacal and evil – a true Magnificent Bastard. By definition, the Magnificent Bastard is intelligent, charismatic, capable, supremely competent – almost implausibly so – and always in control. He’s a devious liar playing everyone for his own selfish ends, but he goes about it with such panache that you can’t help but be impressed. A Magnificent Bastard inspires (often grudging) admiration from friend, foe, and audience alike. He can get away with the most outrageous schemes because he’s just that damn awesome.

Christian Bale was good as Batman. I still haven’t seen Batman Begins (I really should have watched that first before venturing into the sequel), but from the little I’d seen of him in the shorts for Batman Begins, Christian Bale is the best Batman to date. In The Dark Knight, Bale’s Batman was dark, brooding and tormented, and he worked well with the rest of the cast with his understated and controlled performance.

Gary Oldman and Aaron Eckhart were both terrific. Oldman is always a pleasure to watch, and his portrayal of a good cop relentlessly working for the good of Gotham was very engaging. I felt myself rooting for him the whole way through the movie. Aaron Eckhart’s restrained turn as Harvey Dent brought a good balance to the movie, while his tortured Two-Faced made me want to hold him and tell him everything will be all right.

Maggie Gyllenhaal was just sparkling as Rachel Dawes. Maggie is quite an extraordinarily beautiful woman and lit up the screen whenever the camera was focused on her. I was glad to see Gyllenhaal’s Rachel was not merely a damsel in distress, but as an integral player in the storyline who didn’t have to resort to whining and crying to make herself heard.

As usual, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman were magnificent to watch on screen. I cannot think of two better actors to play the parts of Alfred and Lucius Fox.

Christopher Nolan deserves to be heaped with praise for his delivery of The Dark Knight. At 152 minutes, the movie was a bit long for my weary body to handle on a Friday night after a hard working week, but the movie was always engaging – I was completely drawn into the story and the action, and enjoyed every last "jumpy" and "scary" moment of the movie.

As an aside, J thinks it’s hilarious that I get so involved in movies that I jump and dig my fingernails into his arm/hand/leg and occasionally forget to breathe at crucial points of the movie.

Rating:

The movie actually deserves a rating of 4¾ stars, as I thought it was better than Juno and Charlie Wilson’s War, but not quite as good as Iron Man.

Continuing the Six Degrees game, there are 2 direct links between The Forbidden Kingdom and The Dark Knight:

1. Jet Li was in Danny the Dog (2005) with Morgan Freeman (I).
2. Michael Angarano was in Lords of Dogtown (2005) with Heath Ledger.

And Bacon numbers:

Christian Bale has a Bacon number of 2.
* Christian Bale was in Batman Begins (2005) with Sarah Wateridge.
* Sarah Wateridge was in Where the Truth Lies (2005) with Kevin Bacon.

Heath Ledger has a Bacon number of 2.
* Heath Ledger was in Patriot, The (2000) with Kanin J. Howell.
* Kanin J. Howell was in Death Sentence (2007) with Kevin Bacon.

Aaron Eckhart has a Bacon number of 2.
* Aaron Eckhart was in Black Dahlia, The (2006) with Steve Eastin.
* Steve Eastin was in Rails & Ties (2007) with Kevin Bacon.

Maggie Gyllenhaal has a Bacon number of 2.
* Maggie Gyllenhaal was in Criminal (2004) with Laura Ceron.
* Laura Ceron was in Rails & Ties (2007) with Kevin Bacon.

Gary Oldman has a Bacon number of 1. (Surprised, but not really, since Gary Oldman has been in so many movies.)
* Gary Oldman was in Murder in the First (1995) with Kevin Bacon

Michael Caine (I) has a Bacon number of 2.
* Michael Caine (I) was in Curtain Call (1999) with Marcia Gay Harden.
* Marcia Gay Harden was in Rails & Ties (2007) with Kevin Bacon.

Morgan Freeman (I) has a Bacon number of 2.
* Morgan Freeman (I) was in Lonely Maiden, The (2008) with Marcia Gay Harden.
* Marcia Gay Harden was in Rails & Ties (2007) with Kevin Bacon.

At the time of writing this review, I revisited my list from earlier this year to try and reconcile what movies I’d seen and which ones I’ve yet to see. After reviewing the list, I’ve decided to abandon it based on the revised release dates of most of the movies – quite a few of them have been and gone from the cinemas, and a lot of the ones I’ve seen this year aren’t even on the list.

So, as I’m abandoning the list, I’m going to deviate from reviewing movies only seen at the cinemas to reviewing one I watched on Saturday night with Emily, Penny and J – Fight Club.

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