By the time you read this, I am sure the “Bat-lash” will be in full swing. People will pipe up to say, “Heath Ledger wasn’t that good,” or “It’s too long” or even “Christian Bale is boring.” These people are either victims of too-high expectations or know-it-alls who like trashing something popular to seem cool. To them, I say, “You’re crazy, Heath Ledger’s Joker is an iconic psychopath,” “You’re right, the film’s about a half an hour too long,” and “You need glasses and a new libido. Christian Bale couldn’t be boring in his sleep, although I’d be happy to test that theory out for you.”
Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight picks up some time after Batman Begins when Gotham City is relatively safer and all the bad guys are terrified of Batman. There are even Bat-minions running around fighting crime and getting into trouble (a nice nod to the film’s target audience, who’d probably do the same thing). Enter The Joker, played with slobbery glee by Ledger. There is not a single frame where Ledger isn’t electric, and he imbues the Joker with classic evil. The city’s new hope for an end to its crime and corruption is Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent (played in Batman Forever by a cackling Tommy Lee Jones), who Bruce Wayne/Batman feels can bring the city’s criminals to real justice (as opposed to vigilante justice). Bruce’s devotion to his duties has split up he and Rachel Dawes (thankfully played by Maggie Gyllenhaal rather than Katie Holmes this time), and she’s now dating Harvey.
I enjoyed the darkness of the story and much of the moral quandaries brought up, but the ending seemed trumped up and artificial. Some of the dire talk about what it takes to battle evil like the Joker seems ham-fisted and beneath the film’s better nature. Harvey’s story is engrossing, and Eckhart is the perfect actor in the role, but his subplot feels rushed and vague. Still, I recommend you take a walk on the dark side and see The Dark Knight before the "Bat-lash" ruins it for you.
UPDATE: The Dark Knight is now available on DVD and Blu-rayfrom Amazon.com.
Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.