The Dark Knight

Rating – *****

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Inspiring and challenging. The Dark Knight raises intriguing moral dilemmas without ever becoming pretentious or self important. These dramatic issues are offset by relentlessly paced action sequences to appease your inner bat loving popcorn muncher. Everybody is talking about Heath Ledger, you can’t avoid him. He’s the centre of the film, a catalyst for everything around him. He is the driving force of the narrative and provides motivation for the other key characters. Ledger deserves pretty much every accolade people are throwing his way. The Joker is manic, intense, repulsive, and frequently terrifying. This is a man who slams pencils through people’s brains, sews bombs inside mental patients and disposes of his goons without breaking a sweat! “See, I’m a man of simple tastes. I like gunpowder…and dynamite…and gasoline!” This truly is one of the great screen villains. In my opinion, falling short only of Malcom McDowell’s Alex from A Clockwork Orange! Does he make Jack Nicholson obsolete? Hell no, and it’s sad to hear so many people say that. Ledger lacks the charisma and comic timing (this is The Joker after all!) of Nicholson’s interpretation. I like them both for different reasons. There’s no need for it to be a competition. As Nicholson himself said in the iconic role “Never rub another mans rhubarb!” God bless them both, and may Ledger rest in peace.

It would be wrong to overlook the rest of the cast. Christian Bale is the best Batman and Bruce Wayne yet. In fact pretty much all the cast provide definitive on screen versions of their characters. Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart etc. Personally I would have preferred to see Katie Holmes again instead of Maggie Gyllenhaal. I never saw anything wrong with Katie’s performance in Begins. For continuity and emotional investment alone, it would be beneficial. And frankly, Katie Holmes was much hotter!

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As somebody who worked on the Harvey Dent/Two Face visual effects, I got sick satisfaction from hearing people mumble uneasily as the hideous deformity is finally revealed in all it’s glory. It’s been strange staring at that ugly bastard in secret since November 2007. Forgetting the visuals, Harvey Dent makes a huge impact on the film. He is Gotham’s White Knight. It’s tragic to see him lose everything to the Joker. Tensions build to breaking point, spilling over into a finale you won’t see coming.

The hype for this film almost reached Phantom Menace levels. For a while it occupied the #1 spot on Imdb’s ‘Top 250’ of all time list! Is it the greatest film of all time? Of course not! Is it even in the top 50? Arguably, after some repeated viewings it might slip in there. It isn’t perfect. A few combat scenes lack coherence and true excitement. Even the central chase set-piece becomes slightly bogged down by a confusing lack of geography (wait, wasn’t that vehicles on the other side?!”) Seeing The Scarecrow reduced to an incompetent goon feels a little cheap and rushed. Once again his character is left with an uncertain fate. Yet, The Dark Knight is a rich and impeccably executed thriller. It blurs the line between ‘comics’ and epic crime sagas like The Departed and Heat. It leaves the door wide open for a closing act to Nolan’s incredible reinvention of one of pop cultures most enduring myths. Oh, and don’t forget to stay for the credits to acknowledge the work of everybody else at Framestore! I’m proud to have my name attached to such a class act.

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~ by thewholebuffalo on July 18, 2009.

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