The One with the Joker

A movie. Not the movie we deserved, but the movie we needed. The Dark Knight is an anomaly in that it’s the middle movie in a trilogy and the best one of all three. How often does that happen? Plot, characters, action, dialogue, etc., everything comes together in this Christopher Nolan gem. Every time I watch it (and let’s be honest, I’ve seen it a few times) I notice something new. The Dark Knight is an intricate, well-crafted movie that I sincerely hope will stand the test of time.

In this sequel, Batman (Christian Bale) is beginning to make a difference on the streets of Gotham. He’s started to inspire citizens like Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), the new D.A. with a heroic hairdo and a craving for justice. But with Batman’s theatrical inspiration comes fierce theatrical opposition, specifically in the form of the purple-suited, clown-faced radical: the Joker (Heath Ledger). The plot unravels in a complex spiral of hidden mob-money, a cocky Chinese accountant, a deal to kill the Batman, and a blind infatuation with chaos. Batman has his hands full trying to contain the Joker, encourage Dent to be a righteous figurehead, and convince Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal) that Bruce Wayne really is boyfriend material.

Who’s the villain and who’s the hero? Everybody makes bad decisions in The Dark Knight, which brings into question the idea of what a hero really is. Is he a black-belt with money? Policemen who follow orders? A brave, concerned citizen in hockey pants? The overall tone of the movie is all over the place: it’s twisted, crazy, dark, vengeful, heroic, sacrificial, and so on. James Gordon (Gary Oldman) is an honourable leader who makes tough calls while the Joker is a vile criminal who flies by the seat of his pants. But, if you combine pieces from both Gordon and the Joker you get something that looks like a Batman. While all the actors are excellent (including Aaron Eckhart’s two-faced episode and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s new Rachel) Heath Ledger’s performance blows me away every single time. His mannerisms, psychotic bursts, rare moments of sanity, story-telling ability, skill with both hand-held camera and hand-held grenades – everything he touches in this movie is pure, solid, glistening gold. Ledger is the Joker to beat and I pity the soul who has to follow in his purple, clown-sized footsteps.

Mixed in with this dangerous character and Nolan’s elaborate plot with at least three individual climaxes is a movie spilling over with action. The car chases are dangerous to say the least and beg the question of why Batman is so against guns when he readily uses his tank to “intimidate”. One particular downtown chase involving a truck, a few S.W.A.T. cars, and a wire cable is especially well choreographed. I appreciate the effort to break up the action with a bit of dialogue, but I question the helpfulness of that backseat driver in the S.W.A.T car. Is he secretly working for the Joker and trying to distract the driver? Or is he just annoying? Kudos to the driver, though, on not throwing him out the window.

The plot is so detailed it’s no wonder a few bits of information are glossed over. Like (spoiler) how did Gordon fake his own death? And could I get a better explanation on how that sonar-cell thing works? Could Batman map the building because all the S.W.A.T. guys brought along their iPhones? (Spoiler-free zone) Even so, The Dark Knight is one of my all-time favourite action movies. It doesn’t ride the wave of the first film or lie down and play dead like a stepping-stone to the third and final installment. It is a stand-alone feature with a perfect balance of flash and substance. 9/10.

The Dark Knight trailer.

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4 thoughts on “The One with the Joker

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