|July 18, 2008|
|Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Action, Crime, Drama
Rated PG-13 for for intense sequences of violence and some menace
|The Dark Knight
“This city deserves a better class of criminal. And I’m gonna give it to ‘em.”
–The Joker, “The Dark Knight”
Going on record to say that one actor could make or break an entire film feels like a difficult statement to make. I mean, even to say that a certain director has enough power on set to make or break a film is completely unprecedented, with all the hands that are involved in making films these days. But after viewing “The Dark Knight”, it has to dawn on you that without Heath Ledger as The Joker, the film just would not reach the level of success that it does.
Credit, of course, must also be given to the supporting cast and crew, including director Christopher Nolan, whose initial vision rebuilt this superhero franchise from the ground, up. Nolan brought to life a comic book adaptation that is not only loved by fanboys, but by regular people who have never stepped foot in a comic book store or seen any previous superhero film.
Christopher Nolan and brother, Jonathan Nolan, prove themselves as genius storytellers, building moments and suspense unlike anyone in the industry today. With very few physical battles, the Nolans use The Joker’s sick humor and unsavory intellect to create sick game after sick game for Batman to work his way through, and never once do the Nolans make things easy for anyone. Every surprise is as epic as the previous one and by the end of the film, you forget that more than two hours have gone by. I hold huge amounts of respect for Christopher Nolan and his continued vision, proving that the art of cinema (and revolutionizing it) is not yet lost.
Nolan’s talent cannot be denied, nor the talent of all the great actors involved. Christian Bale continues to remain the best Batman of any film series, surpassing Michael Keaton and Val Kilmer (and yes, George Clooney) by far. Aaron Eckhardt provides a decent showing as Gotham’s D.A., Harvey Dent. His story arc is handled quite perfectly, eventually leading up to the most realistic version of Two-Face ever created. The role of Rachel Dawes, Katie Holmes’ character from “Batman Begins”, is filled wonderfully by Maggie Gyllenhaal, a perfect recast, in my opinion. And the returning veterans provide some of the best supporting work in any superhero genre, including return performances from Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine. But without an equal villain to match, “The Dark Knight” would be just another sequel.
The role of The Joker was out of the realm of what audiences had seen from Heath Ledger. He started his career (oddly enough) as an uncredited “orphan clown” in the 1992 film “Clowning Around”. But his first major appearance was in the 1999 teenage comedy, “10 Things I Hate About You”. He would continue through Oscar nominated films like “Monster’s Ball” and “Brokeback Mountain”, but taking the villain role in the Nolan-Batman venture was unlike anything he had committed to before. What is even more impressive is that director Christopher Nolan would give Heath Ledger full reign to create his character, which involved Ledger locking himself away in a hotel room to experiment with voices for the psychopath clown.
From scene one with The Joker, Heath Ledger is almost unrecognizable. I even recall during the marketing of the film, people questioning whether it was actually Ledger and his voice behind that painted clown face. Throughout the entire film, Ledger amasses a performance beyond what I could even comprehend as a perfect performance and, unquestionably delivers the greatest performances in any film in my lifetime. Top that with a valiant score, above average visual effects, and an innovative arsenal of toys for the Batman, and you’ve got a near perfect film on your hands.
So, to say that “The Dark Knight” and all its glory, is held in the palm of one man (Heath Ledger) gains morea and more ground the longer that you look at it. If Ledger had died before the conclusion of production, could you imagine anyone taking his place and the film still remaining as successful as it is? Something magical happened when Heath Ledger was cast as The Joker and, for that, “The Dark Knight” becomes one of my favorite films of all-time.