Not a lot of movies live up to the hype that Hollywood surrounds them with. This year alone I’ve been let down several times by films that their trailers made look promising…but that all changed when I saw “The Dark Knight” this past Friday at the IMAX theater in Des Moines.
To say that this is the best “superhero” movie of all time doesn’t do it justice. While some film creators have started to take the subject matter seriously, for every “X2″ we still get a ”Fantastic Four”. For every “Spider-Man” we get a “Ghost Rider”. For every…well, you get the idea. “The Dark Knight” transcends its own genre and becomes a stunning amalgamation that includes elements of crime noir, action, suspense and romance.
Director Christopher Nolan returns to further develop the plot threads he started in 2005′s “Batman Begins” along with Christian Bale as Batman, Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon, Michael Caine as Alfred and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox. Joining them are Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes (replacing the role originated by Tom Cruise’s pet zombie in the first film), Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent and Heath Ledger as the Joker.
A lot has been made of Ledger’s performance in this movie. Terms like “brilliant”, “astounding” and “Oscar-worthy” have all been thrown around by critics and while I can tell you that they are indeed justified, his is far from the only strong performance in “The Dark Knight”. Bale continues to humanize the caped crusader as not only a vengeance-driven vigilante, but also a tortured, confused and lonely man searching to do what’s right for the city (and woman) he loves. Oldman gets the chance to more fully flesh out his Lieutenant (not yet Commissioner!) Gordon as a frustrated, honest policeman in a city full of dirty cops. The real surprise here is Eckhart whose role as the new, inspiring district attorney Harvey Dent allows him to take part in several of the films plotlines without spreading himself too thin. His characters’ story arc and tragic conclusion is the real heart of the film and even lends itself to an explanation of the films title.
Any way you look at it, “The Dark Knight” is a great film. While it does have its flaws (the extended running time, an unneccesarry sideplot involving Batman’s secret identity and an action sequence that recalls 2003′s “Daredevil” chief among them), the overall film is a masterful entry into a series that many thought dead after 1997′s abysmal “Batman and Robin”. Do yourself a favor and check it out…but if you happen to view it in on IMAX screen (portions of the movie were actually shot in IMAX film!), make sure you get good seats. My neck still hurts from craning it all the way back for two and a half hours…
Jason’s Rating: 4 1/2 stars (out of 5)