The Dark Knight

Produced By:  Warner Bros. Pictures

Reviewed by Ismael Manzano

            Hello out there ladies and gentlemen in the World Wide Web.  Today, I’ve come to you straight from Gotham City with a review of the latest in the Batman franchise, The Dark Knight.  This one was a real treat for me.  Ever since Michael Keaton first took on the cape and cowl of the Batman in 1989—yeah, it’s been that long—the franchise has taken a whole new turn and people were just itching to rediscover the mantle of the bat the way they did with Tim Burton’s version of the caped crusader’s story.  Keaton’s Batman was a far cry from Adam West’s television series Batman which, let’s face it, was all camp and no cake, but even Keaton’s Batman left something to be desired.  It wasn’t that Keaton did a bad job; in fact, he was brilliant in a role that he should not have been physically able to fill.  However, the plot still skirted the line between the darker comic book version and the goofy 60’s television series.  There was so much potential there that was never realized, and eventually, with the loss of Keaton and the introduction of Kilmer and Clooney, this potential was murdered, torn to shreds, chewed up, spat out, molested, harassed, defecated on and reabsorbed. 

            Okay, I went on a tangent there. Back to the point of the review.  All that changed, however, when director Christopher Nolan brought us Batman Begins, which brought us a Batman that was very close to the comic book’s version of the famed crime fighter.  But what’s more, he brought us a Batman plot that worked.  So it was no surprise that when The Dark Knight came to theaters, promising a new, darker Joker character and one of my favorite Batman villains, Two-Face, I all but ran to the theater on the opening day.  In the back of my mind, however, I was sure that they would screw up this movie by having two power-hitter villains in the same film, when each one was capable of carrying a movie on their own. 

            The Dark Knight picks up one year after Batman Begins left off.  The city of Gotham is becoming a brighter place to live, the criminals are afraid to come out at night and Batman and Lieutenant Gordon are working together to bring the last vestige of the mob bosses down for good.  Their best laid plans go to hell when a new criminal leader takes the scene.  Originally this criminal, known for his outlandish makeup and cruelty toward his own partners, is content to simply rob from the mob, but he soon finds a new obsession—the complete downfall of Gotham city.  I’m speaking, of course, of the Joker (Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain, The Brothers Grimm), but this clown is anything but laughs.  It isn’t long before the Joker has the main crime bosses’ attention and all of Gotham in his twisted stranglehold. 

            At the same time, Gotham’s golden boy DA, Harvey Dent, (Aaron Eckhart, The Black Dahlia) is taking his own style of justice to the mob, attempting to put each one of them behind bars and become a shinning beacon of hope for the downtrodden masses of Gotham.  Like Elliot Ness, Dent is untouchable and unfazed by threats, bribes or attempts on his life.  Dent is the perfect counterpart to the Batman’s vigilante justice; he’s the face that Gotham’s innocents can turned to while its criminals turn away—in terror—from Batman’s face.  The connection is further established by their mutual taste in women as Dent is seriously involved with Bruce Wayne’s ex-girlfriend, Rachael (Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mona Lisa Smile, World Trade Center). 

            It isn’t long before the Joker’s brand of chaos has infected Gotham, fear and suspicion runs rampant, and the citizens of the city are calling for Batman’s cowl.  What ensues is two and a half hours of nearly nonstop action, suspense and drama.  The Joker is bent on seeing all that is good in Gotham’s heroes turned inside out, the Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office is nearly at each other’s throats with distrust, and the city’s two best chances at salvation are slowly pushed to the edge.  Can they stop the Joker and the infection that his evil mind is spreading throughout their city while maintaining their own sanity and saving the lives of those they love? 

            Okay, what can I say: I loved this movie.  It was better than Batman Begins, Keaton’s Batman, West’s Batman, and every other Batman that has ever hit the big or little screen to date.  Now I’m sure many people will tout that Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker is the source of their praise of the movie.  And it is true, Ledger’s Joker was probably the creepiest portrayal of the clown criminal anyone has ever dared to do, and he did it brilliantly, bringing the character to a level only the darkest of DC’s graphic novels has gone before.  However, my praise goes further than his acting chops.  The character of the Joker was altered for this movie.  He wasn’t just a painted-face psycho nor was he a chemically dyed loon.  He was a man with a dark past, a man who wore scars, both physical and emotional, on the outside for all the world to see, and it was damn spooky.  So my hat—if I owned one—goes off to the writers and the director of this new version of an old villain. 

            Likewise, Aaron Eckhart’s portrayal of Harvey Dent was enjoyable to watch and his decent from shining beacon of light into the darkness of madness—anyone who knows the name Harvey Dent will not be surprised by this turn, so don’t cry foul at that little spoiler—was believable and done incredibly well.  And while I will not say much more about that, I will point out that Eckhart did what Tommy Lee Jones could not do in his Batman stint and that was portray Harvey Dent as he should have been portrayed, as a man filled with righteous fury who has had much of his life taken from him, not as some laughing, multi-colored idiotic ADD, buffoon—sorry Mr. Jones’ but your Harvey Dent in Batman Forever sucked the big one. 

            The rest of the movie was also great.  The plot, direction, action sequences, and acting were all great.  I have only two critiques about the movie.  The first is in reference to Bale’s ‘Batman voice,’ which was much gravellier than it had been in the first movie.  While the voice worked well enough for short lines, when giving a long speeches or engaging in dialogue, the guttural voice gave Bale the appearance of straining over a toilet rather than an intimidating scowl.  I think Keaton’s ‘Batman voice’ was the best of the franchise so far, being only slightly deeper and distorted from his normal talking voice.  The second critique is not about the movie, but about casting.  Maggie Gyllenhaal, while a great actress both in this movie and others I’ve seen her in, did not quite fit as Rachael.  I was not very sad to see the role of Rachael recast, but Gyllenhaal’s look is far too understated to believably justify having Gotham’s White and Black Knight chasing after her. 

            Well if you couldn’t tell, I really loved this movie.  I recommend it to anyone, fan of the comics or no, because it is just that damn good that I think everyone with a slightly disturbed mind will appreciate all the subtle and not so subtle themes running throughout the movie.  It’s not just about good versus evil or right versus wrong, there’s a lot of great internal struggles portrayed in this movie and they are all done great.  So go see the movie, will you, because I’m tired of getting ready to talk to someone about it only to find out that the person next to me hasn’t seen it yet and refuses to hear anything I have to say because they don’t want to ruin the surprise of the move.  Watch the damned thing already so I can get on with my life.  Take care all of you out there in webland.  I’ll talk to you again once you’ve all seen The Dark Knight


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