The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight picks up about a year after Batman Begins, and some of Gotham’s citizens believe that things have gotten worse since Batman came on the scene – and at times, Batman himself wonders the same thing. He has his (not very effective) imitators, and his detractors, including Gotham D.A. Harvey Dent. Since he operates as a vigilante, no one really knows what rules he follows, and he only has the trust of a very few people – and at least one of them, Gotham Police Lt. Jim Gordon, doesn’t know his true identity. Gotham’s criminal mob doesn’t care much about who’s under the mask; they just know he’s making life difficult, and the proverbial wild card comes their way to present a solution. “Wild Card” is a far more accurate description of the menacing, dangerously unpredictable character better known as The Joker – he is not at all a funny guy.
My husband absolutely loved Batman Begins and has been eagerly anticipating the release of The Dark Knight all year. I was far more ambivalent about it, since the first film never really connected with me – I respected it artistically, but I just couldn’t warm to it – but I was pretty sure I’d see it with him anyway. Excellent decision. Whatever elements I felt were missing in Batman Begins are present in The Dark Knight, and by that I mean far more than storyline and special effects, neither of which was really a problem in the earlier movie. Having said that, I think the story in The Dark Knight is much more compelling; while I find superhero “origin stories” interesting, sometimes the sequels are an improvement (no, seriously) because the background’s already been established and the movie can get directly into the crisis at hand.
What makes the crisis at hand particularly involving here, from my perspective, is that the story’s focus is fairly well spread among three main characters this time: Bruce Wayne/Batman (still conflicted over his mission); Harvey Dent, the DA whose crusade to clean up Gotham mirrors Batman’s, although it uses very different tactics; and The Joker, a force of anarchy like no one has ever seen before. Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker has been justly praised; this character is truly scary, and impossible not to watch. But don’t for a minute think that this is a character study, though; even at 2.5 hours running time, it’s a fast-moving, intelligent (if sometimes a little confusing, at least for me), high-intensity action drama.
Batman was the first “superhero” without superpowers, and his “hero” qualifications aren’t always clear-cut, which is what makes him interesting. He’s not a “white knight” who will deliver Gotham out of the hands of the mob, but a dark knight – and while eventually he may be able to achieve the same goal, his methods will be very different.
As I mentioned, I didn’t really warm to Batman Begins, but The Dark Knight engaged me from the very beginning. It’s not a “feel-good” movie, and not even particularly fun – if you want a fun superhero movie this summer, see Iron Man (again) – but it’s a really good movie that’s well worth seeing, even if you didn’t see how it all “began.” (NOTE: It’s NOT a movie to take your kids to, though. It’s rated PG-13 for good reason, and is not appropriate for young children unless you really want to give them nightmares.)