It’s possible that I was influenced by the majesty of IMAX. The six story screen certainly brings you right smack dab into the middle of the Gotham. But even without the enveloping surround sound and the large-as-life cityscapes, The Dark Knight is really damned good. That’s what everyone is going to tell you. Because it’s an irrefutable truth. If you liked Tim Burton’s Batman, Batman Begins, or pretty much any aspect of the Batman oeuvre, you will not be disappointed by The Dark Knight
With Batman Begins Christopher Nolan was just getting warmed up. We all knew the man had an ace up his sleeve by the name of Heath Ledger. But he didn’t stop there. He traded in his crappy Katie Holmes card for a Maggie Gyllenhaal, to create a winning hand which already included Christian Bale and the glorious Gary Oldman (playing soon-to-be Commissioner Gordon with all the heart and internal conflict that role requires). Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox is fleshed out, tag-teaming with Michael Caine’s Alfred as Bruce Wayne’s moral touchstone.
The replacement of Katie Holmes was completely necessary. She was the big honking blemish of Batman Begins, walking through scenes like a necromanced cardboard cutout. “Step Aside. I am a District Attorney,” she said flatly and we couldn’t help but recall Keanu Reeves’ delivery of a similar line in Point Break. She had no chemistry with Christian Bale (because only Andrew McCarthy can have chemistry with a mannequin). But Nolan had the wherewithal to cast Gyllenhaal. And suddenly, Rachel Dawes was a real girl. She had emotions and witty things to say. And most of all, chemistry with not one – but two male leads. What a breath of fresh air she is.
And then there’s Heath. Once the trailers hit, I don’t think anybody doubted that he was going to nail the Joker role. The over-hyped talk of Oscar noms gave me pause. How could it not? It would be so cheap to give him a posthumous Oscar when a comic book film would never be considered for such things under ordinary circumstances. But he was a mean Joker in every sense of the word. He was simultaneously scary and hilarious. He embodied the character full stop. He made someone like the Joker a real-world possibility. He certainly gave Jack Nicholson a run for his money (not that such things are difficult, these days).
But lets not forget the other villain of The Dark Knight: Two Face. Gone are the days when multiple Batman villains gather together in each others’ lairs and cackle and scheme. Two Face doesn’t revel in his evil. He hates it. It reminds him of everything he lost. But he is no longer in control of his own destiny. Like Anton Chigurh, he obeys the outcome of a coin toss. This makes him more frightening than a room full of Batman villains. Save the Joker, of course.
Thank you, Christopher Nolan, for breathing life into Batman once again. Fantastic actors are playing comic book characters straight and for realism. I really like this trend. Let’s hope it sticks.
The Dark Knight is in theaters now. You pretty much have to see it. Spring for the IMAX if you can.