Bruce Wayne - Christian Bale
Joker - Heath Ledger
Harvey Dent - Aaron Eckhart
Alfred - Michael
Caine Rachel - Maggie Gyllenhaal (English, Mandarin dialogue)
Gordon - Gary Oldman Lucius Fox - Morgan Freeman
But Batman’s stature as a radical symbol of good has invited a more sinister criminal presence to Gotham City -- and, as seen in the crackerjack bank-robbery sequence that opens the pic, one who operates in terrifyingly unpredictable ways. Utterly indifferent to simple criminal motivations like greed, Ledger’s maniacally murderous Joker is as pure an embodiment of irrational evil as any in modern movies. He’s a pitiless psychopath who revels in chaos and fears neither pain nor death, a demonic prankster for whom all the world’s a punchline.After Ledger’s death in January, his penultimate performance (with Terry Gilliam’s “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” still to come) will be viewed with both tremendous excitement and unavoidable sadness. It’s a tribute to Ledger’s indelible work that he makes the viewer entirely forget the actor behind the cracked white makeup and blood-red rictus grin, so complete and frightening is his immersion in the role. With all due respect to the enjoyable camp buffoonery of past Jokers like Cesar Romero and Jack Nicholson, Ledger makes them look like -- well, clowns.
The pic shrewdly positions the Joker as the superhero-movie equivalent of a modern terrorist (one of several post-9/11 signifiers), who threatens to target Gotham civilians until Batman reveals his identity. Batman, Gordon and Dent uneasily join forces, but the Joker seems to have the upper hand at every step, even from a jail cell; the city, turning against the hero it once looked to for hope, seems more fractious, vulnerable and dangerous than ever.rer
Though more linear than “Memento” and “The Prestige” (both also co-scripted by the Nolans), “The Dark Knight” pivots with similar ingenuity on a breathless series of twists and turns, culminating in a dramatic shift for Dent. This subplot reps the film’s weakest link, packing too much psychological motivation into too little screen time to be entirely credible. Yet Eckhart vividly inhabits the character’s sad trajectory, underscoring the film’s point that symbols of good can be all too easily tarnished.
From Wayne’s playful debates with faithful butler Alfred (Michael Caine) about the public perception of Batman to the Joker’s borderline-poetic musings on his own bottomless sadism, the characters almost seem to be carrying on a debate about the complicated realities of good vs. evil, and the heavy burden shouldered by those fighting for good. One of the few action filmmakers who’s capable of satisfying audiences beyond the fanboy set, Nolan honors his serious themes to the end; he bravely closes the story with both Gotham City and the narrative in tatters, making this the rare sequel that genuinely deserves another.
Viewers who found “Batman Begins” too existentially weighty for its own good will be refreshed to know that “The Dark Knight” hits the ground running and rarely lets up over its swift 2½-hour running time. Nolan directs the action more confidently than he did the first time out, orchestrating all manner of vertiginous mid-air escapes and virtuosic highway setpieces (and unleashing Batman’s latest ooh-ah contraption, the monster-truck-tire-equipped Bat-Pod). In a fresh innovation, six sequences were shot using Imax cameras, and will presumably look smashing in the giant-screen format (pic was reviewed from a 35mm print).
Though not as obsessively detailed as “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” shares with that film a robust physicality and a commitment to taking violence seriously; a brief shot of bruises and scrapes on Bale’s torso conveys as much impact as any of the film’s brutal confrontations. Bale himself is less central figure than ensemble player, but the commandingly charismatic thesp continues to put his definitive stamp on the role, and also has devilish fun playing up Wayne’s playboy persona.
Tech work is at the first entry’s high standard, with many artists reprising their contributions here -- from Nathan Crowley’s imposing production design, shown to flattering effect in Wally Pfister’s gleaming widescreen compositions, to the propulsively moody score by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. Perhaps most impressive is Lee Smith’s editing, confidently handling multiple lines of action and cutting for maximum impact.
Exteriors were lensed in Chicago aside from an early, plot-necessitated detour to Hong Kong, which marks the first time in a Batman film that the title character has left Gotham City.
Camera (Technicolor, Panavision widescreen, Imax), Wally Pfister; editor, Lee Smith; music, Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard; production designer, Nathan Crowley; supervising art directors, Kevin Kavanaugh, Simon Lamont; art directors, Mark Bartholomew, James Hambidge, Craig Jackson, Steven Lawrence, Naaman Marshall; set decorator, Peter Lando; costume designer, Lindy Hemming; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS Digital/SDDS), Ed Novick; sound designer/supervising sound editor, Richard King; re-recording mixers, Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo; visual effects supervisor, Nick Davis; visual effects, Double Negative, Framestore, Buf Compagnie, Cinesite (Europe); special effects supervisor, Chris Corbould; miniature effects and photography, New Deal Studios; stunt coordinators, Paul Jennings, Rick LeFevour, Tom Struthers; associate producer, Jordan Goldberg; assistant director, Nilo Otero; casting, John Papsidera. Reviewed at Warner Bros. Studios, Burbank, July 3, 2008. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 152 MIN.
With: Monique Gabriela Curnen, Ron Dean, Cillian Murphy, Chin Han, Nestor Carbonell, Eric Roberts, Ritchie Coster, Anthony Michael Hall, Keith Szarabajka, Colin McFarlane, Joshua Harto, Melinda McGraw, Nathan Gamble.
(English, Mandarin dialogue)