The Dark Knight Shines

 

poster "vandalized" by The Joker

poster "vandalized" by The Joker

 

 

 

Psycho-thriller.

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That’s what this movie is.

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The people were right in saying that this was no superhero movie.

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The trailer to the The Dark Knight promised no circus parade of characters or a hammed up plot. It promised intense drama and spine-chilling acts of terror (not to mention that spine-chilling laughter from resident madman The Joker). It promised the late Heath Ledger at his best, overshadowing yummy Christian Bale in the title role. And most of importantly, it promised no Katie Holmes.

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The Joker of late was maniacal like his predecessors, true, but the motive behind his criminal activities seemed less an attempt at gaining wealth than in exercising his intelligence, wit and tenacity.  You think you have him in the palm of your hand, but it’s actually the other way around: he has YOU in his hand.  The sheer genius of his plans that has everybody on their toes belies his claims of having none at all. He means what he says, and he does what he says.  And because he lives with no rules, he is the perfect criminal for Gotham City.

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Batman seems to have been put in the backburner for this one. This movie is The Joker’s—solely and purely his.  Batman seemed merely to react to The Joker’s acts, but that’s little reason to complain, for the dynamic relationship of the two keeps people on the edge of their seats.  Batman’s determination to rid Gotham of its scum runs right smack into a wall put up by The Joker. Both characters are methodical, both intelligent, clever, strong, and deranged.  A match made in loony heaven.

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Both characters are superbly played by Christian Bale and the late Heath Ledger.  Bale manages to compartmentalize Batman and Bruce Wayne—both the public figure and the private one—and switch among those characters smoothly.  Bruce Wayne the billionaire public figure is cocky, arrogant and self-indulgent.  Bruce Wayne the private one, or, as I’d like to call it, the plainclothes Batman, is cool, calm, and reserved. Batman is cold, morally vengeful and, to a certain degree, wacko like his nemesis. Bale’s delivery of all three aspects of just one character is astoundingly commendable, no less so than Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker.

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He stole the show, Ledger did. Inasmuch as Bale OWNED the Batman role, Ledger as The Joker OWNED this movie. Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent paled to oblivion in comparison to this made-up madman.  It makes one wonder just how Ledger managed to BE this character. Was it merely through innate talent, or was there some darkness within Ledger that resonated with The Joker’s evil and therefore allowed him to become this character? One can’t help but think of the possibility of this latter one especially in light of the actor’s recent passing. But I am one of the many who say that this portrayal deserves at least an Oscar nomination.

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The one reason that makes this movie more than just a superhero movie is that it deals with some existentialist ideas, mainly that of how one’s fate is determined by one’s own choices and actions. It’s a bit reminiscent of Spiderman’s own struggle to do right by his uncle, but the difference is that in The Dark Knight there is nobody who has supernatural powers. Everybody is purely human with purely human problems. Another difference is that the movie focuses not solely on the hero—Batman’s struggle was dealt with in the prequel—but on the city people, including their bare-faced hero Harvey Dent, initially the prime example of a man making his own fate. Through the carefully woven story, the movie brings the city people in and questions how far one would go when faced with the question of whether to do right and face death, or to go the other way and live.

That was just one question we are asked. Tough questions this movie poses, and none that are easy to answer.  This movie is, as its title suggests, is as dark as the night is before dawn.  Yet it is a darkness that we surpass with the help of the superb cast and excellent story. The Dark Knight, no matter how dark, shines.

 

 

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