And so after the wait, the hype, the tragedy and the expectation, finally The Dark Knight is amongst us. Can it possibly live up to the anticipation and hope that, just for once this year, we’d be treated to a big summer movie that could engage with your mind as well as your desire for explosions, car chases and super heroes doing super heroic things? Of course it does.
As Christopher Nolan proved so admirably on Batman Begins he is adroit at handling dramatic elements both large and small, from the major set pieces to the characters’ own personal conflicts, the struggles that have always been at the very heart of the Batman story. With the Bruce Wayne origins already dealt with in the first movie, Nolan is free to lead off with all guns literally blazing in a spectacular opening that not only sets the tone for the film but rapidly brings The Dark Knight’s overwhelming force – both on and off screen – into play. It is impossible to talk about anything to do with the film without coming back to Heath Ledger’s role as The Joker, not just because of the sad circumstances that surrounded it but because he simply does dominate whenever he is on screen, managing to balance the need for freakish charisma with the ability to avoid self-conscious showboating. Ledger manages to walk that tightrope with barely a slip, injecting the film with not only a genuine menace but also its own sense of (dark) humour. There can be no finer tribute than to say that you don’t sit there distressing at his demise or wondering what might have been. For the two and a half hours of the film, Ledger manages to transcend everything else. No-one else can really compete, yet nor do they try. As ever, Bale’s Batman is a blank canvas, while his Wayne continues to struggle with the nature of his dual identity. Michael Caine is used sparingly but wonderfully as Alfred and Gary Oldman is superb as the world weary Jim Gordon. Yet it’s part of the film’s strength that it doesn’t feel the need to bombard us with over the top characters, instead preferring to concentrate on their own very real traits and let the big action sequences take care of the thrills.
If The Dark Knight offers little surprises it may because we expected so much – that this would be a film that would arrive with a proper story, fine performances alongside one star turn and maintain its quality until the very end. When that end gives a clear green light for a third chapter, there can be no other response but to start counting the days.
The Dark Knight trailer