Batman has certainly come a long way since his introduction in 1939, as he rapidly approaches his seventieth birthday he has survived comic book code legislation, a succession of comic book revamps, a camper than thou television series and film franchises that took his character from the sublime to the ridiculous.
‘The Dark Knight’ is the second instalment in the freshly rebooted film series with Christian Bale donning the cape and cowl for his second outing as the legendary dark knight detective. This time round facing off against his arch nemesis The Joker as portrayed by the late Heath Ledger. The film was always going to attract a vast amount of attention if only for it being one of Ledger’s last performances before his untimely death earlier this year.
As a film its faithful to the mythos of the Batman even though in many respects its not entirely Batman/Bruce Wayne’s film. I say this because the supporting cast seem to take as much lead time as Christian Bale, Ledger’s performance is very classy in an unsettling way of course but for me star billing goes to Gary Oldman who returns as Lt. James Gordon (a spot on rendition that is almost slavishly faithful to the comic books) and Aaron Eckhart who plays the charismatic and crusading District Attorney Harvey Dent.
That if anything is the beauty of the film, you notice everyone. Right down to the bit players everyone has a role that is necessary. Eric Roberts plays the seemingly untouchable mob boss Salvatore Maroni while Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine respectively cast an air of wisdom as Wayne’s advisors and confidantes Lucius Fox and Alfred Pennyworth. Maggie Gyllenhaal proves to be a deft replacement for Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes and fleshes out the role in ways I doubt her predecessor could have managed.
Plot wise the writing is for the most part incredibly tight, focussing on the relatively early segment of Batman’s career. He’s still new at this and the rest of the characters are in their formative stages. Harvey Dent is still the crusading champion of justice and Gordon is yet to become the commissioner of the beleaguered city. As for The Joker, he’s new in town and eager to make a name for himself (which he does relatively quickly). The tone of the film is unquestionably dark and there is little of the one liner humour that previous incarnations of the Bat employed.
Fans of the comic book will recognise many influences from some of the characters larger story arcs of the last thirty odd years (The Killing Joke, No Man’s Land) so they should come away from the experience satisfied. However even for the casual viewer there is enough going on to please. It seems director Chris Nolan has a definite knack of pleasing everyone. There are the occasional gripes with the film however, Bale’s voice is digitally altered to sound “gruff” when he is in the Batman persona and it sounds a little odd and many have claimed that an edit here or there to trim the length of the film would have been prudent. In the cinema I can understand the criticism although when the film reaches home audiences this shouldn’t be so much of an issue.
Overrall however I can highly recommend this. Bale is suitably sombre as the Dark Knight and there are moments when Ledger makes decidedly uncomfortable viewing as his nemesis. And with the aforementioned first rate performances from all concerned the film is veritable feast for the audience. Don’t miss it.