Back in 2005 I saw “Batman Begins”, I not only thought it was the best Batman Film and best film of the year but also a film I’d put on my list of Best Movies I have ever seen.
I eagerly waited these three years since then to see “The Dark Knight”. In this past year the momentum and build up to the film was almost like that of Batman 89, however finding any merchandise here wasn’t so easy as I had hoped. I finally got to see it on preview at the Wald 9 Cinema in Shinjuku, Tokyo on the 2nd of August. I was highly excited and couldn’t stop fidgeting in my seat until the movie started. Then that beating sound began as the logos of Warner Brothers, legendary pictures and DC comics appeared. The Jokers theme started as the Batman Symbol floated through blue fire.
The film was an intense experience, almost exhausting, but what a film. I had to see it a further two times to fully digest it.
The film tackles a variety of questions. Vigilantism, Batman’s methods used to fight crime, Joker’s Terror, how physical strength and force can’t stop a philosophy or way of thinking, good people falling to evil after losing hope. Their are parallels between this and what’s happening in the real world. Some things can’t be stopped just by using brute force and we may not be evil but be forced to do so if we become victims of our own situation. Batman and Joker are victims of their own pasts and both have turned to dealing with it in very different ways. As the Joker had said to Batman in the Comic ‘The Last Laugh’ “you had a bad day am I right? You had a bad day and everything changed”. People might think the joker is crazy but without a doubt Batman must be seen in a similar light. Joker uses his method of anarchy to show people that self righteous good intentions isn’t so effective in action when someone is put into a no win situation.
The film could easily be called “Joker”, so iconic is the character and well realised he was made by Nolan and Ledger who have reinvented a villain that will be around in our minds for a long time. It was a perfect idea to make him ambiguous, he came from nowhere, no history, no name, having different stories of his past, any of which could be true or false. He has created himself as a Symbol of Chaos to inspire evil while Batman had made himself as a symbol of Justice to inspire good and use Fear against criminals. In one respect Batman and the Joker represent two sides of the same coin, a good and evil.
Jokers speeches are almost convincing. He doesn’t spout typical villain/bad guy stuff where you’ll definitely disagree with him. To a certain degree he has a point and there’s less flaw in his logic than that of others. You can’t disagree with him 100%.
I was surprised that Nolan cast Health Ledger as the Joker however I trusted the Director and imagined he made the best choice for the Joker. It was a Tragic loss when Heath died. I was shocked by it. The world lost one of the finest actors of this era. Heath created one of the best onscreen villains ever topping the likes of Hannibal Lector or Darth Vader.
Batman has no answer for the Joker, he is totally taken out of his element because the Joker isn’t like other criminals, he doesn’t fear Batman. When Batman beats him in the interrogation scene the Joker just laughs. Batman for the first time is truly powerless and it is perhaps a learning curve the character had to take to understand that beating criminals to pulp just isn’t going to cut it with some of them. The interrogation scene that shows this has to be my favorite scene along with the ending scene.
Christian Bale had one of the hardest roles since he had to play 3 characters. Batman, the real Bruce Wayne and the public persona of Bruce Wayne, he does an excellent Job of it. He is the best actor to play Batman, Keaton would be my next choice but Bale plays into the character and delves into the deeper complexities of the character, although he does take more of a back seat role in this film to the joker and he gracefully does so. I certainly hope there is more focus on the character in any sequel since the character is so fascinating and with an Actor like Bale playing him you want to see as much and know as much about him as possible. I enjoyed Bale’s fighting scenes a bit more since the fights seemed a bit less confusing and more brutal.
I liked how the final scene with Batman and the Joker ended with the Joker telling Batman that they were destined to do this forever. To me that is their story done perfectly. We can imagine these two characters up against each other numerous times, locked in constant battle, neither of them willing to kill the other. This is the relationship that Batman and the Joker have in comics and it is somewhat comforting to just leave it on that note in the movie and let it be what it is.
It echoes a moment from the comic “The Clown at Midnight” (featured in Batman #663) when the Joker states to Batman, “You can’t kill me without becoming like me. I can’t kill you without losing the only human being who can keep up with me. Isn’t it ironic?!” The Joker says later, “I could never kill you. Where would the act be without my straight man?”
Aaron Eckhart really nailed the part of Two Face. The voice of Two face that you imagine in your head is what he brought out of the character. The performance was so true to the Comic and even the animated series of the early 90s. I honestly don’t think I can ever watch Tommy Lee Jones in Batman forever playing the same character. In the “Batman: Year One” script and in the graphic novel “The Long Halloween” Harvey Dent is really entwined with the Batman mythos since himself Gordon and Batman vow to clean up the city. He represents a charming force that can put a face to fighting crime that Gordon and Batman can’t. All the more tragic it is when the character falls and the once shining Knight is brought down to the same level as Batman and the Joker.
Gary Oldman is so believably Jim Gordon. He is an amazing versatile actor when you consider all the roles he has done but I could no longer even recognise Oldman, so complete and natural was his performance as Gordon that I felt he was real. He has such a large part in the film he should be on the poster holding a Police badge next to Dent, Joker and Batman. I hope Gordon features even more in the next movie.
Michael Caine is the Watson to Batman’s Holmes and a far truer interpretation of a ’sidekick’ than the boy wonder robin who thankfully isn’t in this. Alfred deals out the harsh truth to Bruce Wayne and is perhaps the only character besides Rachel that can talk on the same level with Bruce. He is a Father figure, he was the one who raised Bruce since his parents died. Caine also adds some moments of light relief which are much welcomed in this Dark Film.
David Goyer, Christopher and Jonathan Nolan crafted a film that contains the essence of who the Batman and Joker are. After completing Batman’s origins in Begins they had room to develop a story free of devoting time to character introduction. Before Nolan had starting filming “Batman Begins” he had shown everyone on the film crew “Blade Runner” and told them this was how they were going to make “Batman Begins”. With “The Dark Knight” he compared it to “Heat”, elevating it beyond a Comic book movie genre. With Begins and the Dark Knight he has always wanted to keep Batman in the real world. Since the character has no powers he naturally appeals and lends himself to this realistic vision of Nolans.
Nolan put everything into this movie storywise, he completed the story of two face and Joker rather than continuing it in another movie (as Goyer had previously mentioned back in 2005 when he worked out a story for 2 further sequels in which the joker on trail would scar Dent and Two- Face would be the main villain of a third film). But there is a opening for the next movie. In my view there is a bit of a set up there in the interrogation scene with the Joker and Batman when the Joker tells him that they (the people of Gotham, the Police) need Batman now but when they don’t they’ll cast him out. By the end Batman’s only choice is to cast himself out and be hunted by the police, it would be interesting to see where this goes, probably everyone will be after him and trying to figure out his identity. Perhaps a Character like Hugo Strange could be in it, a Batman villain from the Comics who was able to deduce that Batman was Bruce Wayne. I certainly hope to see more of Gordon in it too.
People are wondering at this time if Nolan should tackle making another Batman Movie since he has set the bar so high for himself;. I however think that this is a wonderful challenge to the independent film maker that he would love to take on. I have no doubt that he would make a Movie just as good if not better. I’m counting down the days to the one. Should a Character like Joker return? Perhaps if the story wants to tell requires it. I don’t think anyone can really match what Heath did but they could do their own interpretation. Maybe Johnny Depp? I’m not so interesting in seeing catwoman or the penguin. Less know villains would be interesting to see.
It’s still too early to say whether this is the greatest comic book of all time, it still needs time to age to see how it holds up. certainly it’s the strongest comic book movie containing the philosophy of a Hero and complex moral questions of been a vigilante.
Favorite Quote: “he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark Knight.” – Commissioner Jim Gordon