I – we – cannot talk about Christopher Nolan’s sequel to 2005’s Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, without talking about The Performance.
I am talking about what is presumed to be Heath Ledger’s last completed big-screen turn as film’s main villain, the Joker.
The late Australian actor delivers a veritable tour de force that’d be deserving of all the effusive praise that has been lavished upon it even if the circumstances of the film’s debut were different – an exercise on anarchism as a personality trait so vivid and theatric and frightening one cannot help but be mesmerized by it.
Oscar talk, I thought before watching The Dark Knight, was premature. Now I feel it’s more than appropriate. Ledger will be the standard by which all other supporting actors will be measured this year.
Last see saw Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), his alter ego, Batman, had saved Gotham from Ra’s al Ghul and the Scarecrow, and his girlfriend, Rachel Dawes (then played by Katie Holmes, now by Maggie Gyllenhaal), had told him she could not be with him as long as he was Batman.
The events of The Dark Knight take place one year after that – and one year after the Joker’s imminent arrival was teased at the end of Batman Begins.
With the help of Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), Batman sets out to destroy organized crime in Gotham for good. To achieve this – and to win Rachel back – he must allow the city’s so-called “white knight,” District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) to become the hero Batman cannot be, for he lives and acts outside the law. Dent, unlike the Caped Crusader works from the inside, can put a public face on Batman’s heroics. Unfortunately, a tragic turn of events allows Dent to give Gotham two faces (see what I did there?).
This partnership proves effective, but soon, the three men fall prey to the Joker, a rising criminal mastermind who just wants “to watch the world burn.”
The Dark Knight really is the rarest of summer sequels: it not only more than exceeds its predecessor, it leaves you wanting more – a triumph considering it runs 2 ½ hours long.
Aside from its strong cast, the film’s most appealing quality is the realism of its action sequences – none looks CGI-fake but rather CGI-enhanced. For that, Batman feels real.
My Rating ****
Photo: Warner Bros.