The Dark Knight – Batman Unmasked
“You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a villain.”
Sharp and clever writing from the newest addition to the super hero collection of films: The Dark Knight. Co-written and directed by Christopher Nolan, this is a disturbing adaptation of The Batman Myth set with pathological realism reminiscent of the the violent brutality portrayed in Stanley Kubrick’s, A Clockwork Orange (1971). A fast moving detective story that doesn’t depend on the Batman premise for its mystery as Gotham City is held captive by the demented whims of a psychopathic schizophrenic with lip licking depravity in a brilliant performance by Heath Ledger as The Joker; “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
As the film proceeds it becomes unclear who really is The Dark Knight as the drama is less about Batman (Christian Bale) then the deconstruction of a hero Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), the white knight, and the complex psychological associations to its antithesis set in motion by Ledgers’ Joker.
When the line of good and evil begins to obscure, Bruce Wayne tells a concerned Alfred well played by veteran actor Michael Caine, “Batman has no limits.” As the audience watches, not knowing how far he will go, constantly taunted by the Joker who attacks his identity as a protagonist, with twisted logic, drawing similarities between them and Dent as the moral pawn, the Joker’s mesmerizing argument of the fine line illustrating the soul of a hero crossing the line into megalomania. “What is he hiding under that mask?” Honor, respect or something dark and foreboding?
The film has strong performances including the transformation of another hero, commissioner Gordon, beautifully played by Garry Oldman in shades of gray. Even the small parts by Eric Roberts and other incidental characters in the plot all convey implied history to their personalities, multi-layered in a mosaic. But it is Leger’s Joker that elevates the film to another level, although at times painful to watch in its cruelty.
This interpretation, two hours thirty two minutes long, is an adult version of the caped crusader that implores the audience to question bravery, heroism and how close the dark side is to the light when inner motives are questioned. Filmed mostly in Chicago, absent is the surrealism of Tim Burton’s Gotham City, or the comic book visuals usually associated with the super hero film. The ambient light, a hazy yellow conveys the dark mood, while the score builds to a nervous constancy as the violent action scenes develop. An outstanding film, Oscar worthy on many levels especially for the well written script, and Heath Ledger in his final performance, a painful reminder of the fragility of life, another theme of this complex four star film.
For a full list of cast see the IMDB data base link.