I’ve had some time to consider “The Dark Knight” and to get over the whole “No More Joker like that” feeling that it left me with when it was over; time to consider the whole put some thought into its merits and failings.
Foremost in those Merits is the Art/Photography. The whole film feels like it was filmed on Location, instead of a series of sets. Where Movies like “X-Men 3” felt like the scale of the film should have been epic and was instead tabletop sized; a movie about the conflict between two men was so grand in scale and broadly shot with sweeping backdrops. It was masterful; as I stated earlier Gotham was shot as another character in the film without gaudy makeup and CGI flourish. It was a welcome change. The “Batcave” was also exceptional; instead of the visual cacphany of the traditional Batcave we are treated to a spartan and functional HQ that serves as the home of the Batman. Did anyone else notice how BRIGHT the “Batcave” was? It wasn’t until the Lights went off at the Batcave that things really got down to business; which I imagine was the metaphor that ran through the whole movie.
Speaking of unvarnished Characters; Alfred gets a back story in this film that precludes some of his own history. He has served the Wayne Family for how long? He used to be a mercenary/soldier in where? Hmmm. It seems that a former soldier might not take to the life of a butler as readily as the former actor. Can we get a nice firm Public School Education and life of service in place for Alfred and just leave it there? Please? Michael Caine was (as ever) a fine character actor; he has settled into the “wise older guy/father figure” role very well. The next man to fill the role after Mr. Caine will have trouble shaking the dignified and meaty role that Michael Caine has carved from Alfred. Not Camp. not “Fussy School Marm”, just a Man’s Man who happens to be a butler.
Maggie Gyllenhall; gah. I think I just don’t like her as an actor. Sure, she is more of a character than Katie Holmes carried in “Batman Begins” but only because she pouts and acts more upset with Bruce Wayne than in the former. I jsut don’t buy her as a lawyer, she seems far to passive to be a real lawyer, especially as an Assistant DA. Speaking of that; why isn’t Rachel the DA? She has Bruce Wayne backing her for gosh’s sake. That is kind of emblematic of the uneven writing that makes Rachel so poor; she motivates two big characters but isn’t self-motivating. She just reacts and her biggest moment comes. <spoiler>post-mortem</spoiler> which kind of sucks for the actress. She scores her points by looking alternatively annoyed, scared or sad.
Aaron Eckhart; Harvey Dent. What can be said about the blonde-haird blue-eyed Harvey Dent that wasn’t repeated over and over again in the press about him all over Gotham? Gotham’s white knight! The guys on the force had another name for him: “Two Face”. The only thing is that they don’t establish WHY they called him Two Face; only that he was called it behind his back. If I remember correctly; in some far-off corner of my mind there was a portrayal of Harvey that showed him being bad-ass in private; thus showing the schism in his personality up front. Aaron tries to demonstrate this schism on screen, in a hoarse scream that appears as if by magic at points; but I don’t think his performance was strong enough. It was good; but not great.
The Joker / The Batman
I give Christian Bale and Heath Ledger equal billing here. They are as much the same character as the source material allows. In the comics; other heroes will often decry that Batman will always go over the edge and too far when solving the world’s problems. The opposite is true; of course, The Batman doesn’t ever go too far; he is always prepared and has planned this out. The same is true for the Joker; who WANTS to be caught and stopped by The Batman. The Batman and The Joker occupy the same space; with both seeking to make the world see things and do things their way. The Joker might be doing it for the Lulz, but it’s still the same psychology that drives them. “The Dark Knight” does a great deal to illustrate that neither the Joker nor The Batman gamble and both seem to have all the angles covered. The conflict that ensues is epic; if not exhausting. The yawning physical gulf between the two characters (demonstrated through sweeping helicopter shots showing each character’s approach to looking over the city) is also lost when you can see how close the two man are to each other. They are shadowy men with pasts that are known only to their intimates. It seems that the only thing that keeps The Batman from being The Joker are those around him. All of this is beautifully portrayed by both actors; with Bale continuing to play his “Patrick Bateman” Bruce Wayne to great effect. Heath Ledger pulls in a performance of the Joker that reaches new highs that I don’t imagine would be easily eclipsed.