The Dark Knight
Rejoice, ye of the comic book geek ilk. With The Dark Knight, you just might have been made cool. Well, okay not really -- no chick's still gonna go for a guy with Wolverine "figurines" on his night stand and Sailor Moon posters on the walls of his apartment. But Christopher Nolan's second attempt at schilling the Batman mythos to the masses pushes the whole idea of what a "comic book movie" should be into a legitimately good movie. Perhaps we could even say it might be mainstream?
Taking up literally where Batman Begins left off, The Dark Knight starts out with a crackling bank-robbing sequence that establishes The Joker (Heath Ledger) as a freakin' nut-case that manages to steal the Mafia's cash. Ledger's performance has already been labeled as Oscar-worthy, and I must say that I will agree to that feeling to an extent, if only for the reason that he manages to make Eric Roberts (who plays the head of the mob in Gotham) look like a serious actor.
Anyway, after the heist, Batman -- essayed by Christian Bale, who seems excited to chew up the scenery by treating any bits where he's behind the mask by having a voice of an old Vegas blackjack dealer. It sounds like he just had a shot of Jameson after a Camel straight, a.k.a., it's just about freakin' perfect. After a bit of hemming and hawing, Batman teams up with Gotham's hot-shot D.A., Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), in order to bring the mob's accountant, Lau (Chin Han) in for questioning, and thus shut down the whole syndicate on RICO charges.
Well, it turns out that Lau has headed back to Hong Kong, which of course means Batman, via his alter-ego of Bruce Wayne, has to hatch an overly convoluted plot to get Lau back to Gotham. And we also get to see Edison Chen in what will probably be his last on-screen appearance for a long time. At least lil' Eddy doesn't call anyone "dawg" in the three lines he gets to utter here.
At any rate, Battyboy does manage to get Lau back, but, gee golly, that turned out to be part of The Joker's plan. The fact that Harvey takes a gullet-full of chemicals and becomes the nasty Two-Face, and the useless love interest in the form of the boring and plain Maggie Gyllenhaal's Rachel Dawes are pretty much put to the side while Heath put down the pill bottles long enough to deliver a really goddamn good performance. Yeah, it is that good.
I'm already sick of the emo kids parroting the "why so serious" line, but fucking a, Ledger knocked the role of The Joker out of the park. It makes what Jack Nicholson did in Tim Burton's original movie (as good as that performance was) look like those assclowns who troll for tips whilst dressed in ill-fitting costumes on Hollywood Boulevard by comparison.
And that's what really sends The Dark Knight above other superhero movies, action films, or hell, just about any mainstream American picture at this point in time. Obviously, the film-makers and actors took matters -- inprobable at many times during the running time as they may be -- seriously... but not so seriously that they forgot that "popcorn" movies are actually supposed to be fun.
Even if you hate comic books, even if you hate action films, and even if you hate Edison Chen, if you can't come out of a showing of The Dark Knight and say that you didn't enjoy yourself, then perhaps it's time to find something else other than going to the movies to occupy your time with.
Depite the obvious flaws in the story department, like a cheesy cell-phone bomb that somehow manages to make it into the inner depths of Gotham's most secure prision, Christopher Nolan and his team have somehow been able to salvage the Batman franchise from the heel-clicking, skate-shooting crapfest Joel Schmaucher made it into -- and in fact might have created the millenium's first true action hero.
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