Yes, The Dark Knight is all these things and much more. First, let me get the details out of the way for those of you
The Dark Knight reunites director Christopher Nolan with star Christian Bale, who returns to continue Batman's war on crime. With the help of Lieutenant James Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Batman sets out to destroy organized crime in Gotham for good. The triumvirate proves to be effective, but they soon find themselves prey to a rising criminal mastermind known as The Joker (Heath Ledger), who thrusts Gotham into anarchy and forces the Dark Knight ever closer to crossing the fine line between hero and vigilante.Not listed are Maggie Gyllenhaal playing the absent Katie Holmes character Rachel Dawes, more on her later. Morgan Freeman as Wayne's tech man and head of Wayne Industries (or whatever they call the company in the movies,) Lucius Fox. And of course, Michael Caine as Bruce's butler and confidant, Alfred Pennyworth.
Before I get any further, allow me to confirm the hype, or add to it more, depending on your point of view, about Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker. Like others, I thought that much of the praise built around Ledger's role was influenced by the tragic circumstances of his death. I was wrong. I also have some inkling of the dark places Ledger had to go to get into the character on the screen. He was creepy, dangerous, insane, funny, and deadly. To put it into perspective, Heath Ledger's Joker is to Jack Nicholson's Joker as Christian Bale's Batman is to Adam West's Batman. I have never seen a more chilling portrayal of the character, nor do I ever expect to again. Hollywood can never bring The Joker back, because no one can follow Ledger's performance without unfavorable comparison. A posthumous Oscar is the least Ledger should receive.
And that's part of what was so exhausting about the movie. Ledger's performance was so in-depth and emotional, that I couldn't help but be drawn in emotionally as well. Not to mention watching new life breathed into this old character was so exhilarating that coming down from that couldn't help but be draining.
I did not expect the extent of the Harvey Dent/Two-Face story that we got as well. Eckhart was good. Not as good as Ledger, but who could be here? Not only was he good, but the special effects made him Two-Face. I'm not talking about cheesy latex prosthetics a la Joel CRAPmacher's Tommy Lee Jones Two-Face. I'm talking, "Good lord! You can see his cheek muscles! His eye is totally exposed! His teeth are completely visible! Is that a jawbone! Gross! Awesome!" You can tell Eckhart understood Two-Face's insanity and captured the character's particular unhinged dichotomy.
He's another reason this movie was exhausting. That is especially true considering his climactic scene, of which I will give nothing away, nothing, I tell you!
Unfortunately, I don't have all good to say about the latest Batman installment. Maggie Gyllenhaal? Really, Nolan? Really? You can't get Holmes so Gyllenhaal is your choice? Seriously? She looks horrible through the entire movie. There's a scene, part of which is in the previews, wherein The Joker encounters Gyllenhaal's Rachel at a benefit at Wayne's penthouse. He reacts to her as if she is the most beautiful woman in the room. Only she's so not. It's not that she's ugly. She's not really. But attractive? No way. She looks old and tired. Her hair is a limp mess through the entire movie. She can't fill out a dress half as well as the extras in the same scene. It was sad, really it was. She doesn't have any chemistry with either Bale or Eckhart, the latter of which plays her current beau in the movie. She's an average actress to boot. I really don't understand this casting decision.
Bale does a great job as Wayne/Batman yet again. Stacy and Jamie both mentioned that he looked really skinny. Can't say that it bothered me. His costume was a little odd. In order to make the turning of his head easier, presumably, they cut the cowl inward very close to the chin. The effect was to make his head look more round. I suppose I'm used to the cowl going straight into the cape, so it was a little jarring. Hardly much of a complaint considering past Hollywood interpretations of the character. The only real complaint I had about Bale's Batman was his final conversation with The Joker (the previous ones were all entertaining, oh and exhausting,) Bale doesn't so well with the voice change to Bats. He tries a little too hard to make it gravelly. This isn't a problem unless he's shouting, then he sounds a little silly. Still not much of a complaint, but it was a little jarring.
My final comment about the movie was the message it delivered, sometimes subtly, sometimes in your face; people are inherently good. While I generally don't like people, the message of hope still appealed to me. It was one of the scenes that delivered this statement that was extremely dark and exhausting, but ultimately satisfying and a relief. I hate being so cryptic, but I'm really trying to avoid being spoilerific. I think you'll know the scene when you see it. It's not the only one with the message, but the one where it is most clearly delivered.
The plot was chilling and twisty, the action was intense, the comedy was dark, the acting was superb (except where noted,) and the cinematography was excellent. Oh, and the Bat-bike was cool. I give The Dark Knight thirteen out of fifteen cat-proof batsuits on a scale that I just made up that doesn't mean anything.
Did I mention that I'm watching it again tonight? Jon and I discussed it after last night's advance viewing. Can we watch it two nights in a row, as emotionally exhausting as it was? Of course we can, because it was awesome.
P.S. Damn them for making a Watchmen trailer that actually makes me want to see the movie.