I finally got to see The Dark Knight.
Thursday evening, Brandi and I went to see the second highest-grossing movie of all time, director Christopher Nolan's second stab at translating the Batman mythos for the big screen, and...
...I loved it.
It is a remarkable movie. It's riveting, thrilling, exciting, frightening, uplifting, suspenseful, visceral, haunting and ultimately heartbreaking. While long, the film never drags, and I found it to be a considerable improvement over the admittedly excellent Batman Begins, with a layered, engaging story that relentlessly drives forward to an amazing and emotionally satisfying conclusion. This powerful story is further seasoned with a plethora of delightful subplots and details – the brief reappearance of The Scarecrow, Gotham City's other "batmen," and the guy who figures out the hero's secret identity.
First off, Heath Ledger's portrayal of The Joker is – as I'm sure you've heard – astounding. From the moment of the character's first appearance in the film, I completely forgot that it was Ledger. I never once thought, "Hey, Ledger's doing a great job;" the transformation was so complete and terrifying. In fact, it wasn't until the movie ended and his name came up in the credits that I was suddenly struck with a pronounced sense of loss as I remembered that the actor was dead, and we would never see this Joker again.
Gary Oldman spent so much of his career gleefully chewing the scenery in movie after movie that his subdued, thoughtful interpretation of Commissioner Jim Gordon is nothing short of a revelation. For the first time on film, the character finally has the depth, emotional layering and dignity of his comic book counterpart, and Oldman flat-out nails the role.
Veteran thespian Michael Caine once again brings substantial emotional weight, genuine wisdom and a delightfully sardonic wit to his portrayal of Bruce Wayne's faithful manservant, Alfred Pennyworth. While his screen time is limited, he has several memorable moments, and he remains the heart of the Nolan Bat-universe.
While a bit light on chin, which still makes him look odd in the cowl, Christian Bale has once again triumphed as the titular Dark Knight, portraying Bruce Wayne as a complicated, obsessed man with astounding abilities and resources, but all too human frailties.
The rest of the cast – Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhal, Morgan Freeman, Eric Roberts, et al – are uniformly excellent. I'll say this for Nolan: he knows how to get great performances out of his actors.
Is it the best comic book movie ever? Quite possibly, though I'll have to watch it a few dozen times on DVD before I'm certain. It is a surprisingly mature, thoughtful film that isn't afraid to unnerve its audience, and it delivers the requisite action and thrills with aplomb.
I can't wait to see it again.