Joking around in Gotham

The Joker (Heath Ledger, left) proves he is no laughing matter as he looks on sinisterly from his jail cell.  Above, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) are enjoying the night at a fundraiser for Harvey’s political campaign for district attorney.By Oliver Joszt

After the high-profile release of Batman Begins, fans have waited anxiously to see what director Christopher Nolan would do next. With the newest Batman movie, Nolan shines the bat signal on Gotham for what may be the best Batman movie ever.

Comic book movies have never been looked upon with much favor by critics, but after they witness The Joker take center stage, this film will redefine critics’ perceptions of comic book films.

The Dark Knight should not just be considered one of the best comic film movies made this year, but one of the best movies, in general, of the year.

The Dark Knight shows Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) with a whole new view on his superhero antics. Once he sees that Harvey Dent’s (Aaron Eckhart) anti-mob crusade is a sign of real heroism, he realizes that his mission is inherently idiotic and that punching criminals in the face may not be a legitimate solution to the issue of urban criminality.

Bruce sees it as his chance to retire and leave the crime fighting to someone who can actually testify in a court of law and put people away. However, there is one big obstacle in his way: The Joker (Heath Ledger). This is a man who cares for nothing and wants nothing, except to watch the world crumble around him. The Joker’s biggest weapon is to present his victims with a deadly choice, and one such choice given to Batman leads to Harvey’s transformation into the ultimately tragic Two- Face.

Even though the title is The Dark Knight, this film is essentially The Joker’s. He inhabits a world without any rules and his motives for doing what he does are mysterious, even to Batman. There’s nothing humorous about him to the citizens of Gotham. No cheesy catch phrases are uttered. This is no caricature — The Joker is a frighteningly vicious and intelligent monster who represents a legitimate match for the title character.

Just like the mysterious intentions of The Joker, Nolan leaves many questions open-ended in The Dark Knight to make viewers interpret what they believe really happened. For instance, the audience never finds out where The Joker came from. Every time he tells the story of his smiling scars, the details are different, as though The Joker were making himself up on the spot.

In The Killing Joke, one of the comics The Dark Knight is based on, the Joker explains if he “had a past, it would be multiple choice.” Do we believe what he is saying to us or did something completely different happen?

It is no wonder that the acting in the film is superb, as it is filled with such a tour de force of actors. The movie does not allow its spectacular special effects to upstage the humans, which allows the audience to be deeply affected by the drama.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard about the amazing performance given by the late Ledger as The Joker. Unlike Jack Nicholson’s portrayal in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989), Ledger avoids the cartoonish idea of The Joker that has been constantly seen in past Batman films.

Instead, in Ledger’s hands, The Joker is a fearsome character whose deadly game is profoundly grounded in a vicious and horrifying reality. It is built on a pessimistic view of human weakness within all of us. His disarrayed make-up and wardrobe only add to the genuinely scary persona.

The Oscar buzz for what Ledger has done is not premature.He drives the entire movie with his performance, embodying something so out of control and, in his own way, so true, that the whirlwind of his mere presence destroys all.

Yet Ledger is not the only star of this film. Eckhart (Thank You for Smoking) does an especially good job as Harvey, whose character is transformed by a horrible fate into a bitter monster. Eckhart looks like the all-American boy and the typical do-gooder, whose character will do anything to stop corruption and greed.

Yet, there is a sinister side lurking within him, waiting to be released. Once Harvey completes his transformation into Two-Face, that is when he shines. Eckhart brings out Two-Face’s malice and destruction upon the world that he so desperately wanted to save earlier.

The movie is one whole moral dilemma controlled by The Joker. He devises clever situations that force Batman, Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Harvey to make impossible ethical decisions. By the end, the whole moral foundation of the Batman legend is threatened.

Batman is worse off at the end of this movie than at the beginning. Nolan flat-out rejects the idea that a real hero must wear a mask and his skepticism about Batman’s sacred mission gives this flick a jarring moral frisson that was missing from the previous film.

Though the hype is large, it is quite a spectacular film, not only in its technical aspects, but also because it rises above not just films of the comic book genre but contemporary films in general.

The Dark Knight will play in the BLC Theater tonight and tomorrow night at 7:30.

Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button