Directed by Christopher Nolan. Starring Christian Bale (Batman/Bruce Wayne), Heath Ledger (Joker), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Rachel Dawes), Aaron Eckhart (Harvey Dent/Two Face), Michael Caine (Alfred)
Dark indeed, Gotham is in the grip of the mob, Gordon knows his own police officers are corrupt, Batman’s inspired bat-suited vigilantes and now there’s a Joker in the pack.
Joker was always Batman’s nemesis. Joker never had a plan but was an intelligent opportunist who aimed to cause mayhem. He didn’t want money or power so couldn’t be corrected. The only option was to dump him in the Arkham Asylum until his next escape. Practically the opposite of Batman who never had a plan but was an intelligent opportunist intent on cleaning up Gotham. He didn’t want money or power so couldn’t be corrupted. Batman feared Joker the most because he was the only criminal who made Batman question what he was doing, whether he was helping or hindering Gotham’s efforts to clean up.
Hence much being made of Harvey Dent, the new DA, being Gotham’s White Knight. A man Gotham could really believe in. A man who didn’t hide behind a mask, but was highly visible, his face all over news broadcasts and papers. Aaron Eckhart balances the surface, cocky, ambitious lawyer and the deeper desire to make Gotham a place where love can flourish, where he and Rachel can create a family like the Gordons.
It’s Gordon (promoted during the film to Commissioner) who gets to explain that Gotham gets the hero it deserves. Christian Bale captures Batman’s duality: the millionaire playboy and noctural crime-fighter; the outlaw who upholds the law. An Academy Award nomination for Heath Ledger may in part be motivated by sympathy, but it shouldn’t detract from a fine-judged performance. Heath Ledger’s Joker is no cartoon buffoon, but carries a dark intelligence, the instinct for self-preservation and the inability to take responsibility for everything he does. He points out to Harvey Dent that he was in prison when Rachel was captured so it’s not his fault (although it was his plan). Joker blames Batman for making him who he is and argues the deaths he causes are Batman’s fault (akin to a bomber arguing deaths were the fault of the police for failing to decode the bomb’s location and disarm it in time).
It is a violent film and the violence is mainly hidden by explosions, but not a gory one. Joker does carry a knife and does menace people with it. He always did: guns are too quick and don’t give him time to explain how he got his scars that make him look as if he’s always smiling. And it’s never the same story twice. Joker’s hollow laugh is the theme of “The Dark Knight”. Worth watching, but it’s not a children’s film. It was rated PG-13 in the US, but a 12A here when a 12 would have made more sense.