a critiQal film review The Dark Knight (2008)

Plot: With the help of Lieutant Gordon (Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Eckhart), Batman (Bale) sets out to break up the remaining criminal elements in Gotham. This partnership proves effective...until a reign of chaos is unleashed by a new rising criminal mastermind known as The Joker (Ledger).

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  • ...while it's a bit bloated - and haunted by Heath Ledger's untimely death - the new Batman film is still worth the price of admission.

Like nearly everyone else, I had been eagerly anticipating the release of The Dark Knight. Not so much to witness Heath Ledger’s final performance (despite all the recent runs on his films thanks to his untimely death, I’ve been rather unimpressed with his acting talents).

Instead, I was looking forward to seeing Christian Bale reprise his role as a new, grittier Batman – and I wanted to see if Christopher Nolan – now that they’ve introduced a normally larger-than-life foe for Batman – would be able to learn from the mistakes of the previous Batman series (focus on the hero, not the villain)…or would The Dark Knight be the beginning of the end of this new series?

Along with pretty much everyone else (and their brother), I was finally able to find out during an early showing today. Would I be as impressed with The Dark Knight as everyone else seems to be so far..or were reviewers allowing big bang – and a desire not to speak ill of the recently deceased – to inflate their ratings?

Christian Bale returns as the title character – and doesn’t get as much of chance this time around to really get the viewer involved, as he spends most of his time under the mask.

While did a good job of setting up the character – both Batman and his alter-ego Bruce Wayne, The Dark Knight – like many of it’s predecessors, focuses instead on the mask, rather than the man behind it. While the film does give Bale moments to shine sans mask (his moments with Michael Caine’s Alfred being high points), it’s mainly focused on The Batman, not Bruce Wayne.

gave him ample opportunity to showcase his extraordinary talents both in front of and behind the mask, but The Dark Knight doesn’t have the time – it’s got too many others to focus on.

A lot has already been said about Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker – and it seems that most of it is due to his untimely death, rather than his actual performance. While he does do a better job in this role than in any of his previous attempts at film (barring Brokeback Mountain, which this reviewer hasn’t seen, so can’t comment on), that isn’t really saying much.

He skated by for years on his pretty-boy persona, and finally when he’s starting to make something of himself – and beginning to prove to everyone he actually has some talent hiding under there, he’s gone. What a waste.

Aaron Eckhart, whose performance has gone largely unnoticed, really steps it up for his role in The Dark Knight. It’s hard to become a hero that outshine Batman himself in a Batman flick, but Aaron Eckhart does a good job of it – even as he portrays the character of Harvey Dent. It’s a difficult role, but Eckhart pulls it off with shining colors – and that should get many to stand up and notice.

Maggie Gyllenhaal, replacing Katie Holmes in the role of Rachel, seems largely out of the scheme of things. No one would ever expect Katie Holmes to be missed, since her rather pathetic attempt at the character in , but she is. Sure, it probably has to do with the audience having gotten used to her as Rachel, so the fresh face of Maggie Gyllenhaal is a bit unwanted.

She also never really seems to connect with Bale’s Bruce Wayne, so on top of being an unwelcome new face, does her best to destroy everything Katie Holmes tried to build in the first film.

While the film does a good job of introducing The Joker into this new, grittier and darker Gotham City, The Dark Knight isn’t content to stop there. Instead, it bloats itself with a whole myriad of subplots. Instead of heightening the tension of the film, all the subplots tend to muddy the film, making for a less enjoyable experience.

Plus, the viewer gets the idea that the filmmakers had enough ideas for 2 films, but decided to cram them all into one. Some of the subplots could easily have taken up an entire film all by themselves, but instead are short-changed by being briefly included in this film, almost as an afterthought.

Because it takes awhile to wrap up so many subplots, the film takes 2 and a half plus hours to finally bring things to a close. While most of the time the battle between The Joker and The Batman takes center stage, when the subplots begin to come to light, viewers may find themselves glancing at their watches and drumming their fingers a little bit.

Despite some subplots that should have been left for another film, and a rather unimpressive – and largely distracting – performance by Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Dark Knight still turns out to be one of the better sequels to hit screens this summer.

Definitely worth seeing on the big screen, this darker and grittier Batman should be able to produce another couple of movies – as long as the filmmakers are able to keep the bloat to a minimum.

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