When I first read that they’d honour Heath Ledger pusthumously for playing The Joker in The Dark Knight, I frowned. Sure, Heath Ledger’s a wonderful actor and undoubtedly he went before his time, but oscar talk before a movie gets released? That’s pushing it a bit, in my opinion. Boy was I wrong: after having seen this movie, not only am I sure that Heath Ledger deserves this oscar, I actually believe he will get it.
The Dark Knight is not your average “Iron Man” superhero movie – all about special effects and GLORIOUS METAL MUSIC playing in the background while people in shiny armour fly around the screen spouting one-liners. In fact, The Dark Knight is nothing like that, in so far that it actually starts to feel very unlike a superhero movie at all. We get offered a dark story about a normal person who happens to wear a latex suit, and we get it with such sense of realism that Gotham City doesn’t quite seem like Gotham City, but like New York. Christopher Nolan did a superb job at making this city one of “our very own”. It all seems very, very real – even the two featured villains get a realistic overhaul, in which for one less is more (the case for The Joker) and one where more psychology… is indeed more as well (Two-Face).
Which brings us to the inevitable point every Dark Knight review has to tackle: Heath Ledger as The Joker. While The Dark Knight undoubtedly is a superb movie, Heath Ledger makes is an even better one: his way of acting out this psychotic madman, aided of course by the wonderful script, is the best thing since Hannibal. He takes the Joker and lifts it up beyond what we know and love about The Joker and delivers an unforgettable experience on his own. I immediately felt intrigued by this Joker, whereas this character never intrigued me before. The poorly done make-up, the greasy hair, the rolling of the tongue, the psychotic laugh that always sounds different… You kind of get the impression Heath Ledger isn’t acting anymore, that he became his role. Which is kind of scary, considering the man’s dead.
Behind this stellar performance (ever second of Joker time is simply breathtaking), it’s easy to forget about those “other actors”. Like Batman himself. Christopher Bale once again brings us a solid, two-faced batman: on the one hand there’s the careless spender called Bruce Wayne, on the other hand there’s Batman who is torn apart by insecurity. This typical superhero complex gets done really well in The Dark Knight, once again due to brilliant acting and a great script. Harvey Dent, also known as Two-Face, is also performed wonderfully by Aaron Eckhart, who can be seen slowly sinking down the abyss and being confronted by the limits of his own sense of justice. Great acting performances, aided by a superb script.
That last sentence pretty much sums it all up: this is a terrific movie where every little piece (Heath Ledger, Christopher Bale, Aaron Eckhard, Morgan Freeman…) is really good, but where the script is the one thing that makes the experience complete. Where Batman Begins felt like a superhero movie, The Dark Knight feels like a really good action drama. I can’t quite pin down where the difference between the two lie – “silly superhero” elements like the Batmobile or the Batsuit feature in both films – but you can sense it the moment the movie starts: this is something else, this is something really, really good. Maybe it’s the continuous testing of the border between good and evil that does it?
Favourite Quote: The Joker: Come on, I want you to do it, I want you to do it. Come on, hit me. *Hit me!*