Wow. Wow. The summer blockbuster season might as well pack it in and go home, because it’s over. See you later Step Brothers. Shake a leg Swing Vote, because it’s done son. We’ve been waiting three years for Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to 2005′s Batman Begins, and holy piss, was it worth it. And not only did we get a great film, but the greatest superhero movie ever made.
As Batman continues to clean up the mean streets of Gotham City, desperate criminals are scrambling to save their crumbling empire. Taking advantage of the confusion is one of Gotham’s new breed of criminal, a man they call the Joker. Why does that sound awesome? Because it effing IS.
Watching as all this unfolds is Batman. As the Joker takes control of Gotham’s underworld and the body count begins to rise, Bruce Wayne is forced to ask himself if the creation of such a fantastic hero as Batman is really to blame for all this. If, in his desire to make the city a safer place, he’s only upped the ante in a game he’s not sure he can win. Or rather, a game in which he’s not sure he can do what he needs to in order in win.
I hate to say it, but these types of movies have changed since 9/11. The line between hero and villain has been blurred and they’re presented to us in a much more gritty, realistic way. As far as superheroes are concerned, this method has been met with some criticism. Frank Miller, of Sin City fame, explained it like this…
People are attempting to bring a superficial reality to superheroes which is rather stupid. They work best as the flamboyant fantasies they are. I mean, these are characters that are broad and big. I don’t need to see the sweat patches under Superman’s arms. I want to see him fly.
I think it’s a valid criticism, but not one I necessarily agree with. When superheroes are presented to us as “flamboyant fantasies,” I’m not sure they can progress beyond a certain complexity and ultimately don’t affect us on the level a movie like The Dark Knight does.
The movie’s complexity is served not only by it’s story, but also by it’s actors. Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman. All are in top form from start to finish. And while they were all great and a delight to watch on screen, it was as if God himself looked down on Heath Ledger’s Joker and said, “You are my finest creation.” From his first scene (and it’s AWESOME), his entire performance was brilliant.
There’s a giant internet slap-fight going on right now, with people arguing over who’s better, Heath Ledger or Jack Nicholson from 1989′s Batman. They’re both representative of two different cultural mindsets and I don’t think you can truly compare the two. And while I loved Nicholson’s portrayal and get a little giddy every time I hear the line, “Hubba hubba hubba! Money money money! Who do you trust!”, Ledger’s Joker was much more rounded-out than Nicholson’s and in the end you understand him better. This is really driven home in a scene halfway through the movie (that they’ve hinted at in previews), in which Batman interrogates the Joker at Police HQ. In it, you understand who these two characters are, and why the Joker is considered Batman’s nemesis. For me, it was probably the best part of the whole movie. But then again, I’m stupid like that.
Two small complaints (I’m sorry!). At a hefty 152 minutes, the movie does start to drag a little toward the end. And, Batman does have a few more crazy gadgets that make you scratch your head a little. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about these two movies is that they don’t really mess with all the crazy bat-crap the comics and the Joel Schumacher movies got bogged down in. But, these are small things and – at the risk of sounding like someone who’s just gulped down a big pitcher full of Batman Kool-Aid – it doesn’t really matter. Everything I liked about this movie completely outweighed the things I didn’t.
The movie is set to make all sorts of money this weekend, so a third installment is as good as in the bank. And honestly, I have no idea where they’re going to take it. Aaron Eckhart plays Gotham D.A. Harvey Dent, and anyone who knows anything about Batman knows what happens to him. With that in mind, I felt that while the focus of the movie would be on the Joker, Dent’s story would set things up for the next film. We’ll just say that all my expectations were dumbfounded. That’s right, they were found to be dumb. I don’t want to spoil too much, but I will say that the Joker doesn’t die. And while I don’t think Nolan would ever try to find anyone to try (because they could only try) and follow up Heath Ledger’s, you’d think they would try and give some resolution to his storyline. I guess we’ll see.
This is the best movie you’re going to see this summer. So if you haven’t seen it already, run out to your nearest IMAX and enjoy it in all it’s six-story, high definition goodness. And then go do it again.
10 out of 10 stars