The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight I'm not going to give away any plot. Everyone knows it's mainly about the Joker and any Batman fan would know one thing: the plot will be full of chaos. That is all I leave you with.

I had been looking forward to this movie since 2005 when the Joker's caller card was shown at the end of Batman Begins, so I had to go see the midnight showing Thursday night/Friday morning. Two weeks prier to the release up until the lights dimmed in the theatre I shook with excitement. The only thought I had was, “Can this be any better than the first?” The answer is: even better.

Don’t get me wrong, Jack Nicholson’s performance as the Joker in the 1989 Batman was fantastic. A good mix of the comical and the homicidal making the movie laughable. The late Health Ledger’s Joker is the complete opposite. The deft script, by Nolan and his brother Jonathan, taking note of Bob Kane's original Batman and Frank Miller's bleak rethink, refuses to explain the Joker with pop psychology. He changes his story about the scars on his face each time he tells it - taking this from The Killing Joke where the Joker stated he'd rather have a multiple choice past. This makes him far more sinister, demented and more importantly, unpredictable - and scarier if you will.

There are plenty of humorous moments in the movie, but a lot of them make you think: should I really be laughing at this? Just as the Joker's entrance to the mafia. He offers them a magic trick, making a pencil disappear. How does he do this? I'm not going to spoil the sadistic, morbid fun the Joker brings. The character is evil incarnate, a man who feels no empathy or sympathy. During the movie he even refers to himself as a mad dog, “I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it.” With his smeared lipstick and painted white face, he is every clown who ever terrified a child.

The Joker is the world’s first anarcho-terrorist. There’s no interest in sex, power or money. He simply wants to see the world burn. Ledger electrifies the movie even more by speaking in a witty and mocking Chicago accent enunciating his words carefully, a voice that could tell bedtime stories in hell. He constantly licks his chops as if the red lipstick is blood and he can't get enough.

In preparation for the role, Ledger live in a hotel alone for a month to create the character’s posture, voice and psychology; and kept a diary in which he recorded the Joker’s thoughts and feelings to guide him through his performance. Adding in inspiring anarchy from A Clockwork Orange and Sex Pistols, he made one hell of a character that deserves some award. I couldn’t imagine Steve Carell or Robin Williams - both who expressed interest in the role - playing such a dark character.

Though the Joker makes the movie (as he’s the main villain), Aaron Eckhart in his role as D.A. Harvey Dent is equally good. His character goes through incredible highs and lows trying to keep the last hope of law and order in Gotham, and he handles the performance perfectly. He also brings heart to Dent’s do-goody politicking, which makes his eventual transformation to the monstrous Two-Face all the more tragic, an event sparked by the brutal murder of a major character. I couldn't help but feel my heart sink seeing Harvey Dent as Two-Face, though I knew what was coming being an avid Batman comic fan. The effects on Two-Face's bad half are much more realistic then in Batman Forever. Eckhart had a big range to represent and he does so brilliantly.

Every actor brings his A game to show the lure of the dark side, actually. Christian Bale as Batman gave a great performance in Batman Begins and does just as great in this one. Michael Caine as Alfred purrs with sarcastic wit. Morgan Freeman radiates tough wisdom as Lucius Fox, the scientist who designs those wonderful toys - and the wicked cool recreation of the Batcycle that will just make you go, "awesome!". Gary Oldman is so skilled that he makes virtue exciting as Jim Gordon, the ultimate good cop and as such a prime target for the Joker.

Much of the movie was filmed in Chicago - such as the previous one - and Chicago has never looked better. The movie gives my favorite city sleek and sinister looks. The urban canyon that is LaSalle Street was given a menacing wonder during the stand-off between Batman (on the batcycle) and the Joker (at the wheel of a semi). A highly destructive chase scene makes the finest use of Lower Waker Drive since The Blues Brothers.

The acting in The Dark Knight is superb. If every superhero movie is defined by the greatness of its villain, then this has to rank among the all-time best.

The bar for comic-book film adaptations has been permanently raised.

You can complain about the length of the movie (two and half hours) but it’s worth it. It's full of surprises you don't see coming. And just try to get it out of your dreams. Find a theater that isn’t too expensive (it is possible, my ticket only cost $7 due to it not being a matinee) and see it.

It would've been great to see in later sequel the Joker return to cause more havoc - maybe with a total Arkham breakout. However, I don't think anyone could fill the shoes of Ledger. His performance left me yearning for more morbid Joker action, leaving me probably with only the comics. It was nice to see that the film was dedicated to Ledger, as well as Conway Wickliffe - the film's technician who was killing is a car crash while filming.

Advisory: This movie is certainly sitting on the fence with rating and is just teasing to become R. Some of the special effects are disgusting and disturbing enough to justify something more severe than the PG-13 rating.

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