Review - Batman - The Dark Knight: Are you ready to confront your Shadow?
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What does it mean to be a Freak?
How do we make an Ethical Choice which moves beyond the simply utilitarian? What do we do as citizens when our city is under Siege by forces that we cannot understand? How do we live in a world where the elected guardians of morality and justice are corrupt and venal? What does it take to be a Hero?
Christopher Nolan poses these questions and more in his The Dark Knight, a film which is skillfully crafted and moves beyond “the blow them up, throw them up” genre of the Super Hero Blockbuster.
Nolan’s films seem to be primarily about troubled men; his stunning “Memento”, “Insomnia”, and later “The Prestige” were all about his lead characters grappling with their frustrations, desires, and their troubled pasts, as they struggle to lead a life.
In this film too, the two lead characters, the Joker and the Batman have to deal with a violent past - a past that is dominated by the Father. For the Joker it is the vengeful, sadistic Father, while for the Batman, it is about the loss of the protective Father shot dead in a random street robbery. Both are troubled men; both are fractured, and they choose different ways to deal with their respective legacies.
The Joker’s character is the Shadow Archetype; the repressed weaknesses, shortcomings, negatives, and the irrationality that we see in ourselves but do not accept, but instead project onto the other, the Villain. The Batman is that part of us that struggles to do good, but is beset with internal demons and instinctual desires. The Batman chooses violence to tackle crime, but that brings him face to face with his own Shadow, the Joker. He has to struggle not to cross the limit, armed with his gadgets and martial arts skills; the Batman has to choose not to kill. Compared to Jack Nicholson’s Joker in Tim Burton’ film, Heath Ledger’s Joker oozes menace and mayhem. Jack Nicholson was campy, goofy, and over the top, here Heath Ledger is violent and dead serious, if not downright psychotic. (The use of the knife as the favourite weapon of the Joker is a masterstroke).
Christopher Nolan sets up the drama with finesse; both the Joker and the Batman become more and more desperate as they engage in their protracted struggle. No one wins, in fact the struggle takes a heavy toll, people die, loved ones are lost for ever, and there seems no way out of the quagmire. Into this impasse, Nolan introduces the character of Two Face aka Harvey Dent the District Attorney, the once White Knight of Gotham, who now has surrendered to the Shadow.
Nolan’s hand is muted and restrained: right from the back ground music to the dialogues, he handles things in an understated and subtle manner. The supporting cast is superb; Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, the inimitable Michael Caine as Alfred, Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes, and Gary Oldman as Lieutenant Gordon. For Nolan, Gotham city is not a city of dread and mist and dark, a city that exists in never never land, but is instead recognizably real, filled with real people with real desires, anxieties, frustrations, and most importantly beliefs.
This is not your usual blockbuster film where you ooh and aah at the loud sounds and action on screen in between mouthfuls of flavored popcorn and fiddling with your mobile phones. With this film Christopher Nolan does for the Blockbuster / Super Hero genre, what Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns did for the comic book: turn what essentially seems to be an escapist fantasy into a brooding and dark allegory for our world and our times.
Watch this film as soon as you can and wonder at what a director with a keen sensibility can do with a good script and a vision without compromising on a cracker jack of a story.
This review is by guest reviewer Anand S. Anand lives in Pune and is a Miscellaneous Culture Vulture. He is deeply interested in music, food, books, films, and intelligent women. He views himself as a Falstaffian figure, who does his best to indulge his appetites.
Batman - The Dark Knight - Movie Details
- Producer: Lorne Orleans, Christopher Nolan
- Director: Christopher Nolan
- Lead Cast: Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart, Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal
- Supporting Cast: Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Eric Roberts
- Story: Christopher Nolan, David Goyer
- Screenplay: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
- Cinematography: Wally Pfister
- Editor: Lee Smith
- Music Director: Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard
- Costume Designer: Lindy Hemming
- Art Direction: James Hambidge, Mark Bartholomew
- Running time: 152 minutes
- Reviewer: Anand S
- Language: English
- Country: USA
- Genres: Action