With The Dark Knight swooping menacingly into theaters, what was already a strong summer of superhero blockbusters—think of the thoroughly charming Iron Man and the fantastically freaky Hell Boy II—has become the most superest super-summer ever. There have been some duds—Hancock comes to mind—but The Dark Knight more than makes up for such disappointments.
It is the best, and certainly the darkest, superhero movie the Screener has ever seen. Sure, it's long for an even moderately expressive bladder, sure, it doesn't have some of the space and charm that Tim Burton's 1989 Batman had and sure, Maggie Gyllenhaal, as the replacement Bat love-interest, is a non-entity.
But director Christopher Nolan and cast have taken a genre that was overused and nearing parody-vehicle status and they've made a seriously epic noir-adventure the likes of which has never been seen. Nolan has accomplished this by drawing as much on gritty, neoclassical crime capers, such as Heat and Ronin, as he did on his own Batman Begins, which was the decent, though unremarkable, last entry in the Bat lineage.
But it's one performance in particular that shoves The Dark Knight into instant classic territory. Much attention—and talk of a posthumous Oscar—has circulated around Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker. Though it is impossible to compare Ledger's Joker to that of Jack Nicholson, which was exceptionally winsome though much more cartoonish, it is possible to say that Ledger's performance is one of the most ghoulish disappearances into a role imaginable and even more impressive than last year's Best Supporting Psychopath Oscar winner, Javier Bardem.
In short, if you in any way enjoy action, superhero or crime movies, you ought to see The Dark Knight on the big screen and let it unfold for yourself.
Spoiler Alert: Is Batman Dick Cheney? Is Two Face George W Bush? OK, so The Dark Knight doesn't contain an easily mappable War on Terror parallelism. But there are some obviously purposeful allusions, specifically Batman and Lucius Fox's (Morgan Freeman) NSA warrantless wiretapping-esque use of millions of Americans' cell phones for sonar surveillance.
And how can one not see a defense of Cheney's insistence that we have to work the "dark side" in Batman's anti-heroics? Or the film's suggestion that such "heroes" will be unfairly made into pariahs once we feel we don't need them anymore?
The Dark Knight
Directed by Christopher Nolan and written by Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan
With Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman
Dreamcatcher, Regal Stadium 14
152 min., PG-13