Nepali Times
Critical Cinema
Dark as night


Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight might possibly be the darkest and most enigmatic superhero movie to ever come out of Hollywood. With the Batman/Bruce Wayne premise firmly lodged by Batman Begins, director Nolan is now free to explore the characters to the very depth of their being. One would not expect that a superhero movie (one of the Batman franchise's many avatars) could be more than cheap pop-entertainment, but The Dark Knight is a thoughtful social commentary and gripping crime saga with the big bangs, car chases and action sequences intact.

Christian Bale reprises his role as the stoic Batman and billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne. Bale is an amazing actor and delivers a solid performance beneath the titanium armour and as Bruce Wayne inside the Armani suit. Batman is tired of being a vigilante, a man behind a mask, and so welcomes the latest addition to the ranks of Gotham's crime fighters: the dashing new District Attorney Harvey Dent, played by an equally talented Aaron Eckhart.

Golden boy Dent is exactly what Batman has been looking for, a seemingly incorruptible crime fighter who doesn't need a mask and cowl to put the bad guys behind bars. Helping Dent in the fight against crime is the infallible police officer Jim Gordon (a superb Gary Oldman). With two such shining examples, Batman decides it's time to hang the cape and pursue other leisurely activities, namely old flame and DA assistant Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal, filling in for mediocre Katie Holmes).

But things take an unexpected turn when a psychotic new criminal appears on the scene, a garishly made-up psychopath, who goes by the name Joker (Heath Ledger). Batman takes second stage whenever the Joker appears and he's a pleasure, and a terror, to watch. The Joker is not like other petty criminals. He doesn't lust after money, power or any of the things that interest other hoods. He wants to have fun, and his idea of fun is torturing Batman. "You complete me," he tells Batman at one point, an eager earnest smile on his painted face. Ledger puts Jack Nicholson's Joker in Tim Burton's Batman to shame. This Joker is a maniac.

Director Nolan has gone back to Batman's very roots, staying true to Bob Kane's original vision and Frank Miller's cult comic reincarnation in The Dark Knight Returns. There are echoes of trying American times, with The Joker branded a terrorist. Nolan questions morality and in one masterful segment, creates a situation where the morality of the everyman hangs in the balance, making you question: what would I have done?

This film is the director's mediation on good and evil, right and wrong, order and chaos. Nolan, who wrote the script with brother Jonathan, gives a new depth to Batman, portraying him not just as a superhero battling supervillians but one also battling his own demons, his own conscience.

Nolan brings a pop-film as close as it ever will get to art. It's smart, deceptively complex and as dark as night. The real star of the show is neither Nolan nor Batman. The Joker steals each and every scene he's in. And while you marvel at the amazing intensity of Ledger, you can't help but feel a tinge of regret that an actor of such brilliance died so tragically early.

The film belongs to Ledger's Joker, with the cracked and bleeding makeup, hair stringy and dirty, that stretched crimson leer and his lizard tongue darting in and out of his mouth. Don't take your kids.

The Dark Knight
2008. PG-13. 152 mins
Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Director: Christopher Nolan
Showing at Kumari Cinema, 4442220 for show timings.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)