The dark knight

“Batman” isn’t a comic book anymore. Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” is a haunted film that leaps beyond its origins and becomes an engrossing tragedy. It creates characters we come khổng lồ care about. That’s because of the performances, because of the direction, because of the writing, và because of the superlative technical quality of the entire production. This film, and to a lesser degree “Iron Man,” redefine the possibilities of the “comic-book movie.”

“The Dark Knight” is not a simplistic tale of good và evil. Batman is good, yes, The Joker is evil, yes. But Batman poses a more complex puzzle than usual: The citizens of Gotham city are in an uproar, calling him a vigilante and blaming him for the deaths of policemen và others. Và the Joker is more than a villain. He’s a Mephistopheles whose actions are fiendishly designed lớn pose moral dilemmas for his enemies.

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The key performance in the movie is by the late Heath Ledger, as the Joker. Will he become the first posthumous Oscar winner since Peter Finch? His Joker draws nguồn from the actual inspiration of the character in the silent classic “The Man Who Laughs” (1928). His clown"s makeup more sloppy than before, his cackle betraying deep wounds, he seeks revenge, he claims, for the horrible punishment his father exacted on him when he was a child. In one diabolical scheme near the kết thúc of the film, he invites two ferry-loads of passengers to blow up the other before they are blown up themselves. Throughout the film, he devises ingenious situations that force Batman (Christian Bale), Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) to make impossible ethical decisions. By the end, the whole moral foundation of the Batman legend is threatened.

Because these actors và others are so powerful, & because the movie does not allow its spectacular special effects khổng lồ upstage the humans, we’re surprised how deeply the drama affects us. Eckhart does an especially good job as Harvey Dent, whose character is transformed by a horrible fate into a bitter monster. It is customary in a comic book movie to lớn maintain a certain knowing distance from the action, to view everything through a sophisticated screen. “The Dark Knight” slips around those defenses và engages us.

Yes, the special effects are extraordinary. They focus on the expected explosions & catastrophes, and have some superb, elaborate chase scenes. The movie was shot on location in Chicago, but it avoids such familiar landmarks as Marina City, the Wrigley Building or the skyline. Chicagoans will recognize many places, notably La Salle Street và Lower Wacker Drive, but director Nolan is not making a travelogue. He presents the thành phố as a wilderness of skyscrapers, and a key sequence is set in the still-uncompleted Trump Tower. Through these heights, the Batman moves at the end of strong wires, or sometimes actually flies, using his cape as a parasail.

The plot involves nothing more or less than the Joker’s attempts khổng lồ humiliate the forces for good and expose Batman’ secret identity, showing him khổng lồ be a poser và a fraud. He includes Gordon và Dent on his target list, và contrives cruel tricks to lớn play with the fact that Bruce Wayne once loved, và Harvey Dent now loves, Assistant D.A. Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal). The tricks are more cruel than he realizes, because the Joker doesn’t know Batman’s identity. Heath Ledger has a good khuyễn mãi giảm giá of dialogue in the movie, và a lot of it isn’t the usual jabs & jests we’re familiar with: It’s psychologically more complex, outlining the dilemmas he has constructed, và explaining his reasons for them. The screenplay by Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan (who first worked together on “Memento”) has more depth và poetry than we might have expected.

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Two of the supporting characters are crucial lớn the action, & are played effortlessly by the great actors Morgan Freeman & Michael Caine. Freeman, as the scientific genius Lucius Fox, is in charge of Bruce Wayne’s underground headquarters, và makes an ethical objection to a method of eavesdropping on all of the citizens of Gotham City. His stand has current political implicstions. Caine is the faithful butler Alfred, who understands Wayne better than anybody, và makes a decision about a crucial letter.

Nolan also directed the previous, and excellent, “Batman Begins” (2005), which went into greater detail than ever before about Bruce Wayne’s origins and the reasons for his compulsions. Now it is the Joker’s turn, although his past is handled entirely with dialogue, not flashbacks. There are no references to Batman’s childhood, but we certainly remember it, và we realize that this conflict is between two adults who were twisted by childhood cruelty — one compensating by trying to vì good, the other by trying to vì chưng evil. Perhaps they instinctively understand that themselves.

Something fundamental seems to be happening in the upper realms of the comic-book movie. “Spider-Man II” (2004) may have defined the high point of the traditional film based on comic-book heroes. A movie lượt thích the new “Hellboy II” allows its director miễn phí rein for his fantastical visions. But now “Iron Man” & even more so “The Dark Knight” move the genre into deeper waters. They realize, as some comic-book readers instinctively do, that these stories cảm biến on deep fears, traumas, fantasies and hopes. & the Batman legend, with its origins in film noir, is the most fruitful one for exploration.

In his two Batman movies, Nolan has freed the character lớn be a canvas for a broader scope of human emotion. For Bruce Wayne is a deeply troubled man, let there be no doubt, and if ever in exile from his heroic role, it would not surprise me what he finds himself capable of doing.


Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.