The Cast - Character
Christian Bale ... Bruce Wayne / Batman
Heath Ledger ... The Joker
Aaron Eckhart ... Harvey Dent / Two-Face
Michael Caine ... Alfred Pennyworth
Maggie Gyllenhaal ... Rachel Dawes
Gary Oldman ... Lt. James Gordon
Morgan Freeman ... Lucius Fox
Monique Curnen ... Det. Ramirez
Ron Dean ... Detective Wuertz
Cillian Murphy ... Dr. Jonathan Crane / The Scarecrow
Chin Han ... Lau
Nestor Carbonell ... Mayor
Eric Roberts ... Salvatore Maroni
Ritchie Coster ... The Chechen
Anthony Michael Hall ... Mike Engel
Taken from IMDB.com
With just one year passed after taking out Ra's Al Ghul's plan to have Gotham eliminated and the mysterious disappearance of Dr. Jonathan Crane AKA the Scarecrow, after the city was nearly plundered with his toxins, Bruce Wayne and his vigilante alter-ego the Batman, continue the seemingly-endless effort to bring order to Gotham, with the help of Lt. James Gordon and newly appointed District Attorney Harvey Dent, but a new threat has now emerged into the streets. The Dark Knight faces a rising psychopathic criminal called The Joker, who's eerie grin, laughter, and inhuman morality makes him more dangerous than what he has yet to unleash. It becomes an agenda to the Batman to stop the mysterious Joker at all cost, knowing that the both of them are in the opposite line. One with no method at all and seeks to see the world plunge into the fire he has yet to lit. One who represents the symbol of hope and uses his own shadow to bring the peace and order he has yet to accomplish on doing.
Watching The Dark Knight at the cinema the other day left me feeling ... incomplete. What I mean is there is a certain sense of sadness, a sense of what could have been, a sense of incompleteness if you get my meaning and it is all because Heath Ledger. He died, as you all know. He was never my favourite, never liked his performance in Brokeback Mountain but as the Joker he showed tremendous gutso at playing someone so evil, someone so ruthless, someone so ugly having his face hidden behind heavy makeup, almost unrecognisable. What could have been I wonder? Well all that is moot point and for that I felt rather sad when watching the movie. He was much too young as with all those who died much too young, from a death that could have been prevented. I was glad Warner Bros did not water down his role or the promotions surrounding the Joker. Those who thought this movie was a success riding on his death or the promotion sickening because the 2nd lead actor is dead must be totally delusional and disrespectful of the dead actor himself. What better way to celebrate the actor's accomplishments than to proceed with the promotions and the movie as if he had been alive? Christopher Nolan paid him the greatest tribute by leaving the movie as it is and whilst it is creepy to see him so creepy on screen when you realised he is so dead, I felt the creepiness was essential. Would the movie have made such huge bucks and garner such huge buzz if he had been alive? OF COURSE! Batman Begins was very successful and running up to the release even before his death the movie was garnering buzz after buzz, even the Oscar buzz. And the posters were gorgeous. I felt the marketing for this movie was brilliant.
The movie itself was strange. Nolan was eager, perhaps too eager to make Batman a possibility in our real world and in a way he succeeded. We see Hong Kong, so we are told Gotham City exists in the US in a real world. The buildings look real and any traces of the old Batman movies were wiped out and replaced with realism in its surrounding. The Joker was no caricature, he was in fact a real man hidijng his scars and identity behind the mask of a clown and frankly you may find it funny at first, I mean a joker as a terrorist? Can you imagine Al Qaedas in costume like cartoon characters? But Nolan made it believable that a man can fight crime wearing a bat suit and a man can be a scary terrorist even if under heavy make up looking like a clown and calling themselves the joker. The main cast returns except for Katie Holmes who insanely decided not to do the sequel and she was replaced by another actress, Maggie Gyllenhaal who plays the same character. We even get to see the Scarecrow in a brief scene.
Whilst Batman Begins was on mass fear and hysteria, the Dark Knight explores further into the notion of good and evil, hero and villain, fear and respect and what makes a good man bad and a bad man good and a human simply a human. It is a heavily themed movie that makes you question your inner concious self, which category you belong too. The movie relied heavily on the Joker as he was in every scene from the beginning till the end. The Joker is the clear cut villain. Batman is the not so clear cut hero since he sometimes uses illegal means to do good. In fact he was branded a vigilante which is strange since Lieutenant Gordon has a big huge spotlight on a rooftop to be used whenever Gotham City needd Batman. So I was wondering in the 1 year has passed, why Batman suddenly became a vigilante? Then there's Harvey Dent, an eager District Attorney who really genuinely is fearless in fighting crimes even at his own expense and he is the direct opposite of Batman. Whilst Batman is the Dark Knight, as in a hero who rescues people but literally and figuratively in the dark, the unseen and misunderstood good who uses tough measures to exact justice and so Batman struggles with his conscience, Harvey Dent is the White Knight, the gallant hero whose identity is known and his tactic is based on fearlessness and respect. Batman's method is based on instiling fear, much like the Joker, but the Joker did what he did simply to create chaos. He is not interested in money or even recognition, he just wants to see the world burn, like Alfred said to Bruce Wayne in one scene.
This theme of hero and villain has been explored to almost philosophical level by M Night in Unbreakable. Bruce Willis was the hero but he didn't know it. To have a hero, there must be a villain in the form of Samuel L Jackson. A hero exists because a villain exists and for as long as a hero thrives, a villain will continue to exist. The relationship is linked in that twisted sense I suppose and The Dark Knight continues where M Night left. In some way I thought the Joker was in awe of Batman. It explores further the difference between two types of heroes, one in the dark and in the open and what happens when the white knight is being forced into a situation that questions his faith in humanity? Will he thrive on like the weary dark knight or will be turn? What makes a hero a hero? What is the definition of a hero? This movie poses these questions and tries to answer it to some degree. At times the movie felt too slow, sometimes too quiet, sometimes a little too artistic, always very dark and at some point the story keeps having an end and then continuing with a twist and then end and begin again for several times. This movie is long though, that is for sure. Story wise, nothing much I could add to what you could read out there. However I like to add one thing though; this movie's theme is really about fear. Both Joker and Batman instils fear but from different angle using different means.
One of the best scene had to be Batman extraditing a criminal from Hong Kong. I wish all criminals are illegally extradited with such efficiency and style. I also like the scene where the Joker utters his two famous lines, "Why so serious?" and "Let's put a smile on that face!", which were scary and yet funny in a morbid way. I love the Batpod although many said it looked clumsy but I didn't like the sonar eyes for Batman, too clumsy, noisy and confusing. I love the scene where Batman jumped onto the top of the car, crushing it and he looked every bit as menacing as he is heroic. I felt Batman was more menacing than heroic though. I love the fact that Bruce Wayne gets hurt and Alfred gets worried because after all Batman is only human and could be killed. It makes every of his decision vitally important for own self preservation and how much he is willing to push himself to achieve something.
The next best scene had to be the one where Joker wanted to prove the world, the people is naturally hypocrites and therefore selfish. He seems convinced by this and he placed two bombs in two ferries loaded with people being evacuated from Gotham City. One has a shipload of criminals with guards whilst the other oridinary citizens. The question is simple; At midnight the Joker will blow up both ships unless one of the ship blows up the other first. Each ship has a detonator. Batman's faith in mankind was dwindling and so as he fought the joker, the people squabble. The prisoners forcing the warden to turn on the switch, in the other ordinary citizens said those are criminals, they had their chance. Near midnight, in the ship with the prisoners, one mean looking prisoner walked to the warden and convinced the warden to let him switch it on because the warden wanted to survive but his conscience stopped him from doing it. In the end with trembling hands he gave it to the prisoner who promptly threw it out of the window and into the sea. Quietly he sat down again, and so the matter has been solved. I loved this scene because even criminals have conscience, something Joker was proving otherwise. They too have compassion. In the other ship, one man volunteered to do it. He took the device, and then he couldn't do it. With trembling hands he put it down and sat down. Everybody else didn't have the guts to be a criminal, to be a murderer and so they sat quietly, hoping the other ship has compassion as they did or rather didn't want to kill a shipload of people. Past 12, nothing happened. Joker was disappointed, Batman's faith in the people of Gotham was renewed.
The third best which is a character is Harvey Dent. Golden blonde boy of Gotham, he is the White Knight of Gotham, fearless in his pursuit of criminals, a good guy. His fall from grace was terrible and very sad and Batman lamented Joker won in the end when Harvey Dent became Two Face and was so angry with Lieutenant Gordon because his men betrayed him and so incensed with grief with what happened to someone he loved that he lost sense of right and wrong and his ethics and moral compass was lost forever. I am not sure if his ending was his death because it wasn't explained and since Two Face will become Batman's nemesis, I suppose he didn't die. But Harvey Dent did and it was a sad sight.
The fourth is of course the batsuit which has less emphasis (no longer any long shots of the pecs and everything else) and of course the make up. Two Face's makeup was beyond excellent, it was scary as it should be. Notice the suit too, one side nice, one side burnt. Bruce Wayne's room deserves a mention. Great. And Bruce Wayne's cars, all of them were fantastic. We still have some way before we see the Bat mobile proper.
Finally, last but not the least is the absolute ending for the awful inadequate character of Rachel Dawes. I disliked her in Batman Begins, mainly because of Katie Holmes' Parkinson induced performance and also because Rachel Dawes was so judgmental towards Bruce Wayne. This time around I hated her mostly because of Maggie Gyllenhaal. She received much praise and I wonder why. Just because she is ugly doesn't make her naturally talented. Look, why is Christian Bale always stuck with ugly women as his love interest? Give him someone pretty and can act better. Looks may not be an issue (well when Joker said "Hello beautiful!" and I was like excuse me?) but her mannerism, the way she stands, the way she talks were all terrible. She talks with this whimsical girly voice in the most serious scenes and it was irritating. Her performance was lightweight, like be there, done it and go home. There's no seriousness in her performance and I hated it when she smirked more than the joker did. And what got me confused was her interpretation of this character. Rachel knows Bruce is Batman and yet when she saw those gossip fodders that Bruce was away with the entire bellet troupe, she looked... well she smirked as if saying "And here you go, Bruce the playboy!" but yet she knew, she knew Bruce was waiting for her because he said he is waiting for her to come back to him when he lets go of Batman. So isn't that a contradiction? And the way she stands with her arms crossing was annoying. She didn't look like she got the balls to even fight the mafia. She didn't look strong enough. I hated her performance and all those that praised her is simply blinded by their hatred for Katie Holmes or in awe of the movie itself. Maggie Gyllenhaal, sorry to say is an overrated actress that quite nearly killed this movie. And I was so happy when her character got blown up. Sorry for the spoilers but I must get it out and I am looking forward to a new love interest for Bruce Wayne. I find both the character and the actress irritating.
The worst aspect of this movie though is the ending. I am not talking about the movie but the comic book ending; as in Hero walking (in this case running) away and another character narrates the ending. In this scene it was Gordon who said something like "Batman is a hero that Gotham City deserves but doesn't need". I was like HUH? To call Batman a vigilante and still have that big spotlight calling Batman whenever he is needed only makes Gotham City ungrateful! I would say "Batman is the hero that Gotham City needs but doesn't deserve" and I will NOT ONE BIT AT ALL! That was truly awful way to end this movie.
Performance wise, surprisingly Christian Bale had little screentime in which we see his face. For those few moment even as Batman he was excellent as always but the focus was more on the Joker and Harvey Dent. Even Lieutenant Gordon got more emphasis. He looked handsome though but his Batman voice was a bit too low, almost too put on.
The old guys were excellent, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman can just stand there and still be excellent. Eric Roberts was well, Eric Roberts. I really have no comment though I was surprised to see him in here.
Maggie Gyllenhaal as I have explained was awful.
Heath Ledger was really good but was he that great? I am not sure. I find his Joker manic, scary and sometimes twisted self righteous type of criminal. The new breed that we know as terrorists. But I didn't think he was that great to the point of super greatness. Oscar nomination? Probably. Personally I thought he was effective, funny at times and at most times menacing by playing the clown. In that sense I suppose he did give the best performance of his short lived career. The idea of where he could have gone after this performance is the one that made watching this movie sad.
The biggest surprise was Aaron Eckhart. Chiselled good looks, blonde hair to boot, he looked picture perfect as Harvey Dent the fearless knight of Gotham. I read Matt Damon was the first choice and I think Matt Damon would be a great choice too since he has this naturally good guy looks. But Aaron Eckhart is a fantastic actor and he played Harvey Dent with such earnestness and enthusiasm you can't help but be swept by his gallantry. And then he played Two Face with such pain and anger you can't help but feel sorry for him. In fact my feelings for his end was like how Batman felt about Harvey Dent; a great pity that he fell so hard that he can't pick himself up again. I do feel because all the attention is now on Heath Ledger's flamboyant Joker, Aaron Eckhart may not be given the attention he deserves for an excellent interpretation of this sad pitiful character. I hope to see him in the next instalment because Two Face is a very interesting villain.
For such a big movie, there are very few main characters.
Overall this movie is really good but is it that great? It was a risk to make a superhero movie so down to earth and I do think Nolan succeeded in erasing the memory of the campy terrible sequels of Batman movies forever and present with us a movie set in a world where a vigilante dressed as a bat and a terrorist dressed as a clown was a possibility. However I do miss Tim Burton's version of Gotham City because sometimes too much realism isn't my cup of tea.
A really good and worthy sequel to Batman Begins with strong performances except for that one I mentioned. It has its weaknesess but overall the good moments erase the bad ones thus making this movie worth every penny I paid to watch it in the cinema. However I must agree with the minority; it isn't a masterpiece. But I have no doubt the next one will be.
I noticed in the list a Chin Han in the cast. Definitely not that Chin Han we know!
By the way I didn't see Edison Chan in here. In fact if the villain didn't say Hong Kong I wouldn't noticed it was Hong Kong!
Interesting Mistake (?)
One scene was confusing. Joker was irritating a policeman in the interview room and then it showed the policeman walking towards the joker menacingly. Next scene joker had a knife or gun or whatever to his throat dragging him out of the interview room. Where was the scene in between? What happened? Bad editing perhaps?
Each teaser poster was excellently made, never seen this kind since... since.. forever.
This is the scariest poster of the lot. Creepy!