There has been much Oscar buzz created by this film due to the tragic death of Heath Ledger, who stars as The Joker in the film. Many of us grow tired of hearing about early Oscar buzz and dismiss it as the product of boredom by critics due to the usual lack of quality films by this time every year. I am here to tell you that the buzz is not misplaced. And it should not just be about Heath Ledger's tour de force performance; it is the entire film that is great. Action films can have substance to them as proven by brilliant director/screenwriter Christopher Nolan.
Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins) has been credited with rescuing the Batman film series and injecting new life into it. That is only partially correct. He has injected new life into it, but by taking out all of the light from it. If you thought that "Batman Returns" was a dark and serious look at the caped crusader then you ain't seen nothing yet. For the entire 2 and a half hours of the film you will have this uneasy feeling about you. Not sure of what is about to happen, but sure that it will not be light and cheery.
Nolan has brought back the true origins of this the darkest of the superheroes. Batman was always an unwilling and tortured hero. He did what he did because he felt there was no one else and did it because he wanted revenge for the murders of his parents. Unlike Tim Burton's dark Batman this has no comic book quality to it. It is just dark.
The film examines morality, heroism, the battle against modern day terrorism, and does so uncompromisingly. It is a character study of the close link between the hero and the villain. Others have looked at this bond, but very few have done it this well. Both are tortured and both need the other to exist. Both Batman and Joker work alone as they follow a strict code, which few others could. In the end everyone involved has lost his or her sense of humanity. It is fascinating and heady stuff. Pretty cool that an 'action' film could accomplish this type of depth.
The story is about the beginnings of the Batman vs. The Joker ongoing battle. Batman/Bruce Banner (Christian Bale – The Machinist, September Dawn) wants to get out of the superhero business so he can be with his love, lawyer Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal – Mona Lisa Smile, Secretary). He sees a light at the end of the tunnel and that light is named Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart – Thanks For Smoking, Erin Brockovitch). Dent is the new District Attourney, who is dating Rachel, and he is out to eliminate crime in Gotham City. Dent, however, has his hands full when a new villain, The Joker (Heath Ledger – Brokeback Mountain, The Patriot), brings complete chaos to the city. Batman sees Dent as the true hero and that he is no longer needed. Batman wants out and The Joker wants to keep him in the battle. Who will win out in the end?
I guess we do have to talk about Heath Ledger's performance, but I do so with a heavy heart as this film indicates that he had just begun to show us the depth of his talent. The talent is huge. He transforms himself completely for the role and brings elements to the iconic character that no one else has. The streaky makeup is just the beginning as he uses an odd gait, a weird voice, a creepy laugh of a man who has lost his grip on his sanity, and every moment he is on screen is riveting. This is an actor who has truly lost himself in the character he is portraying. The film may be about Batman, but The Joker steals it away from him as Heath Ledger is that good. A posthumous Oscar nomination would not be a surprise.
"Batman Begins" was arguably the best superhero film so far in the 21st century, well, Christopher Nolan has just knocked himself out of first place with "The Dark Knight".
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