Movie Review: The Dark Knight

One of the dangers of seeing a very hyped movie, or any movie that you’re looking forward to, is that it won’t live up to your expectations. (It’s why I didn’t see the Get Smart movie earlier this summer; I’m worried about being disappointed.) So, I went to see The Dark Knight last night with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.

I wasn’t disappointed at all. I’ll have to see it a few more times to be sure, but this might be the best comic book movie I’ve ever seen. (Not that I’ve seen all of them.) Heath Ledger is as good as you’ve heard. (And, it’s hard for me to accept him as a skilled actor given that the first thing I ever saw him in was Ten Things I Hate About You, one of those insufferable teen movies.) It’s hard to see how anyone else can win the Oscar this year, especially when you add in the drama of his untimely death.

The movie does a good job of keeping the suspense up, always making you wonder what the Joker’s next move will be. Ledger’s acting aside, the Joker was brilliantly conceived: an amoral “agent of chaos” who seems to live solely to disrupt the status quo. In a different Gotham, where the criminals truly ruled the city, it’s conceivable that the Joker might have fought on Batman’s side, a point which I think was hinted at in the movie. The point was made that what people want is stability and consistency, which the Joker sought to overturn. (This, perhaps unintentionally, supports the conservative worldview, at least of the Russell Kirk variety.) It was also nice not to have an origin story for once. I think too many comic book movies have wasted time showing how the criminals came to be, wasting time that could have advanced the plot. Having the Joker seemingly come from nowhere not only helped the pacing, but added to the mystery of the character.

It wasn’t a perfect movie, but I’ll deal with my issues and other random comments after the break, since they’re slightly spoilerish.

1) Maggie Gyllenhall beguiles me. From some angles she looks absolutely beautiful, but from straight on it looks like a truck hit a pig in the face.
2) I was confused as to how the Joker knew Batman had a thing for Rachel.
3) I could have lived without the trip to the Orient subplot, especially since it did little to advance the plot in any meaningful sense.
4) It was nice, however that Rachel’s death served a purpose beyond just being evidence of insanity and cruelty. It served as a major plot point in driving some of the late action.
5) The Joker making the pencil disappear cool and gruesome at the same time.
6) Random thought: While watching the chase scene while Dent is under arrest, it hit me: “I wonder if insurance companies bother to do business in Gotham at all? And if they do, can anyone afford it anyway?”

But, in summation: it’s a great movie. Definitely see it.