Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne / Batman
Heath Ledger as The Joker
Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent / Two-Face
Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth
Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes
Gary Oldman as Lt. James Gordon
Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox
Monique Curnen as Det. Ramirez
Ron Dean as Detective Wuertz
Chin Han as Lau
Nestor Carbonell as Mayor
Eric Roberts as Salvatore Maroni
Ritchie Coster as The Chechen
Anthony Michael Hall as Mike Engel
Keith Szarabajka as Detective Stephens
Colin McFarlane as Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb
Joshua Harto as Reese
Melinda McGraw as Barbara Gordon
Nathan Gamble as James Gordon Jr.
Michael Vieau as Al Rossi
Michael Stoyanov as Dopey
William Smiley as Happy
Danny Goldring as Grumpy
Michael Jai White as Gambol
Matthew O'Neill as Chuckles
Beatrice Rosen as Natascha
Nydia Rodriguez Terracina as Judge Surrillo
Directed by Christopher Nolan
"The Dark Knight" is one of those rare sequels that surpass its predecessor. Amazing performances by Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, and an impressive ensemble cast make it not just a great comic book movie, but a great movie - period. But be ready for a test of endurance due to the long running time.
Some time after the events of "Batman Begins," a new menace terrorizes Gotham City – the Joker. However, he not only battles the police and innocent civilians, but the mob as well. The Joker only seems to have one goal – anarchy.
But Batman isn't the only one prepared to face off with Joker. Lt. Gordon and the Dark Knight find an ally in the new D.A., Harvey Dent. Dent is determined to take a stand and clean up Gotham, no matter the stakes. He is encouraged by his new girlfriend, Rachel Dawes. Despite a rivalry between Bruce Wayne and Dent, could the arrival of the brave young attorney mean that Batman can hang up his cape and win back Rachel?
"The Dark Knight" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and some menace.
Let's get this out of the way right off the bat – "The Dark Knight" is one of the best comic book movies ever made. From the acting to the directing to the script, it delivers on every front. Batman fans and movie fans alike are going to love it. On top of that, it's one of those rare sequels that surpass the original while turning distinctly darker. This is the "Empire Strikes Back" of the "Batman" franchise.
Let's get another piece of business out of the way – yes, Heath Ledger is fantastic as the Joker. Ignoring the hype, his untimely death, and the subsequent universally glowing reviews… his performance really is good. It's one of those rare performances where the actor so utterly transforms that there's not a trace of him left. The minute Joker appears on the screen, he grabs your attention and doesn't let go. This is such a unique and definitive take on the Joker. Ledger definitely has my vote for Best Supporting Actor. But the other great thing about his performance is that it doesn't overpower the film like Jack Nicholson's Joker did. In fact, he may have the least screen time of any of the lead actors. It's nice to see they went for quality over quantity.
But while the spotlight shines on the Joker, many people may overlook Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent / Two-Face. Eckhart wouldn't have been my first choice for the character of Dent, but he knocks it out of the park and his role is one of the more difficult in the film. He must transform from hero to villain in a convincing way. He must be a romantic rival of Wayne's, but you've still got to root for him to get the girl. Whether he's talking to the press as Dent or putting a gun to someone's head as Two-Face, you buy it all. And the look of Two-Face is absolutely stunning. Two-Face gets a surprising amount of face time – no pun intended – and is not relegated to an epilogue in the film.
The rest of the cast all bring their A-Game, too. Christian Bale is great again as Bruce Wayne and Batman. Everything that was great about him in the first film is still impressive. Whether he's hamming it up as Wayne with three supermodels on his arms or kicking butt as Batman, he's fun to watch on the screen. Gary Oldman gets a lot more to do as Lt. James Gordon, too. He completes the heroic trio of Dent, Batman, and Wayne and brings the 'everyman' presence to the film. Michael Caine gets to add a bit of interesting history as Alfred Pennyworth and Morgan Freeman makes a significant turn as Lucius Fox. Maggie Gyllenhaal proves she's a more than adequate substitute for Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes. She brings a lot to the film, especially as part of the love triangle with Wayne and Dent. In fact, practically every secondary character in this film has a significant moment to shine. Christopher Nolan does a fantastic job using such a large and talented cast and not wasting them in the least.
I'm not sure how much more to rave about "The Dark Knight." The music was great. The production design was great. All the new Bat-Gadgets like the Batpod, the sonar imagery, and the pneumatic glove were excellent. I also screened the film in IMAX (the first regular release film I've actually seen on the IMAX screen, actually). The picture would periodically switch from regular widescreen format to large screen format. It was good, but to be honest I almost didn't notice the switch. Only once or twice when there was a big explosion was it noticeable.
What Didn't Work:
There's very, very little that didn't work with this film. However, it does feel a little long towards the end, even though I was thoroughly enjoying it. There were about three occasions where I thought it was winding down, then another big action scene would take place. "The Dark Knight" almost needs an intermission in the middle so people can stretch their legs and refresh their drinks and popcorn.
The story is also quite complex to the point where even someone intently following the plot could get lost. There were a couple of places where I was thinking, "Wait, now why is this character doing this again?" I think it's going to take multiple viewings to 'get it'.
Finally, there's one scene where the Joker makes the citizens of Gotham make a dramatic choice in order to save their lives. I don't want to spoil it here, but there were some good aspects of the scene and some very cheesy aspects of the scene. You'll know what I'm talking about when you see it.
Oh, and parents should heed the PG-13 warnings. Despite the toys in cereal boxes and toys at Wal-Mart, this is NOT for kids. It is quite intense and Joker and Two-Face are guaranteed to give nightmares to younger children. As if they didn't already have reason to fear clowns...
The Bottom Line:
"The Dark Knight" is not only one of the best movies of the summer, but one of the best movies of 2008. This is a must-see.