Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
What can I say? There are moments in film history when everything is pushed aside and performance exceeds genre.
Batman Begins told audiences and film critics it was possible to root a comic book generated superhero in reality. Earlier this year Iron Man set out to do the same but lost its balance in the final act. The Dark Knight manages to exceed expectation with a villain so maniacal, his desire for destruction begins to make sense to the point you understand his desire for all out anarchy while you are cheering for the opposition in a war that basically boils down to one side against individual terrorism.
Heath Ledger presents himself as The Joker in a role that defines a career. It is unimaginable it would come to the point that a film based on a comic book character could actually have such an impact on one person. On a generation. Ledger’s decent into what is, and has become, The Joker makes Jack Nicholson’s interpretation look like nothing more than a simple clown. “Wait until they get a load of me,” says Jack… Wait until you get a load of Heath says I.
The Dark Knight presents a character so destructive and without a care for those landing in his path of decimation that you are left to your own devices. Love him. Hate him. Hate to love him or love to hate him, director Christopher Nolan has guided an actor into a dark realm not often realized. The Joker finds his place alongside villains that go by the name of Hannibal, Scarface and John Doe himself. A nameless, unrecognizable entity you won’t be willing to or able to admit is Ledger until the credits roll. My biggest problem with Batman Begins was the water evaporation device used at the end of the film. The apparatus took a film firmly cemented in reality and sent it into something of a comic wonderland, easily recognizable by fans and audiences expecting such a twist in narrative. Fortunately, this film suffers from no such problem.
However, this is not a film/review solely dedicating itself to the loss of a fallen actor, obviously destined to continue his influence on film as we know it. Aaron Eckhart has never changed his style or approach, but since Thank You for Smoking it seems he has finally tossed a wrench into the mainstream and said, “Look at me!” With The Dark Knight he continues his ascent into recognition with a role (and a film) that adds weight and credibility where it may otherwise be abandoned and ignored. Eckhart’s Harvey Dent is a man to cheer for and empathize with at every turn.
The Dark Knight is an emotional rollercoaster extending from the characters portrayed on screen to the audience sitting comfortably as they watch an inexplicable series of events unfold. Sure, there are a few imperfections here and there, but to point them out would not only waste paragraphs but also spoil the experience. Fingerprint how? After-party what? None of it matters because five minutes later you have an entirely new dilemma to concern your little brain with.
I could tell you about Bale’s Batman/Bruce Wayne, but it would be a continued exercise in explaining the man that “is” and the man that is underneath. The Dark Knight is a political machine in duplicity and an exercise in gaining an edge no matter the means, and while it may play into the life of Americans and their inadequate Commander in Chief, it rings true on a fictional level as well. “Know when to say when,” never felt so appropriate.
In terms of comic book film adaptations this is the pinnacle. The argument saying this is the Godfather Part II of comic book movies would insinuate that Batman Begins is on equal terms with the original Godfather, which is far from true. However, if we could call this The Godfather of comic book movies I wait anxiously for what may/will become the film that caps off the trilogy.