Where This Meets That
Celebrating this week’s much anticipated release of The Dark Knight Rises
Batman Begins generated tremendous expectations for its sequel, but that was just the beginning. A wildly successful viral marketing campaign featuring the new film’s villain, the “Joker” (played by Heath Ledger), kicked off over a year in advance of the film’s release, bringing the buzz to a fever pitch.
Tragically, months before The Dark Knight‘s release, Ledger died of a prescription drug overdose after purported bouts with insomnia. Rumors grew that claimed Ledger’s performance as the Joker had pushed him over some edge, resulting in his insomnia or outright madness and ultimately his untimely death. Those closest to Ledger refuted this, but the rumors persisted through the media and fueled even more hype for the film.
The Dark Knight broke many box office records and won two Oscars, including Best Supporting Actor for Ledger and Best Sound Editing.
Rising to its hype, The Dark Knight hits the ground running with a brilliant introduction for the Joker and only gains steam from there. Some critics compared it to The Godfather for its plot development. Each scene expertly serves to set up the next, constantly ratcheting up the tension and stakes throughout.
It is arguably the most epic superhero film ever made and dives much deeper than any before it. It is executed so flawlessly through acting and script that you’re able to forgive its more obvious plot questions (i.e., why the Joker is the only one left standing at his jail break, etc.). It is, after all, a superhero movie at its core.
Ledger’s Joker is a primal agent of absolute chaos, without apparent origin and always seeking to turn order on its head. With a simple can of spray paint, he turns “LAUGHTER” into “SLAUGHTER,” and leaves in his wake firetrucks burning and hospitals dead. He tells Gotham District Attorney Harvey “Two-Face” Dent (Aaron Eckhart), “Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it!”
This is such a rich re-imagining of the villain and Ledger’s performance so universally acclaimed that it’s easy to overlook the quality of the other performances. Eckhart’s tragic portrayal of fallen hero Harvey Dent, for example, is every bit worthy of award consideration but received little acclaim in the shadows of Ledger’s Joker.
As a film, The Dark Knight is not perfect, but it’s pretty darn close. It is a little long, perhaps over-reaching its natural ending to open up the way for the finale, The Dark Knight Rises, out today to mixed reviews. I always find Nolan’s films need a little “mental marinating” before they can be fully appreciated, so I take early reviews for what they’re worth.
With The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan faces the daunting task of following up what I consider to be two of the best films ever made (The Dark Knight and Inception). I’ll see it tonight and let you know my thoughts this weekend.
As always, thanks for reading!