Heath Ledger played the hell out of The Joker.
this is how i had to open this review cuz really, he acted his ass off.
this, The Dark Knight, is the movie we (my brother and I) have been waiting for all summer. as far as we're concerned, the summer movie season is over. sure, we'll see some other assorted films, but this was it. did it justify such importance, such speculative awe? kinda.
i must say, both jimmy and i have the utmost respect for Christopher Nolan's talents. he is one of the few writer/directors whose need to control the stoichiometric balance of words and images isn't misguided (M. Night Shyamalan, stop it!). just recently, The Prestige ascended both our best of lists. see it if you haven't; it is fantastic. so yeah, we came to this film expecting magic, and perhaps that was a tad unfair.
what was good
if just considering the characters' developments, not the way in which they were paced, just development, we are talking about some of the best in comic movie history. the theme--the characteristics of a hero, what he or she represents, how he or she is to inspire, and why he or she is needed--was consistent and artfully woven throughout both the plot and the characters' actions. Batman/Bruce Wayne, Two-Face, Harvey Dent, and The Joker all complemented each other's internal conflicts with good and evil, and Nolan's skillful handling of the subject was evident; beyond offering flat characters who belonged at either end of the spectrum, he (and his brother?) wrote people who were constantly at odds with the strict moral codes they had created for themselves. this was particularly true for Batman and The Joker. the hero/villain dichotomy is often pretty deep in written form, but it's rare that it's translated to film. The Joker, the villain, who acts as the evil element, is complex. he is not simply bad, he's philosophically maniacal and truly the perfect foil to Batman's strictly-regulated hero.
Aaron Eckhart was a fantastic Harvey Dent. though my colleague intimated that Viggo Mortensen would've been much more welcome, I felt Eckhart did a good job being Gotham's golden boy and mixing in a touch of self-righteous arrogance. Morgan Freeman was Morgan Freeman--smooth, in control, carefully thoughtful as Lucius Fox. Gary Oldman continues to prove he's an actor with enviable talents. Maggie Gyllenhaal took over as Rachel and was good (better than wassername), but (I shall not finish this thought). Christian Bale continues to be a good Bruce Wayne and Batman, though he was more Batman than Bruce Wayne here. yes, all these folks did nice jobs, but this was Heath Ledger's movie. i was almost afraid that his last performance would be overrated, but goddamn, homie was akkin', yo! Jack Nicholson's Joker was a lunatic clown (and this was, in part, due to the nature of the Tim Burton's vision); Heath Ledger's was brilliantly psychotic and sarcastically funny but never a clown. his humor was in his ability to make his darkness complex, relatable, and really very scary. he held this movie together, no doubt about it. it would be nice for him to know how much people really dug his performance, and it's sad to know that he can never reprise this role, but so it goes.
now the problems. there were really only two. one: what was with that low-assed talking? you really had to struggle to hear what the hell they were saying. two: edit this shit, Christopher. this movie was at least two and half hours and felt like it. unlike Batman Begins, which was engaging straight through, this one allowed you to wonder when it was going to be over. by no means is it a bad film (and i've already acknowledged to myself that i could never call it one even if it is ... though it isn't), but the critics lied to me. Nolan did his film a serious disservice by including so much. a shorter, tighter film would've allowed this to be a masterpiece. i never really cared when Batman beat people up because i was given too much time between crises to be bored. i did, however, almost tear up at a few points.
ultimately, the brilliant parts outweigh the sluggish ones, and the last 15 minutes were beautiful. i have imax tickets to see it again next week and i'm not too mad about it.