There … I’ve said it

Cary Ashby
Mar 29, 2010


Being a blog writer and columnist means I’m never scared to give my opinion or even put my foot in my mouth in the process. That means I’m as likely (hopefully) to dish out criticism as I am praise.


However, I’m also not a “bandwagon critic,” who will quickly heap adulations upon adulations on a film. It’s ridiculous to call something The Very Best only to later see another entry in the same genre and realize the subsequent material is far superior.


Ever since “The Dark Knight” was released last week, I have been catching up on various reviews. (I consider this part of “my job” so I can be informed – once I’ve seen the same film – about what other critics are saying and see how my opinions stack up against theirs.) Even before TDK came out – and I’m talking months here – fanboys and bloggers (often infamous for overstating a film’s quality) have been saying the newest Batman installment is the best superhero film ever. I wasn’t ready to go there – not even when the legit critics joined in.


But I saw TDK for the second time last night. And now, there’s no doubt “The Dark Knight” remains an impressive piece of film that keeps you guessing, gets you excited, keeps you interested and tugs at your heart strings.


My heart skipped a couple beats at the same instant in the film when a corpse in a Batman costume abruptly appears at the mayor’s window as it did last week. I knew exactly what was going to happen to Rachel Dawes, but I still got a lump in my throat when she met her demise. The catch in Bruce Wayne’s throat as he shares his grief is palatable. I found myself rooting for Batman and being appalled at The Joker more than the first time I saw TDK. I’ve seen this before, I told myself, but I couldn’t help being as intrigued as I was the first time.


Yes, “The Dark Knight” is that good. Even more so than its predecessor, the acting is so powerful, the dialogue so memorable and the plot so dense and intriguing, TDK manages to make you forget you’re watching the story of a man dressing up as a bat to put a hurtin’ on criminals. That alone may make “The Dark Knight” the most impressive film in the superhero genre.


There … I’ve said it.


Let’s move on before I forget what else I was going to say.


Everybody is talking about Heath Ledger’s Joker – and for a damn good reason or 20. I’ve heard a well-versed Ledger fan and film buff say he’d have no idea it was him if he had to guess who the actor was.


Ledger’s is the kind of rare, enthusiastic performance in which the actor simply embodies the character; that’s THE Joker in all his variations from the comics I’ve been reading for the last three decades in one showing. This Joker is menacing even when he’s saying “Hi.” Ledger creeps you out just by licking his lips ever so slightly in between his lines.


Ledger’s voice is what nails the Crime Prince of Crime; you must hear all the nuances to understand how much they contribute to this murdering psychopath. Even in the midst of setting off bombs in a hospital – all while dressed in drag as a nurse – this Joker makes you laugh. Yet you hate him too; at the same time you want Commissioner Gordon and Batman to catch him so they can nail his sorry you-know-what to the wall. Ledger is able dance finely between captivating the audience every time he’s on-screen without ever overdoing it.


The Joker admits he’s an “agent of chaos,” but the late actor giving him life knew exactly what he’s doing. That’s fine acting; here’s no other way to say it.


But don’t forget about Aaron Eckhart, who has the formidable task of transforming from District Attorney Harvey Dent to Two-Face. Eckhart’s subtle contribution to the emotional impact of TDK might be overlooked and that’s a shame.


Dent, with his passionate quest for justice, is arguably the heart of the entire film. Eckhart’s natural charisma and easygoing nature makes Dent easily likable. And when the brokenhearted DA goes bad – and he goes very bad indeed – it’s equally easy to see where one of Batman’s and Gordon’s advocates could become a misguided villain. Eckhart’s performance, much like the one in “Thank You for Smoking,” resonates so much that it’s as big of a relief knowing Dent fights on the side of angels as it is hard not feel empathy and pain later for the nasty person he becomes as Two-Face.


I could go on and on. We have six months (!) to hear about Ledger’s Oscar prospects. I don’t need Dent’s lucky coin to tell me whether Ledger will be posthumously awarded with Best Supporting Actor; my money is on him. But I also think “The Dark Knight” could earn Oscars for best sound, editing and yes, possibly even Picture of the Year.


There … I’ve said it.



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