Because I said I would do this, I am doing it. This follows on from my Batman Begins review.
Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman
In a nutshell: Batman is still waging a one-man war on crime in Gotham, but is starting to see the possibility that he may not be needed anymore – mainly due to Gotham’s “White Knight”, District Attorney Harvey Dent. Unfortunately, a new, sadistic psychopath calling himself The Joker has arrived in town…
Absolutely cracking performances from everyone involved. Rachel Dawes was unanimously called the weak point of Begins; here, she’s been re-cast, and Gyllenhaal seems far more comfortable in the role than Katie Holmes. Her performance also shows a still idealistic, but far less naive-feeling Rachel, which is good to see.
Bale’s interpretation of Bruce has seemed more and more human and flawed as the series has gone on, and here it really shows. Bruce is sympathetic without being whiny – and believe me, some of the lines could have been read that way – which really adds to the overall believability of the film.
Heath Ledger’s Joker is famous for a reason. Hyperactive, unpredictable, always dancing on a knife’s edge and loving it, he’s both psychopathic and, again, believable, if not relatable as such.
Aaron Eckhart is an excellent, angry but incredibly sympathetic Harvey Dent, as the character should be. I also admire the writing for this – when Dent goes over the edge and becomes Two-Face, you will be sad about it.
Oldman is, as always, world-weary but hopeful, the perfect Gordon.
The writing is even less action-focused than Begins’, revolving more around the psychology of the characters, which is an interesting and often pleasant change. Though there are plenty of set-pieces and big moments, they’re offset by the overall… thoughtfulness of the whole picture. Like Begins, it also uses the slow build, giving the audience a sense of stacking dread as the film goes on which is only occasionally lightened – but the fact it’s rare makes this lightening even more effective.
I don’t mind dark as long as it’s well-written and balanced – and this mostly is. However, the intensity of the film and its constant showing of the darker side of the human psyche – it’s very much a mood film – don’t make this your average popcorn flick – I personally have to be in the right mood to re-watch it, and do so less often than Begins (which, as a film, though it isn’t as well-written, I actually prefer).
There’s less score. In my previous review of Begins, spent quite a large paragraph enthusing about the soundtrack. Here, they re-use a lot of the motifs and themes of Begins, and there’s far less music overall; as someone who finds score incredibly important in films, I have to say it’s a bit of a let-down.
Great as the film is – and it is of astonishing quality – I actually prefer Begins. This does have a lot going for it, however, and stands on its own as a brilliant film.