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The Dark Knight movie poster

The Dark Knight

Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller, Drama
Rated: PG-13
Directed by:
Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman
Released by: Warner Bros. Pictures

In Short: The second installment of the reinvented Batman franchise is a winner, although perhaps a tad too long.
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The Dark Knight Triumphs
Heath Ledger's Joker is Unforgettable

As Heath Ledger's scary face as the Joker emerges during the first tense, exciting scene of The Dark Knight, it is quickly obvious that this is the new and improved Batman. It is no longer the Batman of old, with campy comedic performances by people like Jack Nicholson or Cesar Romero. Instead, this revitalized comic-book-derived franchise flick (it follows 2005's Batman Begins) is a sinister and scary nosedive into the depths of Gotham City's darkest corridors, where evil incarnate lives and the Batman is the city's only hope for warding off the Joker's spooky malevolence.

With writer-director Christopher Nolan at the helm, The Dark Knight is a well-paced adventure spectacularly captured in IMAX (it will also be screened in 70mm, but make the trip for the well-worth-it, eye-popping, vertigo-inducing experience) that is sure to satisfy not only the most hardcore comic fan, but also those of us that simply like a good story.

Christian Bale in The Dark Knight
Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight

Maggie Gyllenhaal replaces Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes, giving the character more depth and strength than her less-talented predecessor, while Aaron Eckhart joins the mostly returning cast (Christian Bale as Batman, Michael Caine as Alfred, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Gary Oldman as Lt. Gordon) in a fine performance as District Attorney Harvey Dent. However, it is Heath Ledger, the talented young Australian actor who tragically died shortly after finishing this film, who steals the spotlight from the rest of the extremely accomplished cast.

Ledger's Joker is a chillingly evil character, with a variety of tics, stutters, and twitches that fittingly reflect his total sociopathic psychosis. Ledger truly disappears into this stunning portrayal of a madman who wears clown makeup while blithely murdering anyone who gets in the way of his egomaniacal machinations that set Gotham City into a frenzy of fear. It is a performance worthy of an Academy Award nomination, and a sad epitaph to a talented actor's life, cut short way too soon. Watch for the moment that is sure to become an iconic image in the pantheon of Hollywood, in a league comparable to Hitchcock's shot of Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) being chased by the cropduster in North by Northwest.

While The Dark Knight does drag slightly in a few spots (the film runs about 2 hours and 40 minutes long), overall, it is an exciting story that is well-told, well-acted, and well within the context of the comic books that have made the Batman part of the fabric of pop culture for almost 60 years. Don't miss this one, and make sure to see it in IMAX for the full effect.

Reviewed by Jenny Peters

PLH060608 (Updated: 07/18/08 KR)

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