It's a Dark Knight in Gotham
I liked "Batman Begins", it breathed new life into a franchise which had lost it's way and I was looking forward to the follow up "The Dark Knight" especially as there was a lot of positive press about the movie and in particular the performance of the late Heath Ledger as The Joker. In all honesty "The Dark Knight" is a good follow up but whilst there were several elements which were very good there were equally several elements which failed to work for me, in particular it felt like the movie was overly long due to too many sub plots and characters.
Determined to rid Gotham of organized crime once and for all, Batman (Christian Bale - 3:10 to Yuma) enlists the help of Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman - Air Force One) and Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart - No Reservations), the new District Attorney, in his endeavours. But when they come up against a new criminal mastermind known as The Joker (Heath Ledger - Brokeback Mountain), Batman finds himself coming closer to crossing the fine line between being hero and a vigilante.
"The Dark Knight" starts some time after "Batman Begins" finishes, an exact time is not given but things have moved on in Gotham. There is a new District Attorney played by Aaron Eckhart, the Falcone gang are under new management and Batman still brings derision amongst the population with some idolizing him whilst others criticise him. Thankfully the movie does an excellent job of introducing most of the main players within the first 15 minutes as well as introducing us to the anarchic Joker very quickly.
As storylines go "The Dark Knight" is good, it has a lot of twists and turns, some more believable than others and there are several elements which bring great depth to the movie. But despite this I feel that maybe they have put too much into it as at nearly 2 and half hours in length it does seem to go on a bit too long. I will even admit that it took more than one attempt to watch it all the way through from start to finish as it seems to slightly dip before reaching its climax. Maybe it is just me, but at times it feels like they were putting enough content for two Batman movies into the one.
Another issue I have with "The Dark Knight" is that it is quite a dark and moody movie. Now I am glad that under the direction of Christopher Nolan the current Batman franchise has moved away from the comic slap stick which ended up ruining the previous run of Batman movies, but "The Dark Knight" seems to lack enough lighter moments to break things up. In "Batman Begins" there were great moments of lightness mainly surrounding the characters of Alfred the butler and Lucius Fox, but those don't seem to be present here in "The Dark Knight" and in doing so those two characters didn't work as well as they did the first time around. Saying that "The Dark Knight" does still have moments of humour it's just at times they feel a little sinister rather than light hearted. Maybe my expectations of "The Dark Knight" were more inline with "Batman Begins" and so the shift to a darker Batman was not what I was expecting and I am sure with subsequent viewings it will grow on me much more than it has at the moment.
Without doubt the star of "The Dark Knight" is the sadly departed Heath Ledger as the Joker and it's his performance which makes this movie great. It's hard to describe how good his characterisation of the anarchic Joker is but he manages to make him sinister, scary with a touch of the craziness which combines to make one of the greatest screen villains I have ever seen. Maybe it is down to Heath Ledger's extraordinary performance that pretty much everyone else in the movie looks quite ordinary in comparison.
Christian Bale carries on where he left off and brings Batman back to life in a darker but still satisfactory manner. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are both back in the roles of Alfred and Lucius respectively, both doing a good job but lacking the spark from the first movie which gave it it's lightness, which I believe that is more to do with the direction "The Dark Knight" takes rather than their own interpretations of the characters. The one returning cast member who did seem to excel in "The Dark Knight" is Gary Oldman as Lt. Jim Gordon. Oldman has managed to create a character who is believable as a no nonsense cop but who also has that softer, family side which makes the character semi realistic.
The one real negative I have when it comes to the characters and actors is Aaron Eckhart as District Attorney Harvey Dent. The thing is I believe the introduction of Dent was one character too many for "The Dark Knight" and so was not given enough time to really create the presence needed for such an important character. This had the knock on effect of making Eckhart's interpretation feel a little too light weight and although it doesn't spoil things it doesn't really add enough to it for my liking. For me I would have much preferred it if they had left out the character of Dent for this one, reworked the script and reduced the length to closer to the 2 hour mark in doing so.
What is still great about "The Dark Knight" is Gotham itself, it looks even better than in "Batman Begins" and combined with some stunning special effects and make up the film still has that glorious touch of fantasy which Batman deserves.
What this all boils down to is that as a follow up to "Batman Begins", "The Dark Knight" does a good job and despite its flaws it will no doubt grow on me. Without a doubt it is a highly entertaining movie which although I feel is too long still surpasses many modern movies when it comes to building atmosphere and drama. The shining light of it all is Heath Ledger as the Joker and it is such a weighty performance that I feel that it will be some time before we see another movie villain to rival this one.