Last night, I finally saw
The Dark Knight and I have to add a few words to all the others. Considering this movie has broken box office records, you could call this our collective hero of choice. And what does that say about us? Well,
The Dark Knight is, by far, the darkest Batman movie but that's certainly not just a response to the current mood. You can thank Frank Miller for that. He set the tone twenty some years ago. Still, you can't deny a connection to our post 9/11 world.
Starting with the opening bank heist scene and running through the whole movie is a level of intensity unimaginable a generation ago in a Hollywood version of Batman when Michael Keaton donned the bat suit. This type of disturbing imagery really belongs in a movie that clearly states it is intended for a mature audience. This is not kid-friendly stuff but, of course, every kid on the block is seeing it.
This does seem to be the best Hollywood can do with the Batman outside a total balls to the wall treatment by the likes of Martin Scorsese or Quentin Tarantino. We are given a taste of what such a movie might be like.
The Dark Knight plays with us when it begins to cross a line as in a scene of a videotaped torture. Then, given it's true nature as a superhero movie with countless underage fans, it must yank itself back into its own reality just as it's getting a little too sick.
What we do end up with is the very best cast a Batman movie could ever hope for. Pulling and stretching the material to a higher place, all the main actors provide a deeper level of emotional resonance than in any previous Batman movie. Talk of Ledger's performance as Oscar-worthy is all the buzz.
What Heath Ledger accomplishes with his rendition of the Joker transcends the movie he's in much as Anthony Hopkins stole the show as Hannibal Lecter. The mannerisms, the tempered yet menacing delivery, it's all there. This is a very scary Joker. If he doesn't creep you out, I hate to think what it would take. To inspire fear doesn't require a brute threat. Any real threat will do. Ledger makes you believe he is capable of killing you and that he's thinking over all the details in order to do it. There is plenty of time given over to the Joker to explain himself. That is the movie. That's really what we've come to see.
If the world is a darker place since 9/11, like the media repeats ad nauseum and we can't quite trust the "good guys," then wouldn't we most want to hear from the source of all the evil? If we could imagine what that would be like, it could not get much better than Ledger's performance.