"The Dark Knight"
The best comic book movie summer ever just got a whole lot better. More action-packed than "The Incredible Hulk," darker and deeper than "Iron Man," freakier than "Hellboy II," Christopher Nolan’s Gotham City epic is one of the best movies of the year and should merit consideration for a Best Picture nomination. This is a rich, complex, visually thrilling piece of pop entertainment, as strong as any superhero epic we’ve ever seen.
The A-list cast includes Christian Bale as the most intimidating Batman and the most arrogant Bruce Wayne in the history of the series, and Gary Oldman as the righteous James Gordon. Maggie Gyllenhaal replaces Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes, who’s at the center of a love triangle with Bruce Wayne and Aaron Eckhart’s crusading D.A., Harvey Dent.
With the help of Morgan Freeman’s Lucious Fox, Batman ventures far outside Gotham City’s jurisdiction, to fetch a key Mob accountant who has fled to Hong Kong. But the real villain in "The Dark Knight" is of course the Joker. The late Heath Ledger plays him like the demented offspring of Alex from "A Clockwork Orange."
It’ll be an upset if Ledger isn’t nominated for Best Supporting Actor. And it won’t be a maudling sympathy vote, either. Ledger creates a Joker is one of the most memorable screen characters of the decade. With his odd posture, creepy makeup, dry-mouth speech patterns and insane freakiness, he is a villain for the ages. Writer-director Nolan has fashioned a near-masterpiece here—maybe the best superhero movie ever made. His action sequences are thrilling, including two or three moments guaranteed to generate applause in theaters.
But even with all the CGI and stuntwork, at the heart of the story we have a half-dozen or more interesting, three-dimensional—or in Bale’s case, six-dimensional characters. Even with a lead in a batsuit, "The Dark Knight" has the authentic feel of a crime epic like "Heat" or "The Departed." It’s a great film.