Wow. Just wow. And I thought Batman Begins was excellent. This… this piece of art… its PHENOMENAL!! From the scale, to the acting, the atmosphere, the music, the action, it’s all art. I have not experienced this level of greatness in the cinema for a long time. This film is the darkest Batman, as well as one of the darkest, violent and gripping films, ever made.
I’ll start off with the actors. Christian Bale has done a tremendous job as our beloved Caped Crusader, who has a flawed personality that hangs on the balance between righteous and crazy. His perception of justice causes an emotional and personal shift, whether he is a rich guy who fights crime in a suit or just a regular guy who is sick of all the injustice in Gotham City and decides to give the psychopaths a dose of their own medicine. Because of this, and Bale’s tremendous acting, the Bruce Wayne character is justified, and we, the audience, emphasizes with Bale’s flawed hero more than Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George (shudder) Clooney, Kevin Conroy, or God forbid Adam West, ever will. If there was an excellent Batman, this is the real deal. The theme of righteousness and insanity is played well with his character here.
But of course, the real star of the show is the late and great Heath Ledger, who steals almost every scene he’s in as the villainous Joker (Nicholson, step aside). This Joker is not like the other renditions; he is the best. Downright evil, corrupt, insane, psychotic, terrifying. In every sense of those aforementioned words. More scary than funny, he shows audiences the Joker is undoubtedly Batman’s most nefarious foe and his perfect nemesis, challenging him all the way. With a cynical smile, he proclaims in a scene where Batman is a freak to the public, like the Joker himself. This also explains the balance of righteousness that Bruce Wayne is going through. The Joker is downright evil, and Ledger makes this performance legendary. I agree with the critics, sign me up for the petition where he deserves a posthumous Oscar win.
The rest of the cast is excellent and star-studded. Aaron Eckhart does his Harvey Dent/Two-Face character justice, with a strong sense of righteousness/betrayal/twistedness up his sleeve, as well as Bruce Wayne’s rival in love. His acting is strong here. Maggie Gyllenhaal is a great replacement for Katie Holmes as Wayne’s love interest Rachel Dawes, as she shows more sensitive and caring side towards Bruce, other than Holmes’ nearly flat performance. Michael Caine as Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler Alfred delivers, as well as Morgan Freeman as the CEO of Wayne Enterprises. Gary Oldman does an excellent portrayal of Lt. James Gordon, who aids Batman in his quest for justice. And a special mention goes to Eric Roberts as a crime lord, who surprisingly does a great acting job. The rest of the cast can take a bow, they can be proud of their being in this film.
The cinematography is possibly the most sublime scenes ever chosen. Gotham and Hong Kong are wide, and yet, there is this dark aura of crime and corruption all around them. It really blends in well with the film, giving it a distinct and unique look. Quite simply, this is the best Gotham city in any Batman rendition. Wally Pfister has done an excellent job.
To accompany the atmosphere is the tremendous music score by movie music maestros, James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer. With talents like these, the score is unforgettable. It is tension-building at times, and throbbing and glorious yet dark/moody during others. It deserves an Oscar.
The very loyal screenplay is written very, very well by Jonathan Nolan (director’s brother), who has done a masterful job. The characters are (pardon the pun) rich in character and the story has not a flaw in it. For a comic book film adaptation, this film is not at all fantasy-like. It is quite realistic in a way and this is what gives the film more credibility. Also, the fact that the script is realistic is unbelievable, as you expect a superhero film when you walk in the cinema, and walk out realizing you have just seen an epic crime saga. Yes, CRIME SAGA. It deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence with “GoodFellas”, “Heat”, “The Untouchables” and even “The Godfather”. I kid you not, this film has the power. The fact that this is an epic is further proved by the film’s length – 2 hours and 32 minutes. Yes, it’s that long. But it goes by so fast because you end up wishing for more.
But of course, none of this is possible without the genius that is the other Nolan, director Christopher. As per Memento, he knows how to direct a film. The dramatic scenes are engaging and the action sequences are crisp, thrilling, and will blow you out of your seat. Nolan’s direction is tense, whip-smart, kinetic and smart. All of the action sequences are realistic, “boombastic”, and CGI is used only when necessary (Steve Spielberg and George Lucas, take note). The new vehicle and some gadgets look cool and stylish and do not take away the film’s credibility and realism. There are a lot of action sequences to boot, some of them combining themes from above. You will have to see them to believe them. The brothers Nolan have done it again.
In short, it’s a masterpiece. One that will knock you out of your seat. It is the best Batman film ever, the best superhero film ever and the best film of 2008 thus far. If there ever was a possibility of a summer film winning Best Picture at the Oscars (like Titanic and Lord Of The Rings), this will join their ranks. It is rightfully deserved. Do yourselves a favor and see this piece of art. Repeated viewings highly recommended.