It dawns on me that I would be a better blogger if I could organize my thoughts more quickly. I should work on that…
First of all, the Dark Knight should not be classified as another "Batman" movie or even a superhero movie. Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight, his second entry into the new Batman franchise, is a psychological crime drama that is reminiscent of Michael Mann's 1995 hit "Heat". It just happens to have Batman in it.
Nolan chose to shoot the film entirely in Imax, and as such we're treated to a lot of larger-than-life imagery and shots, even in its current, reduced state. Fight scenes especially feel more visceral and real; this is Batman at his most brutal and merciless. Gone is the semi-clean fighting from the nineties. Here you get up close elbows and fists to the face, and I found myself wincing watching Nolan's vision.
Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker is nothing short of legendary, made more poignant by the fact that there he will not be able to re-take the role in the inevitable third film. In order to portray the Joker, you have to strike the balance between dark comedy and utter terror; no easy task, and Heath Ledger pulls it off, although he didn't make it look easy. This is the first Joker, in any incarnation outside of the comic series, that is both scary and funny at the same time. This point is brought home with the Joker's "Disappearing Pencil" trick.
The film also boasts a pretty good secondary cast, including Michael Jai White and the ubiquitous Eric Roberts. It would've been nice to see Michael Jai White demonstrate some of his physical abilities, but he does his job well enough here.
What stuck out the most to me, character-wise, was Aaron Eckhardt's portrayal of the tragic District Attorney Harvey Dent, destined to become Two-Face (who has long since recovered in the comic series). The WB cartoon series in the nineties was the first to show some of Harvey's more humane side and bring some sympathy to the character, but Christopher Nolan brings it full-circle. We like this Harvey Dent, a zealous, bad-ass DA who kicks someone's ass in the courtroom and then refuses to take a break so he can finish his cross-examination. He may be the story even more than the Bruce Wayne/Batman examination, as he truly represents all that is good in Gotham, and made all the more tragic as we know what is to happen to him.
The Dark Knight's true success lies in the daring, and visual reality of this film. Some of these scenarios seem just a little too real, too close to home. What would we do, placed in the hopeless situations the Joker creates? How far would a police department let a vigilante like Batman go?
Questions like these and more is what really sets the film apart and makes it inappropriate to call it a superhero film. Batman, while fictional, is a human being, who makes real choices and suffers real consequences. This is the most visceral, realistic portrait of Batman to ever hit the big screen and is worth seeing more than once.