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   Movie Reviews: The Dark Knight
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Studio:
     Warner Bros. (2 hrs. 35 mins.)
Plot:
     The Caped Crusader returns, protecting Gotham City from the mad criminal mastermind, The Joker.
Cast:
     Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Caine
Rating:
     R
Bottom Line:
     ****

Coverage:
by
Laurence Washington

Although “The Dark Knight” is another of this summer’s many comic book entries, it’s definitely not a comic-book-movie for kids. Rather, it’s a grim and complex thriller where the boundaries of good and evil become easily blurred.

“The Dark Knight opens with the character of Batman (Christian Bale) moving across seldom explored movie fan territory. Citizens consider him a hero vigilante. City officials, with the exception of Lt. Gordon (Gary Oldman), are crying for Batman and his cowl to be locked up in jail. The only reason city officials haven’t had the nerve to crack down on the Batman is because he has single handedly cleaned up Gotham’s crime ridden streets, lowering the overall crime rate

Enter the Joker (Heath Ledger who died after filming) who vows to give Gotham City a better class of criminal, by knocking off crime bosses and literately burning up a mountain of their money. “It’s not about the money,” the Joker says. “It’s about sending a message.” And the messages the Joker sends are diabolical, each more sinister than the other. Every crime the Joker commits is cruel and designed to test the moral fiber of  Batman, Lt. Gordon and new District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) and force them into ethical decisions that will send a spine tingling chill through the body of the most harden moviegoer. His pranks range from forcing two ferry-loads of passengers to either blow up the other ferry or get blown up themselves, to making Batman choose who to save the District Attorney or Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal)  his childhood sweetheart

The warning is on the label of this film

Thanks to Ledger’s memorable performance as the manic Joker, “The Dark Knight” is so dark; only one phrase can describe it – “pitch black,” as The Joker doesn’t mind carving a smile into his victim’s face, as his father did to him while asking, “Why so serious?

Jack Nicholson gave a wonderful over the top performance as the Joker in Batman (‘89) Ledger’s performance as the deranged and fiendishly gifted Joker is scary and you can’t take your eyes off him

As with “Batman Begins” special effects take a back seat to key performances by Bale, Eckhart, Freeman and of course Ledger whose Joker character drives the film. The drama is never up staged by cheap CGI images. And as quitely kept as it has been, there are three other villains from the Caped Crusader’s roughs gallery who make an appearance in the film. Director Jonathan Nolan manages to pace the 2 hour 30 min film and direct the traffic so that every villain’s screen time counts and advances the plot, unlike the ‘90s Batman movies where they tossed in a bunch of villains who walked all over each other’s performance. Nolan interfaces subplots in his directing that completes the whole premise of the picture

There’s been a lot of buzz that Ledger might receive an Oscar for his performance. Only one actor has received such an honor after his death. So in reality that’s not likely, but his last performance is worth noting. Nolan’s two Batman movies prove you can have human emotion from a comic book hero instead of just special effects.

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