Tragedies aside, Heath Ledger really captivates.
Director: Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, Memento, The Prestige)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (intense sequences of violence and some menace)
What I Expected: A direct and sufficient continuation of Batman Begins.
What I Got: A direct continuation of Batman Begins with a gruesome and enthralling performance by Heath Ledger.
Appeals To: Batman fans, Heath Ledger fans, anyone with the constitution to sit through a chilling performance without adult diapers.
Before I begin, let me make the following blunt observations. We’ve all been waiting for this movie since Batman Begins. We’ve all heard about Heath Ledger’s chilling and excellent performance. We all know Heath Ledger died in New York City, and it’s a tragic loss of an excellent talent. All those facts considered, Heath Ledger doesn’t deserve merit simply because this was his last film – a film which may have ended his life prematurely. Heath Ledger deserves merit for delivering a stand-out performance that will chill you and invigorate your senses.
In short, this movie was as highly entertaining as the last Batman film was, albeit it has an entirely different feel to it. As a Batman film, it falls a little short on service to the source if you aren’t just watching for Heath Ledger as The Joker. Many of the performances in this film are sufficient, probably because the effect is lost on us from the last film. However, ounce for ounce, this film was worth waiting in line to see the movie.
The biggest flaw I can point out are the non-Heath Ledger performances. As stated, the performances are satisfactory. The problem with that is that satisfactory is that with all the plot development made in the film, none of the characters seem to change much. While that may have been a plot point, the fact remains that The Joker, a powerful new villain that will turn the cogs in your mind, drives the plot enough to force change upon the heroes, and yet none of them seem too much pressed by the situation to develop or change.
Oh, and in trying not to spoil too much, Harvey Dent was an afterthought in this movie, and that disappoints me. Batman fans will know what I’m talking about when it happens.
However, as often as it is repeated, Heath Ledger really does make this movie something else. His performance is entirely eclectic to an adult audience. From this performance alone, a person could take bits and pieces of it and see varying areas of Ledger’s abilities, as an action star, as a villain, and as a pulp thriller. Ledger works this role as a method actor, and you can see the passion in his work as you toss away the pretty boy role he played in A Knight’s Tale – though I swear he makes a couple laughing nods at his role in Brokeback Mountain. As the cliché goes, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll be scared out of your pants, but you’ll love every moment of it.
It also bears mentioning that you won’t notice or care that Katie Holmes has been replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal. Because the role of Rachel Dawes is more prominent in this film, it gives Gyllenhaal a chance to shine in a way Katie Holmes couldn’t – I leave that statement ambiguous for your interpretation.
As with the rest of the merits in this film, the writing is excellent, the atmosphere is dark and gritty, and it does an excellent job playing off of Batman Begins. While I’d like to take the easy route and say Ledger’s performance carries this film, in honesty it doesn’t. There are a few rough spots in a couple places, but overall, this film does not disappoint. Ledger’s performance is worth it alone to experience this film, but the medium that carries it is executed well.
I highly recommend watching this movie, even if the hype died down or even if it’s still hard to get into the theater. Leave your kids at home unless you want them to wet themselves in theater and have nightmares – you’ll probably miss wonderful bits of Ledger’s transforming and engulfing performance, and you shouldn’t.
~ Setsuna Setsunai