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It’s Knight time!

PUBLISHED: 17:40 23 July 2008 | UPDATED: 17:11 16 August 2010

CHRISTOPHER Nolan continues the dark, intense and intelligent reinvention of the popular DC comic book antihero he started with Batman Begins, setting a new standard for superhero adaptations in the process. With all of the mood

The Dark Knight

Cert 12A

CHRISTOPHER Nolan continues the dark, intense and intelligent reinvention of the popular DC comic book antihero he started with Batman Begins, setting a new standard for superhero adaptations in the process.

With all of the moody introspection of the origin story out of the way the director is free to explore innate moral duality present in his lead character's angst-ridden heroism. After taking beating after beating from Batman (Christian Bale), the Gotham City crime cartels turn in desperation to the only man capable of taking on the caped crusader - the Joker (Heath Ledger) - and in forcing their hand, Batman can been seen as partly responsible for the serious escalation in carnage which accompanies the master criminal's arrival.

Also, apparently on the good side are the city's white knight, District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), who acts as Bruce Wayne's rival for the affections of Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), and Police Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), but things enter a moral grey area when Batman's role as a vigilante operating from outside the law comes under scrutiny from the authorities, and the Joker attempts to turn Dent to the dark side.

There's more in the way of action this time around with several major sequences that see Batman gliding through the air, tearing up the streets of Gotham in a two-wheeled Bat-Pod and going toe-to-toe with the bad guys. All of the sequences are expertly put together with top quality visuals.

Christian Bale again brilliantly negotiates the soul searching and misgivings of Batman's alter ego Bruce Wayne with a deeply nuanced performance

Ledger's Joker is a genuinely frightening creation. The dirty white facepaint, dark darting eyes and wide crimson smile crowned with a lank tangle of straggly hair make for a villain of ghoulish proportions not before seen on screen. The late actor's performance is superlatively creepy as he sneers and shuffles his way from one chaotic act of anarchy and destruction to the next and is made all the more significant due to his tragic death earlier this year.

Bale and Ledger are supported by some fine character acting from Michael Caine, as the ever attentive butler Alfred, and Morgan Freeman as the gadgetry wizard Lucius. Oldman is particularly memorable as the only honest cop in town and Gyllenhaal does well with what little she is given.

In may ways superior to its predecessor, The Dark Knight is another tour de force example of how to make superhero film of substance to match its style.

* The Dark Knight opens in cinemas tomorrow.

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