Let me be clear. This movie is not perfect. There are some writing flaws, and some of the story could be a bit tighter. Yes, it is true. But to suggest that any of its flaws is cause to discredit the film is simply madness. They are peccadillos, and every film has them. It is a real shame that the Academy did not recognize “The Dark Knight” with many more nominations this year. This is the most complex comic book movie to date. It deals with themes and characters and subject matter that are far darker and delve far deeper than any other of its kind. Very few movies present a hero who is almost always wrong. Few movies depict evil in a way so illusive and frightening. Few movies offer this much action. Nearly every major character has an interesting story arc. For Bruce Wayne, he must wrestle with the consequences of the choices he’s made. If Gotham is Baghdad, then Batman is George W. Bush. And Joker is Al Qaeda. And maybe Harvey Dent is Obama (though let’s keep our new president away from any accidents like this, if you please). Batman must come to terms with the idea that in some ways, he should be hated. He’s brought Joker on Gotham, and he didn’t take him seriously. And yes, Heath Ledger IS every bit as good as everyone is giving him credit for. This performance ranks right up there with the depictions of evil from last year’s two Oscar Heavyweight’s – No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood. He is truly a force of nature. To suggest that Joker is just crazy and wacky is to miss the innumerable layers and subtleties within Ledger’s performance. Watch how he responds when a goon tells him he’s insane early on in the film. Watch the things that trigger his laughter. It isn’t simply jokes. Ledger uses laughing to propel himself toward anarchy. It is a lovely, specific, humungous performance.
The scenes between Joker and Batman, and Joker and Harvey Dent are the best in the film. The way the paradoxes function – the way he meticulously plans and controls the chaos he introduces, the way he schemes about the evil of schemers – and the relationship he sees between himself and Batman is jarring and haunting. “The Dark Knight” is about the never-ending struggle between good and evil, and about the ugly choices that both of them make. Christopher Nolan has established himself as one of the 21st century’s greatest story-tellers now with films like “Memento,” “The Prestige” and now the Batman franchise. He challenges himself as a filmmaker, the actors in terms of their talents, and the audience in terms of how much they are willing to think while they are being entertained.
This is the best film of 2008.