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The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight (Nolan, 2008)

Whatever could be said about this film has probably already been said, so I won't bother with a lengthy review. I will say, though, that anything worthwhile about this sequel is hinged completely and totally on the Joker's anarchy. Everything else just meets a predescribed status quo. And that includes, by the way, Bale's Batman, which has become so uncomfortably goofy that he's given probably fewer lines than anyone else in the film.

The extremely far-fetched Bat-tech, the transparent "heroism" of Harvey Dent, the insignificant comings and goings of Gothamite whoevers: all of it feels fake, and seemingly exists only to fill in the gaps that Ledger's Joker does not touch. But it's the areas of the film the Joker does touch that suddenly brings everything to life. Things matter. People's lives matter. He fashions dire, sadistic scenarios that doom the participants before they even know they're part of one, and we shudder right alongside them. For once, we don't want lifeless, limp Batman to save the day. We want to feel threatened. We want to feel alive.

I'm not going to say Ledger's performance is the stuff of legends. It is a truly haunting, rigorously rehearsed, genuinely delivered performance. But it's also the formidable writing, and the character itself - the Joker - who makes it all so magical when viewed in direct contrast with the rest of gritty, grimy, dull Gotham. Simply put, Batman just isn't as much fun as the Joker. And as bizarre as it sounds, he isn't even as believable. In the end, Batman is merely the cartoon who we know won't save us from the brutal reality around us. Not really. But it doesn't matter. Entranced by Nolan's The Dark Knight, under the Joker's tricky spell, we can view that darkness in safety, and we can crave it.