Christopher Nolan, the brilliant mind behind Memento, has fashioned the ultimate modern superhero tale of good and evil with The Dark Knight.
Heath Ledger’s performance of the Joker in the film is exceptional, and the film as a story, as a visual feast, as action, drama, romance, and total chaos all rolled into one, would have been the monster of a blockbuster that it was regardless of whether or not Heath Ledger had lived.
This film had all the elements of a great crime noir, and more than that, a great story with great characters.
Whether it be Bale’s understated Batman, who is somewhat methodical and has gotten into a routine as Batman, or the Joker, who throws Batman’s life into a dramatic tailspin by representing the darkest parts of the human soul, or just the sheer scope of events, all subsequently more and more chaotic, the Dark Knight is what they call an instant classic.
Characters evolve and mutate, grow and suffer, all the while engaging the audience in a story with great camera shots, great action, and very interesting characters in an interesting setting.
The familiar becomes new, as the Joker is reinvented and the Batman evolves. The hero’s burden in life is never focused on more clearly than it is in this film, and the villain is the penultimate representation of modern evil.
The movie also highlights human psychology, and illustrates how people fall prey to weakness and fear, and how only a few are the main catalysts to action in the tale, while the teeming masses simply watch, helplessly and with contempt from the sidelines.
The Dark Knight is a classic, and it has taken comic book content and comic book characters out of the perennial kiddie room and into the room with all the adults.
Sure, American audiences go to see comic book films in droves, but they are never taken seriously, and though their ticket sales far outreach their meager target audience, the actors and films themselves are rarely taken seriously.
The way the Dark Knight is shot, the consistency of the performances and of the directing, the deep and complex story and how it unfolds, and the mesmerizing film, this tour de force as an exploration of good and evil, is enough of a winner that the unfortunate death of a wonderful young actor would not increase or decrease the success of the film, whether it be by ticket sales or popular culture influence.
The Dark Knight is great art, and is an amazing film, beyond its comic book origins, beyond the public scrutiny, even beyond expectations. People went back to see it again and again because, even for a blockbuster film, it exceeded expectations.
This is the reason for its success, and the passing of Mr. Ledger did not increase or decrease that success in any way, but his brilliant and unparalleled performance as the Joker elevated it into a great film.