The Dark Knight takes "superhero" genre to new heights

Director Christopher Nolan (Memento, The Prestige) returns, along with new and old faces, to helm the awesome new installment of the rejuvenated Batman franchise: The Dark Knight.
In The Dark Knight, a year has passed since Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has donned the suit and image that every criminal in Gotham City has come to fear as the Batman. It also seems that there is another defender of Gotham in the form of its current D.A., Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckart), as he tries to take down the mob. Just when the crime rate in Gotham seems to go down, a new menace known as the Joker (Heath Ledger), arrives to wreak havoc and create anarchy all over the city. As Batman and Dent try to find a way to stop the Joker, Wayne must resist revealing his true feelings to his childhood sweetheart, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who has been seen around town with a new beau in Dent.
A word like “masterpiece” is tossed around too often with Oscar contenders such as Atonement or Gladiator. The Dark Knight may not be an Oscar contender, but it sure is a masterpiece.
This movie is certainly a step up from its predecessor, Batman Begins. It becomes something more than an ordinary comic book movie – it becomes a movie with a lot of dramatic elements never seen in a comic book movie and a crime movie that falls along the line of Michael Mann’s Heat or Martin Scorsese’s Academy Award-winning The Departed. Even if you are not a fan of comic book movies or Batman, this movie becomes something more than just an ordinary summer blockbuster.
All the actors bring their ‘A’ game to the table with their performances. The Dark Knight’s two major additions in the form of the Joker and Harvey Dent are anchored with great performers in Ledger and Eckhart.
It is tragic that Ledger died unexpectedly in January and did not see the complete film with an audience or in a theater. Nonetheless, Ledger’s performance as the murderous and psychotic Clown Prince of Crime is certainly the main attraction. Ledger’s interpretation of the Joker is better and different from Jack Nicholson’s performance in the first Batman film. The Joker is a vicious killer who kills anyone who gets in his way as he creates a grand scheme to make Gotham City his own hellish playground. Ledger plays the Joker as an unpredictable criminal that can show up anywhere, anytime and, when he does, someone is guaranteed to die. Ledger’s role as the Joker belongs in the top five greatest movie villains with the likes of Darth Vader and Hannibal Lecter and, when award season comes around, I guarantee that Ledger will be posthumously nominated for an Oscar.
Aside from Ledger’s terrific performance, Aaron Eckhart definitely has a good time playing both good guy and bad guy as Harvey “Two-Face” Dent. Eckhart starts out as the great defender of Gotham City who is willing to sacrifice himself and his career to take down major mafioso guys such as Salvatore Maroni (Eric Roberts). Throughout the film, there are glances into Dent’s dark side that foreshadows his transformation to Two-Face from his nickname to the lucky coin he keeps. When he is horribly scarred, he instigates a horrifying and violent search for the reason he is who he is.
Nolan’s The Dark Knight is the best movie of the year that takes the “superhero movie” genre to new heights with great performances from the cast and an awesome performance from the late Heath Ledger that will guarantee him another Oscar nomination.
THE DARK KNIGHT: 5 stars out of 5

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