'The Dark Knight': Film Review

Heath Ledger in 'The Dark Knight.'
Pure adrenaline.

The Dark Knight is pure adrenaline. Returning director Christopher Nolan, having dispensed with his introspective, moody origin story, now puts the Caped Crusader through a decathlon of explosions, vehicle flips, hand-to-hand combat, midair rescues and pulse-pounding suspense.

Nolan is one of our smarter directors. He builds movies around ideas and characters, and Dark Knight is no exception. The ideas here are not new to the movie world of cops and criminal, but in the context of a comic book movie, they ring out with startling clarity. In other words, you expect moralistic underpinnings in a Martin Scorsese movie; in a Batman movie, they hit home with renewed vigor.

None of this artistic achievement denies the re-energized Warner Bros./DC Comics franchise its commercial muscle. Those bags of money in the movie's opening bank heist are nothing compared with the worldwide boxoffice haul Dark Knight will take from theaters. Repeat viewings are a certainty.

Repeat viewings might also be a necessity. That adrenaline rush comes at a cost: With the film's race-car pace, noise levels, throbbing music and density of stratagems, no one will follow all the plot points at first glance. Not that the story with its double crosses and ingenious plans isn't clear, but to enjoy the full glory of these urban battlefield strategies, multiple viewings are required.

Dark Knight revolves around notions of the yin and yang between Hero and Villain and of those gray areas where social conscience and individuality collide. Thinking logically, Nolan and his co-writer/brother Jonathan, working from a story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer, imagine that the heroism of Bruce Wayne's Batman (a returning and very buff Christian Bale) is a double-edged sword. (A theme the current Hancock toyed with but badly mucked up.) Cleaning up the streets of Gotham City turns the crime cartels into an even more dangerous beast that, once cornered, resorts to its own doomsday machine: the maniacally clever and criminally amoral Joker (the late Heath Ledger). And vigilante justice is nonetheless "justice" from outside the law. So who or what polices him?