The recasting of Rachel Dawes with Maggie Gyllenhaal might have been the biggest casting controversy if not for the announcement of Heath Ledger as the Joker. Oh, the internet exploded. And then the movie came out and made a lot of people eat crow. The late Heath Ledger gave one of the best takes on the Joker. An anarchist who just wants to watch the world burn, The Joker starts out appearing like he is trying to take over the mob, only for them to be shocked as he proves he does not care about their goals at all.
The Dark Knight improves on the action scenes, showing how much Nolan learned. The story is mostly quite strong. They introduce the heroic Harvey Dent, a new DA with no fear of the mob…causing Bruce Wayne to question if Batman will be necessary any more. Of course, Dent is doomed to be twisted into a brutal caricature of justice.
The Dark Knight is full of twists and turns, as well as challenging questions in regards to spying and information gathering. How far do you go to stop someone? Admittedly, the film tries to have it both ways, allowing Batman to go to far, but for it to be a one time deal.
The film also struggles a bit with exactly what it wants to do with Two Face…and it really squanders an opportunity that could have played into the next film. While the Joker story line seems so carefully plotted, the Two Face story line just feels rushed. But in the end, the overall film ties together nicely.
As noted, Ledger’s Joker borders on brilliant. The performance is downright unnerving, helped by musical queues that make it feel all the more disturbing. The returning cast are all excellent, and Gyllenhaal holds her own (as pretty much the only woman of consequence in the film) with heavyweights like Oldman, Freeman and Caine.
Nolan has shown Great vision for Batman, and only improved on Batman Begins. It is an intense and exhilarating ride of a film.