The Dark Knight

Worth the hype -- 3.5 stars

Directed by Christopher Nolan. July 2008, USA. PG-13: 152 min.

(Originally published in buzz magazine on 7/21/2008)

Thousands of moviegoers lined up at C-U area theaters for their dose of battastic cinematic thrills Thursday at midnight. The diehard fans—mostly high school and college-aged—attended special screenings of Writer-Director Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight in Goodrich Savoy 16, Carmike Beverly Cinema 18, and Boardman’s Art Theatre. They were not disappointed, or at least I wasn’t.

The sequel to series relaunch Batman Begins (2005) clocked in at two-and-a-half hours of nonstop action and suspense, every minute diving further and further down into a spiral of madness as the deranged and disheveled Joker (Heath Ledger in his final completed role) and his hired clown-masked henchmen team up with the local mob to wreak havoc on Gotham City. In a skyscrapered metropolis of 30 million people, populated with crooked cops, for-sale judges and yellow journalists under criminals’ payroll, only Batman—played by Christian Bale (American Psycho)—and straight-laced District Attorney Harvey Dent—played by Aaron Eckhart (Thank You for Smoking)—can put an end to the murderous destruction. Listing the film’s awesome qualities is almost an exercise in futility. For one, Chicago’s architecture dazzles the backdrop of almost every shot, countless tons of concrete, steel and glass filling the screen with an immense jungle of rectangular grids. Moments of sudden and unexpected brutality color the movie with dark comedy; sometimes you can’t help but laugh at the Joker’s sheer insanity. But the laughs are more out of discomfort than mirth. You’ll chuckle alright, but you’ll cringe, too.

If you missed Iron Man, Wall-E, or any other sure bets of this summer 2008 season, do yourself a favor and at least catch The Dark Knight. Unless you just really hate highly entertaining movies that actually attempt to mean something, you will get your money’s worth. If your experience is anything like mine, you won’t even notice the longish running time, which is a testament to Nolan’s ability to captivate an audience on a visceral and intellectual level. Hell, you might even wish for another half hour.