Thursday, July 29, 2010

The 100 Best Movies: #43

43. The Dark Knight (2008)

Inspired by the mega-success of the Marvel Comic Book movies of the early 2000's (X-Men, Fantastic Four and #84: Spider-Man), DC Comics (with the help of Warner Brothers) decided it was time to give a recharge to their greatest heroes. For the Batman franchise, writer-director Christopher Nolan (who had amassed a great critical following after his sleeper hit Memento in 2000) made the series over with Batman Begins in 2005. The film was a great success both with critics and with audiences. In the 2005 film, Nolan dealt more with Batman's origins and less with the specific villains that terrorized Gotham City (the major villain in the movie was the emotion of fear itself). For an introductory film (or, in this case, a re-intorductory film), Batman Begins was a very good one, but it is Nolan's 2008 follow-up that makes it onto this list because of its realistic characters, its riveting storyline (by Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan) and, most importantly, its spellbinding performances.

Christopher Nolan had done a good job in casting in his first Batman film (mostly). For the second one, he used a lot of the same cast members that made the first one so good: Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Michael Caine as Alfred, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox and Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon (a rare time to see Oldman as a hero!). The newcomers to the second film were Nolan's most inspired choices. Aaron Eckart, who had charmed audiences with performances in movies like Erin Brockovitch and Thank You For Smoking, was a great choice to play the part of Harvey Dent whose tragic circumstances are spelled out in the panels of the comic books. And by replacing the very wooden Katie Holmes with the more engaging Maggie Gyllenhaal in the role of Rachel Dawes, Nolan avoided some of the problems that occurred (at least for me) in the first film. And for the all-important role of the villain, Batman's arch-nemesis: The Joker, Nolan cast a very fine actor who gave the performance of his lifetime (quite literally), Heath Ledger. Ledger had seeped himself into the role of The Joker and his work pays off, at least for the movie. His well-deserved Oscar-winning performance of the maniacal rogue helps make The Joker one of the greatest screen villains of all-time. It is unfortunately marked by the fact that the role disturbed Ledger so much that he lost sleep and died tragically of an overdose of cold medcine and sleeping pills. Despite this enormous loss to the world of film, this movie is one of the best comic book movies ever because of its dark story and its amazing performances.

Next Post: #42

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