The Dark Knight
Directed by Christopher Nolan

Written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan

Starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart


The Dark Knight

The new Batman film, "The Dark Knight" has broken all box-office records for an opening weekend, but now it has to face the test of all popular films; would anyone really want to see it again. In the interest of good taste, I hope not, because it fails on any number of fronts: Let's start with Christian Bale as Batman, who is so weak we hardly notice when he's on screen; he's overshadowed not only by Heath Ledger, the Joker (and more about him later), but by Aaron Eckhart, who never stole the screen from anyone in any film; by Maggie Gyllenhaal, as his supposed lover; and even by Michael Caine, as his butler.

Bale can play a tormented man, as in "3:10 to Yuma" or "Rescue Dawn," but he can't play Batman, who is of course a superhero. We saw how dismal he was in "Batman Begins," of course, but no one listens to me; all they needed to do was kill him off then and replace him with a new Batman and Batmobile. No one would notice, I promise. But that's not all that's wrong with this version of "The Dark Knight." The script, by the director, Christopher Nolan, and his brother Jonathan, is all over the place, substituting bizarre chases and crashes when it really needs coherence. And by the way, Batman here actually does nothing that a superhero would do, other than take off from the roof of a building and swoop gracefully into a) a window across the street; or b) the street below. But when he gets there he doesn't do anything. In fact he gets into a number of fistfights, most of which he loses. Go figure.

Okay; now for the one redeeming feature of the film: Heath Ledger as the Joker. He's taken off from Jack Nicholson's seminal creation of the character as a person who combines both wit and menace, and made it all his own. He uses his voice as though he were playing a musical instrument; it's rare that you see a movie actor with that kind of control. He can modulate from wit to menace to cruelty and back to wit again; he is as scary as it is possible to be in a film. And he's been given a great moment in which he lets us know what made him that way. There's already Oscar talk about his performance; it's a little too early for that, but without question he'll be getting a nomination.

And by the way, if you're looking to see what the Batmobile can do to the bad guys, look elsewhere; it gets flattened early on. Just another bad decision by the producers.