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The Lighter Side of the Dark

Aug 21, 2008
The recent release of The Dark Knight comes following months of eager anticipation that has been palpable since the untimely death of one of its stars. But what really is the appeal of the movie?

As a fan of Batman from the original comic books and television series through to the debut performance of Christian Bale in 'Batman Begins', I had built up in my own mind the latest installment from British director Christopher Nolan as being something special. Fortunately, I was not to be disappointed.

In the same way as the preceding movie, the sheer darkness and gripping storytelling of the film keeps the audience captivated from start to finish. This time around, however, Nolan and his co-writer brother Jonathan added lighter moments in a script that could otherwise have only had a rich, maudlin quality coupled with fast-paced action scenes. But with a lead character named The Joker, an element of humour - no matter how dark - was always going to be demanded.

Much has been written about the performance of the late Heath Ledger in the role of The Joker, the majority of which I had previously discounted as little more than the usual eulogies so often reserved for the recently departed. Yet the transformation of the actor into the maniacal yet hugely entertaining villain of the piece was nothing short of remarkable.

Trailers featuring The Joker offered only a slight glimpse into the full scope of a character that requires sole attention when on screen. The level of humour and fear that he instills in the viewer is as exciting as any action scene throughout the entirety of the movie. Whether his performance deserves a posthumous Oscar or not we shall see, but the pencil trick should go down as one of the most darkly amusing scenes in modern cinema!

Equally as transfixing was the performance of Bale as the eponymous hero. Reviving the mystique and intensity that was (among much more) so embarrassingly missing from the Joel Schumacher movies, the performances of Bale in both The Dark Knight and, in particular, Batman Begins have created a character that the viewer can immediately identify and empathise with. An incredible feat considering the limited screen time Bale is given throughout the course of the more recent movie.

If I had to criticise anything about the film, however, it would only be due to my own selfishness. Like discovering a new musical artist at their rawest (and arguably best), the wide-reaching appeal of the film takes the personal, less commercialised feel of it away from the viewer. However, any movie derived from a comic book is guaranteed to appeal to great audiences, and the unscrupulous nature of film producers will want as many people as possible to buy cinema tickets.

But for me, films of limited appeal and whose audiences grow through word of mouth only serve to add to the romance of movies as an art form. But then again, to leave this magnificent piece of film work out of reach of the masses would be a crime.
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