Rating: PG-13 for language, action violence and mature themes
Run Time: 2 hours, 32 minutes
Christopher Nolan crafts a worthy successor to his temperamental classic “Batman Begins”.
Finally a Caped Crusader who merits a repeat performance; Christian Bale reprising his role as Gotham’s ultimate vigilante, a conflicted superhero who moonlights as suave billionaire Bruce Wayne. Or is it the other way around? Having dispensed with Wayne’s moody origins in Round One (not to mention dispatching archenemy The Scarecrow) Nolan’s Batman is now faced with a more diabolical fiend in the form of The Joker (Heath Ledger).
The Joker isn’t in it for the money nor is he necessarily seeking control of Gotham. He’s just a twisted sicko who wants to watch the world burn.
And burn it does while the clown-faced Joker insinuates his evil into the Gotham mob (led by mouth o’ marbles Eric Roberts) and a Hong Kong crime organization while Gotham’s shining star (Aaron Eckhart as District Attorney Harvey Dent) puts baddies behind bars and keeps his head above water. He’s the Great White Hope, awash with the glow of professional success and a flush of affection for Wayne’s secret love Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal in Mrs. Tom Cruise’s roll).
But Dent alone can’t control the axis of evil the Joker has fashioned, seeking the help of loyal Gothamites Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), Dawes, and of course Batman himself. Who in turn depends on trusty butler Alfred (dry as a martini Michael Caine) and genius inventor Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) to maintain his murky masquerade.
The action pulsates with adrenaline, sadistically stylized with vanguard graphics and things that go boom in the night. The film’s major action sequences are lensed with IMAX cameras; large, looming and overpowering to a fault. Perhaps some streamlining is in order; a 30-minute trim would make for a smoother ride.
Can’t fault the performances; each and every one keenly observed. “Knight” invokes the DC Comics vibe and leaves the more penetrating character development on the cutting room floor, rendering the mix a bit popcorn if you will. Bale knows his Batman inside and out; a black glove fit. Gyllenhaal shimmers, Oldman is aces and Eckhart perfectly milquetoast as the ubiquitous brown-noser but as you’ve undoubtedly heard the show belongs to Ledger; malevolently mischievous and psychologically toxic.
The buzz is huge and frankly it gets in the way. Let me be the judge of Ledger’s notorious posturing and whether or not he deserves a posthumous Oscar for his exaggerated tomfoolery.
Ambitious, flawed and erratically visionary, Batman is back.