If Heath Ledger were not already dead, we’d have surely killed him with our bare hands for being careless with the prescription drugs that took the life of this amazing actor prematurely in January.
To watch Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight is to rejoice in a performer who had reached the ne plu ultra, the summit of his short film career.
Heath Ledger was just Vanilla good in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, the story of two gay young cowboys that won Lee an Oscar and Ledger a deserved nomination for Best Actor. But in The Dark Knight, Ledger is bloody good, literally and figuratively.
With a hideously disfigured white face, a red slit of a mouth and a knife in his hand, Ledger is a gorgeous blood-dripping sundae, lipsmackingly good.
Ledger cuts a more terrifying figure than Jack Nicholson after his fall in that vat of green chemicals in Batman (1989).
Sadly, The Dark Knight movie itself doesn’t live up to the hype and heightened expectation.
All the razzmatazz and special effects in Dark Knight cannot mask the absence of a strong, gripping story. The futuristic cars or the snazzy motorbike (in the case of Dark Knight), the jumps from towering buildings, the quiet flapping of the bat’s wings are no substitutes for an interesting, novel storyline. If you have watched Batman Begins, then it’s hard to shake off the deja vu feeling that creep by in Dark Knight, filmed mostly in low-light or semidarkness.
The violence sometimes seems gratuitous and senseless, even if it’s perpetrated by an unhinged character and the fast chases soon induce ennui.
Director Christopher Nolan (who also directed Batman Begins) needs a long holiday away from the bats.
It’s only Heath Ledger’s jaw-dropping performance as the Joker that salvages the movie that reportedly cost $180 million. All else is been there, seen that.
In one of the memorable sentences and scenes from The Dark Knight, the Joker cruelly tells his fellow travelers in crime as they watch him burn a huge pile of money – All you care about is money. This town deserves a better class of criminals.
To Bollywood and Kollywood aficionados sick of the shreiking and screaming that passes for acting in Hindi and Tamil movies, watching Heath Ledger is a revelation. The Kamal Haasans and Amitab Bachchans are but pygmies in the face of such talent.
For Batman fans, the terrain of Dark Knight will be familiar.
Gotham City is still synonymous with crime and overrun by criminals. And the nest of vipers still rules although Batman has reined in the darker impulses of some of the savage classes. And so the urban detritus, stark in Batman Begins, is mostly invisible.
The usual suspects are back in Dark Knight.
Christian Bale is Bruce Wayne, the billionaire playboy by day and Batman by night. Michael Caine is the butler Alfred Pennyworth, Morgan Freeman plays the scientist Lucius Fox and Gary Oldman returns as the police lieutenant James Gordon. All the major characters except our Katie Holmes, who played Rachel Dawes in Batman Begins. Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is the new Rachel Dawes in Dark Knight, lacks the intensity that Holmes brought to Batman Begins.
As the heat turns on the criminal class, the mobsters turn to the Joker little realizing what they are in for. For the Joker, unlike all other criminals, is a completely deranged, fiendish, perfidious monster before whom all other monsters are saints.
The Joker has no rules and as Alfred once tells his master: Some men just like to watch the world burn.
Three scenes stand out in Dark Knight for the sheer intensity – the Joker’s interrogation in the cell by Batman, the Joker surveying the destruction of the hospital and the final confrontation between Batman and the Joker. Each of the scenes show Ledger at his best – callously cruel, diabolically cruel and viciously cruel.
To miss the Dark Knight is to miss one of the finest performances by a rara avis of Hollywood in recent years.
R.I.P Heath Ledger.
Elton John’s funeral oration for Diana seems more apt for Heath Ledger:
Your candle’s burned out long before
Your legend ever will.