Ledger’s Joker owns the ‘Knight’

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, July 17, 2008 4:47pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Among many other things, “The Dark Knight” proves that Batman doesn’t need a Robin. But he does need a Joker.

This intense and haunting sequel to 2005’s “Batman Begins” is an example of pulp material done right. It doesn’t stint on the requirements of a summer blockbuster (chase scenes, fancy gadgets, breathtaking plunges from tall buildings), yet it creates an aura of true mystery around itself. And it even seems to catch the current civic mood — disenchantment, frustration and helplessness are its primary topics.

If this sounds a little angst-heavy, you got it. Gotham City is terrorized by a relentless scourge, the Joker (Heath Ledger), a cackling psycho with a purely nihilistic attitude toward crime. “Some men just want to watch the world burn,” someone says, and that’s our boy Joker.

Batman is there to provide vigilante justice. This is the alter ego of billionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), and he has a new suit and new wheels in this one.

District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) seems committed to stopping corruption in Gotham, and he’s convinced Bruce’s ex, Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal), of his sincerity. In more ways than one.

Several returning cast members play important supporting roles, especially Gary Oldman, and Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are back as Bruce Wayne’s key assistants. But while Aaron Eckhart is very strong as the crusading Dent, the movie is owned by its villain.

Heath Ledger had completed his role as the Joker before his untimely death in January. His performance is scary and funny, if not quite as original as some of Ledger’s other work. The Joker wears bad pancake make-up and greasy greenish hair, and his voice drops unpredictably into menace or mockery, depending on the moment.

Ledger makes it really memorable by embodying a certain philosophy, a pranksterish approach to creating chaos. He’s a classic villain, and the next “Batman” movie won’t be the same without him.

Director Christopher Nolan returns to the helm, and he’s stirred just the right number of stimulating ideas into the comic-book universe. He’s also got a wild eye for loaded imagery: There’s a shot of the Joker striding away from a hospital that will peel a layer off your eyeballs.

“The Dark Knight” isn’t the slightest bit light-hearted, and its conclusion contains some sinister suggestions that will have to be dealt with in a third installment. Good. It can’t come a minute too soon.

Talk to us

More in Life

Andrew Vait, left to right, Annie Jantzer and Linzy Collins of The Little Lies rehearses Monday evening in Everett, Washington on May 16, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

The Music at the Marina series concludes today with The Little Lies, a Fleetwood Mac tribute band.

Josh Haazard Stands inside his workspace, the HaazLab, where he creates a variety of cosplay props and other creative gadgets, on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, at his home in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
This contraption crafter turns junk into sci-fi weaponry

Joshamee “The Chief” Haazard is a costume prop maker in Monroe. He transforms trash into treasure.

For your kids’ sake, stress less about their grades this school year

Don’t make a big deal over grades. Instead, encourage out-of-classroom activities and remember, learning is supposed to be fun.

At the prehistoric fortress of Dun Aengus, the dramatic west cliffs of Ireland meet the turbulent sea as Europe comes to an abrupt end. (Rick Steves' Europe)
Enjoy the simple life on Ireland’s starkly beautiful Aran Islands

Three limestone islands make up the Aran Islands: Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer.

American Queen changes COVID protocols; can I get a refund?

fter American Queen changes its COVID protocols, Patricia Voorhees Furlong and her husband want to skip their river cruise. Is that allowed? Or, will they lose out on $7,858?

Erika Weinert, an Everett-based mother, editor and now author, sits at her home workspace and holds her first published book, “Cursing with Style” on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
What the @#$%! Everett mom publishes a dictionary of curse words

Erika M. Weinert, 42, a copy editor who does business as The Werd Nerd, wrote “Cursing with Style.”

The 2022 Lexus GX has a 301-horsepower V8 engine, six-speed automatic transmission, and full time all-wheel drive. (Lexus)
Updated 2022 Lexus GX 460 expands list of standard features

Navigation and a 10.3-inch multimedia system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are included.

Bruce Johnson has an exhibit on the history of clowns at the Lynnwood Library in Lynnwood, Washington on August 11, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Clown historian takes the funny business very seriously

Bruce Johnson, a.k.a “Charlie the Juggling Clown,” wants to pass his craft down to future generations.

Ella Larson, left, and Simon Fuentes sort through blueberries at Hazel Blue Acres on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Fruits, flowers and bees aplenty in Arlington farm fete

First-ever event highlights local growers’ bounty and contributions to local community

A bald eagle flys over Howarth Park back to it’s perch on Friday, April 22, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Learn how to photograph birds in three-part workshop

Participants will learn to make appealing, sharp bird photos even if they are new to photography.

The Snohomish County PUD recently installed two electric vehicle fast chargers adjacent to public parking stalls on the north side of the Electric Building.
PUD installs fast chargers for electric vehicle drivers

Funding for the t62.5-kilowatt chargers came in part from fines paid by Volkswagen over its 2015 diesel engine scandal.

Airbnb host cancels, and now he has to pay $1,300 more

When Curtis Rahman’s Airbnb host cancels his reservation a day before his arrival, he tries to find a substitute apartment. But the new property is smaller and costs more. Is a $200 credit enough to make up for the trouble?