Dark Knight - at last a blockbuster deserving of the hype

PUBLISHED: 18:30 24 July 2008 | UPDATED: 15:14 07 September 2010

BY MICHAEL JOYCE The Dark Knight (12A) Director Christopher Nolan Starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Maggie Gyllenhaal 152 mins Five star rating The history of the summer blockbuster is e

BY MICHAEL JOYCE

The Dark Knight (12A) Director Christopher Nolan Starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Maggie Gyllenhaal

152 mins

Five star rating

The history of the summer blockbuster is essentially one of broken promises, of expectations raised and then dashed - Godzilla, the Star Wars prequels, The Matrix sequels, this year's Indy 4.

In terms of pre-release hype and expectations, there's been nothing like The Dark Knight since, well, that first Tim Burton Batman in 1989, the summer of the Bat logo.

The hype here, however, is largely audience generated.

People have been waiting for this, willing it to be great, since the Joker card was played just before the end credits rolled on Batman Begins.

Well, I'm sure you're already sick of being told how great it is. But The Dark Knight lives up to all expectations. Maybe not your wildest ones - but wild ones you'd never have thought of.

Nolan's Batman Begins was a blueprint for a great film and now he delivers the finished article.

One of the main flaws of Begins was weak villains, which is definitely not an issue here.

Ledger is indeed a fantastic Joker. He's no alternative comedian, more an old style vaudevillian, a white-faced inversion of Al Jolson.

But really everybody is tremendous in this and, in many ways, the people without costumes - Oldman, Caine, Gyllenhaal and Freeman - are just as impressive.

Nolan gets performances that reflect his film-making - entirely free of clutter and to the point.

Who'd have thought that the perfect superhero comic book adaptation was one which was absolutely nothing like a superhero comic book?

With the first film, I couldn't really see the point of a real world Batman. It seemed to be overcompensating for the camptastrophe of Batman and Robin. But this time, it's even less fantastical.

Gotham City is recognisably Chicago and Wayne's mansion has been replaced by a penthouse and a white, minimalist bat cave.

Sacrilege, but it works perfectly. The only gothic architecture here is internalised.

Warner Bros is marketing this like it's a sure thing. But despite the biggest opening day in history in the US, this is still a gamble. A big budget, lengthy, realist superhero movie it is relentlessly serious and too intense for children - such a perverse undertaking might almost be a scheme by the Joker.

The hope is that, after so much empty spectacles, audiences are crying out for a meaty, character-driven, contemporary story with weight and depth.

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