Complete A-Z list

Dark Knight, The


Stars: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Michael Caine, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman, Eric Roberts, Michael Jai White, Anthony Michael Hall, Nestor Carbonell, Monique Curnen, Cillian Murphy

Director: Christopher Nolan

The trouble with superheroes, it seems, is that their cities don't know whether to love them or hate them. Superman, Spider-Man and, more recently, Hancock, plus the soon-to-be-seen Hellboy II, have all had this problem. This new Batman film, overlong, but filled with darkness and stupendous, pulsating action, trades in on the theory, with Batman (Bale) taking the blame for dark deeds when it serves the future of Gotham City.

Chief villain this time around is The Joker, a demented, disfigured mastermind, which a lemur-like Ledger plays with a touch of Jack Nicholson, who did it in 1989, but a taste of evil all his own, licking his reddened lips and enunciating words in such a way as to send shivers of foreboding up the spine.

Old hands are present and correct: Caine as Bale's dry-tongued manservant; Freeman as his partner in business in more ways then one; Oldman as the dogged top cop. Gyllenhaal takes over as Bale's ex-squeeze, now the girlfriend of Eckhart, playing crusading DA Harvey Dent.

But Ledger proves that every man has his price (or his dark side), even though he himself has no interest in money. 'Some men,' observes Caine ruefully, 'just want to watch the world burn.'

A freeway chase will screech your nerves like chalk on a blackboard, as The Joker fires bazookas from a moving pantechnicon, but the dialogue suffers accordingly. Too often, Bale's as Batman is just too difficult to hear, and other players are simply drowned out at times by the thunderous orchestrations. More clarity, both here and in the plot, would help next time round.

David Quinlan

USA 2008. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Technicolor.
152 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 20 Jul 2008