Oh the highly anticipated follow-up to the resurgent Batman catalog! As with Batman Begins, The Dark Knight is directed by Christopher Nolan, and this is definition summer blockbuster stuff folks—it’s comic book inspired, a sequel, and full of action. The film doesn’t disappoint, and in some ways improves upon Begins.
First, Maggie Gyllenhaal steps in for Katie Holmes, which completely eliminates the possibility we’d have to try and take Katie Holmes seriously for over two hours. Dear Maggie, thank you, thank you, thank you. Heath Ledger’s performance should also be greatly appreciated. Although I’m far from bestowing an immediate posthumous Oscar, call me a hold-out, Heath’s Joker was plenty sinister.
What was most intriguing to me in the film was something completely unexpected—an all-out attack on warrantless wiretaps and the PATRIOT Act.
(VERY MINOR SPOILER AHEAD.)
“No man should have such power,” claims Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox, as he’s asked by Batman to monitor an entire city by using Gotham’s cell phones as impromptu sonar receivers. Batman admirably promises that the monitoring system will be put down when the present crisis abates. How responsible of you Batman! I suppose it’s no wonder privacy is one of the rights you choose to celebrate…as opposed to say Habeas Corpus…Batman solves crime with his fists dammit, not due process. Such is the strange relationship between necessary ass-kickings and lawyerly heroics in Gotham City. That much we’ve come to expect from these movies I’d argue, but a blatant attack on the Bush administration’s heavy handed “safeguarding” techniques was a big surprise to me. Well, somebody’s got to say it right? It might as well be Batman and Lucius Fox. As far as I know, fictional characters are the only people you can’t send down to Gitmo.
There are many other strong themes to explore in the film, the vicious survival instinct embedded deep in humanity, the corruptibility and delicacy of the modern psyche, and of course the thin line between anarchy and the orderly society we presume is good. TDK isn’t a perfect movie, but for summer pulp action you can’t ask for much more.