Review: ‘The Dark Knight’ nets posthumous Oscar for acting

"The Dark Knight" by Christopher Nolan continues the saga of the Caped Crusader that started in "Batman Begins" and finds the winged superhero facing off with his archnemesis the Joker in the blockbuster sequel that netted a posthumous Oscar for co-star Heath Ledger.

Batman is a masked vigilante who fights the criminals and gang underworld of the fictitious Gotham City. Photo by Serge Kutuzov on

BAXTER — Seldom do sequels outshine what came before, but “The Dark Knight” does so and spectacularly.

The film soars back onto the big screen this week at the Lakes 12 Theatre.

Director Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed movie about Batman’s archnemesis, the Joker, and their epic battle between good and evil, and order and chaos, transcends time and place.

The 2008 superhero film does not even bother to attempt to delve into the origins of the Clown Prince of Crime or his garish makeup, but merely presents him as a force to be reckoned with.

RELATED: Now showing at Lakes 12 Theatre - Week of Aug. 17, 2020


Heath Ledger steals the show as the supervillain and was awarded a posthumous Oscar for his captivating portrayal of a madman facing off with the morally-bound Caped Crusader.

The crime drama is rated PG-13, features plenty of action and its cast elevates the feature film above its DC Comics origins by presenting a gripping plot rooted in the grittiness of a big city.

Familiar Chicago landmarks are visible in the movie, many parts of which were shot in the Windy City that doubled as the fictitious Gotham City and Batman’s stomping grounds.

It is that kind of realism and struggle for the heart and soul of the metropolis that makes it reminiscent of other true-life underworld figures like Al Capote versus lawman Eliot Ness.

RELATED: Now showing at Lakes 12 Theatre - Week of Aug. 10, 2020

The Joker, a stylish yet utterly psychopathic enigma, squares off against the Dark Knight, played once again by Christian Bale as the determined savior of his crime-ridden hometown.

Ledger upends the criminal underworld and its gangs by sowing chaos in a perverted game with the masked vigilante in which the Joker does not adhere to any code of conduct.

That people believe they can live together as a society with rules and regulations offends the anarchist’s sensibilities and is one of the biggest jokes the Joker believes citizens do not get.


Frank Lee.jpg
Frank Lee

Aaron Eckhart plays Harvey Dent, an ambitious district attorney hailed as Gotham City’s “White Knight” who works within the legal system to bring down mob bosses.

Batman rests his hopes upon the law-abiding Dent, who can act as a beacon of hope rather than have private citizens follow Batman’s example of operating outside the law.

Dent is the love interest of Rachel Dawes, an assistant district attorney played by Maggie Gyllenhaal. Dawes is also the childhood friend of Batman’s alter ego Bruce Wayne and also his love interest.

Oscar-winner Michael Caine returns in the sequel as Wayne’s trusted butler, surrogate father and confidante to offer the billionaire playboy with anger issues some sage advice.

Oscar-winner Morgan Freeman also appears again in the sequel to provide Batman with high-tech gadgets in his one-man war against the criminal underworld now led by the Joker.


A batarang is a bat-shaped throwing weapon used by Batman. Photo by ActionVance on

From the opening scene in which the Joker’s gang zip lines from atop one skyscraper to another to daringly rob a mob bank in broad daylight to the scene’s end and reveal of the heist’s true mastermind, Nolan does not let up with the suspense and eye-popping visuals.

“The Dark Knight” was the first mainstream feature to partially utilize IMAX 70 mm cameras, which the director used for about 30 minutes of the film, including the Joker's first appearance.

The groundwork for the sequel’s climactic mano-a-mano fisticuff between Batman and the Joker was hinted at in the ending of “Batman Begins” by police Commissioner James Gordon.

The masked vigilante’s origin story was skillfully crafted in Nolan’s “Batman Begins,” the 2005 motion picture that grounded the costumed crime fighter in reality and rebooted the franchise.

“Batman Begins” explores the effect of a childhood trauma — a young Bruce Wayne witnessed the murder of his adoring parents — and the psychological pain and fear that it left on the boy.



Ledger as an adult Wayne’s adversary is electrifying to watch on the silver screen. And as Batman’s foe, he is the yin to the superhero’s yang, as if one could not exist without the other.

Batman is also known as the World’s Greatest Detective because he uses his wits. But in the film, he appears at his wits’ end when organized crime devolves into disorganized crime.

Batman’s rabid fanbase who initially questioned the film producers’ choice to cast Ledger were richly rewarded in the end with an iconic villain who wryly delivers the line “Why so serious?”

It’s just too sad that the talented-but-gone-too-soon Ledger will not get the chance to light up the screen as the Joker in a follow-up Batman sequel. And that’s no joke.

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at . Follow him on Twitter at .

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write mostly features stories for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. The newspaper is owned by Forum Communications Co.
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