The Dark Knight – coming soon

The latest instalment in the Batman movie franchise is arriving on screens this month, and is shaping up to be one of the biggest movie titles this year, despite its release being both delayed by the WGA writer’s strike and overshadowed by the tragic passing of Heath Ledger, whose ragged and anarchic take on Bruce Wayne’s arch nemesis the Joker has already galvanised interest – his powdered face and lipstick-smeared mouth appeared over the internet like rash as part of a viral campaign last year.

The Dark Knight follows on from 2005’s Batman Begins, and is not, as was briefly suggested, a movie adaptation of Frank Miller’s successful The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel mini series.

The film sees Christian Bale once again step into the cape of the titular Dark Knight and 28 Days Later star Cillian Murphy, who played the Scarecrow in Batman Begins also makes a return. Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman and Michael Caine also return as Lucius Fox, Lt. James Gordon (still not yet a Commissioner!) and Alfred respectively.

Heath Ledger as the Joker

As the previous film was effectively a reboot of the Batman series it understandably focussed a lot on Bruce Wayne, his history and the emergence of the Batman persona – now with Batman firmly established as a character. With the main character already established, enough room for two major villains to share the centre stage.

As well as presenting Batman with a challenge in the form of Ledger’s Joker, the film also charts the decline and fall of district attorney Harvey Dent, who dons the mantle of ‘Two-Face’ after being horribly disfigured during a confrontation with the Joker. Unlike with the Joker, producers have been at pains to keep images of Two-Face a secret from the press.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Echkart says that fans are in for a shock when they see him: “When you look at Two-Face, you should get sick to your stomach… It’s like you would feel if you met someone whose face had pretty much been ripped off or burned off with acid.” Bat-fans on the net have been busy scribbling away on Eckhart’s mug in Photoshop, coming up with their interpretations of what they think Two-Face will look like. According to the actor, “they’re thinking small; Chris [Nolan, director] is going way farther than people think.”

Two-Face is a complex character who serves to occupy the space between the Joker and Batman; he is a good guy, but one who has been pushed to the edge, existing in a very dubious grey area with the contrasting sides of dark and light represented visually by his semi-scarred boat race. This treatment is something of a departure from how Two-Face is typically portrayed in the Batman canon – the signature coin-flipping remains, but this version promises to be light years away from the Tommy Lee Jones role in the iffy Batman Forever.

Harvey Dent

Speaking of which, now is the perfect time to get reacquainted with the previous Batman movies; I hadn’t actually seen Batman Begins until last week when I rented it out in order to get clued up for the upcoming cinema release.

“When you look at Two-Face, you should get sick to your stomach…” – Aaron Eckhart (Harvey Dent/Two-Face)

Plus, as compelling as Heath Ledger’s version of the Joker is, we can’t help but wonder what The Dark Knight would have been like had Jack Nicholson reprised his role from the 1989 version. You can’t make an omelette with out breaking any eggs though, and Nicholson’s egg has been well and truly broke – he was reportedly “furious” over not even being invited to audition for the part.

Instead though, we can revel in the opportunity to look back at the first two Tim Burton directed Bat-films – Batman and Batman Returns – consider Batman Forever as an amusing afterthought (depends on whether you find Jim Carrey funny or not – we do) and ignore the appallingly bad Batman & Robin.

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