The other night I was being interviewed on WGN in Chicago and the one and only topic of conversation was The Dark Knight.
We were basically talking about how great the movie is, how Heath Ledger deserves an Oscar nomination and all that jazz… when the host suddenly said: “You know, our station Film Critic said the only thing that was really horribly about The Dark Knight was Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent”. To which I replied: “Then your station critic is an idiot”.
Now, I said that sort of as a joke because obviously all film is subjective and I later felt bad because as the conversation went on I forgot to say I was kidding about him being an idiot. But that’s not what this post is about. What that interview highlighted for me was that in the midst of all the praise we seem to be giving The Dark Knight, in the craze of talking about how much Ledger deserves that Oscar nomination, how good the story was yadda yadda yadda… we all (myself being quite guilty of this too) have seemed to over look the person I would say was actually the soul of The Dark Knight… Aaron Eckhart.
So right now I’d like to propose to you 3 reasons why I believe Aaron Eckhart was indeed the soul of The Dark Knight:
#1 - He Was The Embodiment Of The Hope Of Gotham
Now don’t misunderstand that statement. The highlight of the movie was Ledger, the driving force was Bale… but in the midst of this battle of two conflicting world views of the Joker and Batman, Harvey Dent’s character was the one who embodied and represented US. He was the manifested spirit of Gotham’s hope and of what the city COULD be. In essence he was the tangible realization of Batman’s dream. Do you realize how easily other actors could have made the character slip into some cheesy boy scout wannabe?
#2 - He Grounded The Film
No one will agree with this at first, but think about it for a moment. If you remove Harvey Dent and the way Eckhart played him to perfection, The Dark Knight would basically devolve back to simple (although still really intense) comic book movie. It would have just been good vs bad. Batman vs Joker. But Eckhart brought an extra dimension. He really was Nolan’s secret ingredient that changed the flavor of the whole soup. He takes the film to another level by making The Dark Knight about he people of Gotham as well as the titans (Joker and Batman) of Gotham.
#3 - The Relatable And Fallible Hero
One of the things that takes the edge off of many movie heroes is the perceived infallibility of the heroes. Heck, despite some self doubts, even Batman comes off that way most of the time. Unbeatable, incorruptible, unwavering. Perhaps those qualities are important for the character and they have to be that way, but it still leaves him being unidentifiable for most of us. Harvey Dent is a different character. Completely steadfast in his ideals and beliefs, but when faced with the madness the Joker brings, or with the life of his true love being threatened, he shows that he’s only too human, that he has weaknesses, that he’s fallible. I don’t think most of us realize how nearly impossible pulling that sort of diversity off can be for an actor in the midst of a movie like The Dark Knight. Eckhart pulled off both aspects so well, that Dent become our identifiable point in the movie. He become our anchor.
I can’t say enough good things about the job Aaron Eckhart does in The Dark Knight. I’d go so far as to say that he nearly does just as well as Ledger does as the Joker (it’s just that the Joker is a far more charismatic and extreme character and thus much more noticeable). The fact that Eckhart just blends into the story instead of standing on top of it is a testament to the job he did as an actor. So for the next couple of years we’ll all talk about how great Ledger was (and rightfully so), and we’ll talk about how Bale is the best Batman ever (and rightfully so), but let’s not forget the job done by Aaron Eckhart, who by his performance gave this great movie it’s very soul.
User comment:Thank You John, I completely agree, although Ledger was phenomenal and Bale turned in a another solid performance. The film wouldn't of felt as relevant as it was had it not been for Eckhart's performance. I thought he was the true tragic character, of the piece and the one I found myself identifying with the most throughout the film. The moralistic struggle his character goes through and the loss Dent suffers with the nuance Eckhart, played it with is one of things that propelled. This film out of the realm of just being a comic book film, to a film that can be seen as a serious morality play. it's good to see someone else highlight this almost overlooked performance.
User comment:First of all, Gio doesn't need to convince me. As much as there is talk about Ledger, Eckhart equally deserves a writing campaign for various awards. He was that good. The Joker is a character whose very essence commands the screen. All this buzz on the late actor who played him is the same thing (although on a slightly bigger scale) when ol' Jack was The Joker back in '89. The Joker is a strong adversary, and the best known in Bat-verse. The character is so out there you always want to see the next crazy thing he does. But the Dent character was well written and acted. Again, it would not surprise me in the least if the film got more accolades than just Ledger. *** The question of if Dent would have killed Joker's underling is a good one. I say, at the very least, a hell of a pistol whipping. At this point, there were attempts on his life (and Rachel Dawes-he would have found out what happened at the party), the Commish and the Judge were killed, an attempt on the major resulting in the injury (and "later" the reported death) of Lt. Gordon- it was Dent's near breaking point. Heads or tails made no difference. He was at the very least going to give the punk a serious beat down.
User comment:Right, but until the coin was scorched, both sides were the same...heads. Then after the Rachel Dawes incident the coin and harvy were scorched, so it then was a two sided coin. When batman stopped him the coin was not scorched yet, cause Harvey wasn't. Or at least that is how I saw it.
User comment:Oh crap, unless you're talking about the scene with the guy that had the Rachel nametag. Sorry Parker.
User comment:"John, Batman did not have to stop Dent from killing one of joker's men. " Hmmm. That's interesting. The way I saw it, after he becomes Two-face, one side of the coin is scorched, the other isn't. If the scorched side comes up, you're toast. Did anyone else get that impression?
User comment:John, Batman did not have to stop Dent from killing one of joker's men. I mean he did stop him, but harvey never would have killed him. Harvey was flipping his coin and said heads you live tails you die, but it was a double sided coin, both sides were heads and thus he would never have to kill the guy. --that is, if that is the scene you were referring
User comment:Oh also did any one feel that they should of gone ahead and made this rated R. I was distracted/ confused at the editing choices they used for some of the more violent scenes that involved the Joker, well being the Joker. I don't like to use my imagination. Thats why I go to movies instead of reading books.
User comment:I think the whoever wrote the script deserves all the praise for Harvey Dent and the Joker. The dialogue was phenominal. Call me crazy....but I believe the characters made the Actors look good, instead of the other way around.
User comment:I think the main difference between Dent and The Joker is Dent is a man who falls from grace. The Joker just shows up. He's elemental. He represents to the people of Gotham (and us as the audience) what Batman represents to the criminals of gotham. "I can not and will not buy the plot line that drove Dent to turn on everything he believed in. I think it was very canned that he swapped without a SHRED of evidence that Rachel had actually been killed. Honestly, there is no evidence in the movie that she perished." Sorry, Heartless, but I disagree. There are things implied. Saying you don't buy that she's dead is saying you don't buy that Batman/Wayne doesn't believe she's dead. And he'd know. In fact, we see him on the wreckage of the building. And in an earlier scene, there's a beat of how Dent can lose his shit, especially when people he cares about are threatened. That's the scene where Batman shows up and stops him from killing the guy that has a "Rachel Dawes" nametag. Just my opinion.